iPhone firmware leak suggests Apple considered A9X for Apple TV

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
Apple was apparently experimenting with the possibility of creating a powerful version of the Apple TV long before it created the Apple TV 4K, with the discovery of code references in the "iBoot" leak suggesting it could have used an A9X chip.




Developer Steve Troughton-Smith claims to have found references to an "A9X variant of the Apple TV that never shipped" within the leaked source code. Considering the age of the code - which was allegedly pulled from iOS 9 - the claimed unreleased device could potentially have been one of Apple's initial attempts at producing a more powerful version of its streaming set-top box.

The A9X is a 64-bit system-on-chip designed by Apple and introduced as part of the first generation of iPad Pro devices, including both the 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch models. The chip was claimed by Apple to offer double the GPU performance and 1.8 times the CPU performance of the A8X, making it the most powerful mobile processor for iOS devices at the time.

If genuine, Troughton-Smith's discovery strongly suggests Apple was looking to considerably upgrade the Apple TV's processing power, far beyond the fourth-generation device's internals, long before it had even shipped the Apple TV 4K. The hardware for the fourth generation Apple TV, launched in September 2015, centered around the A8 processor that had been used in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and the iPad mini 4, with the chip powerful enough to perform Siri searches and run third-party apps within tvOS.

Speaking of unreleased: there's an A9X variant of the Apple TV that never shipped, according to iBoot

-- Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith)


Apple did go on to produce a more powerful model, introducing the Apple TV 4K in September 2017 that largely kept the design and hardware considerations of the fourth-generation version. For the 4K edition, Apple ended up using the A9X's successor, the A10X Fusion, another chip used in iPad Pro models.

Surfacing earlier this week, the iBoot code is an Apple subsystem that ensures an authenticated boot, or initial loading, of iOS on a target device. It is also responsible for iOS kernel signing verification and other critical tasks, with the code leak potentially presenting an opportunity to jailbreak developers to discover new vulnerabilities.

Apple has responded to security concerns over the leak, assuring CNET the security design of its products does not rely on keeping the source code secret. "There are many layers of hardware and software protections built in to our products, and we always encourage customers to update to the newest software releases to benefit from the latest protections," Apple told the report.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    tipootipoo Posts: 788member
    I think it's really neat they went with an actively cooled A10X. 

    Now that that's in there though, I think they should aggressively court game developers to take advantage of it. Maybe even have small internal efforts! 
    edited February 9 watto_cobralolliver
  • Reply 2 of 13
    davendaven Posts: 448member
    tipoo said:
    I think it's really neat they went with an actively cooled A10X. 

    Now that that's in there though, I think they should aggressively court game developers to take advantage of it. Maybe even have small internal efforts! 
    Apple does have an advantage by having their own chips.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 13
    tipootipoo Posts: 788member
    daven said:
    tipoo said:
    I think it's really neat they went with an actively cooled A10X. 

    Now that that's in there though, I think they should aggressively court game developers to take advantage of it. Maybe even have small internal efforts! 
    Apple does have an advantage by having their own chips.

    Exactly. Even among dedicated console makers, making ones own chips, OS, compilers, APIs and tools, is a rare combination, right now they've settled on semi-custom AMD efforts. 

    Apple with nearly full stack control could make the ATV into a nifty microconsole. I'd love to see them start partnering and/or gobbling up some smaller studios and working on highly polished ATV exclusives for use with gamepads. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    shompashompa Posts: 340member
    A9X would be a bit stupid. Remember that the chip in AppleTV historically have been harvested chips. Take3 had a single core A5. 4K have a "3 core" A10X. The A10X that do not pass validation for all cores, they are harvested for more/less free and put into AppleTV 4K. Using A9X when almost no new products exist with A9X would make it difficult for Apple to get free harvested chips. A more educated guess is that AppleTV 4K was planned to be released a year earlier before A10X existed. If Tim had some guts: Sell the A10 SoC to OEMs. If Tim had some balls: Sell iOS devices with Android/Windows Phone/Rooted developers edition. Stop being such a control freak. An AppleTV4K could easily be a base for a new MacMini. The CPU is already faster than most X86 and way faster in 64bit since its real 64bit, not extensions like X86 uses.
  • Reply 5 of 13
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 4,938member
    It's sad that absolutely NOTHING even comes close to taking advantage of the Apple TV 4Ks A10X chip. I mean, would have been amazing if they actually got an exclusive game that had a wide appeal developed for it, to push the hardware and show people what it can do. Right now, even the most graphically impressive games are still optimized for A7 and up.
    watto_cobralolliverbrian green
  • Reply 6 of 13
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 1,708member
    shompa said:
    A9X would be a bit stupid. Remember that the chip in AppleTV historically have been harvested chips. Take3 had a single core A5. 4K have a "3 core" A10X. The A10X that do not pass validation for all cores, they are harvested for more/less free and put into AppleTV 4K. Using A9X when almost no new products exist with A9X would make it difficult for Apple to get free harvested chips. A more educated guess is that AppleTV 4K was planned to be released a year earlier before A10X existed. If Tim had some guts: Sell the A10 SoC to OEMs. If Tim had some balls: Sell iOS devices with Android/Windows Phone/Rooted developers edition. Stop being such a control freak. An AppleTV4K could easily be a base for a new MacMini. The CPU is already faster than most X86 and way faster in 64bit since its real 64bit, not extensions like X86 uses.
    Ahh yes!  Typical Droidy....   Only looks at hardware specs and ignores all that surrounds them that convert them from mere feature laden gadgets to great products that change people's lives...
    razorpitwatto_cobralolliverjony0brian green
  • Reply 7 of 13
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 1,708member
    slurpy said:
    It's sad that absolutely NOTHING even comes close to taking advantage of the Apple TV 4Ks A10X chip. I mean, would have been amazing if they actually got an exclusive game that had a wide appeal developed for it, to push the hardware and show people what it can do. Right now, even the most graphically impressive games are still optimized for A7 and up.
    Patience Grasshopper...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 13
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 4,938member
    shompa said:
    A9X would be a bit stupid. Remember that the chip in AppleTV historically have been harvested chips. Take3 had a single core A5. 4K have a "3 core" A10X. The A10X that do not pass validation for all cores, they are harvested for more/less free and put into AppleTV 4K. Using A9X when almost no new products exist with A9X would make it difficult for Apple to get free harvested chips. A more educated guess is that AppleTV 4K was planned to be released a year earlier before A10X existed. If Tim had some guts: Sell the A10 SoC to OEMs. If Tim had some balls: Sell iOS devices with Android/Windows Phone/Rooted developers edition. Stop being such a control freak. An AppleTV4K could easily be a base for a new MacMini. The CPU is already faster than most X86 and way faster in 64bit since its real 64bit, not extensions like X86 uses.
    One of the moronic posts I've ever read. "If Tim Cook had some guts"? "If Tim Cook had some balls"? Wow. Yeah, he should do the same fucking thing that lead to the collapse of Apple, that sounds amazing. You know what else would take "balls"? If Tim Cook liquidated all of Apple's cash then set fire to it all. Doesn't mean that's what he should do. 
    razorpitGeorgeBMacfastasleepwatto_cobralolliverjony0
  • Reply 9 of 13
    tipoo said:
    I think it's really neat they went with an actively cooled A10X.
    I'm on the other side of the fence - I prefer no moving parts to wear out.

    On the other hand, my AirPort Extreme and TiVo Stream's fans have been spinning for years with no problems and my ATV 4K will probably be obsolete long before the fan wears out.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 13
    Why is it that the AppleTV doesn't have the same functionality of the NVidia Shield in terms of gaming chops? It seems as though the NVidia shield can do everything based on multiple reviews but I've never heard the same about AppleTV. Is it because the NVidia Shield is more open to third-parties that makes it such a popular device? I've never seen any GeekBench scores comparing the NVidia Shield to the latest AppleTV so I can't say if it's benchmark scores that makes the NVidia Shield such a great gaming device. I had always thought Apple's A-X series chips were always the most powerful SoCs one could get in a mobile device but maybe AppleTV has a relatively weak GPU which isn't that great for gaming. I really wish Apple could make AppleTV into a great gaming device like the NVidia Shield and get some high praise. I really don't understand why Apple doesn't go after higher-level gamers.
  • Reply 11 of 13
    Why is it that the AppleTV doesn't have the same functionality of the NVidia Shield in terms of gaming chops? It seems as though the NVidia shield can do everything based on multiple reviews but I've never heard the same about AppleTV. Is it because the NVidia Shield is more open to third-parties that makes it such a popular device? I've never seen any GeekBench scores comparing the NVidia Shield to the latest AppleTV so I can't say if it's benchmark scores that makes the NVidia Shield such a great gaming device. I had always thought Apple's A-X series chips were always the most powerful SoCs one could get in a mobile device but maybe AppleTV has a relatively weak GPU which isn't that great for gaming. I really wish Apple could make AppleTV into a great gaming device like the NVidia Shield and get some high praise. I really don't understand why Apple doesn't go after higher-level gamers.
    I think -- and others can correct me -- that Apple just recently gained control over their GPU and brought in house...  

    I think gaming on the AppleTV makes a great deal of sense and a logical extension of the Apple TV -- almost a limitation without it.  But, that's also entering into a whole new paradigm from the current iteration of the Apple TV where they would have to confront both hardware and software challenges...
    razorpit
  • Reply 12 of 13
    tipootipoo Posts: 788member
    zroger73 said:
    tipoo said:
    I think it's really neat they went with an actively cooled A10X.
    I'm on the other side of the fence - I prefer no moving parts to wear out.

    On the other hand, my AirPort Extreme and TiVo Stream's fans have been spinning for years with no problems and my ATV 4K will probably be obsolete long before the fan wears out.

    Fan wear is pretty rare in my experience, particularly with modern electronics expected lifespans. And the ATV one is a slow spinning one that'll probably last a very long time. But even a small amount of airflow vastly improves prospects for boosting performance. 

    It's why the 15" rMBP keeps the fans at an inaudible on level even with no load, it keeps conditions such that it can regain its turbo boost very fast. 
  • Reply 13 of 13
    I'm not sure this is possible, or even "a thing", but I'm curious if the Apple TV 4K has the ability to upsample everything to 120Hz? I have a Samsung HDR 4K TV and love it, but a lot of the content out there is still at lower frame rates that stutters on the screen with movement. I know that a lot of stuff out there is being changed over to 4k, but I was wondering if there's even a way to force everything to jump to 120Hz? I seriously doubt there is, otherwise it'd have been done already, but I thought I'd ask the question anyway. Thanks in advance.
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