Apple TV: What it is and how it works

We use Apple TV a lot, so we've put together a mini guide to help you understand what it is and how it works.

Apple TV isn't really a television. It is a streaming device similar to Roku and Amazon Fire TV for accessing streaming content from all your favorite TV and movie providers.

Essentially, Apple TV turns your TV into a "smart" TV. You can rent movies or stream your collection from iTunes, stream movies and TV shows from apps like Netflix and Hulu, stream music through Apple Music and Pandora, listen to podcasts, and even replace traditional TV with services like Sling Cable subscription television.

What you can use depends on the apps you decide to install. Some programs are free, some require payment, and some are free to download but must be purchased to use (such as HBO).

The two things you need to set up your Apple TV (besides the actual TV) are an HDMI cable (not included) and an Internet connection. Apple TV includes an Ethernet port for a hard-wired Internet connection and also supports Wi-Fi. It also comes with a remote control.

After connecting it to your TV via an HDMI cable and turning it on, you'll run through a brief setup process. This process involves entering your Apple ID, which is the same ID you use to log into iTunes and download apps on your iPad. If you are connecting wirelessly, you will also need to enter your Wi-Fi information.

If you have an iPhone, you can use it to speed up the process. Apple TV and iPhone share some of this information for you, eliminating the painful process of entering it using a remote.

The latest version of the hardware, the Apple TV 4K, has the same fast processor as the iPad Pro, making it as powerful as most laptops. It also has a graphics processor powerful enough to turn it into a gaming machine.

Apple's streaming box is also part of the Apple ecosystem, which means it works perfectly with your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. You can view iCloud Photo Library on your TV, including Memories album videos automatically created from Photos on iPad and iPhone.

You can also use AirPlay to cast your iPhone or iPad screen to your Apple TV, so you can use your big-screen TV to interact with any app on your smartphone or tablet.

Apple TV also lets you access Siri and can be a base station for HomeKit. The remote includes a Siri button, allowing you to control the TV with your voice.

You can also use Siri features to handle requests, such as telling you who's in a specific movie or asking it to show movies of a specific genre, actor, or director.

HomeKit is the headquarters for your smart home. If you have smart appliances like a thermostat or lights, you can use HomeKit to control them. You can even use your iPhone to communicate with your Apple TV at home to control your smart devices while you're out and about.

The Apple TV lineup used to have two main options: HD and 4K. The last HD model was launched in 2015 and is difficult to find outside of auction sites like eBay and other resale markets. This version supports up to 1080p.

4K models, which can display video up to 2160p, have completely replaced it; there are now several different versions. It's generally smaller, lighter, faster, and the third-generation remote also has a USB-C port.

You can read full details on each generation of Apple TV.

While it's priced higher than all its competitors, the Apple TV 4K could end up being the cheapest among streaming devices. The Apple TV 4K is great for a number of reasons, the best of which is that if you own one, Apple will upgrade your iTunes movie library to 4K.

The average cost difference between an HD version of a movie and a 4K version is about $5 to $10. If you have 10 movies in your iTunes movie library, upgrading to 4K alone is worth about $75. If you have 25 movies, the Apple TV 4K will almost pay for itself.

If you don't own the movie yet, Apple will let you buy the 4K version for the same price as HD. You don't have to pay extra to get the same movie in the best format.

In terms of image quality, Apple TV 4K supports both 4K resolution and HDR10. While 4K gets the spotlight, high dynamic range (HDR) may be even more important to image quality.

Essentially, 4K gives you more pixels on your screen, while HDR gives you better pixels. Not only does HDR increase resolution, it also gives you a wider range of colors, which increases the quality and depth of your images.

Apple TV 4K also supports Dolby Vision, a form of HDR with a higher color range.

But Apple TV offers more than just streaming video. Its powerful processor makes it capable of playing games, and its power is such that you might start seeing productivity apps like Numbers and Pages appear on your Apple TV.

The Apple TV 4K also shines with its internet connectivity. Not only does it include 1 Gigabit Ethernet port, it also features the latest Wi-Fi technology, including MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output).

If you have a dual-band router, the Apple TV 4K will essentially connect to it twice (once for each "band"). Dual wireless connections are faster than a single wired connection and are especially useful when working with 4K content.

Since we live in a streaming world with so much content available to watch at all times, figuring out what to watch can be a little difficult. Thanks to so many different services where to watch it.

Apple's answer is a new app called "TV." In many ways, it's the same content you get when you open Hulu Plus or other similar apps. You'll see a variety of different shows and movies, starting with the ones you've recently watched and working your way up to recommended shows and movies. The difference is that these videos come from a variety of sources, such as Hulu Plus and your movie collection in iTunes.

The TV app collects this content in one place so you can browse it all easily. It even has a sports channel that shows live events, including current scores. Unfortunately, Netflix isn't part of the Apple TV app, so you'll still need to check the app separately.

Assuming you can even find an Apple TV HD now, even if you never plan to upgrade to a 4K TV, the upgrade in processing speed, graphics performance (Apple TV 4K has four times better performance), and internet speed is well worth it. The 4K version is available for an additional fee.

The main reason to consider the non-4K version is if you're not that interested in the variety of apps and games you can download from the App Store. But in this case, you're better off looking for a cheaper solution like a Roku stick.

There are two storage levels available in Apple TV 4K: 64 GB and 128 GB.

FAQ
  • You can pair your Siri remote when setting up Apple TV. If you need to pair again after setup, point the remote three inches away from your Apple TV. Then, hold Menu and Volume Up for five seconds. Finally, if prompted, place the remote on top of your Apple TV to complete pairing.

  • There are three ways to delete apps on Apple TV. However, the easiest way is to highlight the app, hold down the touchpad, and select Play/Pause > Delete > Delete .

  • Apple TV Plus is different from Apple TV or Apple TV App. This is Apple's subscription streaming service. Subscribers can access original content only available on Apple TV+.

  • To cancel Apple TV+, visit AppleTV.com in a web browser. Select the account profile icon and log in when prompted. Then, go to Settings > Subscriptions > Manage > Unsubscribe .