What are all the differences between the Apple TV 3rd Gen and Apple TV 4th Gen (Siri) models? Which is best for me?
There are twodifferent Apple TV 3rd Gen models and a single Apple TV 4th Gen model. These look similar, but have many differences in terms of hardware and software alike.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Apple TV 4th Gen)
External & Connectivity Differences
Externally, the Apple TV 3rd Gen (below) and Apple TV 4th Gen models (above) would be easy to confuse for one another, and they have the same footprint, but the later model is roughly half an inch taller and a third of a pound heavier than its predecessor.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Apple TV 3rd Gen)
The Apple TV 3rd Gen and Apple TV 4th Gen have significantly different connectivity. Depending on your perspective, the newer model may be better or worse in this regard.
Both models have a power connector and a 10/100Base-T Ethernet port, but otherwise vary.
The Apple TV 3rd Gen models have an HDMI port, an optical audio out port, and a Micro-USB port that formally is for "diagnostic use only" as well as support for 802.11a/b/g/n wireless. It also supports Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound via pass-through.
The Apple TV 4th Gen models, on the other hand, have an HDMI 1.4 port and a USB-C port formally "for service and support." It also has 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO capability, but it does not have an optical audio out port. It supports Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus 7.1.
Both the Apple TV 3rd Gen and Apple TV 4th Gen support remotes, but the subsequent model is much more advanced.
The Apple TV 3rd Gen includes a silver colored aluminum "Apple Remote" with a dedicated directional key button, Menu, and Play/Pause buttons.
The Apple TV 4th Gen, on the other hand, has a black colored aluminum "Siri Remote" with an advanced "Glass Touch" surface for directional control, an internal accelerometer and gyroscope for additional control options (particularly for games as pioneered by the Nintendo Wii), and dedicated buttons for the Menu, Home, Up/Down, Play/Pause, and Siri. Siri Voice Command support doesn't always work well, but it's neat when it works as intended.
However, although the "Siri Remote" is more advanced, it also is worth noting that it is quite fragile and does not have a replaceable battery like the simpler "Apple Remote."
The Apple TV 4th Gen also supports third-party controllers, which should open up additional gaming and maybe even productivity possibilities.
The Apple TV 3rd Gen and Apple TV 4th Gen are easy to differentiate when they're next to one another. However, as there are two Apple TV 3rd Gen models and the Apple TV 2nd Gen model also looks identical to the Apple TV 3rd Gen, visual identification is not a good method.
Consequently, these models can be easily identified by Model Number and EMC Number, both of which are provided in tiny type toward the bottom of the underside of each device:
EveryMac.com's Ultimate Lookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app -- also can uniquely identify these devices by their Serial Numbers, and this is another method that can be used to find the precise model.
The Apple TV 3rd Gen and Apple TV 4th Gen models are completely different under the hood.
The final Apple TV 3rd Gen model (A1469) has a single core 28 nm Apple A5 processor (S5L8947), 512 MB of RAM, and 8 GB of flash storage.
The Apple TV 4th Gen model has a much faster dual core20 nm Apple A8 processor (APL1011), 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB or 64 GB of flash storage.
However, despite the massive improvement in performance that the Apple TV 4th Gen provides, both devices support 1080p video. Neither supports 4K.
Although they are both based on iOS, the Apple TV 3rd Gen and Apple TV 4th Gen run different operating systems.
The Apple TV 3rd Gen first shipped with Apple TV 5.1 with support for a number of built-in "channels" and selective "app-like" functionality whereas the Apple TV 4th Gen runs an all new "tvOS" with support for an app store and full fledged applications.
The major differences are summarized below:
Apple TV 3rd Gen
Apple TV 4th Gen
|Processor Type:||Apple A5||Apple A8|
|Processor Speed:||1 GHz (Variable)||1.4 GHz (Variable)|
|Standard RAM:||512 MB||2 GB|
|Storage Options:||8 GB||32, 64 GB|
|Current Storage:||Used Only||32 GB|
|USB Ports:||1 (Micro-USB)||1 (USB-C)|
|Display Ports:||HDMI||HDMI 1.4|
|Remote:||Apple Remote||Siri Remote|
|Original OS:||Apple TV 5.1||tvOS 9.0|
|Maximum OS:||Apple TV 7.x||Current|
|Apple Order No:||MD199LL/A||MGY52LL/A|
|Apple Model No:||A1427/A1469||A1625|
|Original Price:||US$99||US$149, US$199|
|Current Price:||Used Only||US$149|
So, which one of these Apple TV models is best for me?
Just compared to one another, and igoring the newer Apple TV 4K, the Apple TV 4th Gen is better than the Apple TV 3rd Gen model in nearly every way. It's faster, more capable, and has vastly expanded software support. It is a new platform, though, and feels decidedly incomplete in many respects. No doubt it will become better as the software is refined and third-party apps are released that take full advantage of its capabilities.
Consequently, most users who feel the desire for an Apple TV should purchase the Apple TV 4th Gen. The Apple TV 3rd Gen is well worth consideration for someone who has simpler needs -- mostly to sling 1080p video from a Mac or Apple device and use content within Apple's ecosystem (or who find the optical audio port particularly useful) -- and/or who would like to save some money, as well.
However, keep in mind that software support for the Apple TV 3rd Gen likely will be increasingly limited, so it probably will not be as usable for as long as the Apple TV 4th Gen, which somewhat mitigates the upfront savings when allocated over the life of the device.
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