The Apple TV 4K 2022's best feature isn't the internal upgrades

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)

While our Apple TV 4K (2022) review showcases its incredible performance upgrades, that's not its most impressive change. Yes, I'm always up for internal upgrades that improve performance and video quality, and the new Apple TV 4K offers both of those.

On the performance front, Apple's upgraded the streaming device's internal system-on-chip. While the Apple TV 4K 2021 model ran on the A12 Bionic, this new model sports the A15 Bionic, I don't know how many people will get a whole lot of action out of that. The Apple TV 4K (2021) is already one of the fastest, if not the fastest, streaming devices out there. 

Hopefully the Apple Arcade crowd will find the upwards of 30% gains in GPU performance worth it. Apple says the A15 delivers 50% faster CPU performance, and as someone who uses the Apple TV 4K 2021 a lot, I'm not sure it's going to feel like a huge revelation. I'm eager to be proven wrong, though.

The other upgrade you get is HDR10+, which uses metadata for more finely tuned contrast. Why it took this long for the Apple TV 4K to get HDR10+ is something of a mystery (even the cheapest Fire TV Stick has it). 

But while the Apple TV 4K (2021) was already good enough to earn its spot in our best streaming devices list, its successor still offers one much bigger improvement 

The Apple TV 4K (2022)'s price change is huge 

$50 is a lot. Yes, it can buy you Roku Streaming Stick 4K (our pick for the best streaming device), but it's also the price drop that Apple's made for the new Apple TV 4K (2022). 

For those who haven't seen, the Apple TV 4K 2022 comes in two configurations:

I should note up front that both of these models are less expensive than the Apple TV 4K 2021 ($179/£169/AU$249). That model included 32GB of storage, another area Apple upgraded. I only hit that storage capacity once, and never heard a peep about it again.

The Apple TV 4K (2022) with remote

(Image credit: Apple)

But, seriously, folks, yes, the Apple TV 4K is finally available at a lower price. Over the last many years, I've wished that Apple's fantastic tvOS-based streaming devices were more affordable. They're fast, they sport the cleanest interface, and they're just a joy to use.

Their interface, with the exception of live tv integration, beats the heck out of the Chromecast with Google TV, best Roku devices and the Fire TV sticks and Cube. Its TV app has room to grow, but I can't speak highly enough about this streaming device — outside of its price.

As much as I like the Apple TV 4K (2022), it could still stand to get less expensive

For as happy as I am above, I can still multiply and divide. Which is why I am looking at Apple like I'm Oliver Twist at meal time. "Please, Tim Cook, I want some more savings."

While Apple's $50 discount is great, you still rarely see streaming devices priced above $100. And when our favorite streaming device is $50, and the market is full of other great-to-decent sub-$100 streaming devices, it's hard to see why people would gravitate to a $129 streaming device, even if it's one I absolutely love.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max plugged horizontally into TV

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max costs less than half as much as the Apple TV 4K (2022), and it doesn't sacrifice picture quality to get there. (Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The Apple TV 4K (2022) will still have everything I love about the Apple TV (though the $129 model is lacking Ethernet, which is irksome to have to spend $20 more to get). If I can't find the Apple TV's remote, opening the Apple TV Remote is as easy as a swipe down from the top right corner and tapping an icon in the Control Center.

On top of that, you've got the minimalist interface and a remote that I personally like, but — again — is that worth spending an extra $79 to get over the Roku Streaming Stick 4K or the Chromecast with Google TV 4K? That's $79 you could use for 5 months of ad-free HBO Max, with $4 left over for some microwave popcorn.

Outlook: Look out for Apple TV 4K Black Friday deals

The Apple TV 4K (2022) feels like less of a model you upgrade to, and one that tries to expand Apple's user base. So, for everyone who's been tempted to get the Apple TV 4K, but balked ad its price, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that we've seen price drops on the Apple TV 4K (2021) very recently.

It's been as low as $109 at Amazon. And that Apple TV 4K has its own Ethernet port. And we could definitely see more discounts as Black Friday deals get underway early this year. 

Sure, it's got the older processor, less storage and no HDR10+, but when the Apple TV 4K (2021) got so much right to begin with, I can't argue with someone who would take that $20 discount instead of this year's perks. 

Apple users are used to be told they're paying an "Apple tax" and it's hard to argue that when Apple's $129 streamer offer the same picture quality as much cheaper devices. So here's to hoping the next Apple TV 4K is even more affordable. Or that we get an Apple TV SE some day.

Next: See all the upgrades you need to know in our Apple TV 4K (2022) vs Apple TV 4K (2021) face-off.

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.