The iPad (3) took front row during the recent launch extravaganza, however Apple also refreshed their Apple TV with a new model sporting a single core A5 SoC and some other noteworthy tweaks. We've spent some time with the new model since its launch, and have found a few interesting new things lurking inside. In addition to decoding 1080p iTunes content as well as YouTube and Netflix streams, the new Apple TV also includes a second WiFi antenna with better gain, which translates to improved reception and network throughput.  

Quick, from the photo above, can you tell which Apple TV is the third generation device? Externally, the Apple TV 3rd generation is virtually indistinguishable from the Apple TV 2nd generation. The new device keeps the exact same dimensions and mass, in fact, during my testing the only way to tell the two apart was to compare the model number at the bottom. This is pretty unsurprising for an Apple product cycle, where you see successive generations inherit the same external design even as internals evolve or change dramatically. On the box, the new Apple TV 3 now includes both a 1080p marking and an Energy Star logo, something the previous model didn't.

Ports on the backside are unsurprisingly identical as well, as are the material choices. I've managed to leave quite a few scratches in the back of my Apple TV 2 over time, and the same glossy (if somewhat scratch-prone) plastic rings the device. No doubt that plastic choice was made originally both for RF propagation characteristics (low density, probably low carbon) and also so that IR works in the front. The real change again is that the Apple TV 3 now supports 1080p50 and 1080p60 over HDMI, where the previous Apple TV 2 only supported 720p50 and 720p60 at maximum over HDMI. Ethernet is still 10/100, there's still a microUSB port for restoring and flashing, and full size optical TOSLINK. 

At the risk of sounding redundant, the accessories and remote inside are the same as the Apple TV 2 as well, namely an aluminum IR remote and the same length power cable. I don't think Apple's neat little aluminum remote needed any changing, nor did the power cable, but it's worth noting. The obvious upside is that if you're upgrading, everything about the current setup (power cable, HDMI, and space required) has stayed the same. If you're as obsessive about having a neatly wired home theater cabinet or stand as I am, this is definitely an upside. 

Inside Apple TV 3 - Single Core A5, Same Power Draw
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  • gigahertz20 - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    "Apple hasn't crafted a pirate-friendly box with Apple TV, and until the Apple TV 3 gets jailbroken and XMBC port, it just isn't a fit for that crowd at all."

    Well, there goes many of the potential buyers. I purchased a WDTV Live Streamer that has the new GUI a few months ago from Amazon for $100. So far it has played back everything except 1 movie, but then there was a firmware update a few weeks ago and now it plays that movie fine. I've been thinking about building a HTPC with XBMC, but the WDTV Live boxes are just so simple to use and play back everything fine, I'm like mehhh why take the time when what I have works fine.
    Reply
  • dave_the_nerd - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    I always see comments like that. And yet I've never actually seen a jailbroken phone In The Wild™ used by anybody but me.

    I predict apple will sell a lot of these to people who think jailbreaks involve helicopters or tunnels.
    Reply
  • Raider1284 - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    The apple TV 2, jailbroken, with xbmc installed, is incredibly good. Through XBMC and its addons, you can watch your own content, hulu, espn live feeds, pandora, amazon video, etc. All of these features, plus airplay, plus the tiny footprint and power usage of these things, makes the apple tv an awesome home theater addition. Reply
  • mdmm - Friday, July 13, 2012 - link

    I have WD TV Streaming media player gen-3 .Please let me know,how to install xbmc on my WD TV Live Streaming Gen 3 Model?? Reply
  • Araemo - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Oddly, I had almost the opposite results with my WDTV Live - so much so that I returned it to amazon.

    It would play most of my files, but on the majority of my h.264 content, it would lock up part way through the file (or after playing a couple of shorter files), requiring a hard reset or a 30 minute power off period to allow it to play ANYTHING else. After not getting any response from WD support 2 weeks after submitting a ticket, I returned it. I have my raspberry pi on order (Mostly because it actually supports 1080p, unlike the appletv2, and there is no way to say how soon the 3 will be jailbroken to run xbmc.)

    That said, if the cooked fruit strains on any of my hd content, I'll probably get an appletv3 once it's jailbroken and running xbmc fine... either way, there will be a fruit of some variety sending content to my TV.
    Reply
  • Sivar - Saturday, March 24, 2012 - link

    I wonder if you had a bad unit. h.264 is typically more strenuous to decode than other video codecs, so a bad memory module or other flaw may have been the cause.As a reader of Anandtech, it's safe to assume you knew to upgrade the firmware.

    I encode my own video with settings not at all meant for low-powered devices to have an easy time with (--preset placebo --crf=22, though usually at level 4.1. Blu-ray players cannot play video with these settings). The WDTV that I bought for my parents has no problem with any of the content, regardless of encoder settings. When first purchased, it would occasionally but consistently show video glitches every 2 minutes or so, but after a firmware update it has worked perfectly. It also doesn't have to be jailbroken to play whatever is needed.

    The lack of response from WD is not good, but just the same, if your new order doesn't work out I suggest you give WD one more try.
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, March 22, 2012 - link

    Or you could, you know, buy an old mac mini second hand, outfit it with an EyeTV stick or two, and have a really kick-ass HTPC.

    There's more than one choice for the TV set in the Apple universe. No-one's forcing you to buy an AppleTV if it's not right for you --- that would be as dumb as buying an iPod Touch then complaining that it sucks as a phone because all it offers is Skype and Vibr, not real phone functionality.
    Reply
  • psuedonymous - Thursday, March 22, 2012 - link

    If you can stand to wait for the RaspberryPi to ship in reasonable numbers (after the backlog has worked out), you can have an eminently hackable media streamer superior to the Apple TV. Level 4.1 rather than 4.0 (so you can play back Blu Ray unfettered), and still has Airplay (http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/564). Reply
  • ciparis - Friday, March 23, 2012 - link

    There goes a tiny (albeit vocal) minority, more like. It just isn't a relevant market segment. Reply
  • wb87 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Why do you need to pirate the Apple TV? It does a lot on its own, if you do a little research you will find out just how much you can do with it. I have my own video collection in iTunes and I can mirror my iPad to the screen. There are a lot things you can do with it. I've try a lot of different software programs but nothing is as stable as the Apple TV and iTunes. Reply

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