iFixit's Break Down of Apple TV Shows the Gadget's Bigger Green Purpose


Images via iFixit

We're big fans of iFixit, an open source repair manual for gadgets. The premise of iFixit follows in the footsteps of the Maker's Bill of Rights, "If you can't open it, you don't own it." Because fewer and fewer of our electronics, gadgets, vehicles and everything else come with repair manuals, we're losing true ownership of -- and responsibility for -- the things we buy. iFixit's goal is to turn that around. However, I often see that iFixit has torn apart some new device and think, "Ok, so what's new?" That happened with the latest tear down of the Apple TV, reports of which were coming into my RSS feed reader from all sorts of different gadget websites. However, iFixit founder Kyle Wiens pointed out to me that even this tear down has a very green side to it, and the stories focusing on the "geek-ness" of it were missing the larger point.
A tear down is the start of an improved manual -- the team at iFixit (of which you can be part!) takes apart a product that most people are scared to scratch, like a new iPad or a cell phone, and the start of a through, detailed, understandable, and editable manual takes root. However, for the tear down of the Apple TV, most people were excited because they got to see the guts of an Apple product, which is often pretty hard to do (thanks a lot, Apple). But Kyle was more excited about how green the Apple TV is than about the manual itself. He emailed me about it:

This thing is the greenest set top box we've ever seen:
* Super small, so minimal materials and shipping
* 5.95 Watts while running flat-out, 1W on standby
* Very repairable, which is rare for Apple these days. We gave it an 8/10 repairability score. (Nobody's getting to 10 without an open source repair manual!)

Imagine if this thing replaces everything from your blu-ray player to xbox to cable TV box. That's a *lot* of vampire draw done away with. Of course, you have to factor in the power draw of the device streaming to Apple TV, but people have those anyway, and iPads don't use much power either.

The whole TV media player / set-top box market has caused so much environmental damage over the last 20 years, just to transmit bits. That needs to stop, and it finally will now thanks to things like Apple TV, Roku, and Boxee box.

Seconded!! I couldn't agree more with Kyle that the energy we invest in being entertained for hours on end can be obscene. A gaming console, which some people use as a DVD player, can suck up as much as 180 watts, a TiVo as much as 38 watts. And that's on top of a TV which can be upwards of 200 watts and cable box that uses around 30 watts. Indeed, the entertainment energy fest has got to slow down, and it seems Apple TV is helping with that to some degree.

What can sometimes become difficult and tiring is wading through the nerd portion of the sea of new products, and getting down to the nuts and bolts of whether or not it's a genuinely useful, practical, and long-lasting item. Most people probably see "Apple TV" and think about what the product can do for them, but it's likely a rare person who goes beyond this, seeing "Apple TV" and thinking about what the product won't do to them and the planet, or even further than that and pondering what we can do for the Apple TV -- like fix it when it breaks.

As Kyle states, "Gadget lust drives me nuts-- We only play a part in the new-gizmo fever to get the message out. Our goal is to make it seem so easy to get inside these things that people start wanting to fix their own hardware. It's an uphill battle with the pace of gadget releases, and I get excited every time we run into something that's easy to repair like this."

Knowing that gadget geeks like Kyle and the iFixit participants have their eye on the bigger picture, especially on making repairability a requirement for everything we consume, takes some of the edge off deafening roar of Next New Shiny Thing.

Still, I'm sure you're curious... The greener nerd parts of the tear down include these facts extracted from the iFixit team:


  • The Apple TV is the least expensive iOS device Apple has ever shipped. The set-top box continues the trend of cost-cutting that we saw in the iPad, even sharing several parts with its tablet cousin.


  • This is the easiest to service new Apple product we've seen recently. We awarded it a coveted Repairability Score of 8 / 10. The ease of repairing this device, integrated high-efficiency power supply, low 6-watt power consumption, and efficient stand-by mode lead us to believe this may be the most eco-friendly set-top box of all time.


  • The sticker on the power supply has this rating: 3.4V @ 1.75A. We'll save you the multiplication: that's just 5.95 watts!


  • Apple brags that when in standby mode, the Apple TV uses less power than a night light. We don't suggest trying to use the status LED to illuminate your dark hallways, though.


The iFixit team has gads of other open source manuals that are in a constant state of improved detail and ease of use. It's an entire community of everyone from tinkerers to first-time-screw-driver-users helping one another keep what they own for as long as possible. They'll help the rest of us keep an eye out for the greener parts of gadgetdom.

Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this
More on Greening Our Gadgets
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Tags: Do It Yourself | Electronics | Gadgets

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