Apple’s Lightning Digital AV adapter is often criticized for carrying an expensive price tag, but the potential these adapters carry is very little known. The folks at Panic have torn down the adapter and were able to unveil its hidden capabilities.
The Lightning Digital AV adapters is designed to support full 1080p HD display but the tests revealed that the device’s maximum and optimum resolution was only 1600×900 pixles. So, the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, which claims to support video outputs up to 1080p is not possible and you get 1600×900 instead.
The lower resolution had also resulted in the poor video output quality, with arti-facts around the texts. Surprisingly, the old AV adapter had none of these issues. So, the Lightning AV adapters are theoretically functioning as an AirPlay receiver, which presents an AirPlay stream upscaled at 1080p rather than passing the raw HDMI signal to the display device.
Apparently, this seemed very unlikely as the size of the adapter would no way support enough electronics for AirPlay streaming and decoding. However, when the adapter was torn down, the folks at Panic were in for a surprise as they discovered an ARM chip with a whole lot of tiny components.
Suprisingly, the ARM chip has 256 MB of RAM and it looks like the AV adapter has a SoC CPU built-in. So, the device does make use of AirPlay or some sort of MPEG streaming to display the images and videos from your iPhone or iPad. Of course, this would reduce the quality when compared to the HDMI output.
The usage of SoC CPU in the Lightning AV adapter would increase the cost of the device for obvious reasons and its hard to understand why Apple wouldn’t use the more convectional HDMI output for streaming.