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Apple TV Finally Gets a 4K HDR Upgrade

After going without an upgrade for a while, Apple has finally brought their set-top box into the future.

To their credit, Apple often enough tends to wait to jump on trends until they’ve picked up enough steam. That seems to be the case with 4K HDR — the technology was always convincing, but for a while, there simply wasn’t enough 4K HDR content to make the new hardware worth it to the mainstream consumer. Yesterday, Apple showed they’ve decided that the time for 4K HDR is now by announcing Apple TV 4K, the latest edition of their streaming set-top box.

It’s a big step forward in power — the streamer will now be able to power 4K and HDR content thanks to the use of the A10X chip, the same one in the iPad Pro. The additional processing power makes that jump in picture quality possible, while the increase in GPU performance makes Apple TV that much better at playing games.

They didn’t skimp on HDR, either. High dynamic range, which expands the color palette to enable improved color contrast and more striking images, is arguably more important to image quality than 4K (it’s what TV manufacturers have been stressing in recent years, too). Apple TV 4K supports both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision standards — Dolby’s software is currently considered the pinnacle of HDR technology, as it adjusts color contrast continuously from scene to scene.

But, like we said, the lack of content has been a problem in the past. Apple is signalling that that won’t be an issue now. During yesterday’s announcement, Apple revealed that not only are they working on bringing more 4K HDR movies and videos to iTunes, they’re going to upgrade all HD movies you’ve purchased to 4K HDR for free. If you don’t already have those movies, Apple says 4K HDR movies will cost no more than current HD movies.

Apple is also working on securing 4K HDR content from Netflix and Amazon Video, plus content from more and more local providers. They’re also improving live sports on Apple TV —they’ll surface games involving your favorite teams on the home screen when they’re about to start, and they’ll list scores on preview panes for all games (a feature you can turn off if you’re scared of sports spoilers).

Like the iPhone 8 and the Apple Watch Series 3, Apple TV 4K can be preordered starting September 15 and will ship out on September 22. It will cost $180.