How does Apple TV work? The set-top box explained in simple terms

How does Apple TV work? The set-top box explained in simple terms

With Apple TV, your TV gets an upgrade with many new functions. But how does Apple TV work and what does it cost you?

By Sven Wernicke

When Apple released the first generation of the Apple TV in 2007, it was still a kind of mini PC with a Pentium processor that was intended to be connected to a television. Now, around 15 years later, we have reached the 6th generation. The small, extremely compact device contains powerful technology that promises you the best entertainment on your 4K television.

What is Apple TV?

What hasn't changed since the first Apple TV is the basic idea: It's a so-called set-top box. The term streaming player has become more common.

Apple TV serves a specific purpose: you can use it to play media content on your large TV simply, conveniently and uncomplicated. Since there is no classic DVD or Blu-ray drive, everything revolves around digital films, series, videos or music that you stream from the Internet or the local network.

An Apple TV has long been suitable for playing games or viewing content from your iPhone, iPad or Mac.

What models are there?

Apple offers (as of December 2021) two models of the Apple TV. If you have a television with full HD resolution, you can opt for the Apple TV HD. The entry into the Apple TV world has a maximum resolution of 1980 x 1080 pixels. The built-in Apple A8 chip may no longer be the latest, but together with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of flash memory, this is sufficient for streaming and Co. in 1080p. An Apple TV HD costs around 159 euros.

You get the current measure of all things with the Apple TV 4K, which is designed for 4K resolutions, HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. The A12 Bionic chip used was already in the iPad, iPad Air or iPhone XS. Thanks to 3 GB of RAM and up to 64 GB of flash memory, the Apple TV 4K is one of the most powerful streaming players today.

If you have the opportunity, grab the Apple TV 4K. It is between 40 euros (32GB model) and 60 euros (64GB) more expensive than Apple TV HD, but it is equipped for the future.

Apple TV Buy now at

How does Apple TV work?

Apple attaches great importance to a beginner-friendly approach. Indeed, Apple TV is ready to use in no time. Whether it's Apple TV HD or Apple TV 4K, you need:

  • TV with HDMI input (HDMI 1.4 or better)
  • Access to the Internet via WLAN or Ethernet
  • Free socket near the TV set
  • HDMI cable (not included)

If everything is there, the rest is self-explanatory. Unpack, connect, select the correct HDMI channel on the TV and pick up the Siri remote. This is the supplied remote control with which you can maneuver your way through the menus, select options or set up at the beginning.

Tip: Although an Apple ID is not absolutely necessary for use, it is recommended to create the free accounts. Only with this you can rent or buy content and activate private releases.

If you have followed the instructions on the television, your Apple TV will be ready for streaming in just a few minutes. Netflix, YouTube and Apple's own Apple TV + are preinstalled.

How does the Apple TV remote work?

The second generation Siri Remote is one of the current Apple TV models. Compared to the earlier model, there is no longer a touchpad, but a touch-based clickpad that allows much more precise and better navigation. But here, too, you can move through the menus by swiping. With circular gestures on the outer ring, you can fast forward and rewind. That is cleverly solved.

Other "little things" are nice about the Siri Remote. You don't have to change batteries regularly because a lithium-ion battery is installed. A microphone allows you voice input for Siri. And an infrared transmitter is also available. With this you control the basic functions of your television if you configure this in the settings.

Thanks to Bluetooth, the Siri Remote 2 works without direct line of sight to the Apple TV. So you can even switch under the blanket.

Apple TV 4K (2021)

Apple TV 4K (2021) with new Siri remote control. Image: © Apple 2021

Differences between Apple TV + and Apple TV

It might be confusing, but there's still Apple TV +. But that's not an even better player, but a streaming offer similar to Netflix or Amazon Prime. When you buy an Apple TV, you get three months free of charge, after which you pay 4.99 euros a month for exclusive series, documentaries and films.

Incidentally, you can use Apple TV + across platforms, including on your smartphone, tablet, computer, with a streaming stick or directly on the Smart TV. Corresponding Apple TV apps make this possible for almost all current devices.

What streaming offers are there on Apple TV?

Which streaming provider do you want? No matter what your answer is – it is almost certainly also available in the form of an app for the Apple TV. Some of the most prominent representatives are:

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Disney +
  • ARD media library
  • ZDF Mediathek
  • RTL +
  • SkyTicket
  • Joyn
  • Vodafone GigaTV
  • Zattoo

Various music services, including Spotify and Apple Music, should not go unmentioned.

What else can I do with my Apple TV?

All well and good, but modern Smart TVs can also play Netflix and Co. in the best quality. But there are other special features that make an Apple TV a real added value for home cinema.

Apple Arcade

Connect your Xbox or PlayStation controller to your Apple TV via Bluetooth and experience over 200 high-quality games with Apple Arcade without advertising or in-app purchases. You can get countless classics and exclusive titles for 4.99 euros per month. You can also use the subscription on your iPhone, iPad or Mac.

AirPlay & HomeKit

An Apple TV (4K) feels particularly comfortable if you already have other Apple devices at home. Then you can wirelessly transfer photos and videos from the iPhone to the Apple TV thanks to AirPlay. You can also access your iTunes media library and items purchased with it directly on the television. And: Apple TV can serve as a control center for your smart home with HomeKit.

What's still up Pair two HomePod Mini with an Apple TV 4K for room-filling stereo sound, use the iPhone as a remote control, watch films with your AirPods or do sports with Apple Fitness + .


If you want to get even more out of your Apple TV, stop by the AppStore. Here you will find countless applications, tools and other games to try out or buy. So it doesn't get boring so quickly.

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