New tvOS Beta Code Mentions of 120Hz Refresh Rate Could Point to Next-Gen Apple TV

Recent beta versions of Apple’s tvOS software mention features that could be integrated into a next-generation Apple TV model, a device we’ve been tracking for well over a year now. 9to5Mac reported on references to “120Hz” and “supports 120Hz” in the tvOS 14.5 beta, and points out current Apple TV models don’t support refresh rates that high, which just adds to speculation about a rumored new model.

The current-gen Apple TV 4K’s built-in HDMI 2.0a port offers enough bandwidth to provide video at 4K resolution with HDR (high-dynamic range video) at up to 60 frames per second (60Hz). However, doubling that frame rate to 120Hz at 4K resolution requires significantly more bandwidth, which is where the newer HDMI 2.1 standard comes in. We’ve seen HDMI 2.1 built into the latest generation of video game consoles from Microsoft and Sony, along with a growing number of TVs.

Adding 120Hz support into tvOS could — emphasis on could — point to a higher-end Apple TV model with HDMI 2.1 on board, which could help future-proof the hardware as high-framerate 4K and even 8K content starts to arrive. Games, whether on Apple’s own Arcade service or on third-party options like Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming, might also benefit from the 120Hz support. Depending on the price, a next-gen Apple TV could end up being a potent option for Xbox games, alongside the usual streaming service support.

Of course, we’re dealing with multiple layers of speculation here, but we’ll continue to keep an eye on Apple to see what it has in mind for the future of Apple TV.