Last month, I reported a rumor that the fifth generation of the Apple TV set-top streamer would include the ability to stream 4K/UHD and high dynamic-range (HDR) content. That rumor has now been almost completely verified with the introduction of the Apple TV 5. (The only part I haven’t been able to confirm is support for the HLG format of HDR.)
The Apple TV 5 became available to pre-order on September 15 and will start shipping on September 22. It will be offered with a storage capacity of 32 GB ($179) or 64 GB ($199). In addition to 4K/UHD resolution, it’s also capable of delivering HDR in the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats.
As many of you already know, HDR10 uses static metadata, which specifies the peak and average brightness at which the entire program was mastered. By contrast, Dolby Vision uses dynamic metadata that specifies the peak and average brightness of each scene or even each frame. Dolby Vision is generally considered the better format for that reason.
The HDMI output is specified as 2.0a, but I haven’t been able to verify if it operates at 10.2 or 18 Gbps—or something in between. (As we learned at CEDIA, the HDMI inputs on the Sony VPL-VW285ES and VW385ES operate at 13.5 Gbps.) I assume it’s greater than 10.2 Gbps, since that speed would allow 10-bit HDR with 4K/UHD resolution only at 24 frames per second with 4:2:0 color subsampling.
Content with these characteristics will be available from iTunes and Netflix at launch as well as Amazon later this year. In my research for this article, I came across an interactive list of all 4K/UHD content on iTunes at FlatPanelsHD. The list indicates which titles include HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR, and you can search the list by title, HDR format, and/or studio.
According to this report from Forbes, those titles on iTunes won’t cost any more than the HD versions—typically around $20. Other content providers charge as much as $25 or $30 for 4K titles, so this is a pretty big deal. Even better, any iTunes titles you already own in HD will be automatically updated to 4K/UHD HDR if that version of the titles is available.
Other features of the Apple TV 5 include the ability to share content from other Apple devices via AirPlay. Also, the new device will support AirPlay 2 later this year, which adds multi-room capabilities to Apple’s wireless casting system that works on the home’s Wi-Fi network. AirPlay 2 will be part of iOS 11, which will work on any iPhone from the iPhone 5S, many iPad models, and Mac computers once they are updated to MacOS High Sierra on September 25. Other companies that have announced they will support AirPlay 2 include Bang & Olufsen, B&W, Bluesound, Denon, Dynaudio, Polk, Marantz, and McIntosh among others.
Apple has finally jumped on the 4K/UHD HDR era bandwagon with the Apple TV 5. I can’t wait to get my hands on one to see how it stacks up in the increasingly crowded marketplace of streamers with these capabilities.