What is Apple TV? A Premium Streaming TV Box with Budget Specs

I used to love my new 4th generation Apple TV. Now I simply like it. It may sound like a negligible difference, but I feel like Apple has really dropped the ball with this product — especially in light of the recently announced Chromecast Ultra which is jam-packed with the latest features and costs a fraction of the price.

Apple TV apps are what the platform really has going for it (the best Sling TV experience, for instance). Combined with a sleek, easy-to-use interface and a decent (sometimes wonky) remote, it’s a solid streaming TV box. Kind of.

Actually, apps aside, it’s priced like a premium streaming TV box even though it only has budget specs. The newest Apple TV can’t play 4K content. I was willing to forgive that, I guess, because content from from the amazing app selection mostly looked good enough on my Samsung KS8000 TV. But the more I experience HDR content the more I wonder why I paid nearly $200 for an Apple TV.

HDR is awesome. I love playing HDR games (see my Xbox One S HDR gaming review) and HDR video is really spectacular (see my HDR split-screen comparison video). It can be legitimately tricky to see the difference between 4K and regular 1080p HD content in many cases, but HDR makes a real, enjoyable difference.

And here’s the thing: the new Chromcast Ultra plays 4K HDR content and costs just $69.

There’s plenty to dislike about the Chromecast experience in my opinion (see my previous Chromecast review). I don’t like that my phone is the only remote option and I really dislike having to dip in and out of apps to find and play content (there really should be a central hub, Google).

But HDR. And 4K. For $69. Wow.

Apple needs to rethink the Apple TV. The Apple TV acting like a smart home hub is a nice idea. The apps and user experience are truly compelling. But as a maker of premium devices, Apple has failed to make a top-of-the-line streaming TV box.

The iPhone is the king of phones, the iPad is the king of tablets, the Apple Watch is the king of smartwatches, the Mac is the king of computers (these are all opinions, of course) but the Apple TV? It’s a bit of a court jester, at the moment.