As part of my testing for this month’s cover feature, I spent a few quality days watching movies from the iTunes Store on my PC and in my living room. By necessity, I had to integrate a newly updated Apple TV into my entertainment center, which is a fairly common closed cabinet with a few air vents in the back. All of my other electronics devices—my receiver, my TiVo, my Xbox 360—live happily in this environment (although I do open the cabinet door when I fire up the 360).
After leaving the Apple TV connected overnight, I detected the faint smell of burning plastic in my living room. After investigating, I found that the Apple TV was actually too hot to touch—around 140 F. I don’t know about you, but none of the other consumer electronics devices I own (save a towel-wrapped Xbox 360) gets this hot.
After digging into the documentation and Apple’s support site, I was assured that the passively cooled Apple TV “may feel warm when touched.” But that it was “designed to operate quietly in an environment warmer than room temperature, including within media cabinets.” Eventually, I discovered a standby mode, which leaves the Apple TV running but disables the graphics hardware to minimize heating. You can access standby by holding down the Play/Pause button for a few seconds. That’s great, but if I forget to manually put the Apple TV into standby, it won’t automatically do it for me. That’s just irresponsible and dumb. There’s absolutely no reason for a modern CE device that gets this hot not to automatically shut down when it’s not being used.