It has 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 unveiling event. So far, a new device has not materialized, but the code in tvOS 1
As first reported by 9to5Mac, tvOS 14.5s PineBoard (operating system interface management) contains references to the terms “supports120Hz” and “120Hz”, a not too subtle indication that the operating system will support 120 Hz refresh rates. And since the current Apple TV 4K only has an HDMI 2.0 port, which 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 TVs today support 120 Hz refresh rates – usually advanced players’ favorites and made in the last two years. Most TVs are still tuned to 60 Hz. There is currently very little 120 Hz video content available, although enthusiasts have speculated that the 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 is preferred by some gamers for certain very fast and difficult or competitive games. As these consoles continue to sell, they may increase the demand for 120Hz TVs.
Apple may choose to add 120 Hz capacity to future Apple TV hardware for three reasons: a snappier interface, future-proofing for high-frequency video content that may appear later, and of course gaming.
The company has become more serious with gaming late, after many years of treating it as a secondary, at best, use of the devices. It has recently added dozens of re-released iPhone and iPad classics to Apple Arcade, including microtransaction-driven games that are 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 series this year. And with regard to 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.