Comparing Every Generation of the Apple TV

A simple guide to comparing Apple TV models

Illustration of a person comparing the Pros and Cons of different Apple TV models

Lifewire / Bailey Mariner

Most models of the Apple TV look confusingly similar: they're small, pocket-sized devices that resemble oversized hockey pucks. Sure, the Apple TV 4K is about twice as tall as the third-generation model, but that's a bit subtle.

The relatively similar outsides actually conceal a lot of difference. The things that separate the 2nd and 5th generation Apple TV models, for instance, are huge. The newest model — the Apple TV 4K, which is the 5th generation — has a number of obvious differences and is a revolutionary improvement over earlier Apple TV models. A quick glance at the chart below may cause the 2nd and 3rd generation models to appear identical. They're not, but they're close. The only major difference between the two is that the 3rd generation supports 1080p HD video output, as opposed to the 2nd generation's maximum resolution of 720p.

This chart helps you understand how each model is different by comparing the features, benefits, and specifications of each Apple TV generation. The easy to read and compare chart is designed to help you understand how the Apple TV has evolved over the years and to make the right purchase.

To learn more about these Apple TV models, check out:

Apple TV Comparison Chart

Apple TV 4K 4th Gen.
Apple TV
3rd Gen.
Apple TV
2nd Gen.
Apple TV
1st Gen.
Apple TV
Model Number A1842 A1625 A1427
A1469
A1378 A1218
Processor Apple A10
Fusion
1.4 Ghz
Apple A8
Apple A5 Apple A4 1 GHz
Intel
Crofton
Pentium
M
Video Storage up to
32GB
64GB
up to
32GB
64GB

N/A
N/A 40GB
160GB
Music Storage up to
32GB
64GB
up to
32GB
64GB
N/A N/A 40GB
160GB
Photo Storage up to
32GB
64GB
up to
32GB
64GB
N/A N/A 40GB
160GB
App Store Yes Yes No No No
Games Yes Yes No No No
Siri Yes Yes No No No
Universal Search Yes Yes No No No
Bluetooth 5.0 4.0 Yes Yes No
Supported
Audio & Video Formats
H.264 up
to 2160p,
Dolby
Vision,
AAC,
MPEG-4,
MP3
H.264 up
to 1080p,
AAC,
MPEG-4,
MP3
H.264 up
to 1080p,
AAC,
MPEG-4,
MP3
H.264 up
to 720p,
AAC,
MPEG-4,
MP3
H.264,
AAC,
MPEG-4
Dolby 5.1 Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Dolby 7.1 Yes Yes No No No
Dolby Atmos Yes No No No No
Netflix
Streaming
Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Max.
HDTV
Format
4K 1080p 1080p 720p 720p
HDR10 Yes No No No No
Interfaces HDMI 2.0,
Ethernet,
IR Receiver
HDMI,
Ethernet,
IR Receiver
HDMI,
Ethernet,
Optical
Audio,
IR Receiver
HDMI,
Ethernet,
Optical
Audio,
IR Receiver
HDMI,
Component
A/V,
Optical
Audio,
Analog
Audio,
Ethernet,
IR Receiver
Networking Gigabit
Ethernet,
802.11
a/b/g/n/ac
Wi-Fi,
Bluetooth 5.0
10/100
Base-T
Ethernet,
802.11
a/b/g/n/ac
Wi-Fi,
Bluetooth 4.0
10/100
Base-T
Ethernet,
802.11
a/b/g/n
Wi-Fi
10/100
Base-T
Ethernet,
802.11
a/b/g/n
Wi-Fi
10/100
Base-T
Ethernet,
802.11
b/g/n
Wi-Fi
USB No USB-C Micro-USB Micro-USB USB 2.0
HomeKit Hub Yes Yes Yes No No
Remote Control Siri Remote
(touchpad
& mic);
black
Siri Remote
(touchpad
& mic);
black
Apple
Remote;
aluminum
Apple
Remote;
aluminum
Apple
Remote;
white
Remote Can
Control TV
Yes Yes No No No
Use Apple Watch
as Remote
Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Weight** 0.94 0.94 0.6 0.6 2.4
Size* 3.9 x
3.9 x
1.4
3.9 x
3.9 x
1.3
3.9 x
3.9 x
0.9
3.9 x
3.9 x
0.9
7.7 x
7.7 x
1.1
Price US$179
$199
US$149
$199
$99 $99 $329
$229

* in inches
** in pounds

Another Key Difference: Jailbreaking

If you like to push the envelope with your technology, there's another aspect of the Apple TV that may be important to you: which models can be jailbroken. Jailbreaking removes the restrictions and controls Apple applies to its products and lets you install your own software and make all kinds of customizations.

The Apple TV models that can be jailbroken are:

  • Apple TV 4K
  • 4th Gen. Apple TV
  • 2nd Gen. Apple TV.

As always, it bears noting that jailbreaking requires technical skills that the average person doesn't have and can lead to damaging your device and voiding your warranty. If you try it, you're pretty much on your own.

Which Apple TV Model Should You Buy?

So, after all this, which Apple TV generation should you buy? For almost all people, the answer is the Apple TV 4K. It's the latest model, offers the most advanced features, should maintain compatibility with other home theater hardware and video technology the longest, and should last the longest. The 4th gen. model is a little cheaper, but not much. Saving $20 or $30 for a lesser product really isn't worth it. Buy the best device you can and you'll be happy with it the longest.

Both 1st generation models, the 2nd generation, and 3rd generation Apple TV are no longer available from Apple, but they can still be found used. While they were good models when they debuted, we no longer recommend them, as they don't support the most recent technologies.

Comparing Apple TV to Other Streaming Options

The Apple TV isn't the only device that plugs into your TV and lets you stream video, play games, and more. Curious to know how the Apple TV stacks up against those other devices? Check out: