Every time we post an Apple TV-related opinion piece, the comments show that some people are still really upset that Apple left 4K Ultra HD support out of the fourth-generation model when new Roku and Amazon boxes included it. It seems like merely mentioning the new Apple TV is enough to start fights, which commenters have spread from article to article without resolution. So we wanted to give everyone with opinions (strong or otherwise) a place to share their thoughts on this subject — hopefully to spark an intelligent, well-reasoned discussion.

Does 4K support matter at this point, given how many/few 4K TV sets are in use today? It’s been suggested by some that it really should have been included in the new Apple TV, given that 4K video recording was a major new feature for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. But there are also a few reasons 4K support might have made the set top box impractical to release this year…

If you just want to say “yes, 4K matters” or “no, it doesn’t,” take the poll here and register your opinion. But we’d really like to hear your personal reasons for caring or not caring. Share them with us below.

My perspective? I don’t yet own an 4K Ultra HD TV, so 4K support doesn’t currently matter much to me — and I like the new Apple TV just fine without it. But I am recording all of my iPhone 6s Plus videos in 4K so I can go back to them in the future and watch them in “Ultra HD” whenever I buy a 4K TV. Recent sale prices have been extremely tempting.

If I was guessing as to why 4K was left out of this year’s model, my suspicions would be:

  1. The uncertain state of 4K video codec licensing when Apple was finalizing the device’s specifications. An industry group called HEVC Advance was attempting to extort high licensing fees for 4K devices and streams using H.265 technology, which Apple seemingly dodged by using older H.264 technology for iPhone 4K recordings. I suspect Apple will switch to H.265 now that royalty disputes with HEVC Advance have been… sort of settled.
  2. That’s sort of how Apple TV rolls. Apple used 1080p support (and little else) to differentiate the third-generation Apple TV from the second-generation model. A “new” Apple TV with 4K could get a new launch and new publicity.
  3. It probably would have required a better A-series processor. It’s easy to say “come on, Apple, add 4K,” but not as easy to implement — assuming Apple follows tradition and “does it right.” Supporting 4K video streaming would have been fairly easy with the A8 processor. But since the Apple TV plays games now, Apple wouldn’t support 4K videos without also supporting 4K games, which (think back to the iPad 3) would likely require an A9X-equivalent chip just to deliver A8-like frame rates at 4K resolutions. If Apple had added 4K support without a suitable processor, developers and customers would have complained that perfectly playable 1080p iOS games were stuttering at 4K resolutions. Supporting only 1080p made iOS ports easier (and generally problem-free) until A9X or A10 processors are widely available and more affordable. That’s why I’d guess we’re at least a year away from Apple TV with 4K functionality; it would also explain the new form factor’s huge focus on chip cooling.

What are your thoughts?

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