New Smaller Apple TV On The Way With Faster A5X SoC

Apple released an Apple TV update alongside iOS 6.1 Monday. Listed among the downloads was a firmware update for an unknown “AppleTV3,2” model (existing Apple TV models use the 2,1 and 3,1 designation). Although initially assumed to refer to an international version of the device with minor changes, AnandTech discovered Tuesday that the mysterious firmware actually belongs to a brand new model with upgraded components and a smaller footprint.

New Apple TV A5X

Using an FCC diagram noted by Engadget and code contained within the device’s firmware, AnandTech found that the forthcoming Apple TV model will feature an A5X processor and the same Broadcom BCM4334 wireless chip found in the iPhone 5. This will provide a significant boost in performance and wireless speed.

The new Apple TV, with a model number of A1469, is also slightly smaller than the existing second- and third-generation Apple TV, losing approximately 4 millimeters in length and width.

The current third-generation Apple TV is already fully capable of 1080p video playback, and the limited number of video apps work well. Apple’s move to a more powerful processor therefore introduces some interesting possibilities.

If Apple was gearing up to allow open development of Apple TV apps, the increased performance of the A5X, and the addition of Bluetooth keyboard support introduced in the 5.2 update, would give developers a lot to work with. It’s also possible, however, that Apple can secure a better price on the A5X than on the older, custom A5 found in the current Apple TV and decided to make the switch for economic reasons.

The A5X was first introduced with the third-generation iPad in March 2012. While the exact specifications of the chip in the upcoming Apple TV are unknown, the iPad’s A5X was a dual core CPU at 1 GHz and a quad-core GPU at 250 MHz.