It doesn’t light up all of the lights.
Listeners of The Vergecast know that I’ve been ridiculously excited about the new Apple TV 4K for weeks now, because there isn’t a great standalone streaming device that supports Dolby Vision 4K HDR and the new Dolby Atmos surround sound format. I just haven’t been able to use the full capabilities of my home theater — lighting up both the Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos lights on my receiver and TV — and I was excited for Apple to put out a polished, high-end product that got me there. Apple is firmly at the high end of the market: the Apple TV 4K starts at $179, much more than competing 4K HDR-capable devices like the $89 Roku Premiere+ or the $69 Google Chromecast Ultra. I was really expecting — hoping! — this thing would blow me away.
But the new Apple TV doesn’t support Atmos. And it doesn’t support YouTube in 4K HDR. And it doesn’t have Disney or Marvel movies in 4K HDR. And it makes some 1080p content look less than great.
I’m going to explain why these limitations exist, but you’ll have to bear with me. I suspect most reviewers will focus on the interface, the TV app and the various content deals that populate it, and the bare fact that the Apple TV now supports 4K HDR playback. But I need to tell you about video format arcana, because Apple’s decisions around some very wonky specs directly influence what it’s like to use the new Apple TV 4K.
Put some tape on your glasses. This is going to be nerdy.