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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Sizing up the Apple TV

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Apple TV capacities

The new Apple TV offers one choice that we haven’t had to contend with on the set-top box previously: storage capacity. This time around Apple is offering either a 32GB model for $149 or a 64GB model for $199.

Not since the original Apple TV, which initially shipped with a 40GB hard drive—later upgraded to 160GB, has storage capacity required a decision. The second- and third-generation Apple TVs had onboard flash storage, but it was a static 8GB that wasn’t exposed in any way to the end user.

It’s thus a little bit peculiar to me that with the new Apple TV, the company’s take a step backwards and made storage something users have to think about. What makes that even more perplexing is that storage space will continue to be something moderated by Apple’s onboard OS rather than by the end user, as it is on iOS devices. That management is even more aggressive, thanks to the aforementioned App Thinning.

In some ways, App Thinning reminds me a little bit of Apple’s approach to multitasking and memory management: that is to say, it’s a message to developers to not get too attached to anything. While the Apple TV, with its always-on power and networking connection, is not as constrained by circumstance as mobile devices are, Apple is clearly doing its utmost to take worry out of the hand of the consumer. Which isn’t surprising at all, given Apple’s tendency to create devices that abstract the nuts and bolts of technology away from users.

So I keep coming back to why the company offers two storage tiers for the Apple TV. The company does acknowledge the difference: when you click through to the buy page for the Apple TV, there’s a link for “How much storage is right for you?” Click that and you get an explanation:

If you plan to use your Apple TV primarily to stream movies, TV shows, and music or to play a few apps and games, you’ll probably be fine with 32GB of storage. If you plan to download and use lots of apps and games, choose the 64GB configuration. Keep in mind when making your decision, that some apps, when in use, do require additional storage.

One could almost argue, then, that the 64GB version of the Apple TV is the “game console” version, with the 32GB primarily targeted as a “set-top streaming box.” The 64GB version is also for customers who want to not worry about running out of storage or want to feel like they bought the best Apple TV available. And, as with the 16GB model of the iPhone, perhaps the 32GB model is there to stake out the low ground, and convince customers on the fence that it might be worth it to spend the mere $50 to upgrade to 64GB.

Me, I ended up ordering a 32GB Apple TV with no hesitation whatsoever. The capacity issue is largely predicated on how many apps you might end up using, and while I have no doubt that I’ll be downloading my fair share—for testing and reviews, if nothing else—the Apple TV is still an unproven category. Given the nature of App Thinning and on-demand resource loading, I’m not too worried about storage ultimately. Part of that is because I’m not sure exactly how many apps I’ll even install on the Apple TV—right now, I don’t anticipate very many, but that pronouncement may tempt fate a little too much. After all, nobody has ever needed more than 640K of RAM, right?1

  1. Yes, I’m aware this quote is largely considered to be misattributed. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]

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