The $149 Apple TV 4K has a feature worth paying extra for

at the first blushProbably the most exciting part of Apple’s upgrade to the $129 Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) is that the built-in Siri Remote has USB-C. The updates under the hood (faster chip and Dolby Vision support) are expected generational additions.

But there are exclusive new features on the more expensive $149 Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi + Ethernet) that position the streaming box not only as a great device for watching videos, but also as the hub of your smart home. Let me explain.

Thread Radios and Matter Support

Only the Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi + Ethernet) has support for Matter, Thread, and an Ethernet port.Apple

Apple helped develop Matter, a new smart home interoperability standard, so promoting its support in a new piece of hardware was really a matter of when, not how.

With Matter, Apple TV 4K can act as a smart home hub for all the smart home devices in your life, as long as they support the protocol. Since Matter is about providing a common “language” between different platforms, like Apple HomeKit and Google Home, for example, devices should be able to connect and be controlled with the Apple TV 4K, even if they were originally designed to work with something else.

The addition of Thread radios in the Apple TV 4K (low-power mesh networking technology that Matter can use instead of Wi-Fi) means even more devices can be included in that list and they can all be controlled without having to connect. to the Internet (which makes them more vulnerable to hacking).

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The future, for a price

Going forward, Matter support will be the feature to look for in any device that connects to your network and claims to be able to control your smart home. If you don’t have Materia, it’s probably not worth buying. Apple isn’t the only company to start rolling out Matter support to its new devices, either. Earlier this month, Google did the same thing with its new Nest Wifi Pro router, and it also plans to upgrade some of its existing Nest smart speakers and displays with Matter.

What the Apple TV 4K upgrade illustrates is where the impact of simplifying the complicated job of building a smart home could fall short. At $149, Apple isn’t exactly charging an arm and a leg for new smart home tech, but it’s noticeably leaving Thread radios, Matter stand (and an Ethernet port) out of the cheaper $129 Apple TV 4K. , a surprising omission when the second-generation Apple TV 4K made have thread inside. If limiting Matter to high-end devices becomes the norm, it could make future “ambient computing” tech companies love to wax that much harder to pull off on a budget.

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