I'm Lance Somoza, a professional IT Consultant with over 15 years of industry experience and an obsession for technology. This is my tech soapbox.

Review Roundup: iPhones 8 and Apple TV 4K

Reviews for iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and Apple TV 4K are in (and largely positive). Here are a few that caught my eye.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

Just know that the iPhones 8 are fast as hell thanks to the A11 Bionic chip. Now, here are some other interesting points.

Nilay Patel for The Verge on the iPhone 8’s stagnant design:

[…] And that’s really the problem — while competitors like Samsung and LG have pushed phone hardware design far forward, the iPhone has basically stood still for four years. The iPhone 8 might be the most polished iteration of this basic design Apple’s ever made, but compared to the Galaxy S8 and other Android flagships like the LG V30, it’s just extremely dated. Apple’s true competitor to those devices is the iPhone X, but the company tells us that the 8 is also a flagship phone, and those huge bezels and surfboard dimensions just don’t cut it at the top end of the market anymore.

I somewhat agree with Nilay. There is nothing exciting about the design of iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Sure, the glass back looks nice, but it’s practically the same overall design of the iPhone 6. That said, I think it’s out of necessity. Apple obviously wants all iPhones to look and function like the iPhone X one day, but the manufacturing scale just isn’t there yet. Until then, simply changing the design of the phone for design’s sake wouldn’t be productive.

John Gruber for Daring Fireball on the A11 Bionic chip’s name:

I asked Apple last week what exactly was “bionic” about the A11 chip system. The answer, translated from Apple marketing-speak to plain English, is that The Bionic Man and Woman were cool, and the A11 chip is very cool. I think they’ve started giving these chips names in addition to numbers (last year’s was the A10 Fusion) because the numbers alone belie the true nature of how significant the improvements in these chips are. Going from A10 to A11 is like going from 10 to 11 mathematically, which implies a 10 percent improvement. That’s not the case at all here — the A11 is way more than a 10 percent improvement over the A10. So they’ve given it a name like “Bionic” to emphasize just how powerful it is.

TL;DR: marketing. I get it. Still don’t agree with Bionic, though. By comparison, A10X Fusion is much better.

On Qi “wireless” charging:

I’m glad Apple decided to support the Qi (pronounced “chee”) standard, which several Android handsets already support. This is an area where Apple has been behind its competition. You know how like 10 years ago, hotels started buying bedside alarm clocks with built-in 30-pin iPod docks? And then they were rendered useless when the iPhone switched to Lightning? And how those Lightning docks are utterly useless to Android users? If they start switching to Qi charging pads, it’ll just work for everyone, and that’s a good thing.

This is a nice addition. I suspect Qi pervasiveness is going to skyrocket due to it simply being supported by iPhone.

Apple TV 4K

Nilay Patel for The Verge on Dolby Vision HDR and content deals:

Now, you do get a lot for that $179: the Apple TV is currently the only standalone box that supports the Dolby Vision HDR standard, which is a big deal. (The $69 Chromecast Ultra supports it, but it’s spotty and it lacks its own interface.) Apple’s worked deals with most major studios to price 4K HDR movies at a cheaper $19.99 instead of the usual $29.99 Vudu and Google Play charge, which is terrific. And every HD movie you’ve already bought on iTunes will be upgraded to 4K HDR for free as they get remastered. Several of my movies have already been upgraded, which is very nice, especially because Apple’s encoding is much better than other services. If you have a large existing iTunes library or you buy a lot of movies, you might come out way ahead by investing in an Apple TV 4K.

On its limitations:

But the new Apple TV doesn’t support Atmos. And it doesn’t support YouTube in 4K HDR. And it doesn’t have Disney or Marvel movies in 4K HDR. And it makes some 1080p content look less than great.

I’m going to explain why these limitations exist, but you’ll have to bear with me. […]

Nilay’s review is extremely detailed. If you’re a TV spec buff, you’ll want to read this one.

Devindra Hardawar for Engadget on video quality:

So how do the 4K films actually look? Simply put: stunning. Kong: Skull Island started playing within a second, and it was sharp from the get-go, with no need for buffering. It’s a film with plenty of explosions, gorgeous natural imagery and giant monsters, all of which made it the perfect 4K/Dolby Vision demo. When Kong stands in front of the bright tropical sun, I had to shield my eyes a bit – it was almost as if I was looking at actual daylight. And since there are plenty of dusk and night scenes, the film really shows off HDR’s ability to add more detail to darker scenes.

Marshall Honorof for Tom’s Guide on internet speed requirements:

You’ll need a pretty powerful Internet connection to stream 4K HDR content (you need at least 25 Mbps down, which is more than what we got on a standard home Wi-Fi network), but content loads quickly and smoothly. Streams usually took just a few seconds to buffer before reaching full 1080p HD, and perhaps an additional 5 seconds before 4K HDR kicked in. This will vary depending on the strength of your internet connection, but if you have the requisite speed, the Apple TV 4K will leverage it.

It sounds like the Apple TV 4K is great, but not without its share of caveats. For someone who doesn’t care enough about 4K yet, the Apple TV needed to get faster performance-wise. The 4th generation Apple TVs are nice, but can be sluggish at times when navigating the UI. I’ve only read anecdotally that the new Apple TV 4K is better in this regard due to the A10X Fusion chip, which makes sense in theory. Also, it’s about damn time this product has a Gigabit Ethernet jack.

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