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tvOS code suggests a new Apple TV 4K with 120 Hz playback

Apple TV 4K and remote control.
Enlarge / Apple TV 4K and remote control.

Samuel Axon

It’s been well over three years since Apple updated Apple TV 4K, and online speculation about a follow-up hits feverish heights every time Apple has planned a product coverage event. So far, a new device has not materialized, but code in the tvOS 1

4.5 beta may not only indicate that a new Apple TV is on the way, but that it supports 120 Hz playback at 4K.

As first reported by 9to5Mac, tvOS 14.5’s PineBoard (operating system interface manager) includes references to the terms “supports 120Hz” and “120Hz”, a not too subtle indication that the operating system supports 120 Hz refresh rates. And since the current Apple TV 4K only has an HDMI 2.0 port that does not support 4K at 120 Hz (unlike the newer HDMI 2.1 standard), this discovery seems to suggest that new Apple TV hardware is also on the way .

Of course, only a few televisions today support 120 Hz refresh rates – typically advanced, preferred by gamers and made in the last two years. Most televisions are still targeted at 60 Hz. There is very little 120 Hz video content currently available, though enthusiasts have speculated that refresh rate could be a real boon for sports content. However, the new video game consoles launched last year – Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S – support 120 Hz playback, which some gamers prefer for certain very fast and difficult or competitive games. As these consoles continue to sell, they may increase the demand for 120Hz TV.

Apple could choose to add 120 Hz capacity to future Apple TV hardware for three reasons: a faster interface, future-proofing high-speed video content that may show up later, and of course gaming.

The company has become more serious about gaming too late, after years of treating it as a secondary at best use of its devices. It recently added dozens of re-released iPhone and iPad classics to Apple Arcade, including microtransaction-driven games customized to be microtransaction-free. Arcade has also secured relatively high-profile exclusives, such as fantastic, the first JRPG from the creator of Final Fantasy in several years – and possibly his last.

Right now, Apple’s iPad Pro has a 120 Hz screen, but none of the company’s other products do. There have been rumors that Apple will bring 120 Hz to the iPhone lineup this year. And as for the Apple TV 4K, a Bloomberg report in December claimed that an updated Apple TV with a greater focus on gaming is expected to launch sometime this year.

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