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Apple TV 4K vs Apple TV HD: Which should you buy?

Apple TV 4K
Apple TV 4K (Image credit: iMore)

The Apple TV 4K provides much more than a better video format versus the HD model. It also supports better audio, offers more storage, and is speedier than its predecessor.

Break it down now...

If you've purchased a TV in the last few years, the odds are good you bought one offering 4K resolution. This distinction refers to any resolution with a horizontal pixel count of approximately 4,000. The Apple TV 4K offers a maximum of 3840x2160 pixels, while the HD model supports 1920x1080 pixels. Beyond this, the 4K supports HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos, unlike the older model.

With HDR10, the picture offers brighter, more realistic colors and greater detail.

Dolby Vision is Dolby Laboratories' vision of HDR, which it says goes beyond standard HDR. Dolby Atmos, by contrast, is the company's fully immersive three-dimensional audio product. The Apple TV 4K is the first streaming player to be both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos certified.

The Apple TV 4K has an Apple A10X Fusion CPU versus the Apple A8 found on the older model. The A10X features four cores in total, with two of those considered high-performance cores. It has been designed to be over 50% faster than the A8. The speed difference isn't nearly as significant as it would be on a mobile device like an iPhone or iPad, except when it comes to gaming. If you're planning on using your Apple TV for gaming, you'll want to get the Apple TV 4K, along with Apple's Arcade subscription service. Just make sure you have a compatible game controller

Don't have a 4K television yet? You can still buy an Apple TV 4K and take advantage of the better internals.

Note: Both Apple TV models support tvOS 14 and offer the same content, including video, music, apps, and games. Additionally, both support Cupertino's Apple TV+ premium video service.

Apple TV 4KApple TV HD
Released20172015
Price$179/$199$149
Storage32GB/64GB32GB
Max resolution2160p (4K)1080p (HD)
HDR10YesNo
Dolby VisionYesNo
Dolby AtmosYesNo
Voice controlSiriSiri
Apple TV PlusYesYes
tvOS 13 compatibleYesYes
CPUApple 10X FusionApple A8
Wi-Fi802.11ac802.11ac
BluetoothBluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 4.0

You might think that the Apple TV HD is worth it despite the less powerful internals thanks to its lower price. However, with only a slight price difference between the two, it has become increasingly difficult to recommend the HD version. Gamers and anyone with a 4K television should bypass the HD model altogether. If you don't own a 4K tv, consider buying one; you'll be happy you did.

If you aren't into gaming, don't have a 4K television (and don't plan to get one anytime soon), the HD is still great to have. After all, the set-top boxes offer identical content. Otherwise, go with the 4K model. Gamers should buy the 64GB model.

Time frame

Cupertino could retire both the Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD this fall. Keep this in mind before making a new purchase.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.