1080p Coming to Apple TV

by tomek on December 30, 2009

1080p-apple-tv-xbcm-broadcom-crystalThat’s a great news: several TeamXBMC/Redhat developers and the Broadcom Media PC Group made it possible to play 1080p content on Apple TV! It is called Broadcom Crystal HD and it’s a cross-platform hardware decoding of mpeg2, h.264 and VC1 video content up to 1080p.

It will be coming to XBMC on OSX, Linux, and Windows via the Broadcom Crystal HD Hardware Decoder (BCM970012). It is available now in a mini-PCIE card with ExpressCard and 1X PCIE form factors.

Good news is that it has a common programming API and it’s an open source solution with full source code for driver and library available for OSX and Linux under a GPL/LGPL license. Go ahead, 3rd party developers!

The Windows driver binary, as well as the Linux source code for the driver and library can be found at the Broadcom web site. For OSX, the binaries and source code for the driver and library will be hosted at google code. Users in the USA can purchase the Crystal HD mini PCIE card from Logic Supply for $69, and of course there’s always ebay for those outside the USA.

Source: XBMC

  • Ben

    I'm missing something here. Where exactly would this mini-PCI-E hardware decoder go? Are they removing the 802.11N adapter from the ATV and using the expansion slot?

  • Ric

    @ Ben

    That's the first thing that went through my mind. Maybe you use a mini USB adapter that fits the mini PCI-E decoder , err, except the USB on the ATV's non functional by default.

  • Erik

    Yes, you have to remove the wireless card and replace it with the HD decoder.

  • Fred

    Why would anyone do that ?

  • Erik

    Because they're close enough to a router + ethernet cable to not care about wireless and they'd rather have 1080p.

  • markomarkomarko

    Well, I've ordered mine! Byebye wireless, hello HD!

  • Bob

    Is there or will there be a way to implement the Broadcom decoder without removing the wireless controller in the ATV? I currently use the wireless since I don't have an accessible ethernet cable.

  • Bob

    Is there or will there be a way to implement the Broadcom controller without removing the wireless adapter for the ATV? I currently use the wireless on the ATV since I don't have an accessible ethernet cable.

  • Andrew

    Just picked one of these up on eBay, hopefully it's not a dud. Looks like over 300 people have purchased this card in the past two days from the same seller.

  • Erik

    Most likely not. There's no room in the ATV and only one connector.

  • Erik

    But you could put the Broadcam card in, plug an ethernet into the ATV, and plug that ethernet cable into an airport express to wireless that way.

  • Okay, total noob question, but all we need to do is crack open the aTv, remove the wireless (w/ blowtorch & jaws-of-life) and pop in this card? Does it need drivers or anything?

  • Erik

    The drivers will be built into a future (not yet released) XBMC build. You'll need to software hack (patchstick) your ATV to load XBMC on it and and replace the wireless card with the Broadcam card. There will most likely be extensive tutorials when it's actually released.

  • Alex

    At £19 delivered from the UK or £12 from China it's cheaper than a new release Blu Ray. Loosing wifi is inconvenient but streaming 1080p over wifi is less than ideal and with a usb dongle, powerline or a wired connection it shouldn't be a deal breaker for most people. If other 3rd party support kicks in all the better, personally I can see ATV getting an NVIDIA GPU next time round but this will do my 'old' 2.0 mini with intel GPU the world of good.

  • Paul

    When you say £19 in the UK, do you mean the BCHD card…? If so where can you buy them at that price..?

  • Alex

    Search on ebay.co.uk for BCM970012 and you'll find them for £18.99 from a UK based seller, mine should arrive tomorrow 🙂

  • Paul

    Coool, thanks Alex!!! 🙂

  • Levi

    You can not stream high-bitrate 1080p H.264 (Blu-ray) video over wireless anyway because of the needed bandwidth, so if you want to playback 1080p videos you need to have a wired ethernet LAN connection anyway.

  • Levi

    Just google, there are hundreds of step-by-step guides out there for opening the AppleTV and Mac Mini, once it is open the card is easy to replace.

    All software and drivers will be integrated into XBMC installation, as for installing XBMC just to to the online manual wiki on xbmc.org

  • FXRocket

    Will this make much of a difference on video output using a USB external drive?

  • markomarkomarko

    If it is HD video, it should be better. For now in theory, we'll know if it works once people start receiving their cards! (:

  • FXRocket

    I was wonder how it would handle the whole “upconversion” process? I mean, will it take normal DVD quality and bump up the output to 1080P over the 720 that we currently get?
    Does anybody really rip HD onto a drive? It seems like that would cost more than it's worth with current drive prices.

  • markomarkomarko

    Well, appletv upscales lower resolution media to your tv resolution anyway. This device will not help towards that. But it will let you play HD content that you rip yourself, or say if you download HD trailers from the internet 😉

  • Ok, pardon me for being thick, but I have to double check as it seems to good to be true, but with this, my aTV will be able to play say MKVs (or moved into m4v container)?

    If true I'm always crying of joy here 😛

  • markomarkomarko


    I've found this link with instructions on another blog…

  • Yury

    I also found the manual how to replace wifi mini-pci card to BCM970012 http://rufn.it/aTV/

  • Erik

    You shouldn't clip the antenna leads if you ever want to reinstall the wireless card.

  • diswiss
  • markomarkomarko

    Perhaps you can order one from the UK, they are cheaper?

  • markomarkomarko

    Well, I can confirm that it is working. Using the tutorials above, it was very easy to install and set-up the card. No major problems, whatsoever. All 720p movies play great, but I have had mixed luck with 1080p stuff. I suppose there are limits to what this little card can do, but also, I am hoping that things will improve as the driver software gets more… final.

    Good effort, I don't regret buying this!

  • yury

    I also bought this card on eBay but have not received yet. Did you try play MKV and MP4 files with h.264 and high bitrate (more 5Mbit/s) on AppleTV with this card?

  • markomarkomarko

    yes, 720p MKVs and MP4 BRrips that were previously not watchable now play with no stuttering. My TV is 720p resolution, so I am not bothered about 1080p at the moment, but I am hoping newer drivers will improve on this.

  • Bockbilbo

    I was wondering if it's possible to use any 802.11n USB wireless card on the AppleTV since we need to remove the wireless card for adding the Broadcom Crystal HD… Anyone knows about this?

  • If you dont worry about additional devices then you could connect your AppleTV to Wi-fi Access Point or Router throught wired ethernet. In this case the all functionality will be the same.

  • Bockbilbo

    Yeah, I know. But the thing is that is always easier to use wireless than ethernet… I'll have to manage to get the utp cable from where my router is to the place where i have the appletv… :/

  • There are no any appletv-compatible usb wifi sticks. This “usb wifi stick” should works with native apple driver for atv's wireless card. At present there is no way to configure wifi network environment from 3rd-party applications (such XBMC) – only from native apple tv interface.

  • Bockbilbo

    My idea was to configure it from the command line but well… I've just bought the BCM970012 on ebay and will try to get the ethernet cable to the room somehow 🙂

  • markomarkomarko

    Someone on xbmc had a good idea of getting a usb to pcie adapter and attempting to use the same pcie card that he took out of appletv. It may just work?

  • IsSidha

    WARNING… the only way to use this on an AppleTV is by using the USB slot with a stick in it that boots LINUX.. so this means you will have to remove the ethernet card first then occupy the usb slot for a linux bootable stick and thus removing any form a possible wifi connection..

    most people wont care as long as they get 1080 content, but all functionality of the AppleTV is gone, and is to be wondered if the not so technical people can get the apple remote to work and with no option to connect a keyboard anymore it sure is gonna be a pain in the rear for most.

  • IsSidha

    ah.. forgot to ad.. as it is very obvious ofcourse
    by using the usb port for the linux boot.. you can no longer attach a drive to it
    the card itself is totally useless with an unhacked appletv as there are no drivers for it

  • Erik

    Thought you were supposed to patchstick it first so the XBMC installs on the ATV drive. From there you can update to the latest version with the drivers for the Crystal HD.

  • You can easily stream 1080p content over 802.11n – I do it all the time.

    Over anything less than 802.11n, you're going to be in a world of hurt.

  • markomarkomarko

    IsSidha, you are not quite right.

    You don't have to boot into linux to use Broadcom. You can patchstick it (one-off operation), to enable SSH and XBMC and Boxee on your appletv.

    Once you have XBMC installed, you will need the drivers and the latest development version of XBMC to get it to work. However, you are still running macos based OS, and you can still play itunes music through appletv (either sync or via airtunes), and you can also play SD .mov files via the old interface.

    You do lose wireless, though, but that may not be a problem if you can get wired network access.

  • I picked up an ATV 40GB model on clearance (I wouldn't have bought one at regular price) a while back and this is going to make it the media streamer that it should have been.

  • I've installed today the broadcom card and I've installer the driver Crystal HD that comes with the latest verion of ATV Flash too.

    But when I try to plays a .mkv 720p directly from Nito… Not work propertly.
    From XBMC gone better but not perfect and the sound is not at the time.

    Is it normal?

  • Tom
  • sabath

    Is there FPS limitations?
    Now I can't watch 720p with FPS higher than 25.

  • sabath

    Any updates?

  • It's not ready for primetime yet, but it's definitely encouraging. There's a pretty big bug that causes video to drop off (at least in my case, not sure if this is what everyone's experiencing). But they're aware of it and working on it.

  • sabath

    Plz give a link to full description of formats can be played.
    And can someone plz give card full name

  • it's whatever XBMC can play, why don't you dig around through some of the links Tomek & Tom posted and report back. The card name is in the original post. It's the one in bold.

  • Pingback: Apple TV 1080p Support w/ Crystal HD + XBMC - MacTalk Forums()

  • sabath

    so I spent a lot of time buying installing adjusting this card.
    it can perfectly play 1080p with 30 FPS but can't do it with 720p 60 FPS!!!

    BS for me!!!!

  • Excellent! Great article, I already saved it to my favourite,

  • arthur

    Hi, is this ready for primetime now? Let me know. thx -Arthur

  • Pingback: The next Apple TV revealed: cloud storage and iPhone OS on tap… and a $99 price tag : The Geek Street()

  • lemon

    aha, that’s great, play 1080p content on Apple TV, there are must stunned many folks!!!
    Well, we also can enjoy 1080p movies and videos on iPad, read this blog: http://apple.pro/lemon/2010/07/22/convert-1080p-hd-videos-to-720p-for-ipad-on-mac/

Previous post:

Next post: