Apple TV 4K and tvOS 11: Everything you need to know about Apple's digital media streamer
IT & Systems Management

Apple TV 4K and tvOS 11: Everything you need to know about Apple's digital media streamer

Apple TV has grown up a lot since its iTV days. It’s not just for iTunes rentals anymore—Apple TV handles just about anything we watch, from House of Cards to Game of Thrones and Major League Baseball games, and now that includes 4K content.

Since Apple opened up its tiny streaming box to developers, it’s gone from fun to indispensable. With an extensive library of apps, Siri support, and a drop-dead simple interface, Apple TV is one of the underrated players in Apple’s lineup. Just like all those years ago, it’s still the device that “completes the story” of Apple’s entertainment ecosystem, and even without some of the bells and whistles of its competitors, Apple TV is still one of the best streaming boxes you can buy—from SD to HD to brilliant 4K.

And we’ve got everything you need to know about it, including any questions you have about the new 4K model. Whether you’re buying your first one or just want to learn a few more tricks, make sure to bookmark our guide to Apple TV and tvOS as we keep it updated with all the latest news, features, tricks, and tips.

Apple TV 4K Specs

Size and weight

Height: 1.4 inches
Width: 3.9 inches
Depth: 3.9 inches
Weight: 15 ounces

Capacity

32GB or 64GB

Chip

A10X Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture

apple tv 4k ports Apple

The Apple TV 4k brings HDMI 2a and gigabit ethernet.

Ports/Connectivity

HDMI 2.0a
802.11ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO, simultaneous dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz)
Gigabit ethernet
Bluetooth 5.0
IR receiver

Video Formats

  • H.264/HEVC SDR video up to 2160p, 60 fps, Main/Main 10 profile
  • HEVC Dolby Vision (Profile 5)/HDR10 (Main 10 profile) up to 2160p
  • H.264 Baseline Profile level 3.0 or lower with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
  • MPEG-4 video up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 fps, Simple profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats

In the box

Apple TV
Siri Remote
Power cord
Lightning to USB Cable

Pricing

32GB: $179
64GB: $199

Apple TV (4th generation) specs

Size and weight

Height: 1.4 inches
Width: 3.9 inches
Depth: 3.9 inches
Weight: 15 ounces

Capacity

32GB

Chip

Apple A8 chip with 64-bit architecture

apple tv ports Apple

You’ll need to bring your own HDMI cable to hook up Apple TV to your TV set.

Ports/Connectivity

HDMI 1.4
802.11ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO
10/100BASE-T ethernet
USB‑C
Bluetooth 4.0
IR receiver

Video Formats

  • H.264 video up to 1080p, 60 frames per second, High or Main Profile level 4.2 or lower
  • H.264 Baseline Profile level 3.0 or lower with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
  • MPEG-4 video up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats

In the box

Apple TV
Siri Remote
Power cord
Lightning to USB Cable

Pricing

32GB: $149
64GB: $199

Apple TV (4th generation) review

Apple last updated Apple TV in 2015, and at the time, we had this to say: “AirPlay is an extremely convenient way to mirror your Mac or iOS device’s screen to your television, and Apple TV is of course the only set-top box that can play content rented or purchased from the iTunes Store.” Read our full review.

Apple TV FAQ

Can I watch 4k content?

The newly released Apple TV 4K streams 4K content, provided you have a TV that supports it. 

What about HDR and Dolby Vision?

Yes and yes. But again, you'll need a new Apple TV 4K and TV that supports it.

What do I need to get started?

Pretty much all you need to buy is an HDMI cable. Any one will do, so stay away from high-priced cables.

apple tv siri remote Susie Ochs/IDG

Your Siri remote has a Lightning charging port, but don’t worry, you won’t need to use it very often.

How do I get 4K content?

If you have a Netflix subscription, you can can upgrade to the premium plan for $12 a month to be able to stream 4K content. Many Netflix original shows are offered in 4K, including Jessica Jones, Stranger Things, and The Crown, as well as many movies. You can also find 4K titles on Hulu and Amazon Prime (once it's available).

YouTube too?

YouTube's 4K content isn't supported on Apple TV yet. The culprit is Google's VP9 codec, which isn't supported. Apple hasn't offered a time frame for when it will be added.

What about iTunes?

Yes, Apple is selling 4K movies and TV shows through the iTunes Store. And they won't cost you any more. Apple had priced 4K movies the same as HD ones, and what's more, all previously purchased movies will be automatically upgraded to 4K for free.

Can I download 4K content?

Nope. 4K content can only be streamed.

Why aren't my Marvel and Star Wars movies streaming in 4K?

Disney has signed on to stream 4K content in iTunes yet, so you'll have to wait to watch Spider-Man Homecoming in 2160p.

Does Apple TV 4K support Dolby Atmos surround sound?

Not yet. Out of the box, Apple TV 4K supports the same Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound as the non-4K Apple TV, but Apple says Dolby Atmos is coming in a future tvOS update.

Does Apple TV 4K have any other new features?

You can also stream live sports and news from the ESPN, CNN and NBA apps, among others. Most services require a cable or a standalone subscription, but if you have one, you'll only need to ask Siri to watch the Warriors game or put on CNN to see what's happening live. Plus, there will be a dedicated tab in the TV app with live scores.

Why does the Siri Remote have a Lightning port?

apple tv siri remote Apple

The only change on the new Siri remote is a white circle around the Menu button.

The Lightning port on the Siri Remote is for charging. Depending on how often you use it, you shouldn’t have to plug it in more often than once every few months. To check the battery level, head over to Remotes and Devices inside the Settings app, select Bluetooth, and you’ll see a battery indicator next to Remote.

Is the Siri remote different on Apple TV 4K?

Technically no. But there is a visual change from prior models that aims to prevent people from trying to use it upside down: The menu button has a white circle around it. The new style remote also comes with the non-4K Apple TV.

tvOS FAQ

How do I know if I’m running the latest version?

You can check for software updates by heading to the Settings app and opening the System tab. Select Software Updates and scroll up to Update Software. If an update is available, you will be prompted to download and install it. You can also choose to turn on automatic updates.

What's new in tvOS 11?

tvOS 11 doesn’t bring any cool features like iOS 11 or macOS High Sierra, but there are a couple new things to try out. Among the usual performance enhancements, tvOS 11 features home screen sync (for keeping multiple Apple TVs on the same page), automatic dark and light mode switching, support for AirPods, and AirPlay 2.

How can I test out beta versions?

For the first time, Apple has included tvOS in the Beta Software Program, so you can download the latest version of tvOS 11 on your Apple TV right now. To get it, you’ll first need to sign up for the beta program at Apple.com if you haven’t already as part of the iOS or macOS betas. Then, head over to the Settings app on your Apple TV and find System. Open it, select Software Updates, and click Get Public Beta Updates to turn on over-the-air downloads. Select the Agree button and then scroll up to Update Software. Finally, click Download and Install, and wait for your Apple TV to restart.

How is AirPlay 2 different from Airplay?

The original AirPlay was essentially an easy way to get content from you iOS devices to your TV screen. With version 2, AirPlay has expanded its capabilities. You can now stream audio to multiple sources, meaning your Apple TV will act as a hub that lets you send music all throughout your house, not just your main home theater system. Additionally, your Apple TV can double as a AirPlay “speaker,” so you can send audio from your Mac or iOS device to your surround sound system with just a tap.

apple tv app store IDG

It’s easy to download and install apps on Apple TV.

How do I download apps?

Just like on Macs and iOS devices, Apple TV has a dedicated store for downloading and installing apps. Select the App Store icon on your home screen, and you can navigate and search for apps like you do on your other devices. And they’ll all be designed to look their best on the big screen.

Is Amazon Prime Video available?

Not yet, but soon. Amazon has been one of the few holdouts on tvOS, but Tim Cook announced at WWDC that the video service would finally be coming to Apple TV. No timeframe was given, but presumably it will be available around the time tvOS 11 lands in the fall.

What’s Single sign-on?

With Single sign-on on Apple TV, you won’t have to repeatedly enter the username and password for your cable provider every time you want to watch an app that requires it. The list of providers it works with is lengthy, but missing most of the major players:

  • Blue Ridge
  • Cable ONE
  • CenturyLink Prism
  • Comporium
  • DIRECTV
  • Dish
  • Fidelity Communications
  • Grande Communications
  • GVTC
  • GTA
  • Hawaiian Telcom
  • Hotwire
  • Liberty Cablevision of PR
  • MCTV
  • MetroCast
  • Northland Communications
  • Service Electric
  • Service Electric Cablevision
  • Shentel
  • Sling TV
  • Vast Broadband
  • Vyve Broadband
  • Wave
  • WOW!

If your provider is represented, you’ll only need to sign in once and every app that requires a cable log-in will automatically be filled in with the appropriate credentials. If you’re a Comcast, Fios, Cox, or other subscriber not listed, you’ll still be able to store your username and password in Settings, but each app that requires it will still prompt you to sign in individually.

Is there a post-play option like Netflix?

If you’re a Netflix binger, you’re aware of the feature that lets you automatically jump to the next episode when watching a TV series. When the 4th generation of Apple TV released, it originally had a similar autoplay option, but it was removed in tvOS 10. So, if you want to sit on your couch and continuously watch a TV season purchased through iTunes, the only way to do it is to set up a playlist in iTunes and use Home Sharing to stream it.

But post-play is available in the Netflix app, right?

Yup. Select a TV show and it will automatically begin playing the next episode when it finishes.

apple tv tv app IDG

The TV app is like your cable TV guide, only more personal.

What’s the TV app?

The TV app landed late last year as part of the tvOS 10.1 update, and it serves as a sort of smart grid for the things you’re watching (or might want to watch). Inside you’ll find links to your purchases and rentals, things you might like, and whatever you’re in the middle of watching (like the latest episode of Game of Thrones, for example). However, you won’t find any original programming from Netflix represented in the TV app.

On my iPhone, TV replaces Movies and TV Shows. Why are they still on my Apple TV?

On Apple TV, the TV app functions as more of a guide than a streaming platform, so you’ll be shuffled off to the appropriate app when you find something you want to watch.

How can I play games?

To play a game on your Apple TV, you can download one in the tvOS App Store. Most games use the Siri Remote as a controller, but some will require the purchase of a third-party Bluetooth gamepad.

Can I still stream games from my iPhone?

Yes! To turn on AirPlay Mirroring, swipe up from the bottom of the screen on your iOS device to access the Control Center, and tap the AirPlay icon to mirror the content to your screen. Then you can play the game as you normally would, using your iPhone or iPad as a controller.

apple tv siri IDG

Siri’s smarts are on full display with Apple TV.

How do I use Siri?

There’s no wake command for Siri on the Apple TV, so you’ll need to press and hold the microphone button to speak to it. When you’re done, let go of the button and it will (hopefully) carry out your request.

What can Siri do?

Siri on Apple TV isn’t nearly as robust as it is on the iPhone, but it’s still a pretty useful companion. You can find content using a variety of criteria, including movie name, genre, director, or actor, and there are all sorts of things you can ask while something is streaming, such as, “What did she just say,” or “Skip ahead 10 minutes.” Additionally, you can control Apple Music, launch apps, check the weather, or get sports scores, as well as watch live content using Live Tune-in. You can find a comprehensive list of Siri commands here.

What’s Live Tune-in exactly?

Some channels that offer live streams can use Siri to quickly tune in to a broadcast. You can things like, “Watch ESPN live,” or “Show me the Warriors game,” and Siri will automatically switch your Apple TV to the in-progress stream. Supported channels include:

  • ABC News
  • CBS
  • CBS News
  • CNN Go
  • Cooking Channel
  • Disney Channel
  • Disney Jr
  • Disney XD
  • DIY
  • ESPN
  • Food Network
  • FXNOW
  • HGTV
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • Travel Channel

tvOS tips

Enable dark mode

apple tv dark mode IDG

If you don’t like tvOS’s white background, you can paint in black.

Head over to the Settings app and navigate to the Appearance menu. From there you’ll be able to toggle between light and dark themes. In tvOS 11, there is also an Automatic option that will switch to a dark mode when the sun goes down.

Move the position of apps

apple tv move apps IDG

If you don’t like the order of apps on your home screen, just move them around.

Navigate to the app you want to move and press and hold the touch pad on the Siri Remote, just like you would with your finger on your iPhone screen. The app will start to wiggle on your home screen, and you’ll be able to drag ro reposition it.

Organize apps in folders

Follow the same process as you did for moving the position of your apps, except this time drag an icon on top of another one to put them in a folder together. (You can also press the Play/Pause button while in wiggle mode to bring up the contextual menu. Then select New folder.) To remove apps from a folder, open the folder and drag any app to the outside of the folder on the screen.

Delete an app

apple tv delete apps IDG

Cleaning up your Apple TV home screen is as easy as it is on the iPhone.

Once you’ve activated the wiggle mode as illustrated above, press the play/pause button to bring up the app menu. Then navigate to Delete and click the trackpad.

Set up multiple accounts

Apple TV is the only non-Mac device to support multiple users. That means if you and your partner have different movies in your libraries, you can easily switch between them. Head over to Settings and scroll down to Accounts, and select iTunes and App Store. Click Add new Apple ID, and enter your user name and password when prompted. Now, the next time you open the Accounts menu, both accounts will be available.

Manage your streaming subscriptions

apple tv subscriptions IDG

You can manage your streaming subscriptions right on your Apple TV.

If you need to change or cancel one of your streaming subscription plans bought through iTunes, head over to the Settings app, then select Accounts, and scroll down to Manage Subscriptions. After you enter your password, you’ll see a list of any services you’re subscribed to (as well as any expired subscriptions). Select one to modify or cancel it.

Quickly switch between apps

apple tv app switcher IDG

There’s an app switcher built into tvOS just like in iOS.

Just like the iPhone and iPad, Apple TV includes an easy way to switch to a recently used app. Simply double-click the TV icon on remote when on the home screen to bring up the app switcher. Then, swipe over to the app you want and click the remote.

Free up storage

apple tv manage storage IDG

If your Apple TV starts filling up with too many apps, you can easily free up space.

Apple brought back internal storage with the 4th-gen Apple TV, so it might require a little spring cleaning every now and again. Go to the Settings app, select General, and navigate to Manage Storage. Inside, you’ll see a screen similar to the one on your iOS devices, showing the apps that are installed and how much space they are using. To delete any storage hoggers, swipe over to the trash can icon and press the touch pad.

Tweak the remote sensitivity

apple tv toouch tracking IDG

You can adjust the tracking on your Siri Remote if it’s not to your liking.

If you’re having a hard time controlling your remote, you can change the sensitivity of the touch pad just like on your MacBook. Head over to Settings, then click Remotes and Devices, and then Touch Surface Tracking. Inside you can select the option that’s right for you: Slow, Medium, or Fast.

Ditch the remote

Apple’s Siri remote is designed to be super simple, but sometimes it can be a little too simple. For those times, there’s the Remote app. Available as a free download in the App Store, Remote on your iPhone lets you do everything you can do on the Siri Remote but also adds a keyboard, making password entry way easier.

Set up a Bluetooth device

Apple TV can support several Bluetooth devices simultaneously, including the Siri Remote, a Bluetooth keyboard, headphones, speakers, and up to four Made for iOS Bluetooth controllers. To pair up a Bluetooth device with your Apple TV, put it in pairing mode and open the Settings app. Scroll down to Remotes and Devices, and select Bluetooth. Once your device appears, select it from the list and enter the pairing passkey (if necessary).

Unpair a Bluetooth device

To unpair a Bluetooth device, head over to the same menu as you did to set up your device (Settings>Remotes and Devices>Bluetooth), click the device you’d like to unpair, and select Forget Device.

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