Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021): what's the difference?

The Apple TV 4K (2022) on left vs the Apple TV 4K (2021) on right.
(Image credit: Credit: Apple / Tom's Guide)

As our Apple TV 4K (2022) review explains, this model is here to replace the still-relatively-new Apple TV 4K (2021), and it's making its case with a more-affordable price and a few tweaks here and there. But how does it stack up against the previous model?

Unlike some of Apple's other hardware, streaming devices don't cycle in and out on an annual or bi-annual basis. The new Apple TV 4K (2022), though, is targeting new users as much as it is existing ones. 

By lowering its price by a cool $50, while upgrading internal storage, Apple's pricey streaming device isn't as glaringly over-priced as it used to be. On top of that, you get the A15 Bionic chip for faster performance and the HDR10+ support for improved picture quality. As for how all this fares in real life, check out the 5 things I love about the new Apple TV 4K — and one thing I hate.

And we'll explain it all in this Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021) face-off!

Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021): Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Apple TV 4K (2022)Apple TV 4K (2021)
Starting price$129/£149/AU$219$179/£169/AU$249
Starting storage64GB32GB
Wireless connectivityWi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2x2 MIMOWi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with MIMO; simultaneous dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz)
Gigabit EthernetOnly in 128GB $149 modelYes
ResolutionUp to 4K UHD at 60 fpsUp to 4K UHD at 60 fps
Dimensions3.7 x 3.7 x 1.2 inches3.9 x 3.9 x 1.4 inches
Supported audio formatsDolby Atmos, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Supported video formatsDolby Vision, HDR10+/HDR10/HLGDolby Vision, HDR10/HLG
RemoteSiri remote (USB-C charging)Siri remote (Lightning charging)
ProcessorA15 BionicA12 Bionic

Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021): Price

We believe the Apple TV 4K 2022's best feature isn't one of its internal upgrades, but the $50 difference across the Apple TV 4K 2022 and its not-too-distant predecessor. Yes, finally, Apple has lowered the price of its excellent streaming device. And it also upgraded internal storage at the same time.

The Apple TV 4K (2022) starts at $129 with 64GB of storage, while the $179 Apple TV 4K (2021) started with 32GB internally. Both include the 2021 Siri remote. 

Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021): Design and ports

Still a shiny black box, the new Apple TV 4K (3.7 x 3.7 x 1.2 inches) is slightly smaller than the 2021 Apple TV 4K (3.9 x 3.9 x 1.4 inches). 

One change we did not expect to see is that the Apple TV 4K's Gigabit Ethernet port is only available on its pricier model, the $149 128GB Apple TV 4K. This Ethernet-equipped model includes Thread networking support — which was in all models of the 2021 device. Smart home devices on the Matter standard will work on the new Apple TV 4K (2022).

The 64GB Apple TV 4K (2022) doesn't have a Gigabit Ethernet port.

(Image credit: Apple)

Both the 2021 and 2022 Apple TV 4K have HDMI 2.1 support, which enables higher data rates from 18gbps (gigabits per second) up to 48gbps. HDMI 2.1 support (as it did last year) does make us wonder if Apple could update the new Apple TV's software to support 8K video. No such feature was announced, and it's unclear if the rest of the hardware could support it. Essentially, HDMI 2.1 is future-proofing.

New Apple TV 4K vs old Apple TV 4K: Performance

We could never have accused the Apple TV 4K of being slow, but those charges will have an even harder time sticking this year.

Angry Birds is played on an Apple TV 4K (2022)

(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple TV 4K (2022) runs on the A15 Bionic processor, which Apple says enables up to 50% faster CPU performance, which should enable snappier responsiveness and smoother interface animations. Oh, and expect up to 30% faster GPU performance, which you'll want if you're an Apple Arcade user on the Apple TV 4K.

Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021): Audio and video

After the 2021 Apple TV 4K added 60fps 4K HDR content support — the change is great for sports fans — there wasn't much left to do. Except for, you know, one little video standard.

The Apple TV 4K (2022) and remote below a TV tuned to the tvOS home screen with a graphic for For All Mankind

(Image credit: Apple)

HDR10+, available on all the Fire TV Sticks and Cube including the $29 Fire TV Stick Lite and Rokus as cheap as the Roku Express 4K Plus, was not included in the 2021 Apple TV 4K. The big difference with HDR10+ support is the fact that this standard uses metadata to make HDR more fine-tuned and optimized based on the content on the screen. Amazon Prime Video has used HDR10+ in its content since December 2017.

Otherwise, these are the same devices when it comes to putting images on your TV and pumping audio out of your system. Both the 2021 model and the new Apple TV 4K (2022) support 4K UHD video at up to 60 fps, with Dolby Vision and Atmos support.

Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021): Siri remote

Apple TV 4K (2021) review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Apple's kept that adage this year, after fixing its Apple TV remote last year — it hasn't changed the remote at all this year. While some on our team may not like the touchpad elements that have remained (claims of "it's too sensitive" have emerged). 

Except, for one way. The Siri remote in the Apple TV 4K 2022 charges via USB-C, instead of Lightning. Now, the only currently-sold Apple devices with Lightning are the iPhones, all AirPods and the 9th Gen iPad.

Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021): Outlook

We love the Apple TV 4K, but have always said the 2021 model's $179 price-tag was far too rich for most people's blood. Now, the Apple TV 4K (2022) may fix that — and that price is, I think, its best new feature. This $129 price tag, though, is still over twice as much as the excellent Roku Streaming Stick 4K, and $30 more than the even-better Roku Ultra

The new Apple TV's other performance and picture-quality improvements may be neat for those who have cash to burn, but the audience for upgraders feels limited. The 2021 Apple TV 4K was always fast, and since the Apple TV 4K is still far from cheap, we doubt this year's model will bring many owners of the most-recent model back to the shopping cart.

Oh, and if you don't own either, and don't think that the 2022 model doesn't do enough to upgrade the Apple TV 4K 2021, well, that model is currently on sale for a lower price than this year's model, down to $109 at Amazon.

Next: Here's everything we know about Rings of Power season 2, and we've got 5 reasons to buy the Apple TV 4K (2022) and 2 reasons to skip it.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.