Apple's 5th generation Apple TV, now known as Apple TV 4K, was recently reviewed by David Pogue of the NY Times, rating it the best streaming box on the market. He's right about that.
Pogue pointed out areas almost no other reviewer has mentioned. Apple TV's powerful Siri voice control is vs meager voice command capabilities from Google, Amazon and Roku, or the ability to control TV power and volume are just a few areas Apple TV has major advantages. Many claim that Pogue is an Apple "fan-boy", but he's certainly not that. Name calling is easy, but defending the idea that a different streaming box is better than Apple TV 4K is near impossible.
Android apologists start and end with Apple TV 4K's $179 starting price as a show stopper. That may seem like a valid point, but its more or less a smoke screen argument, designed to shift a purchasing decision based solely on price. From there, you can predict a glossing over of key features Apple TV 4K has which others do not. Pogue took a fresh approach, leaving price to the end of his review, while focusing on abilities of Apple TV 4K and how it stacks up against the competition.
As Pogue points out, sitting at a normal difference from your living room 1080p HD TV, if swapped out with a 4K set, you're likely to never know the difference. Human eyes simply cannot see the extra pixels a 4K set contains. Thus, what truly matters with these new 4K sets is whether they are equipped with HDR (High Dynamic Range). David didn't dive into the technology weeds all that much, but it should be noted that HDR has two competing standards: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. HDR10 is a consortium standard, while Dolby Vision is a licensed (fee based) solution from Dolby Labs. Overall, HDR technology delivers a much wider, true to life, color gamut. If the 4K HDR TV is decently bright, displaying HDR content can be truly stunning vs non-HDR equipped sets. Dolby Vision seems to drive a superior image quality over HDR10, but which standard will win out over time is not yet certain. Thus, when buying a new 4K set the smart money is purchasing a TV that supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, covering all HDR bases no matter which direction the industry takes.
The key to Apple TV 4K is not that it's HDR capable, rather, it's that Apple is the only streaming set top box manufacturer to support both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Pogue, unlike just about any other reviewer that has covered Apple TV 4K, points this out. With HDR being the key image quality driver in new 4K TV sets, how does this stack up when weighing set top streaming boxes and their prices?
If you are buying a 4K TV, get a set that supports (or will support) both Dolby Vision and HDR10. Those sets are typically hundreds more than 4K sets with just one standard or no HDR compatibility. But again, HDR is pretty much the driving factor in getting a 4K set in the first place.
So why do tech journalists continue to cry a river about spending $80 - $100 more for Apple TV 4K when it's the only one that can fully support the primary reason to buy a 4K set in the first place – at any price?
If consumers will spend $1000 - $3000 on a 55" range or larger 4K HDR TV this Christmas, will it matter to spend an extra $80 for Apple TV 4K?
Pogue covers similarities between the streaming solutions, but Amazon, Google and Roku present glaring omissions in contrast to the power features of Apple TV 4K, quickly moving it to the head of the pack.
Pogue also noted something that's a pretty bid deal. If you want all the steaming solutions available today from Hulu, Google, Amazon and Apple (iTunes and Apple Music), then Apple TV 4K is the only steaming box that brings all of these to the table. How much is that worth? Oh, and Apple is generous enough to provide a remote control too. Google? Not so much.
To any degree that people are concerned with their 4K image quality, services and features, perhaps they should start with Apple TV 4K as their default and then decide which set to match to it, rather than the other way around.
It was also nice to see a refreshingly objective Apple TV 4K review.
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