Apple takes 4K TV streaming to another level

The tech giant surpasses the best in streaming boxes with its new Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K, from £179
Apple TV 4K, from £179 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

I found a DVD recently that I vaguely felt like watching. My DVD player was in standby mode. I pressed eject in case there was something in there. It didn’t work. I hit play. Nada. 

I thought of taking the player to an all-purpose repair guy I use, then looked up how much a new DVD player would be. Answer: about £30. Then I thought, “Really, why bother?” The only DVD players worth having now are Ultra HD Blu-ray machines, which are superb, but discs run at about £20 to £30.

Nope, 4K streaming from the likes of Amazon and Netflix is fine for me, even if for perfectionists, it is a rung below Ultra HD discs and subject to the vagaries of WiFi. Well, now Apple has surpassed the best in streaming boxes with this, its Apple TV 4K, a relatively expensive device (£199 for the 64Gb version) that opens the door to a growing library of films (and games, if you must) that stream in 4K HDR (High Dynamic Range) or the similar 4K Dolby Vision – and are a very reasonable £15 or less.

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These new enhanced streaming formats are as close as makes no difference to 4K Ultra HD discs. I bought one of my favourite films, The Martian, and enjoyed rewatching it just to gawp at the sharpness and colour subtlety. 

You’ll need a 4K TV with HDR. I was worried the Panasonic DX802 I bought a year ago wouldn’t be up to it, but it is. Just one thing: the picture from the Apple TV 4K is so good  I immediately regretted getting the 50in version of the Panasonic and not the 58in. Or something bigger. Other things you’ll need: decent broadband, bare minimum 15Mbps, which can be tricky even in UK cities. Also, a quality cable. I got the £30 Belkin Ultra High Speed HDMI. 

The Apple TV 4K will also upscale old material, and Apple says your existing iTunes purchases in HD will, over time, be upgraded to standard 4K. A warning: the screensavers Apple supplies of aerial footage shot around the world by drones and helicopters are so stunning that you may end up watching them out of wonder – the 2018 equivalent of viewing the test card.

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