Apple TV code hints at 4K 120Hz support in new model, matching PS5 and Xbox

Super-smooth 120Hz is coming to Apple TV, but it won't be the current model

Apple TV
(Image credit: Apple)

Beta code for new versions of Apple's various operating systems often yields hints about products that haven't been revealed yet, and the new Apple TV tvOS 14.5 beta continues that tradition. There are references to 120Hz support in the new code, which would make sense in a world where so many of the best TVs are getting 120Hz support, but isn't supported by the current Apple TV.

The code in question was spotted by 9to5Mac – the are several instances of “120Hz” and “supports120Hz” appearing in part that focus on the interface itself.

4K 120Hz support requires HDMI 2.1, which the current Apple TV doesn't include. HDMI 2.1 is a big deal for the best gaming TVs, partly because of its 4K 120Hz support, but also for Variable Refresh Rate. Though Apple has pushed gaming as a big part of Apple TV – and we wouldn't be surprised at all to see some games support 120Hz on a new, more powerful version – we suspect gaming isn't the reason Apple might be looking at including HDMI 2.1.

HDMI 2.1 offers much more bandwidth than HDMI 2.0, which means it can also support greater colour depth. The Apple TV 4K has been a strong choice for AV enthusiasts thanks to Apple's focus on making sure it supports the highest-quality video possible, and HDMI 2.1 support would just future-proof that.

But 120Hz is also interesting because high-framerate movies are just starting to be explored. Ang Lee's Gemini Man was filmed for (deep breath) 3D 4K 120fps Dolby Vision HDR screens, yet barely any cinemas could show it, and the home technology to show it didn't exist yet. Many could show it by dropping some parts of the full presentation (so you'd lose the 3D and HDR, say), but few people have ever truly seen what this movie was filmed to look like.

This new Apple TV and an HDMI 2.1 TV wouldn't totally solve that (3D support at home is long dead), but if Apple creates the first streaming box capable of showing 4K 120fps HDR movies, it jumps back to being the enthusiast's choice. Granted, the list of films created in anything above 60Hz (which the current model can already show) can be counted on the fingers of one hand… without including thumb… but we're still excited by the possibility.

Plus, don't forget that Apple is making its own movies and TV now, and has infinitely deep pockets, so if it wanted to push the art of 120fps movies forward, it could.

Of course, it's also possible that it's just planning to make the interface 120Hz so it looks as premium and buttery smooth on compatible TVs as possible, and anything else is an afterthought we might see in the future. Perhaps we'll find out at its June 7th WWDC keynote.

Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.