Articles: Apple TV Taken Apart
After we filled all our back orders for the Apple TV we decided to break one open and see what it's all about. The Apple TV is certainly a device for people who are invested in their TV-watching experience. That left us wondering why Apple gave the Apple TV a hard drive smaller than a Video iPod. The last few generations of iPod have been able to connect to TVs, albeit at lesser video quality, so having half the capacity of an iPod didn't seem like enough space.
As a result, we figured out how to upgrade the hard drive from its original 40 gigs, and turn it into an Apple TV 120 GB unit. Of course, we took some pictures to document the process.
There is not too much in there except for a manual, power cord, Apple Remote, and Apple TV. We are gentle during our in-house conversion, so if you get one of these 120GB models it will be this clean.
We remove just eight screws to extract the old Fujitsu 40GB drive. Apple uses a green thermal pad to dissipate the hard drive heat.
We then copy every part of original hard drive onto the new drive. This takes a long time so we had plenty of time to explore the Apple TV innards.
It is stunning how small this capable device is inside. Other than the logic board there is not much else to the Apple TV. It has a 802.11n card that is similar to what you find in other Apple computers. There is also a fan with deflectors for case cooling and a substantial power supply. Substantial, in comparison to the unit as a whole. Other than the hard drive, there is not too much more you can upgrade besides the software.
The Apple TV's case has a maple bar-sized cutout for the Wi-Fi antenna. This makes the plastic at the top of the case the only barrier to the 802.11n reception. Which means the Wi-Fi reception levels in the Apple TV are exceptionally strong.
Now that the drive copy is done, the Apple TV's physical transformation is almost complete. Here is the new Western Digital 120 GB drive mounted to the bottom plate and the old 40 GB drive sitting loose next to it.
The original drive has several partitions that have to remain on the drive in order for the Apple TV to function. On the 40 GB drive, only 35.83 GB are available for file storage.
After the drive has been copied from the smaller drive to the larger one, it looks identical to the original. That leaves 74.66 GB of free space that needs to be rolled into the other 35.83 GB of media storage space. For that we use a utility to non-destructively resize the media partition.
After the initial setup in iTunes, the total available storage space for this Apple TV upgrade is 107 GB. That is over three times the space of the original Apple TV and 20 GB more then the best iPod.