Apple has released multiple versions of the Apple TV player over the years, with each one improving in often minor, but important ways. Even though the first Apple TV player was released in 2007, and there have been a number of upgrades inside, the Apple TV player has managed to retain a consistent look and design over the years.
Apple TV is only one of many streaming players available to buy today. With it being an Apple product, it does come with a strong focus on Apple’s own services and greater compatibility with the company’s other hardware products. Thanks to its focus on high quality hardware and user-friendly software, Apple TV is a product worth considering, and even for those new to the Apple ecosystem.
The current Apple TV lineup consists of the Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Ethernet models. Both of these players are different to the Apple TV app which is not only available on Apple TV players, but a number of streaming players and smart TV from other manufacturers as well. Likewise, both the Apple TV player and the Apple TV app are different from Apple TV Plus, the subscription streaming service that unlocks access to Apple’s original shows and movies.
Apple TV player history
When taking into consideration the multiple players, dedicated app, and the standalone streaming service, it is easy to see just how far Apple’s TV ambitions have come since the first Apple TV player was released.
Apple TV (1st generation)
|Released: 2007||Model number: A1218|
The very first Apple TV was announced and released in early 2007. Unlike modern versions, the original model was more similar to a dedicated iTunes player, allowing Apple users to easily access all of their iTunes content on a TV. In fact, Apple likened Apple TV to a “DVD player for the 21st century” albeit one that plays digital content instead of physical discs. However, it wasn’t just for iTunes content. By June of 2007, YouTube launched on Apple TV, and considering the first iPhone didn’t launch until later that same month, this meant Apple TV had access to YouTube before the iPhone did.
The 2007 Apple TV (1st generation) came equipped with a 40GB hard drive that was capable of storing up to 50 hours of video, a maximum output resolution of 720p, and set buyers back $299.
Apple TV (2nd generation)
|Released: 2010||Model number: A1378|
It wasn’t until September 2010 when the next Apple TV would arrive. Compared to the original model, the second-generation was positioned as a more affordable streaming player and one which expanded on the streaming capabilities with support for many popular streaming services including Netflix, YouTube, Flickr and MobileMe. The latter of which was Apple’s own subscription-based service. The 2010 Apple TV also allowed users to watch videos streamed from their other devices, as well as rent movies and episodes from iTunes.
The 2010 Apple TV (2nd generation) came with a maximum output resolution of 720p, introduced the upgraded aluminum Apple Remote, and was priced at $99 in the US.
Apple TV (3rd generation)
|Released: 2012||Model number: A1427, A1469|
The third-generation Apple TV officially arrived in March of 2012 and marked the first time that the lineup offered support for 1080p. This was arguably the biggest selling point with the 2012 Apple TV player, although it did also build on some of the core features of the series, such as support for more services and a simpler user interface. The Apple TV’s iTunes Store support also grew, resulting in the ability to access more than 15,000 movies and over 90,000 TV episodes.
In spite of the upgrade to 1080p, the 2012 Apple TV (3rd generation) was priced at $99 in the US, the same price as the previous version.
Apple TV (4th generation) – aka Apple TV HD
|Released: 2015||Model number: A1625|
The Apple TV (4th generation) arrived in 2015 and was the start of what many now know as the Apple TV player. It is probably also more commonly known as the Apple TV HD, denotating its relationship and difference to the newer Apple TV 4K players. Compared to previous models, the differences included newer internal hardware and the introduction of a simplified Siri Remote. The 2015 Apple TV was also the first model to come running on tvOS, the operating system that’s still in use today on Apple TV players.
The 2015 Apple TV (4th generation) was priced at $149 in the US for the 32GB model. Buyers could opt for a 64GB model priced at $199.
Apple TV 4K (1st generation)
|Released: 2017||Model number: A1842|
The Apple TV 4K (1st generation) arrived on the scene back in 2017, and, as the name suggests, ushered in the era of 4K. This was a a fairly major shift for the Apple TV lineup and one that built on the 2012 switch from 720p to 1080p. In addition to 4K, the 2017 Apple TV player’s High Dynamic Range (HDR) support provided users with a sharper, crisper, and richer viewing experience. With 4K the big selling point, Apple also used the 2017 launch to announce that iTunes users would get free upgrades to 4K versions (when available) of any HD movies they had previously purchased. Considering the Apple TV app only became available in late 2016, the 2017 Apple TV 4K was also the first Apple TV player to have access to the Apple TV app at launch.
The Apple TV 4K (1st generation) was available in two storage options. The baseline 32GB model was priced at $179, while the 64GB version set buyers back $199.
Apple TV 4K (2nd generation)
|Released: 2021||Model number: A2169|
The Apple TV 4K (2nd generation) arrived in 2021. Even though this was somewhat of a minor update compared to the first-generation, the changes were still significant enough. These included the use of the A12 Bionic chip to deliver an improved video experience with support for high frame rate HDR and Dolby Vision. The 2021 Apple TV 4K also came equipped with the newer and much-improved Siri Remote.
Similar to the previous version, the 2021 Apple TV 4K (2nd generation) was available to buy in two storage options with the 32GB model priced at $179 and the 64GB version costing $199. It has since been discontinued by Apple, but can still be picked up from some third-party retailers.
Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi-Fi
|Released: 2022||Model number: A2737|
The Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi-Fi is one of the newest Apple TV players to arrive and follows on from the Apple TV 4K (2nd generation) model. This Apple TV player was announced in October 2022 and became available to buy on November 4th, 2022. Unlike the 2021 player, the Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi) is missing Thread support and does not feature a Gigabit Ethernet port. On the plus side, it does come with 64GB storage, a new third-generation Siri Remote featuring a USB-C port, and HDR10+ support.
The Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi-Fi is available to buy with 128GB storage, and is priced at $129 in the United States.
Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi-Fi + Ethernet
|Released: 2022||Model number: A2843|
The Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi-Fi + Ethernet was announced in October 2022 alongside the Wi-Fi-only model and also became available to buy on November 4th, 2022. It is currently the best Apple TV player that Apple sells. Similar to the Apple TV 4K (2021), the 3rd generation Wi-Fi + Ethernet player is somewhat of a minor upgrade. The main improvements come in the form of the processor (A15 Bionic), the storage (128GB), and HDR10+ support. Just like the 2022 Wi-Fi-only model, the Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi + Ethernet) also comes bundled with the Siri Remote (3rd generation).
The Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) Wi-Fi + Ethernet is available to buy with 128GB storage, and is priced at $149 in the United States.
Every Apple TV player summary
Apple has released no less than eight Apple TV streaming players since the first one arrived back in 2007, resulting in three distinct generations of players to date. The first is those that were limited to 720p, the second being those limited to 1080p, and the third being those that max out at 4K. Along with the changes to the maximum output resolution, each model has seen some refinements along the way. Although the improvements might be less noticeable than other product upgrades, they have all paved the way to the current and best Apple TV experience.
Alongside the evolution of the Apple TV player, the remote has been on its own journey. Over the years, the remote was updated to an aluminum remote before evolving into the Siri Remote. It has since been updated twice more, with the Siri Remote (3rd generation) the most useful and modern Apple TV remote to date.
Published: June 2022, Updated: Nov. 2022