The best thing about the new Apple TV is just $59 — and it works with the old one

Siri Remote for Apple TV 4K
(Image credit: Apple)

So the iPad Pro 2021 has an M1 chip, 5G connectivity and a Thunderbolt port? Cool stuff, but that's not what caught my eye during Apple's Spring Loaded event yesterday (April 20). A new iMac design? Again, that looks great, but it's not what has me buzzing. Ted Lasso Season 2 trailer? Can't wait for the July premiere, but again, I've got more important matters on my mind.

Yes, all of those things will doubtlessly excite large swaths of the population who followed along with all of Apple's Spring Loaded event announcements. But none of them had me bolt out of chair, grab my wallet and let out a throaty cry for Apple to take my money already.

That honor goes to the new Siri Remote that accompanies the new Apple TV 4K 2021

The only thing I know about the Siri Remote is what I heard during Apple's hour-long recitation of product news, augmented by details from press releases and product pages. In other words, I'll have to actually spend some time with the Siri Remote before I can offer a definitive verdict as to whether or not it's a remote control worthy of the Apple TV. But I have used the current remote that Apple includes with its existing Apple TV models for some time now. And there is no way on God's green earth that the new Siri remote could be any worse.

Think of this as similar to a baseball trade when your favorite team announces they've shipped off an error-prone player who couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat. "Great trade," you'd likely enthuse. "Who'd we get?" That encapsulates how I feel about the old Apple TV remote.

The old Siri Remote: What went wrong

Siri Remote

The author stares down his nemeis. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The existing Apple TV Siri remote is a thin black slab that goes missing more often than your deadbeat uncle when it's time to kick in his share on the restaurant bill. It features black buttons that blend in with a black surface along with a trackpad located on one half of the remote — usually the half of the remote you grab by mistake.

How many evenings have I picked up my Apple TV remote and tried to scroll through the on-screen menus, muttering about the non-responsiveness of the Apple TV, only to realize that I'm dragging my finger across the non-touchpad end?

The short answer: every evening in recorded history.

How the new Siri Remote fixes things

I don't want this to suggest that the only thing the new Siri Remote has going for it is that it's not the old remote. (Though, again, have you *looked* at the old remote?) The buttons on the new Siri Remote are a different color than the device itself, making them standout. 

There's a new clickpad with five-way navigation and a circular design that you're unlikely to mistake for the wrong end of the remote. And apparently, you can make a circular gesture around the rim of that clickpad to turn your remote into a jog control — all the better for scrolling through shows and movies to find that scene you wanted to rewatch.

Siri Remote for Apple TV 4K

(Image credit: Apple)

Best of all, the Siri Remote is sold separately from the new Apple TV 4K (2021) that it accompanies. Maybe I'll want to pay the $179 for a new set-top box to replace my aging model. Certainly, the new color balance feature and support for high frame rate HDR make the latest Apple TV an appealing option. But if I just want to replace my hateful current remote — oh Lord, do I want to do this — all I have to do is pony up $59 and the new Siri Remote is mine.

Siri Remote outlook

There are still some things I'll need to experience first-hand with the new Siri Remote. I'm eager to see if it's the same size as the current model, or a little bit more substantive, making it less likely to slip unnoticed into couch cushions or blend in with the furniture. I'd like to find out just how responsive that clickpad is.

And if Apple's going to start releasing an AirTag capable of tracking your valuables, I'm curious as to why that technology isn't built into the Apple TV's remote. Those things are very easy to misplace, you know.

But these are small concerns in the greater scheme of things. Apple's replaced a wholly inadequate product with one that actually has some promise. You'd hope for a trade-off like that at any product event.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.