Apple TV - Film Playback - white 'speckles'

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Jungle, Jan 31, 2010.

  1. Jungle macrumors newbie

    Apr 7, 2008
    I have just noticed a problem on my Apple TV and am not sure whether it's an issue with the device itself, the HDMI cable I'm using or something else.

    When I playback films from iTunes, I am starting to notice a number of white specks show up in the black background that often starts a film. Once the film gets going, I don't notice these as much but that may have something to do with the lighter and more dynamic background. I'm playing back on a 50" Pioneer plasma connected via HDMI at 1080i HD.

    I have checked to see if I get the same issue with TV shows, videos etc and the same thing happens - a series of v small white dots appear on the screen, seemingly at random but there are two vertical distinct lines of widely spaced tiny dots, one about a quarter of the way in from the right hand side, the other a similar distance in from the left hand side. The white spots do not appear when I am in the menu system, despite the background being completely black.

    Anybody got any ideas?
  2. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    I started experiencing those a couple of months ago and it continued to get worse, eventually with sprites across the screen and colored blocks appearing. I took the bottom off and ran the ATV upside down and the problems go away. I suspect it's a heat issue. If you're out of warranty you might want to unplug it for a couple of hours, then take the bottom off (but leave the drive attached) and run it for a few hours to see if it persists.
  3. Jungle thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 7, 2008
    Thanks for the suggestion - I'll give it a go and report back....
  4. Jungle thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 7, 2008
    Possible heat issue with Apple TV

    OK - I haven't been as brave as you but I did move the unit from its previous position, atop a home cinema unit. As such, I do think that heat must be playing a part. In it's new, cooler position, I'm still getting the problem as well as another where content (trailers, movies etc) don't play properly on the Apple TV. Instead of pictures, I get a grey or green screen and then bits of the picture resolve themselves in this but in big blocky pixels.

    As always, help will be greatly appreciated....
  5. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    I've now been running my ATV upside down and without its bottom for a week and I haven't had a single instance of sparkles, sprites or system crashes. Because of this, I ordered a 50' ethernet cable. When it arrives I'll be removing the 802.11n card from my ATV since it seems to be the greatest source of heat. Hopefully that will solve my problems.
  6. Jungle thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 7, 2008
    Bottomless Apple TV!

    OK - I guess that's my next step. Somewhat reluctant both on sheer fear of damaging the unit and also my other half is pretty fussy about aesthetics but I guess I'm just going to have to take some brave pills!

    Thanks for the advice.
  7. Jungle thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 7, 2008
    Apple TV - Still Donald Ducked.....

    OK - results now in. Took the unit apart - wasn't too tricky after all my worries - and allowed it to run bottomless and with the HDD moved away from the main unit. Bad news - the Apple TV works fine when first powered up, no sprites, sparkles or video corruption but, within an hour I start seeing sprites and, in about 3 hours, video playback simply stops working.

    Sad really but I can't see the virtue in repairing it, it's an original 40GB unit and it still handles music and photos without any problem. I'd rather it were working but just can't see the virtue in throwing money at it. The unit is now reassembled and looks pretty but is not high in the affections of the Jungle family.

    If anyone has any bright ideas for sorting the problem - I'm all ears.
  8. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    You're describing my symptoms as well. That Apple TV finally was declared dead on Friday and I bought a new Apple TV yesterday. It's working perfectly fine so far. Looks like you're in the same boat.
  9. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    Cave, is the old one the same one you modded with eStata back when we did it ? If so I presume you left the rubber bottom off etc. ( now that I think about it I think you re-enclosed it with that walnut spacer .... ). I ask because the same atv I had back in the day is still running 24/7 but as you might recall I left the rubber pad off, with the perforated metal bottom exposed and some 1/4" felt feet. As I have said before the ridiculous fan had the bearings crap out about > 1 month ago and so I just removed the fan. Still going strong. So I wonder if its not a heat issue in realation to the overall design ? No airflow with the unit encased from the bottom ?

    I should note that about a year ago I went to ethernet to my AEB, so maybe my wireless card does not get as hot as yours ? Just thoughts to suss out the heat issue.

    To be clear, my atv has been running with no internal drive ( eSata mod ) and no fan for over a month and is used heavily. Still going strong like the day I bought it, or better.

    Just some thoughts.
  10. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Dyna - it could be. I've put it back in its original condition, I've left the bottom off, I've poked holes in all the adhesive covering the holes in the aluminum bottom, and I've even installed an 80mm fan to pull air through it, but the sparkles and sprites continued. It would only run without those problems if I ran it upside down and with the bottom off. I'm thinking about some other creative ideas for it next - but I'll only divulge those when I get it set up. :)
  11. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    Haha, good man, test then divulge, I like it ;)

    Possible the damage was done before you "ventilated" it ?
  12. Avatar74 macrumors 65816


    Feb 5, 2007
    I purchased an AppleTV pretty much when the device came out. I've never had any such problem. A lot of the problems people describe, up to and including unit failure have never been an issue for me.

    Why? I suspect that these units get damaged from overheating in these scenarios. And i suspect it's due to improper ventilation.

    I've always placed the unit on the top shelf of my AV rack which has a completely open design (shelves only, no side or back panels), with no other devices adjacent to it on the rack. This allows heat to radiate freely away from the device.

    I can't say with 100% certainty that there is a direct cause-effect relationship between the failures and overheating... but in many cases it tends to be.
  13. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    I'm sure that's true for most people.

    Mine didn't have anything next to or on top of it. It sat on the top shelf all by itself. That can't have been my issue. In fact, mine had less heat since its hard drive was external.

    All electronic devices fail eventually. Some sooner than others.
  14. balamw Moderator


    Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2005
    New England
    FWIW mine (launch day order) has always been borderline heat-wise.

    Originally, I suspected that the main problem with the unit was with the wireless, so I ran it wired off of a Time Capsule that was itself wirelessly connected to my WLAN. Ran reasonably well for a few years, always on an open shelf. Stutters and freezes started again. Was it somehow related to the OS updates?

    Later. I upgraded from the stock 40 GB to a newer 160GB PATA drive and that seemed to help for a while, but the stutters and UI freezing finally came back.

    Now it's just sitting around waiting to see if I replace it with a Mac Mini or some other box always connected to the TV. Until then, I just plug in one of the laptops to the TV.

    The thing that has always driven me nuts about it is that it doesn't have a power saving sleep mode. A very decidedly un-Apple thing. It's always on, always hot, for no reason.

    I'd consider a new one if they update the design to be less power hungry. Switch to a cooler CPU? Switch to SATA? Have a real sleep mode. Somebody brought up an ARM based iPhone OS :apple:TV, and that actually sounds liek something I might go for.

  15. sanPietro98 macrumors 6502a


    May 30, 2008
    Wow. I thought this was just my AppleTV that did this. It's been getting worse and worse over the past few weeks. I think I'm just going to replace it.
  16. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    By chance are the units with the white speckle dealio using the wireless card for network connectivity ? I am just wondering given Cave Man's observation of how hot the wireless card was if thats the "straw that broke the camel's back" from a heat standpoint.
  17. Jungle thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 7, 2008
    Sadly, this isn't the case for me although I have noticed that when I try to do the power on diagnostics for my Apple TV, it seems to fail on a network point even though the network is working fine. I'm connected via an Ethernet cable.

    As for the over-heating point, I suspect that this is what has caused my problems. I have two lazy cats who have found that both the Apple TV and a Time capsule are fantastic places to keep warm over the winter. Apple TV now seems fried so the Time Capsule now has cat unfriendly stuff placed on top of it as a protective measure.

    Anyone want two manky cats? They're supposed to pedigree but I think they are Friday night specials, made from left over body parts......
  18. hamlinspahn macrumors regular

    Apr 9, 2010
    Oklahoma City
    Dead Apple TV

    My Apple TV started doing the same thing it got worse and worse. I suspected heat as the problem and did many things to keep it cool. But eventually the Apple TV just stopped working at all. I really loved my Apple TV but will not buy a new one until Apple does something about the heat related deaths. :(
  19. graym, Dec 15, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010

    graym macrumors newbie

    Dec 15, 2010
    Speckles attack

    Just found this thread after searching for a solution to my problems.
    My ATV started showing the odd white or green dot, but that has now moved on to lots of dots and blocky video in green or pink. I have to restart about every 10-15mins to get video back. Music and photos - no problems.
    I guess this means it's about to die. Shame as I don't like the no hard-drive new ATV but don't want to buy an old model if it's just going to do the same thing in a couple of years time.
    If anyone has found a solution to this I'd love to know.

    There are also threads about this on the Apple forum but they have been archived so you can't post on them.
  20. graym macrumors newbie

    Dec 15, 2010
  21. Tobogan macrumors newbie

    Jan 4, 2011
    Downgrade to firmware version 2

    Seems that Apple did not check the heat issue when then realease version 3 of the firmware. I tried to run it completly open, and remove the pad, and...many other things: no results, always these green squares that go worse and worse. Ultimately, I destroyed the hard drive -wrong connection to my Macbook- and decided to replace it with a Compact flash, no moving part no heat. I found a ATV disk image in a torrent (smallatv.dmg) and succeeded in booting from it (using a F to IDE 2.5 adpator). But, I still had the same issues, after a whie my ATV was useless... and then I got an idea: downgrading from version 3 to version 2.0.2 of the firmware solved the issue. I stil have some white specklea, but no more green sqaures and the only thing I really lost in the process is the ability to use an iPod touch or iPhone as a remote control. My explanation is that Aple used GPU acceleration in version 3 of the firmware, forgetting that the design of the hardware would actually kill the video card. Sometimes, less is best.

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