Along with new iPhones and new iPads, today's Apple event came with the launch of the long rumored update to Apple TV. It's almost incorrect to call this an update, as while it shares both a name and a form factor with the existing TV, it is different in nearly every respect. Below you can see what specifications the new Apple TV offers.

  Apple TV
SoC Apple A8 SoC, 2x 1.4GHz Typhoon
RAM 2GB LPDDR3
NAND 32/64GB NAND
Display N/A, HDMI 1.4 1080p60 Output
Dimensions 98 x 98 x 33mm, 425 grams
OS tvOS
Connectivity 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB Type-C, HDMI 1.4, IR Receiver, 10/100 Ethernet
Launch Price $149/$199 32GB/64GB

The new Apple TV receives some much needed hardware improvements. What's funny is that none of them are really required for video playback, as the old A5 chip had the ability to decode 1080p H.264 video in hardware. What the upgrades are required for is running the brand new tvOS, and all the apps and games that Apple hopes will be made for it. I'm surprised that Apple hasn't built in support for HDMI 2.0 or HEVC decoding in order to support existing 4K TV sets and future 4K content encoded with HEVC.

tvOS comes with a brand new interface for Apple TV. The old Apple TV UI looked like a relic of ancient history with its iOS 6 inspired UI, while this new interface looks very modern and fits in well with iOS, OS X, and watchOS.

The tvOS UI is navigated using two methods of input. The first is Siri, and in this case it's a super powered Siri that can do a lot more than the Siri on your phone. You can issue very specific commands and searches, such as finding an episode of a TV series based on a character that guest starred or an event that happened. This is something that I've wanted for a long time, especially for finding episodes of a long series like Seinfeld where it's impossible to remember each specific episode. You can also use Siri to control playback by asking to move forward or back a certain amount. Siri will even recognize questions like "What did she say?", and rewind the video while also temporarily putting on captions so you can understand something that wasn't said clearly.

The second method of input is the new Apple TV remote. This new remote has a glass multi touch surface on the top of the display for navigating the UI. It also has a dedicated Siri button which is how you trigger voice input, as well as a play/pause button, a menu button, a home button, and volume controls. The remote is powered by a rechargeable internal battery that you recharge via a lightning port on the bottom, and Apple claims it can last for months on a single charge with typical daily usage.

Circumstances that would drain the Apple TV remote would likely be related to using it to play games. The remote connects to the TV using Bluetooth 4.0 as well as IR, and it includes both an accelerometer as well as a gyroscope. This means that it can be used as a controller for certain types of games, with other more complicated games supporting third party controllers that you will be able to buy.

It's difficult to describe all that Apple TV offers, and to make a comparison between it and other set top boxes based on what Apple has shown off. Hopefully we will be able to review it in detail in the future, and for now I would suggest taking a look at the demos Apple did on stage if you haven't so already.

Apple TV will be shipping in late October, and will be priced at $149 for the 32GB model or $199 for the 64GB model.

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  • jameskatt - Thursday, September 10, 2015 - link

    Apple has a lighting recharging stand. It's cool. It lets the remote stand up and be seen. Reply
  • 3DoubleD - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    You show an image of a 3rd party Xbox controller but you don't mention it in the article. Does this mean you can connect certain gaming controllers to the Apple TV?

    This is the part I really struggle with understanding. How does Apple TV support gaming. Are people really supposed to use the 1 remote or each buy an iPhone to play a multi-player game?

    The interface looks nice though. Why can't someone make a GUI like this for Windows 10 so I can use it on my HTPC? Come on Microsoft...
    Reply
  • Brandon Chester - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    It's mentioned in a paragraph underneath the image. Reply
  • 3DoubleD - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    Ah, sorry, missed that one small sentence at the end there. Reply
  • name99 - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    "Are people really supposed to use the 1 remote or each buy an iPhone to play a multi-player game?"

    Why do we keep hearing this story? iPhones are not rare and precious jewels that are only owned by the Donald Trumps of the world. If you're a household that's buying an Apple TV, probably the household already owns a few iPhones and iPod Touches.

    Simple answer: Yes, people ARE expected to "buy" an iPhone each to get maximum value of this device.
    Apple expects to lose precisely 1000 sales to the absolutely TINY fraction of American society that, for some bizarre reason, wants to buy an AppleTV but simultaneously has utterly no interest in buying an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch.

    Christ, what's next?
    Does Apple seriously expect me to own a TV set so that I can enjoy this new box?
    Why does Apple insist that my house be wired for electricity before I can buy an Apple TV?
    Why does Apple keep requiring that my house have internet before I can use their devices?
    Reply
  • steven75 - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    I LOL'ed Reply
  • euskalzabe - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    I really hope I can update my 2012 ATV to tvOS. I could get the new ATV, but mine works just fine, I just want the new SW.

    Knowing Apple... unlikely.
    Reply
  • Brandon Chester - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    A5 is definitely too slow, and RAM limited. Reply
  • euskalzabe - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    If you just use the 2012 ATV for video playing though, the new ATV has no benefit at all. Most of the performance gains are related to Siri and games. Both boxes decode the same 1080p video and tvOS looks like a simple UI refresh that's not particularly graphics heavy.

    There seems to be technically zero reason to bring this to older ATV users. Just don't let us play games, that would surely suck on the 2012 cpu. The rest - as in, video, which is 100% the ATV's function? Should be fine.
    Reply
  • hansmuff - Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - link

    A strange update to the ATV then, I think. Do people really play games on the STB? I can't imagine why I would restrict myself to the limited processing power.

    If I really can't afford a console and want some sort of games for the kid, a used old gen console is cheaper and better. I don't understand the gaming on these boxes at all.
    Reply

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