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Apple TV (2021): Features, release date, design, and more

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Apple unveiled during its ‘Spring Loaded’ event the 2021 Apple TV. Named Apple TV 4K, this is the second-generation set-top-box with 4K support. It features the A12 Bionic chip, a new Siri Remote, and more.

History: Apple TV through the years

The first-generation Apple TV was unveiled in September 2006. The product, which would be called iTV, couldn’t have this name since the British terrestrial broadcast network ITV already held the right to the name in the UK and threatened to take legal action against Apple.

Shipped six months later, the first Apple TV had a 40GB HDD, and a 160GB HDD option was later released.

The second-generation Apple TV was announced in September of 2010 and was the first model to run on a variant of iOS. In a smaller, all-black case, it was one-quarter the size of the original Apple TV. The HDD was replaced by 8GB of internal flash storage, enough for buffering purposes. Also different from the first set-top box, this one was only used for streaming content. It also supported output up to 720p over HDMI only.

The third-generation Apple TV was released almost two years later in March 2012. It included the A5 chip and support for 1080p output. As of 2021, the third-generation set-top box still works with streaming services including Apple TV+, Apple TV Channels, Amazon Video, and Netflix.

The fourth generation, or the Apple TV HD, was the biggest revamp to the set-top box in years, and it launched in September 2015. With a brand-new black remote charged via Lightning cable, it introduced the tvOS operating system with an App Store allowing downloads of third-party apps for video, audio, games, and other content. This device includes the A8 processor and support for Dolby Digital Plus.

Two years later, in September of 2017, Apple introduced the fifth-generation Apple TV, or the Apple TV 4K, which supports 2160p output, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and includes the A10X Fusion processor. This model is similar to the fourth-generation model with the only difference being the addition of vents on the base and the removal of the USB-C port.

The sixth-generation Apple TV, or the second-generation Apple TV 4K, was introduced in April of 2021. With a similar design to its predecessor, the main change is the A12 chip and the second-generation Siri Remote.

Specs and features: 2021 Apple TV

In August of 2020, Bloomberg reported a new Apple TV was in the works with an upgraded remote and a Find My Apple TV remote feature. As for now, the set-top-box has been unveiled but without the Find My feature, as it lacks, for example, the U1 chip.

Design and new remote

The 2021 Apple TV looks the same as the older Apple TV 4K. What really changed was the Siri Remote. The second-generation remote uses aluminum and rubbered buttons instead of aluminum and glass, which is more resistant against accidental drops.

The new Siri Remote has a dedicated Siri button in the right side and its easier to use.

If you want to learn everything about the new Siri Remote, check our guide here.

A12 chip, HDMI 2.1 support

arm vs intel cpus

Code seen by 9to5Mac showed that Apple planned to introduce a more powerful processor in the 2021 Apple TV based on the arm64e architecture, which turned out to be the A12 chip.

This chip helps the sixth-generation Apple TV support high frame rate in AirPlay and display videos shot on iPhone 12 Pro in full 60-fps Dolby Vision.

In early April, 9to5Mac discovered multiple references in tvOS 14.5 to “120Hz” and “supports120Hz.” The new Apple TV 4K technically can support this higher refresh rate because it uses HDMI 2.1 but as for now, Apple didn’t implement it.

If Apple wants to enter the game market with the Apple TV, a higher refresh rate and a more powerful processor are keys to success, and this set-top-box can have both. The only turn down with the 2021 Apple TV is that the Siri Remote lacks a gyroscope and accelerometer sensor, so some Apple Arcade games require the older Remote or an MFI controller to proper work

Rumor: TV box with integrated HomePod speaker and FaceTime camera

A report by Bloomberg suggests that Apple is developing a connected TV box with an integrated HomePod speaker and FaceTime camera.

“The device would offer the kind of features users would expect from an Apple TV box — like access to video streaming apps and games console — as well as HomePod-esque smart speaker features and a camera for smart home security and living room FaceTime.

Bloomberg warns the device is in early development and may not ever be released as an actual consumer product.

Although Apple is not ready yet to launch this product, it’s good to know what the company could be planning for the seventh-generation Apple TV.


The second-generation Apple TV 4K starts at $179 on the 32GB model and goes up to $199 on the 64GB version. The set-top-box still doesn’t offer an HDMI cable in the box with the product.

Release date: When will the 2021 Apple TV come out

The 2021 Apple TV is going to be released in the second half of May. Apple started taking orders on April 30. Recently, 9to5Mac discovered the 2021 Apple TV 4K will launch on May 21.

tvOS 14.5 beta code suggests 120Hz support coming to a new Apple TV model

We’ve been hearing rumors about the next-generation Apple TV for over a year now, and although more evidence has been found, Apple’s plans for its set-top box remain unknown. However, 9to5Mac found references to 120Hz support in the tvOS 14.5 beta code, which is something that wouldn’t work on the current-generation Apple TV due to hardware limitations.

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Opinion: Now is the time for Apple to release a new Apple TV

Dolby Vision on Apple TV 4K

It’s time for a new Apple TV. That could be the whole story, but it won’t be. Since the end of 2017, when the Apple TV 4K launched, we haven’t heard another word from Apple about a new set-top box. The Apple TV has become an essential device for many Apple users, particularly during a pandemic, and this naturally begs the question of whether an update is coming.

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Poll: Would you prefer Apple to introduce an upgraded Apple TV or a cheaper model?

Dolby Vision on Apple TV 4K

Apple TV has never been a hit, but Apple has been paying more attention to the product in recent years with the advent of streaming services. However, as noted by my 9to5Mac colleague Zac Hall, Apple no longer has an affordable option for customers who don’t want to spend more than $100 on a set-top box.

As rumors suggest that Apple might introduce a new Apple TV later this year, we want to know if you would prefer an upgraded Apple TV with improved hardware or just a cheaper model.

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Bloomberg: New Apple TV in the works with ‘upgraded’ remote, Find My Apple TV remote feature

In addition to details about the new iPad and Apple Watch, Bloomberg also shed some light on the next Apple TV, which apparently might not be ready to ship until next year. The Apple set-top box was last updated in 2017, with the launch of the Apple TV 4K.

Evidence of a new Apple TV hardware refresh has been circling around in iOS code for a while. Bloomberg says the new Apple TV will include a faster chip for improved gaming performance (the current Apple TV features an A10X chip). The site also says that it will include an ‘upgraded remote control’ and a Find My feature to make it easier to locate a remote when it goes missing in the house.

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