Third-generation Apple TV A5 processor studied, second core found

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:50
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, News, Processors

This is sort of interesting.

An investigation into the custom A5 chip used in Apple TV has found that the new Application Processor uses both a smaller, more efficient 32nm die process and actually incorporates two cores, one of which is simply turned off.

Per Chipworks, the custom A5 “APL2498″ used in the third generation, 1080p Apple TV has improved upon the 45nm LP CMOS process of the previous A5 “APL0498,” used in both iPad 2 and iPhone 4S last year.

The smaller die size makes the Apple TV’s A5 almost 41 percent smaller than the original part, allowing more chips to be created from a single silicon wafer. That makes producing the part cheaper, and also helps improve performance and lower power consumption (as its components are shrunken down and therefore closer to each other).

In addition to being smaller, Chipworks found that the new version of the A5 actually incorporates two cores. Apple only advertises Apple TV as having a single core chip, so the investigation notes that “either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts.”

By turning off one core, Apple could reduce the power consumption of a device. However, Apple TV lacks the power constraints of battery-powered mobile devices, making it more likely that the company simply developed a smaller, cheaper version of the A5 and is using the dual core rejects to power Apple TV, where one core is sufficient.

Chipworks explains that such “parts binning is a common process in semiconductors where devices are segregated (binned) based on meeting a subset of the overall requirements, in this case they could disable the ‘bad’ core, this increases the usable die per wafer, lowering the cost.”

Chip makers routinely create CPUs and RAM components and test them for the highest speed they can consistently operate at, selling the fastest parts for more and the slower components for less, rated to work at a slower clock speed.

This strategy would allow Apple to use its poorest performing new A5 chips in the US$99 Apple TV, while creating a new supply of fully functional 32nm A5 chips that are faster, smaller and cheaper than last year’s 45nm batch.

Chipworks notes that these chips could either power a new generation of iPhones (or other devices) or help to reduce the cost of existing products such as the iPhone 4S or iPad 2. The latest third generation iPad uses a custom chip Apple calls A5X, which incorporates the same dual ARM cores but delivers quad-core GPUs to drive its Retina Display, with four times the pixels.

Teardown reveals new A5 processor, second antenna, additional RAM in new Apple TV unit

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Date: Monday, March 19th, 2012, 07:16
Category: Apple TV, Hardware

It’s the teardowns of new products that make technology interesting.

The new Apple TV unit has gone through a full teardown courtesy of XBMC community member “aiciofs” to discover the following components:

- A custom-built A5 processor that, unlike the A5 CPU found in the iPhone 4S or iPad 2, features only a single processing core.

- 512 MB of upgraded RAM.

- The internal flash memory remains at 8 gigabytes.

- Second antenna (as opposed to the single antenna of the previous Apple TV unit). Its exact purpose is unknown, but it was suggested that the antenna could be to improve Wi-Fi connectivity and speed.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV units disappear from Best Buy web site, speculation as to next-gen units ensues

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Date: Friday, February 17th, 2012, 05:39
Category: Apple TV, News

When an item disappears from a web site, things get interesting.

Per AppleInsider, retail chain Best Buy is no longer selling the Apple TV on its website, prompting speculation that a new model from Apple is soon to arrive.

Though BestBuy.com carried Apple’s set-top box as recently as the 2011 holiday season, the device was nowhere to be found on the retailer’s website as of early Friday.

When contacted for comment, a Best Buy salesperson was unable to say when exactly the device had been removed from the website’s listings. “I don’t recall seeing them for a while,” he said.

“At this point in time, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting [the Apple TV] back,” the representative said after performing an inventory check.

An user reported having a similar experience on Thursday, noting that a Best Buy employee checked inventory in all stores and found that they were all out of stock. Apple does, however, continue to list the Apple TV as “In Stock” on its website.

The disappearance of the Apple TV from Best Buy’s inventory comes as a surprise because the big-box retailer was one of the first to carry the device when it first arrived in 2007. The original Apple TV got off to a promising start, but the product has yet to become more than a “hobby” for Apple.

Many have speculated that Apple’s plans for expanding its Apple TV platform involve a full-fledged television set. Multiple reports have suggested that the company has begun building prototypes for a connected TV, with one even claiming that Canadian telecoms Rogers and BCE are testing the set in their labs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple CEO Tim Cook hints at Apple TV opportunities during Goldman Sachs speech

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Date: Wednesday, February 15th, 2012, 06:57
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, News

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Sometimes Apple CEO Tim Cook gets coy and drops hints as to cool new Apple products coming down the road.

And that’s generally a good thing.

Per iLounge, Apple CEO Tim Cook made several comments relating to the Apple TV during a speaking engagement at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, suggesting the company sees a larger market opportunity than is being taken advantage of by the current device. Referring to the company’s past strategies, Cook said that Apple typically doesn’t do hobby projects, but suggested that it created Apple TV because it believed that there was something there, and that exploring the potential of a living room product would be useful. The result has been an increasingly popular device that he recommended people should go out and buy right now. However, Cook noted that if Apple “kept on pulling the string”, it would eventually get from the small hobby business of Apple TV to a bigger market opportunity.

Such a suggestion points towards Apple creating a more stand-alone device than a tethered solution such as the current Apple TV units.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV stocks dwindle, fuel speculation as to third-gen device on horizon

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Date: Monday, February 13th, 2012, 08:28
Category: Apple TV, News

This is sort of out of nowhere, but it could lead to something interesting.

Per 9to5Mac, an upgraded Apple TV media hub might come sooner than thought after signs emerged that multiple stores ran low on stock. Amazon, Best Buy, Buy.com, Radio Shack, and Target all show the device either as out of stock or taking weeks to ship. Apple and others do have supply, but it follows a pattern of third-party resellers usually running out first.

While it’s possible that there would be a temporary lull in stock, new tips suggest that the existing version may have been phased out. No more were shipping to Best Buy stores, a person at the retailer claimed.

Code references have been appearing that refer to a new Apple TV for the past few months, but little has emerged as to what it might be. With a full TV set unlikely in the near future, it’s more probable that any device, if it reaches stores, would be an A5- or A6-based update that could support 1080p video.

The timing follows some dwindling iPad 2 stock and raises the possibility that Apple may use an increasingly likely early March event to show both a new Apple TV and a new iPad at the same time.

Stay tuned and we’ll have details as soon as they become available.

Developers unveil demo of MobileX hack, allow Apple TV units to run full-screen iOS apps

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Date: Monday, January 2nd, 2012, 05:19
Category: Apple TV, Hack, News

This could prove really nifty.

Per AppleInsider, hackers have developed a workaround that enables full-screen versions of iOS apps for the iPad to run on a jailbroken Apple TV device.

Steve Troughton-Smith and a developer known as “TheMudkip” published over the weekend photos and video of the hack, dubbed MobileX, for Apple’s set-top box.

“MobileX is a window manager for iOS that replaces springboard with the added bonus of letting iPhone and iPad apps run on the Apple TV,” Troughton-Smith said in the video, adding that “any apps just run and scale up to the 720p resolution adequately.”

The hack appears to be in its early stages and has yet to be released to the public. In order to run the utility, the developers first performed the “Seas0nPass” jailbreak on the Apple TV. Apple has warned in the past that the jailbreak process, which allows users to run unauthorized code and apps on iOS, may void a device’s warranty.

Given that the Apple TV doesn’t include a full-featured input method such as a touchscreen, the pair used a combination of Virtual Network Computing (VNC), Secure Shell (SSH) and the Apple Remote to control the device. According to them, MobileX features a built-in menu that allows users to “quit apps, launch Safari, connect to Wi-Fi or show multiple apps side by side” from the Apple Remote.

Troughton-Smith demoed the iPad version of the FaceBook app and claimed that any of Apple’s own apps, such as Safari, Maps and YouTube also work well. VNC did, however, cause some sluggishness in some of the apps, though Troughton-Smith noted that a direct input method such as a remote or a mouse or keyboard would make performance “much smoother.”

Rumors of an AppleTV model that would allow access to the App Store have swirled for years, but developers appear to have taken matters into their own hands.

“If Apple isn’t going to give us a way to make real AppleTV apps, then I guess we’ll have to make one ourselves,” Troughton-Smith wrote in the video’s description on YouTube.

Apple released the latest version of the Apple TV in September 2010. The $99 set-top box runs on the company’s A4 processor and is a fourth the size of the first generation Apple TV.

The hack comes even as speculation on an upcoming Apple television set has heightened considerably. The release of late co-founder Steve Jobs’ biography set off a flurry of rumors after revealing that Jobs believed he had “cracked” the secret for a connected TV interface. Since then, reports have suggested that an Apple television will run on custom-built chips similar to those powering the iPhone and iPad and may come in three sizes.

Take a gander at the video and please let us know what you think in the comments:



Apple releases Apple TV 4.4.4, iOS 5.0.1 update for iPhone 4S model

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Date: Thursday, December 15th, 2011, 12:57
Category: Apple TV, iPhone, News, Software

Firmware: It’s nifty and it makes a difference.

Per MacNN, Apple has released two minor firmware updates for iOS devices. The first is v4.4.4 for the Apple TV, which implements what Apple terms as “general performance and stability improvements, including a fix for an issue that displayed an error when playing some video content.” The update can be installed automatically via an Apple TV’s normal update functions, or manually by technically savvy users with access to the IPSW file.

Unusually, Apple has also published a slightly different version of iOS 5.0.1 for the iPhone 4S. The new build is listed as 9A406. Why Apple would push out such an update is unknown, although any changes are likely to be extremely small given the same version number, and the need for compatibility with apps.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen any changes in your device(s) after installing the updates, please let us know in the comments.

Apple TV updated to 4.4.3

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Date: Friday, November 18th, 2011, 04:24
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

Apple on Thursday released a software update identified as version 4.4.3 for its Apple TV set-top box, though what changes it includes are unknown.

Per AppleInsider, the new Apple TV update is labeled build 9A4051, and can now be downloaded directly from the device. The version number would suggest that it is a minor update, fixing issues in the Apple TV version 4.4 software update that accompanied the launch of iOS 5 in October.

Version 4.4.3 marks the third update to have arrived since the release of 4.4, a more significant update that added AirPlay Mirroring support, Wall Street Journal Live, National Hockey League Content, Photo Stream, and iTunes Trailers. Details for Apple TV Software Update 4.4.3 have not yet been revealed by Apple.

The last Apple TV update arrived in late October with Software Update 4.4.2. It addressed an issue that required a small number of Apple TV units to be connected to iTunes in order to complete an update.

Apple also quietly added support for iTunes Match to the Apple TV early this month, without the need for a software update on the device. The $24.99-per-year iTunes Match service, which lets users re-download their entire music library on a range of devices, launched this week with the release of iTunes 10.5.1.

If you’ve tried the new Apple TV update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments and feedback.

Apple offers Apple TV price break through retailers in advance of Black Friday sales

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Date: Wednesday, November 16th, 2011, 04:04
Category: Apple TV, News, retail

It’s not a huge price drop, but it’s worth paying attention to.

Per AppleInsider, both Amazon and Best Buy are advertising a US$10 drop in price for the Apple TV. The latest version of Apple’s “hobby” originally came with a US$99.99 price tag when it was released last year.

The new pricing isn’t the lowest price ever for the set-top box. Last November, MacConnection ran an early Black Friday sale offering the device for just US$79.99.

The price drop does not, however, suggest an imminent release of an updated Apple TV, as it is likely too late in the holiday season for Apple to launch a new product. The last time the company released new hardware in November was the Core 2 Duo MacBook in 2006.

Though Apple declined to release a hardware update to its Apple TV this year, it did release a software update around the one-year mark. Version 4.4 of the set-top box’s software added compatibility with new iOS 5 features such as AirPlay Mirroring and Photo Stream. The update also added a Trailers app, as well as access to Wall Street Journal Live and National Hockey League content.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

CBS exec describes turning down Apple TV offer after disagreement over revenue split

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Date: Friday, November 4th, 2011, 05:53
Category: Apple TV, News

Sometimes you can reach a middle ground.

And sometimes the aforementioned middle ground is still a million miles away no matter what’s been said.

Per GigaOm, CBS boss Les Moonves revealed in an earnings call on Thursday that his company had been approached by Apple about a potential streaming TV service that would share ad revenues, but the network declined to strike a deal because it prefers to license its content.

Moonves, who serves as the company’s CEO, made the comments in response to an analyst question on whether CBS would pursue partnerships with “success-based or non-guaranteed” streaming players.

“We’ve even been against joining Apple TV, which was an advertiser split,” SeekingAlpha reported him as saying.

With the rise of online content, CBS has stuck to a strategy of upfront license fees for syndication, the report noted. That approach led the network to keep its distance from Hulu, a joint subscription venture by NBC, Fox and ABC. CBS did, however, recently agree to allow Hulu to air reruns from the CW network, a joint venture with Time Warner. It has also reached similar agreements with Netflix and Amazon.

The licensing route appears to be paying off for CBS for now, as Moonves said on Thursday that the network is already receiving “hundred of millions of dollars” annually from online streaming agreements with possibly even more deals to come. The executive is confident that online viewership will continue to bring in significant money over the years.

Rumors of an Apple subscription TV service have existed for years, but CBS’ comments come as the first public confirmation of it. The network reportedly considered a proposal from Apple as early as 2009.

Apple has gradually been adding channels and partners to its Apple TV set-top box. A recent software update added Wall Street Journal Live and National Hockey League content in addition to new features such as Photo Stream and AirPlay Mirroring.

Recent indications have pointed to an upcoming Apple television set with an innovative interface. The late Steve Jobs reportedly told biographer Walter Isaacson that he had “cracked” the concept for a “simple and elegant” connected TV.

Jobs’ comments have reignited speculation that Apple will enter the TV market. The New York Times noted late last month that, according to sources, such a device is definitely coming.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.