Teardown of Apple's lightning-to-HDMI adapter, which turns out to be a tiny computer with 256MB of RAM

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/07/29/teardown-of-apples-lightning.html


It strikes me as utterly, utterly mental that Apple won’t adopt USB-C on its iDevices. You can put a DVI signal on the port and just have the device output its regular screen-buffer business. Then you don’t need a power connection to drive an extra chip.

Hell, Apple are the ones who popularised this with the single technical decision they’ve made in the last ten years which makes sense - ditching non USB-C ports on its laptops.

I mean, I get there’s a whole network of license fee shenanigans at play here, but there’s no reason they couldn’t do something shitty like denying you anything higher than 720p unless you were using the official Apple dongle.

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They have to be. Lightning ports are basically USB 2.0. That has nowhere near the bandwidth required for HDMI. The device sends AirPlay over USB to the SoC in the adapter, and if you really look at the video output you can see some compression artifacts.


This has been known since 2013 and I’m pretty sure BB had a post about it at the time although I’m too lazy to look it up…


The iPad Pro is now USB-C so you need two sets of dongles if you have that and an iPhone.

Lightning came out several years before USB-C was started so they had to resort to some clever hacks to make various scenarios work.

Apple seems to be moving forward with standardizing around USB-C in future portable devices; the new iPad has already done this and I’m certain that either this year or next year the iPhone will do the same.


Problem is, USB-C is inherently troublesome because there are no proper standards for cables, unlike cables for Lighting ports, that’s not to say that there aren’t shonky Lightning cables - any that don’t carry the Made for iOS label should be avoided like the plague, but it’ll be worse with USB-C purely because barely anyone using it agrees on any set of standards.



You could buy a Raspberry pi and wire it to the phone for less than the price of this dongle. Probably more reliable, too.


I hate that my StarTech hub on my office desk (to get an HDMI connection, USB2 keyboard/mouse, headphones, USB-C to HDMI dongle for my other HDMI monitor) takes up almost as much room as my 15’’ Pro.

The blurb is an excerpt from Ficciones by Borges:


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Only “mental” if one ignores chronological order. USB-C didn’t exist when Apple switched from the 30-pin dock connector to Lightning.

Apple is on the USB Implementors Forum and as such would have known USB-C’s capabilities and timetable, and they were early adopters of that connector on their laptops. So it’s not as though they are resistant to using it.

The new iPad Pros have USB-C connectors, so there’s one iOS device with it. I do wonder if we’re going to see iPhones get USB-C or just lose the port entirely and go completely wireless for charging and data.


A pi, plus power, plus a case, plus an SD chip… nope

So… Can you play DOOM on the cable?

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