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Early review suggests Apple Arcade struggling with 4K

What you need to know

  • Early review of Apple Arcade for Apple TV suggests optimization problems.
  • According to one reviewer, a handful of games performed very poorly at 4K resolution.
  • There were no issues reported at 1080p.

An early review of Apple Arcade is suggesting that the Apple TV 4K is struggling to handle some of the titles in the library, but only at 4K resolutions. The review, posted by Macworld suggested that whilst Apple Arcade's game are "amazing", some of them seem to be suffering from severe optimization problems at 4K resolution.

As per the story:

Yes, Apple Arcade games are amazing on the Apple TV 4K—provided, that is, you can get them to run properly. Frogger in Toy Town has frame rates so low in the opening cutscene that it sometimes resembles stop-animation. I couldn't even get The Pinball Wizard to run past the initial story cutscene, and so I had to content myself with watching the loading animation spin for several minutes before I finally gave up. Note, though, that these are extreme examples: With most games, I'd see only occasional frame rate drops, even in graphically complex titles like Oceanhorn 2. Even so, these problems didn't exist on the iPad and iPhone.

The report goes on to suggest that the issue is almost certainly optimization based, rather than a hardware issue.

Apple's hardware should be more than capable of handling existing Apple Arcade games, as the Apple TV 4K comes with an A10X Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture running at 2.3GHz, along with 3GB of RAM. Compare that to the Nintendo Switch, which has an Nvidia Tegra X1 for the GPU and a combination CPU featuring the quad-core Cortex A57 and quad-core-A53 running at 1GHz, along 4GB of RAM.This is sort of an "apples to oranges" comparison, but rough Geekbench 5 benchmarks for iPhones and iPads using an A10X Fusion suggest the Apple TV 4K should soundly trounce the Switch in most cases, yet the Switch rarely has a problem handling games as intense as id Software's 2016 Doom remake. Apple Arcade currently doesn't have any game approaching that kind of complexity, and I don't think the Switch's extra gig of RAM is going to make that much of a difference.

The reports aren't confined to this review, and there are some reports across Twitter that performance seems to be a problem on the Apple TV 4K.

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The review is quick to point out that the problems only seemed to occur when playing games at 4K resolution.

When I went into the Settings app and brought the video format down to 1080p SDR, I had no trouble running any Apple Arcade games at all. All of this leads me to believe poor optimization is the true culprit here, either within tvOS itself or in the hands of developers who may have spent more time optimizing their games for the iPhone and iPad.

Stephen Warwick
Stephen Warwick

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.

2 Comments
  • The switch runs games at 720p on the internal screen or 1080p in TV mode. It isn't exactly fair to compare an AppleTV running a 4K screen to this. A 4K screen has 4 times the number of pixels to drive compared to the Switch's 1080p output.
  • Screen resolution really has a big effect on performance, especially where 3D graphics are concerned. I remember running games at a lower resolution when I used to do PC gaming so I could turn up the rest of the graphics settings, which had a much more minor impact compared to screen resolution