Apple TV 4K Second-Gen Review: It’s All About the Remote

This reasonable update essentially rights a utility wrong

Lance Ulanoff
Debugger
Published in
7 min readMay 20, 2021

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Second-generation Apple TV 4K with the new Siri remote. Photo: Lance Ulanoff

The second-generation Apple TV 4K pumps up the power with one of Apple’s aging CPUs (A12 Bionic), adding support for higher frame rates, better Wi-Fi, and an intriguing color balancing tool. But all I can think about is the new Siri remote.

Forgive me if I’m not doing backflips over what is essentially a minor streaming-box update paired with a fundamental redesign of the most important element in your streaming experience.

To understand my fixation with the new, bulkier, and more workmanlike Apple TV 4K Siri remote, you need to understand the enmity most people have toward the previous remote. A mix of metal, plastic, and glass, it was a slippery bugger that offered almost no tactile clues about whether you were holding it correctly or backward. Usually, you found out when the touch-sensitive glass ended up buried in your palm, hurtling your Netflix binge backward in time.

Apple never said the remote was bad, but the new look is an admission in and of itself.

The thing you hold

The new, almost all-aluminum remote is taller and thicker than the last one. It might also be a tad narrower. There is no glass that I can see. Instead, the remote was redesigned with eyes-free use in mind. What I mean is that you no longer have to look at the remote to use it. From the top down: There’s a tiny slot for the microphone. To the left is the new power button that can put your Apple TV 4K and TV to sleep with one press or turn them off with a long press.

The new Apple TV 4K Siri remote. Photo: Lance Ulanoff

Below that is the large clickpad with a touch surface. The large touch-sensitive button in the center is great for controlling video playback and scrubbing back and forth through a video stream. The outer circle is good for larger jumps through videos and menus. The entire circular button is touch-sensitive, but I could see people doing as I did, keeping their gestures confined to the center circle and pressing on the outer ring for bigger tasks.

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Lance Ulanoff
Debugger

Tech expert, journalist, social media commentator, amateur cartoonist and robotics fan.