Apple TV 3 (2012) Short Review - 1080p and better WiFiby Brian Klug on March 21, 2012 4:21 PM EST
While most of the attention this previous week has been focused on Apple's A5X SoC inside the iPad (3rd Gen), the other Apple-SoC news is that of the S5L8942 or A5 revision 2 inside the Apple TV 3, and iPad2,4. In the case of the Apple TV 3, this A5 consists of a single core ARM Cortex A9, and likely the same PowerVR SGX543 GPU, though Apple hasn't stated how many GPU cores are enabled on this particular variant. We originally speculated that this might be a harvested die with an ARM core or SGX 543 core disabled, and until someone X-rays the package it's hard to know for sure. At this point we also don't know anything about what clocks the A5R2 inside Apple TV 3 is running.
In an attempt to figure this out, I decided to disassemble the Apple TV 3 I purchased to see what's different. Taking the Apple TV 3 apart is the same procedure as the last model. The bottom rubberized plastic cup pops off easily enough with a spudger, then there are some Torx bits securing a metal heatspreader to the PCB. Remove this, disconnect the power supply, and you're basically done. Interestingly enough, nearly every package and EMI can has a thermal pad on top and bottom in the Apple TV 3. I haven't found that the new revision gets warm at all (in fact, just like the previous revision it barely gets warm to the touch), but clearly thermals were a consideration here.
Inside the Apple TV 3 things are arranged the same way as the previous model, with one big PCB sitting next to the power supply. With the EMI cans off, you can see that the second unused NAND pads and area have been removed, and in its place is one Toshiba 8 GB NAND device. To the left of it is the device's WLAN + BT 4.0 combo device, whose EMI cans are soldered on. iFixit has since disassembled an Apple TV 3 as well, and found BCM4330 inside, a choice which isn't surprising at all considering Apple's affinity for Broadcom combo chips. Note that there are two RF chains coming from the device, and two antennas, as opposed to the Apple TV 2's one.
Below that we get the new A5, its PMIC to the left, marked 338S1040-A5, and to the right another Apple-branded package marked 343S0479 which previously was on the other side of the PCB in the Apple TV 2. The markings on top of the A5 (we're looking at the DRAM PoP here, actually) indicate a single Hynix 32-bit 512 MB LPDDR2 device, up from the 256 MB of LPDDR2 in the Apple TV 2.
|SoC||X||Y||Aspect Ratio (long/short)||Marking|
|A5R1 (S5L8940)||14.3 mm||16.7 mm||1.17||APL0498|
|A5R2 (S5L8942)||13.02 mm||14.02 mm||1.07||APL2498|
If you've had to stare at the A5 in the iPad 2 or iPhone 4S as much as I have, what should strike you immediately is that its aspect ratio is changed - it's more square than the A5 we've seen before. I measured this package and found that aspect ratio change to be the case. Interestingly enough the A5 in Apple TV 3 is slightly smaller than the iPad 2 / iPhone 4S A5, at 13.02 mm x 14.02 mm. This is as opposed to a package size of 16.7 x 14.3 mm for the A5 we've seen before. Package size alone isn't enough to draw conclusions from about whether this is an entirely new design - it's entirely possible that Apple has simply removed unused pads/balls and repackaged the A5.
One of our readers put together photos of the new A5 based on our package photo (and also put together awesome images of the A4 and A5) for Wikipedia, which really illustrates just how changed the aspect ratio is. I put together a to-scale side by side with the two A5 packages above.
The reverse side of the PCB is less interesting. Here we see the SMSC9730 HSIC USB 2.0 to 10/100 Ethernet controller, Delta Electronics magnetics for the Ethernet jack, and another package whose markings I couldn't make out but seems to have been present on Apple TV 2. There's also the same 30-pin dock port pads in the same place.
Finally, the Apple TV 3 contains the same 3.4V, 1.75A (~6 W) power supply as the previous model. In actual use, I've never seen either the Apple TV 2 or 3 use more than 3 watts while decoding 720p or 1080p video. The corresponding bump in output resolution, SoC, and WLAN stack doesn't seem to have changed power draw at all, or at least not enough that I can measure it on the Kill-A-Watt P4460 which only reports down to 1 watt of precision.
Post Your CommentPlease log in or sign up to comment.
View All Comments
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.
dave_the_nerd - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - linkI 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.
Raider1284 - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - linkThe 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.
mdmm - Friday, July 13, 2012 - linkI 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??
Araemo - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - linkOddly, 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.
Sivar - Saturday, March 24, 2012 - linkI 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.
name99 - Thursday, March 22, 2012 - linkOr 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.
psuedonymous - Thursday, March 22, 2012 - linkIf 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).
ciparis - Friday, March 23, 2012 - linkThere goes a tiny (albeit vocal) minority, more like. It just isn't a relevant market segment.
wb87 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - linkWhy 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.