Initial thoughts on 2021 Apple TV 4K

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Hardware & Accessories

So, I have had the 2021 Apple TV 4K for a few days now and wanted to share a few initial thoughts and impressions.
First, I know many people are curious about the new remote. As reported in the media, it is a bit thicker and longer than the previous remote. Not a lot thicker, just a little bit. It does feel a bit more substantial in your hand, but as it is still slippery, I can see it easily sliding between the couch cushions. I'm a little disappointed the Find My feature wasn't incorporated.
The top right corner of the remote has a small button which can be a little hard to feel. This is the on/off button. It can be activated by holding it down for a few seconds. I'm using my Apple TV with a Panasonic receiver and a Toshiba Fire TV. Thus far, I have not yet been able to get the remote to turn either of these devices on or off. It does, however, put the Apple TV to sleep.
The top center of the remote has a small hole. I can only assume this is for the microphone, but I may be wrong about this.
Moving down, the next portion of the remote contains the new directional control pad. This feels like a standard remote control ring with a slightly depressed area in the center. By default, you can press the ring in any direction to move in that direction. You can also perform gestures in the center of the ring. This works a lot like the track pad on the old Apple TV remote, in that you can flick left, flick right or turn the rotor. You can also press this center area to select something. When I initially started using the remote, I found myself often selecting the wrong thing. This happened because when I went to press the center of the circle to select something, I moved my finger slightly before pressing down. This small action resulted in a flick, taking me to the next item over. Fortunately, you can disable the gesture area. This is done by going to settings, selecting remotes and devices. It is the first option. It should, however, be noted that when this option is changed, it is no longer possible to perform any VoiceOver gestures on the remote. So, for example, to just simply change the speech rate, you have to go into Settings, Accessibility, VoiceOver and adjust the setting. I haven't yet decided which of these two things is less convenient. I do like the option of pressing on the circle to move one spot to the right or left.
The remaining five buttons on the face of the remote feel very similar to the bottom five buttons on the old Apple TV remote. This consists of two columns of buttons, with the left column having three round buttons and the right column having one round button and one longer button in the bottom right corner. The button at the top of the left column is the back button. Pressing this button three times quickly during setup will invoke VoiceOver. The middle button in the left column is the play/pause control. The repositioning of this control took a bit of getting used to. It doesn't help that the bottom button in the column, where play/pause used to be located, is mute. The first couple of times I used this new remote, I instinctively pushed what I thought was play/pause, only to discover I had just muted the audio and my show was continuing to play. This was a minor learning curve and I think I have the hang of it now.
The top right button in the right column is the home button. One of the first things I always change when using a new Apple TV is the function of this button. I prefer to have this button take me to the Apple TV home screen, not the Apple TV app, which is the default behavior.
The bottom of the right column consists of a long button, which is the volume control. While I have always loved having a volume control on the Apple TV remote, the addition of a mute button is another great feature. When using the old remote, I found myself quickly turning down the volume when the phone rang or I needed to step away for a second. Now, I just press the mute button and all goes quiet. One strange quirk, when you unmute audio by pressing the mute button, VoiceOver says Muting. It should say muting when you initially press the button, but it says it when your audio starts to play again.
As reported, the Siri button is now on the right edge of the remote. It feels like the button used to invoke Siri on my iPhone 10S. Again, this took a bit of getting used to, but I like the position of this control.
The 2021 Apple TV 4K uses the exact same power cable as my old Apple TV Fourth Generation. As my power cable is tucked away in a nest of wires, this meant I didn't even have to rerun any cables. I just unplugged the power and HDMI cables from the old box and put the new box in its place.
Setup of the new Apple TV was extremely simple. As I mentioned earlier, pressing the back button three times invokes VoiceOver. After I selected my language, I was given the option of holding my iPhone near the Apple TV and my settings would be automatically configured. The only thing I had to do was enter a code on my iPhone, which was clearly spoken by VoiceOver on the Apple TV. Once that was done, everything was setup. This included my Wi-Fi info and my Apple ID. The whole process took less than five minutes.
Before shutting down my old Apple TV, I confirmed the One Home Screen option was on. This is found under Settings, Users and Accounts. With this option enabled, all of the apps from my old TV were reinstalled and their icons were placed in the same location as before. If you are like me and have spent lots of time thinking about where you want each app located, this was important.
As the new Apple TV is running the same version of TV OS as my old Apple TV, I don't notice a lot of difference there. Large titles, such as movies, do load a bit quicker.
Overall, I am very happy I purchased the new Apple TV. It is a great device and with the A12 chip, I think I have future proofed myself for at least the next couple of years.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Jim

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Comments

Submitted by Dalia on Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Thanks for the info about the remote, as I'm considering getting just the remote to use with my existing Apple TV.

One thing you don't mention, is that the D-pad ring is touch sensitive, so you can run your thumb around it to use it as a jog dial for scrubbing forward or back in a video timeline, or for scrolling up and down a list.

I'm curious to know how well this works with VoiceOver; and if it actually makes screen navigation easier. Would love to hear your experience.

Submitted by Jim D on Friday, May 28, 2021

In response to Dalia's question, last night I tried to navigate through a movie using the touch sensitive d-pad by running my finger around the outside edge of the control. I was not able to navigate content using this method. VoiceOver just told me that actions were available, but I couldn't find a way to perform these actions. The only way I could move through the movie was by pushing the left or right edges of the directional pad, which moved forward or backward a couple of minutes a press. This actually worked pretty well, but it wasn't the jog gesture which is described in the documentation.
This was done using the Apple TV Movies app.
If anyone else has the new remote and has successfully navigated using this method, I'd love to hear about how you were able to accomplish this task.
Thanks.
Jim

Submitted by Kelly Ford on Sunday, June 6, 2021

Hi,

I just purchased this same device and find most areas working well. However, there is an option to have the Apple TV learn the volume and mute buttons for another remote and that does not seem to read at all with VoiceOver. To be clear, this is not trying to use another remote to control the Apple TV but rather, to have the Apple TV adjust the volume of something else.

By default my device was adjusting the volume for my physical television but I wanted it to actually adjust the volume of my home theater receiver.

In settings, under remotes and devices, the last option is for home theater. There is an option to change the remote. By default it is set to automatic. Options include automatic, tv via ir, off and learn new remote. If you pick that last option, VoiceOver does not read anything for me.

Visually I'm told you are prompted to press the volume up, volume down and mute buttons on the remote for the device you want Apple TV to adjust until a progress bar for each button reached 100%.

If someone else has had success here, please let me know.

Submitted by Jim D on Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Kelly:
Yes, I can confirm your findings here. Voiceover went silent when I went into this section. My Siri remote will adjust the volume of my receiver, but I really want it to turn the receiver on and off. Would save me that ten foot walk from the recliner to the stereo. <smile>
Seriously, I plan to contact Apple tech support to inquire about this issue.
Thanks.
Jim