Apple TV 1st gen: Old is gold

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while: I finally got myself an Apple TV. However, I found and got a good deal on an old, first-gen model – just around Rs. 5,000. Why first gen over the latest third gen, you ask?

This is my Apple TV, I have won it from Intel contest on Twitpic

1st gen

Pros:
  • Built in HDD. I got one with 160GB. This is good because your stuff can get downloaded directly on to the Apple TV and your Mac can be off. If you want, you can even upgrade the HDD to like 1TB. That ought to be enough for anybody!
  • Fully jailbreakable, hackable, whateverable. Patch stick, ATV Flash, Nito TV, XBMC, Boxee, torrents…
  • Full size USB port, so you can stick in a thumb drive or an external hard drive.
  • Since the 1st gen Apple TV is basically a scaled-down Mac mini, you can make it run full Mac OS X Tiger or some flavor of Linux. There’s lots of fun to be had here.
Cons:
  • Even though it’s capable of outputting 1080p, it’s not powerful enough to decode it. Workaround: Manually install a BCM70015 mini-PCie card for flawless full HD decoding and playback!
  • No AirPlay Mirroring support – only AirPlay audio/video/photos via Remote HD or XBMC.
  • A tad noisy because of the fan, but you can open it up and remove the fan without affecting performance. Funny, but true.
  • Slightly more power consuming than the later models, because it’s practically a full computer.
  • Tough to get your hands on one these days.
2nd gen
Pros:
  • AirPlay Mirroring.
  • Jailbreakable on 5.x, tethered jailbreak on 6.x.
  • Low power consumption (than 1st gen).
Cons:
  • Can decode 1080p, but unable to output it. No aftermarket chip to make it work either.
  • Even tougher to find this one in the market. Those who have it have no reason to sell it.
  • No internal storage, though it’s not really a necessity.
  • No full USB port (only microUSB).
3rd gen
Pros:
  • Fully 1080p capable!
  • AirPlay Mirroring.
  • Easy to buy, since this is the latest model.
  • Low power consumption (than 1st gen).
Cons:
  • No jailbreak! No fun!
  • No internal storage, though it’s not really a necessity.
  • No full USB port (only microUSB)

So… Which one should you get? That depends on whether you want to watch movies or you want to watch movies and have fun.

The unjailbroken 1st gen Apple TV is a perfectly capable wireless media playback machine, so if you just need basic movies, music, photos and YouTube, the latest Apple TV will work just fine.

On the other hand, if you’re like me, you want to fuck around with the hardware and software to the limit and see what can be done. I’ve gotten my first gen to support AFP, so it shows up in my iMac or MacBook Finder and I can directly stuff videos into it’s internal hard drive – this isn’t something you can do with the stock firmware or the 2nd/3rd gen models. For all that I’ve gotten my Apple TV to do, I think Rs. 5,000 is a ridiculously low price.

Basically, if you want to have fun, get the 1st or 2nd gen!

Update: For full HD decoding, I got an AzureWave AW-VD920H, which is just an OEM card based on the Broadcomm Crystal HD BCM70015/BCM970015 chipset. That’s (around Rs. 1,50o) in the US or Rs. 3,000 here in India.

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4 thoughts on “Apple TV 1st gen: Old is gold

  1. Awesome man! How much does that BCM70015 card cost?

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    1. Rs. 2,999 on eBay. Use a discount coupon. Ships from Pune. http://www.ebay.in/itm/Broadcom-New-BCM70015-Mini-PCI-E-Crystal-HD-Decoder-BCM970015-/181051368476

      Alternatively, you can get it for as low as from Amazon US, but shipping will probably take the total cost up to around Rs. 2,400.

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      1. Where can you get the best jailbreak software? I have 2 of these gen 1 Apple TV s and would like to get them up to speed. I also would like to add a VPN right to the Apple TV.

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      2. It’s dead simple with the patch stick – you just need to boot with it and boom. The thing to use is the ATV USB creator: https://code.google.com/p/atvusb-creator/ and you can follow the instructions here: http://www.appletv3jailbreak.com/2013/06/how-to-jailbreak-apple-tv-1st.html I’m not too sure about the VPN bit, but there’s plenty of third party things you can add to this once it’s JB’d.

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