Mode Switching for Apple TV 4K, Nothing for Apple TV

When the Apple TV 4K debuted it brought not just a higher resolution, but also high dynamic range video, HDR. However, there still wasn’t mode switching so the Apple TV 4K would stick to it’s defaults: 2160p, 60fps, and DolbyVision. That meant it was converting non-HDR content to HDR which results in some pretty weird stuff. Apple told TechCrunch’s Matt Panzarino that they didn’t want to switch modes, and said the same to The Verge’s Nilay Patel:

All of this adds up to a real devil’s bargain that wouldn’t exist if the Apple TV would simply switch modes on your TV. I asked about it, and Apple told me it thinks mode switching is “inelegant,” because TVs often flicker and display built-in interface elements when they do it. (There’s some classic Apple-ness here.)

So from the jump, the Apple TV forces you to run your nice new 4K HDR TV at a suboptimal setting at some point during the course of using it. The specifics of this problem might only be of interest to A/V nerds, but the way it looks in the end will affect every single Apple TV 4K owner. I suspect Apple will eventually add an advanced setting to allow for mode switching, but out of the box right now, this is what you get.

Which I thought was bull. You wind up with a default mode that’s tailored to making the interface look smooth (60fps) and HDR when most video that will be played in 2017-2018 won’t be HDR.

Apple added automatic frame rate and dynamic range matching to the beta for tvOS 11.2 this week. It basically requires developers to inform tvOS what kind of content will be played and tvOS will adjust it’s output for the TV, otherwise media plays the way it does in tvOS 11.1 and earlier. Apple has released a video on it here. As Nilay predicted, there are two toggles (one for frame rate and one for dynamic range) that can be enabled, or disabled. The system default in the beta is disabled … which is a curious choice. This really seems like a gesture to placate AV nerds, and tech reviewers.

One thing that does not placate me is that Apple has only added frame rate matching to the Apple TV 4K, not the 4th generation Apple TV. They still sell the 2+ year-old Apple TV for $150 so it’s not a discontinued product. There appears to be no technological reason that I can find for omitting this feature for the non-4K customers who have been asking for 24fps playback. There isn’t even a manual setting for 24fps playback for that Apple TV model, but there is for the Apple TV 4K. Isn’t everyone worthy of fewer frames per second?

2017-11-03 08:45:00

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