Apple TV 2012 Teardown: Upgraded processor, wireless chip

From the outside, the 2012 Apple TV looks like its predecessor, but on the inside it has a better processor and upgraded wireless chip.

The 2012 Apple TV is a solid upgrade to the product line. With support for 1080p video, a revamped user interface, the ability to share content with iOS devices, and better iCloud support, this device should fit perfectly into the household of anyone with an existing Apple ecosystem.

On the downside, it's $99 price tag makes it a bit more expensive than compete products and it lacks some streaming services, such as HBO Go, Amazon Instant, and Pandora.

In this week's episode of Cracking Open, I take a look inside the 2012 Apple TV.

Cracking Open: Apple TV 2012
Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Apple TV 2012

Cracking Open observations

  • Same overall design as the 2010 Apple TV: Both the 2010 and 2012 Apple TVs have nearly identical cases, their power supplies have different part numbers but the same output and connector, and their motherboards have the same shape, connector placement, and overall chip layout. The only real internal difference (other than the chips), is the absence of a thermal pad on the exterior of the heatsink.
  • Updated processor: The 2012 Apple TV's A5 package-on-package system-on-a-chip consists of a single-core application processor (likely clocked at 1GHz) and DDR2 SDRAM chip sandwiched on top of each other. This is an upgrade from the 2010 model's A4 chip.
  • Improved wireless: Apple also upgraded the unit's wireless chip, from the Broadcom BCM4329 to the BCM4330, which is also used in the 2012 iPad. The new chip should improve the device's wireless performance.
  • Same 8GB storage: Apple didn't upgrade the unit's storage module. Both the 2010 and 2012 Apple TVs have an 8 GB NAND flash chip.

Internal hardware

Our Apple TV test unit had the following internal hardware:

  • Apple A5 package-on-package (PoP) system-on-a-chip (SoC)
    • single-core application processor (likely 1GHz clock speed)
    • DDR2 SDRAM chip
  • 8GB Toshiba NAND Flash
  • Apple 343S0479
  • Apple 338S1040
  • Broadcom BCM4330 802.11a/b/g/n MAC/Baseband/Radio with Integrated Bluetooth 4.0+HS & FM Transceiver
  • Delta 8456B-R 1206
  • SMSC LAN9730 Hi-Speed Inter-Chip (HSIC) USB 2.0 to 10/100 Ethernet Controller
  • Miscellaneous unknown chips