Apple TV  Overheating Problems:
Shame on Apple
(Part 1 of 2)

apple_tv_vs_xbox_360_iptv-706980On this rumor filled eve of things to come concerning Apple TV, I am going to publicly say, "Shame on Apple" for the heating problems plaguing my existing Apple TV.

The earliest production Apple TVs have a serious overheating problem. They ran hot under the 1.x software, but not enough to push it over the edge. But with certainly, the latest software (Take 3) overheats my Apple TV causing big blocky artifacts to appear in movie playback in the good case, and complete video card freezing requiring a reboot in the bad case. 

This blog has photos of the problem which are similar to mine and tries to measure the temperature.

These problems are very easy to reproduce for me and occurs during normal usage. I simply need to play a video for awhile to see the artifacts. And to freeze my graphics system, all I need to do is go to My Music and let the album art start scrolling by. The Apple TV usually freezes up within 15 seconds.

Researching this issue, it looks like anybody with the earliest production runs of Apple TV is highly susceptible to this problem. (Mine certainly qualifies as it shipped with 1.0 software.) It also looks like Apple was aware of this and later snuck in a better/faster fan into subsequent production runs.

So forget about the iPad overheating lawsuit. At least the iPad knows its overheating and can shutdown. The Apple TV is too stupid to worry about heat and it will lock itself up. (It doesn't get any cooler either when it locks up.) Dare I say the word, 'recall'? It's not like it would cost them that much. They didn't sell that many Apple TVs, let alone the earliest production runs. I'm actually pretty mad that their software update renders my device completely unusable. And they knew the thing ran hot. You just need to touch the unit.

Anyway, I stayed on 1.x for a long time for other considerations (many of them paranoia and laziness, though also the fact that I don't watch much TV), but finally decided I wanted the new features like iPhone/iPod touch remote control interfaces and HD through iTunes. So I finally updated my Apple TV. Not realizing there was a little known problem about serious overheating issues on early production models, my system glitche- out and froze like clockwork.

My Apple TV, now well out of warranty doesn't give me many options. Basically, I can try to revert to the original firmware and pray nothing goes wrong, I can try to cool it, or I can trash the unit.

I opted for cooling the unit since I actually had reasons I wanted to update the software in the first place.

To verify my problems were indeed heating related, I got a large desk fan, and pointed it at the Apple TV. Sure enough, the problems went away. But it wasn't a feasible solution since the desk fan was huge and loud and would obstruct my TV screen.

So I needed to find a smaller fan, yet large enough to cool the unit.

First, I discovered that the bottom of the Apple has a glued on rubber pad. If you remove this pad (by force to break the glue), the metal plate underneath the rubber pad that is the bottom of the Apple TV actually has small holes across the entire plate. These holes are perfect to allow air to flow through. So I got it in my head that a laptop cooling pad with USB powered fans might be ideal.

Thus began my annoying quest to find an adequate laptop cooling pad for my Apple TV. It needed to be powerful enough to solve the problem, but inexpensive enough that I wouldn't be better off junking the unit and buying something better.

Next time, I will share the results of my quest.

Part 2: Apple TV  Overheating Problems: Manhattan Cooling Pad

Copyright © PlayControl Software, LLC / Eric Wing