Apple TV Brawl results: Apple solidly wins the 4K debate for now – and here’s why


Yesterday, we gave you the chance to speak your mind on Apple’s choice to omit 4K video support from the latest Apple TV — did Apple blow it, or does 4K support not yet matter?

After over 6,500 votes, and more than 125 comments, we have a clear answer: roughly 2/3 of readers said Apple made the right call leaving 4K support out of the Apple TV, as they didn’t care (yet) about the feature. That’s a decisive majority. But a solid 35% of readers opined — often strongly — that neglecting 4K support had cost Apple their business, given that 4K Ultra HD TVs are becoming affordable and more popular.

I hoped we’d see some intelligent discussion, and was thrilled that so many comments actually delivered, including insights on why Apple’s approach was practical — for now. Here are some of the best comments readers posted on each side of the debate…

Representing the 65% of users who said “No, I don’t care about Apple TV 4K support (yet),” the most common thread was that 4K content currently isn’t compelling enough to be a necessity, particularly in a low-end Apple TV, and mightn’t be for 2 years.

4K is just not an issue right now. And I don’t see much need to future proof a $ 150 item.   – Jon C

The reality is that 4K is not “there” yet. [1080p] HD is where +95% of current content is filmed and distributed. Why would I stress future proofing a $ 150 device? By the time 4k is ubiquitous enough to make it a no brainer that generation of Apple TV will have enough features to make it worth upgrading.   – Akil Ford

Some of the most interesting comments discussed a compromise — using (much-improved) 4K upscalers built into 4K Ultra HD TVs to make better use of higher-quality 1080p source files.

I had a perfectly fine 1080p Sony XBR television but recently upgraded to a Sony XBR 4K TV… And all content is upscaled to 4K and looks PHENOMENAL. So even without a lot of 4K content out there, you’re still reaping the major benefits of a razor sharp image 99% of the time for viewing. […] Since my TV upscales the content anyway, I’ll take the standard 1080p file that I know will load quickly and stream beautifully.   – verizon2828

There were lots of comments regarding the current state of 4K streaming standards and broadband service.

Apple never uses half baked technologies, instead it implements those when everything is ready and polished…. HEVC (H.265) is not finished yet, it still doesn’t render videos with grain as good as H.264/AVC does. And videos with grain are almost 9/10 of all movies ever shot because it is the side effect of the film itself and only movies shot on digital cameras don’t have grain. So, it means that 4K videos is not yet ready for “everywhere use” at Apple. You can’t see these rendering problems on iPhone screen, but you will notice those in a second on TV.   – Gagik Stepanyan

Netflix has a handful of shows and documentaries that support 4K. For me 4K streaming is a no go… because of 300 GB a month data cap on my 100mbs cable broadband. Just normal HD on Netflix eats quickly into my data caps. The infrastructure and way ISP’s are set up now does not make 4K streaming a good experince for most people… It needs time.   – taoprophet420

The average US broadband speed is 12.6 Mbps per Akamai. High quality and reliable 4K streaming would require 20 Mbps or more with current compression technology.   – Ondray Wells Jr.

And some of the comments focused on the modest benefits 4K offers users of smaller TVs.

Yes, everyone wants 4K TVs, and if you have a 4K TV, you want devices that work with it. So Apple is behind in what people want. However, I don’t think it actually makes in difference in useable quality. Unless your TV is bigger than 65?, you’re not actually going to notice any difference when you’re sitting on the couch. You’ll only notice when you go up and get really close to the TV.    – dwsolberg

Not everyone agreed with this, however. Representing the nearly 35% of users who said “yes, I’m skipping it because it can’t play 4K videos,” several readers noted that they own 4K TVs and appreciate the improved visual quality they’re already seeing in 4K streams.

“Daredevil” in 4K on my 55? Samsung looked much better than in 1080p on my old 46? set. – Samuel A. Maffei

I purchased a 4k Samsung 40? Smart TV this month…. I have to say, I can see the difference between 4k native and 1080p DVD or 4k upscaled [1080p] streamed content. Upscaling generally looks good but I can appreciate the difference with native content…. Aside from a noticeable general improvement in picture quality with 4k content, 4k resolution on my 40? TV is particularly appreciated with video content that contains text…. I have to say, now that I’ve had time with the Samsung Smart TV environment, I don’t see any need to buy an AppleTV in the future.   – sbandyk

For some people, the lack of 4K support is important for theoretical reasons.

I decided to skip this Apple TV because it doesn’t have 4K, even though I don’t have a 4K TV yet, and the only 4K content I currently have is from my iPhone. But I decided that anything I upgrade at this point should be 4K. Since Apple has already implemented 4K on the iPhone and iMacs I imagine a 4K Apple TV isn’t that far off.   – davegolden

Mirroring comments we’ve seen on earlier Apple TV articles, quite a few readers expressed anger at what they felt was either planned obsolescence or development inconsistency by Apple.

Anyone who wants to think Apple didn’t include 4K because there isnt enough content yet or it hasn’t taken off yet has their heads in the sand…. The fact is 4K TVs are dirt cheap right now, 9to5Toys was offering one at 600 yesterday I believe. This is classic Apple, just like you stated, they pulled the same stunt with 1080p. And I for one will skip it this year so that I buy a future proofed device. Not to mention that A8 is going to be pretty choppy once Devs start coding their games for the next model released with enough power to push 4K.   – chrisl84

A bigger concern for me is the lack of technology consistency in Apple’s lineup. You have phones that can now record 4K but a brand new Apple TV that cannot handle it. You have an iMac which is 5K and a high end Mac Pro which is stuck with an aging non-HD display…. And you have a company which is so secretive that you have no idea whether and when these inconsistencies are [ever] going to be addressed.   – Warren Shaw

One thing that’s clear from both the comments and the poll, which again has over 6,500 votes counted, is that while there’s a strong majority that doesn’t care about 4K support yet, a 1/3 minority that cares a lot about 4K — enough to skip the new Apple TV over it — is not trivial, despite what some commenters might suggest. of people care. You can talk about future proof, but the fact is, 4k is not standard on everything right now.   – viciosodiego

That’s just plain wrong. Our poll’s very large sample size, combined with the science of statistics, provide us with numbers that are very broadly generalizable. Even if we only had 4,200 responses, we could say with 99% confidence that the roughly 65% “no” and roughly 35% “yes” split we saw would be accurate to +/- 2% for a much larger population of people. Even today, with 4K penetration at as low of a level as it will be for decades, around 1/3 of people think it’s a major omission in the Apple TV. Leaving it out this time was a reasonably safe bet for Apple, but since 4K Ultra HD TVs keep falling in price, it’s clearly going to be at the top of the next version’s list of features.

More From This Author

Check out more of my reviews, How-To guides and editorials for 9to5Mac here! I’ve published a lot of different topics of interest to Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch users, as well as a personal gift guide for Apple fans, a great gift guide for iPhone users, a detailed gift guide for Mac users, and a separate gift guide for Apple photographers.

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