Apple TV Insides
Tearing open the Apple TV was nowhere near as troubling as getting inside an iPod: you simply need to pull off the rubber bottom and remove a few torx screws to get inside. What did we find??
The first glance shows a standard 2.5″ notebook hard drive at work for the storage what appears to be a very small motherboard.
This unit has a Fujitsu hard drive listed at 40GB — probably one of the biggest weak points on the Apple TV.
Removing the components from the Apple TV wasn’t too difficult as long as you have a standard set of torx screw drivers or bits. The rectangular white portion on the right in the photo is the power supply, the silver part in the center the wireless card and the black fan is covering nothing directly as we’ll see the processing chips are on the reverse side.
Removing the motherboard from the case and flipping it over shows an interesting site: Apple is using the top of the Apple TV for a heatsink! I was actually pretty impressed by that revelation as the top of the Apple TV did get warm during use but not HOT. This seems similar to a Silverstone water cooling case I saw recently that used the entire case for a radiator. Even the area below the power supply has a thermal pad to move heat from it to the casing.
Cleaning off the various chips on the motherboard showed up a few surprises. First up: the Apple TV uses an NVIDIA GeForce Go 7300 GPU paired with 64MB of GDDR3 memory running at 700 MHz! The default speed for the Go 7300 GPU is 350 MHz but Apple could be running this at a lower speed for power savings. It has 3 vertex shaders and 4 pixel shader pipelines and supports TurboCache as well.
This is a mobile GPU that we have seen on notebooks for some time and the fact that it is showing up inside the Apple TV probably indicates that it is being used for decode acceleration (and off-loading of the CPU) for H.264 codec files, the main Quicktime/iTunes codec for video. Would it also be possible for future hacks to allow for some very basic 3D gaming perhaps too? Maybe, but that definitely isn’t something I would buy the Apple TV planning on.
This larger of the two remain chips on the motherboard is actually the Intel 945G chipset as indicated by the part number. It has access to 256MB of Nanya memory for the main system memory.
That leaves this mystery chip as the Intel processor — though there are no official markings on it that tell us exactly what it is. Based on the form factor its running on it is definitely an ultra-low-voltage processor based around the original Pentium M design if only due to its attachment to a 945G chipset. Cache, frequency and FSB speeds aren’t really known though…
Update: According to this report from Prudential Equity, the Intel processor is running at 1.0 GHz codenamed “Crofton” and has been clocked to run at a 350 MHz FSB and has 2MB of L2 cache.