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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Consumer Hardware & Components > AppleTV does 1080p with $25 mini-PCI card

AppleTV does 1080p with $25 mini-PCI card
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moep
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Dec 30, 2009, 06:01 AM
 
This is pretty good news for me as I just wanted to buy a new Mac mini to replace the Apple TV as my HTPC.

The guys from XBMC managed to get their software to support the new Broadcom Crystal HD hardware decoder mini-pci card. The Apple TV’s WLAN card is in a mini-pcie slot so it is possible to use the BCM970012 in its place.
You can find the card on ebay for ~$25 with free shipping from various dealers in Hong Kong.

Heck, I just checked the codecs and it looks like even Bluray (via USB drive) would be an option on a hacked Apple TV in the future, although I’m not sure about the HDCP/DRM junk.

XBMC Blog posting:

Broadcom Crystal HD, It’s Magic. | XBMC

BCM970012 SPECIFICATIONS
Form Factor
PCI Express Mini Card (v1.3)
Chipset
AVC/MPEG-2/VC-1 Video/Audio Decoder: BCM70010
PCIe Controller: BCM70012
Supported Resolution
QVGA up to 1920 x 1088
HD Video Decoding Formats
H.264/AVC HP at L4.1 1080i/1080p, 40 Mb/sec.
H.264/AVC HP at L3.0 480i/480p
H.264/AVC HP at L3.2 720p
SMPTE VC-1 AP at L3 1080i/1080p, 40 Mb/sec.
WMV9 (VC-1 SP and MP)
MPEG-2 MP at ML
MPEG-2 MP at HL
Uncompressed Video Output YUV 4:2:0, YUV 4:2:2
NV12 planar YPbPr format
YUY2, UYVY-packed YPbPr format
QVGA to full HD support
Security
AES-128-encrypted content over PCIe
Uncompressed data encryption and scrambling support
Firmware verification, data signature
X.509 certificate
Components
H.264/MPEG-4
VC-1 Simple, Main, and Advanced Profile decoder
MPEG-2 decoder
Integrated security processor
( Last edited by moep; Jan 17, 2010 at 12:30 AM. )
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Eug
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Dec 30, 2009, 09:58 AM
 
So does that mean you can't use wireless at the same time? (Not that you'd want to if you're streaming 1080p though.)
     
mduell
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Dec 30, 2009, 12:26 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
So does that mean you can't use wireless at the same time? (Not that you'd want to if you're streaming 1080p though.)
Yea, if you take out the wifi card, you can't use wifi.
     
turtle777
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Dec 30, 2009, 04:18 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
So does that mean you can't use wireless at the same time? (Not that you'd want to if you're streaming 1080p though.)
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
Yea, if you take out the wifi card, you can't use wifi.
LULZ. Eug, what's up, didn't get your morning coffee ?

-t
     
Eriamjh
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Dec 30, 2009, 06:07 PM
 
So you hardware the ethernet, remove the wifi, and then stream 1080p video sourced from a blu-ray drive or player? Why not just buy a blu-ray drive?

If not sourced from blu-ray, where does one get 1080p video to play?

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turtle777
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Dec 30, 2009, 06:31 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post
If not sourced from blu-ray, where does one get 1080p video to play?
Recorded HD broadcasts ?

-t
     
Eug
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Dec 30, 2009, 07:00 PM
 
Sheesh. I was just hoping there might be some sort of way to duplicate a mini-PCI port.
     
reader50
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Dec 30, 2009, 07:25 PM
 
PCI expansion chassis are horribly expensive - around the cost of a whole 2nd computer. It ought to work with a mini-PCI to PCI adapter. Startech has some cheaper expanders for PCIe, but nothing for PCI expansion.
     
Eriamjh
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Dec 30, 2009, 11:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
Recorded HD broadcasts ?

-t
Maybe. But isn't broadcast only 1080i? I just saw some ads that DirecTV was offering 1080p, but recording it is another story.

If you are recording it, you aren't doing it on the mini, are you?

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turtle777
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Dec 30, 2009, 11:19 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post
Maybe. But isn't broadcast only 1080i? I just saw some ads that DirecTV was offering 1080p, but recording it is another story.

If you are recording it, you aren't doing it on the mini, are you?
I dunno. I was just taking a guess.

-t
     
Dork.
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Dec 31, 2009, 01:46 PM
 
Just to be pedantic, the slot in the Apple TV is a mini-PCIe slot, which is currently occupied by the wireless card. The Broadcom card is a mini-PCIe card as well. I believe all mini-PCIe slots are only 1 lane wide, but I don't know that for sure.

Mini-PCI is a different beast entirely. Mini-PCI and Mini-PCIe are incompatable from a hardware perspective, for the same reasons why you can't plug a PCIe card into a PCI slot. That "e" gets tricky sometimes....
     
Eug
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Jan 1, 2010, 10:55 AM
 
Ah I see. Thx.

     
mkerr64
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Jan 11, 2010, 11:57 PM
 
plus itunes doesnt sell 1080 only 720....
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Playos
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Jan 14, 2010, 01:25 AM
 
"where do you get 1080p content without blu-ray?"

I really don't know
     
Simon
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Jan 14, 2010, 02:06 AM
 


Exactly.
     
Samalama
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Jan 16, 2010, 06:00 PM
 
1. You can get 1080p content for ATV, but that would be a different thread.
2. The downside of removing the wireless card is that your bandwidth would drop as the N wireless will be faster than the 10/100 adapter in the ATV. Again, this is based on proximity to your router or access point, and if it is N compatible.
3. This would be worth a consideration if you fully hacked the ATV and swapped out the video card and added an external hard drive at the same time avoiding the need to stream at 1080p.
     
moep  (op)
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Jan 17, 2010, 12:22 AM
 
Originally Posted by Samalama View Post
1. You can get 1080p content for ATV, but that would be a different thread.
3. This would be worth a consideration if you fully hacked the ATV and swapped out the video card and added an external hard drive at the same time avoiding the need to stream at 1080p.
Are you suggesting 100 Mbit/s Bandwidth isn’t enough to stream 1080p?
The BCM970012 can’t decode anything above 40 Mbit/s.
… and I am pretty sure that 100 Mbit wired ethernet is faster than 802.11n in 90% of all cases but that’s a different story.
By the way, ATV Flash has already included support for the card and offers a prepackaged one-click installer with the required xbmc svn build, kexts and libraries.
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Simon
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Jan 17, 2010, 03:27 AM
 
Originally Posted by Samalama View Post
2. The downside of removing the wireless card is that your bandwidth would drop as the N wireless will be faster than the 10/100 adapter in the ATV. Again, this is based on proximity to your router or access point, and if it is N compatible.
You shouldn't put so much faith in theoretical spec figures.

You'll have a hard time finding a single real-world benchmark that shows significantly higher throughput on 802.11n vs. 100 Mb Ethernet. Although 802.11n is spec'ed at 300 Mbps in reality you'll rarely be seeing more than ~ 75Mbps. Fast Ethernet OTOH regularly shows ~ 85Mbps.

Plus with decent cabling Ethernet will show consistent high performance while 802.11n is susceptible to interference depending on the environment it's used in.
( Last edited by Simon; Jan 17, 2010 at 03:47 AM. )
     
Samalama
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Jan 17, 2010, 12:00 PM
 
Originally Posted by moep View Post
Are you suggesting 100 Mbit/s Bandwidth isn’t enough to stream 1080p?
The BCM970012 can’t decode anything above 40 Mbit/s.
… and I am pretty sure that 100 Mbit wired ethernet is faster than 802.11n in 90% of all cases but that’s a different story.
By the way, ATV Flash has already included support for the card and offers a prepackaged one-click installer with the required xbmc svn build, kexts and libraries.

Valid points, but just some information to consider.
Personally, I have the following for a configuration:
ATV housed in same cabinet with N Router
Non resident files are streamed from a PC with a Gigabit card hardwired to a Gigabit switch.
I run a separate WAP for non N devices so that I am not in mixed mode.
Also, with the ATV, I have noticed that when my wife's MAC book is opened while streaming a movie, it can cause a skip in the video as the laptop acquires the IP address.
Given the fact that the ATV I have is the 40gig version, I am considering some of these hacks including the larger drive as I would like to reduce the need to stream video especially if i have the ability to view it at 1080p.
     
turtle777
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Jan 17, 2010, 02:00 PM
 
FWIT, I had too much trouble with my ATV and WiFi.

Changed to ethernet, and all was peachy.

-t
     
Wiskedjak
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Jan 17, 2010, 02:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
FWIT, I had too much trouble with my ATV and WiFi.

Changed to ethernet, and all was peachy.

-t
Same here. Glad I ran Cat5 through the house.
     
moep  (op)
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Jan 27, 2010, 08:20 AM
 
I just wanted to update this because my card arrived last week. Installation of both hard and software was a breeze, everything was working within 20 minutes thanks to ATVflash supporting the card already.

I did find a fundamental flaw however: XBMC on the AppleTV only runs at 720p maximum.
That means 1080p decodes fine but XBMC outputs it downscaled to 720p and then the ATV scales it back up to 1080p.

It is a known limitation of XBMC on the AppleTV and will hopefully be fixed soon. I’m glad I only paid $23 for the card — no big loss.
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