What is Apple TV? The streaming device fully explained


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Apple TV is the umbrella term for Apple’s living room strategy. It encompasses hardware, software, and a streaming service, all of which share the “Apple TV” name. Or maybe you’re talking about the Apple TV app, which is available most just on Apple TV, but also on other Apple products.

It gets a little confusing, perhaps. But that’s where we come in.

This is everything you need to know about Apple TV. The hardware. And the software. And the streaming service.

Apple TV 4K hardware with remote and retail box.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Apple TV hardware

Generally speaking, when you talk about Apple TV, you’re talking about hardware, or what commonly is referred to as a set-top box, which plugs into your television via HDMI. The official name of the current hardware is Apple TV 4K, which is now in its third generation.

The box itself is about the size of a couple of decks of cards. And in typical Apple fashion, it’s a pretty stark design. Matte black plastic, with just the Apple logo on top, and some ports on the back.

There now are a couple of versions of Apple TV 4K, which was last refreshed in October 2022 and sport mostly minor improvements on the previous version. They share the same parts and features for the most part. Apple refers to them as the “Wi-Fi model,” and the “Wi-Fi + Ethernet model.”

As the names imply, one only has wireless networking, and the other has a gigabit Ethernet port. That’s not the only distinction, though. The model with Ethernet has double the onboard storage at 128GB, and support for the Thread networking standard, which will make smart home support even more seamless.

Both models are powered by Apple’s A15 Bionic processor, which means both are very overpowered for what they currently do. That’s not a bad thing, though.

And both share the same Siri Remote. It’s still the sleek silver deal we’ve enjoyed for a while now (and it’s still perhaps a little smaller and boxier than you’d like). It still has a combination directional/clickable button/pad thing that sounds weird on paper but works fine in actuality, with a minimal smattering of buttons. And it has proper power and volume controls, so there’s a pretty good chance it’ll be the only…