Apple Thunderbolt Display Teardown

Teardown

Teardown

Teardowns provide a look inside a device and should not be used as disassembly instructions.

Crafted from the fire pits of Hephaestus himself, and thrust down to Earth by the mighty Zeus, the Apple Thunderbolt Display arrived at the doorstep of iFixit's headquarters.

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Cool bonus: Here's a wallpaper of one of Thunderbolt Display's chips, made in the Thunderbolt Display's native 2560 x 1440 resolution.

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Edit Step 1 Apple Thunderbolt Display Teardown  ¶ 

  • By the hammer of Thor! With the new Thunderbolt Display in our hands, the future is looking bright.

    • 27" TFT Active-Matrix LCD

    • 2560 by 1440 Pixel Resolution

    • Built-in Thunderbolt and MagSafe Cables

    • FaceTime HD Camera with Microphone

    • 49 Watt 2.1 Speaker System

    • 16:9 Widescreen Aspect Ratio

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Edit Step 2  ¶ 

  • The Thunderbolt Display contains a sweet lineup of USB, HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort ports! Oh wait—wrong thousand-dollar display.

  • The luscious backside of the Thunderbolt Display contains only a small line of specified ports:

    • Three powered USB 2.0 ports

    • FireWire 800 port

    • Thunderbolt port

    • Gigabit Ethernet port.

  • The Thunderbolt Display also comes with a built-in Thunderbolt cable attached to a Universal MagSafe cable.

  • It seems to be a convenient setup for connecting to your laptop's Thunderbolt port while charging. If you are sporting a Mid 2011 MacBook Air and your MagSafe port is opposite your Thunderbolt, you'll be glad to know the cable is long enough to reach.

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Edit Step 3  ¶ 

  • Much like the iMac we tore apart earlier this year (and the iMacs before it), the Thunderbolt Display's front glass panel comes off with the help of some heavy duty suction cups.

  • While we're handling this gigantic sheet of silica, we thought we'd share a fun glass fact with you: the Plymouth Barracuda featured—at its time—the largest piece of automotive glass produced to date.

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Edit Step 4  ¶ 

  • It's time to take a look under the hood. With the help of our 54-piece bit driver kit, we liberate a few screws (12 to be exact, but who's counting?) from their asylum.

  • A few connectors and a ground screw are all that prevent the freedom of the LCD.

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Edit Step 5  ¶ 

  • The 27-inch (diagonal) TFT active-matrix LCD has a resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels, the standard for displays of this size and price. Its 12 ms response time and 16.7 million colors, however, fall short of the 6 ms response time and 1.07 billion colors of Dell's comparable display.

  • We might be splitting hairs here, but those hairs would be viewed with 1,053,300,000 fewer colors on Apple's display. Just saying.

  • Be it 16.7 million or 1.07 billion colors, we say, "Let's see what you've got, Crayola!"

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Edit Step 6  ¶ 

  • The back of the LCD display has only a few cables, none too exciting:

    • DisplayPort

    • LED backlight

    • LED backlight sync

    • Ground loop.

  • The LG display reads model number LM270WQ1. Is it possible that we may have seen this model number before?

  • Yes, it appears to be the same display found in the iMac Intel 27" from October of 2009, as well as the same basic LG display found in Dell's competing 27" monitor, though the Apple version uses LED backlights as opposed to Dell's traditional CCFL.

  • Dell's version is also matte, something that lots of Mac users have been harping for once the old 30" Cinema Display was phased out.

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Edit Step 7  ¶ 

  • Great Odin's Raven! With that old, crappy LCD removed (who needs it anyway), we get a full frontal view of the Thunderbolt Display's inner layout.

  • Where to start . . . the fan you say? Sounds good to us.

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Edit Step 8  ¶ 

  • The fan is easily removed simply by detaching a couple of connectors and unfastening a few screws.

  • Apple has, as usual, chosen to go with a large, brushless fan to keep the colossal Thunderbolt Display nice and cool.

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Edit Step 9  ¶ 

  • In our pursuit of self-preservation, we begin by disconnecting the power supply connector from its socket on the logic board to prevent any electrifying experiences.

  • A few more T10 Torx screws bite the dust at the hand of our bit driver kit, and the logic board is detached.

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Edit Step 10  ¶ 

  • Stop—it's connector time! We remove a plethora (that's right, plethora, we're using our five dollar words) of connectors from the logic board, leaving only the brains behind the Thunderbolt port between us and the display's control center.

  • A few T6 Torx screws are knocked out to remove the connector cover, and the Thunderbolt cable is disconnected.

  • Interestingly enough, the Thunderbolt cable that routes into the display also plugs into a standard Thunderbolt socket on the logic board. Apple could have just soldered the cable wires to the board, but instead chose to implement a cover that prevents the cable from being detached from the logic board's Thunderbolt socket.

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Edit Step 11  ¶ 

  • St. Damien's beard! The front of the logic board includes these stellar packages:

    • Pericom PI7C9X440SL PCIe-to-USB 2.0 host controller

    • L129NB11 EFL, which looks to be the Thunderbolt port controller (as viewed in the second picture)

    • Analog Devices ADAV4601 audio processor

    • NXP LPC2144 USB 2.0 microcontroller

    • Delta LFE9249 10/100/1000 Base-T LAN filter

    • SMSC USB2517-JZX USB 2.0 hub controller

    • LPC 1114F

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Edit Step 12  ¶ 

  • Sweet grandmother's spatula! The back of the board also contains oodles of chips:

    • Maxim MAX9736B Mono/Stereo High-Power Class D Amplifier

    • Texas Instruments LC573A D-type Latch

    • Silego SLG8SP568VCK505 Clock Generator

    • LSI L-FW643E-2 Open Host Controller Interface

    • Broadcom BCM57761 Gigabit ethernet controller

    • Texas Instruments NH245 Dual Supply Translator

    • Supertex HV9982 3-channel switch-mode LED driver IC

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Edit Step 13  ¶ 

  • With the logic board removed, we move on to the power supply board.

  • A few screws and connectors are all that are stopping us from removing the board.

  • We make quick work of them and the Flextronics power supply board comes free.

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Edit Step 14  ¶ 

  • Hot pot of coffee! Let's see what the Thunderbolt Display's power supply board can do for us.

  • How about 250 watts of maximum continuous power -- is that enough for you?

    • Fun science fact, the "thunderbolts" (AKA lightning) in nature can put out an average of 1,000,000,000,000 watts, that's 4 billion times the output of the Thunderbolt Display's power supply! But lets be fair...lightning bolts are much, much larger than this power supply and last only fractions of a second.

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Edit Step 15  ¶ 

  • We see some fairly large speaker enclosures (well, for a monitor) near the side edges of the Thunderbolt Display and eagerly remove the screws holding them in place.

  • Wait! What have we here? Is that a built-in 1-inch subwoofer, as well?

  • The Thunderbolt Display comes with a 49 watt 2.1-speaker sound system, including a miniature subwoofer.

  • Basically, your display will sound something like this. Okay, so maybe not, but you will get some pretty decent sound out of this bad boy.

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Edit Step 16  ¶ 

  • A couple screws and a single connector keep the HD FaceTime camera secured to the case.

  • Yoink! Out comes the camera and its ability to record video up to 720p, as well as its ability to support widescreen 16 x 9 aspect ratios.

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Edit Step 17  ¶ 

  • The front side of the camera board:

    • cFeon LV010-45RNIP 11113A 1110ADA

  • The rear side of the camera board:

    • Vimicro VC0338BSMCB Camera Controller

    • Texas Instruments TPS65708 Power Management Unit

    • 0BNHM7

    • 408F N109

    • T120 Bd01

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Edit Step 18  ¶ 

  • Uncle Jonathan's corn cob pipe! Just a few Torx 10 screws stand between us and the AC power adapter.

  • The AC-Inlet in all its infinite glory.

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Edit Step 19  ¶ 

  • Hey Mic, you seem like you're in a tight spot. Here, let me help you out.

  • Good ol' spudger would never let a friend like Mic down.

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Edit Step 20  ¶ 

  • Thunderbolt Display Repairability Score: 8 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair)

    • Only T6 and T10 torx screws hold it together, meaning minimal tooling is required to service.

    • Minimal use of adhesives means reassembly will be easier and cleaner.

    • Front glass panel and LCD are easy to remove and major components are exposed upon removal.

    • You have to use suction cups to remove the front glass, which could end poorly if not done properly.

    • While disassembly was very straightforward, there are a lot of parts, cables and connectors, making full reassembly not for the faint of heart.

Required Tools

Spudger

$2.95 · 50+ In stock

T6 Torx Screwdriver

$5.95 · 50+ In stock

T6 Torx Screwdriver

$9.95 · 29 In stock

T6 Torx Screwdriver

$4.95 · 50+ In stock

Heavy-Duty Suction Cups (Pair)

$14.95 · 50+ In stock

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Comments Comments are onturn off

OMG, through hole components on the power supply board! And hand smeared silicon glue! How could 20 years of technology gap exist in a leading Apple product? Bob, that Flextronics board needs to come off. I'm not buying until then.

Casey Norway, · Reply

Question re: "Interestingly enough, the Thunderbolt cable that routes into the display also plugs into a standard Thunderbolt socket on the logic board."

Would it then be possible to install a 3rd party Thunderbolt "external" HD inside the monitor by simply connecting it to the socket on the logic board, then daisy chaining another thunderbolt cable to the external port? Is there enough space?

Geoff Warren Boulton, · Reply

I kinda think that Apple may allow Mac Minis run on MagSafe ports, and re-design the display's base to exactly fit a Mac Mini in (even include some screws and holes/nuts to allow users permanently connect their Mac Mini to the display). This combinition will definitely profit, and even can obsolote iMacs

Some more complicated redesign may include an optical drive into the display and can be accessed through Thunderbolt - makes the display combined with a Mac Mini totally an iMac.

TechniX, · Reply

You can't reasonably put a MagSafe port on a device that isn't battery-powered, and Apple has never put a system power battery into a desktop machine. Apple has never put external do-it-yourself mounting screwholes in a machine. Apple is in the process of removing optical drives from their hardware, not adding them. Except for the short-lived PowerBook Duo, Apple machines have always been designed to stand alone, not as an assembly.

If you want an iMac, just get an iMac. I'm impressed that you know enough about Apple's design, manufacturing, and market positioning to know what design changes will "definitely profit", even though it would "obsolete" their only consumer desktop line, but I don't see much consistency here with any other decisions Apple has made.

no way,

"including a miniature subwoofer"

Also known as a woofer. :-)

no way, · Reply

It's important to note that Dell's "comparable" display is more expensive (when not on sale), does not connect via Thunderbolt, does not have built-in speakers, lacks a MagSafe connector for powering your MacBook, and is devoid of any data port other than USB. Dell's display is a really, really sweet 27" display. Apple's display is probably still the nicest panel you've ever seen, and is also a complete, single-cable docking solution for your MacBook.

Matthew Judy, · Reply

Those are very valid points, Matthew. Apple makes it very clear who they are targeting with this device: people who purchased one of this year's Thunderbolt-enabled Macs. They have never pretended to be a peripherals company, and they do not try to capture any other part of the market. We just wanted to show how for a similar price point you can either go with Apple and get OEM integration and proprietary connectors, or you can choose Dell and get versatility.

David Hodson,

I only wish they would use the first version first generation of the magsafe plug (straight white plastik housed)... with the thunderbolt cable going in perpendicular to the macbook edge and the magsafe L-shape cable pointing backwards it just looks awful...

Joachim, · Reply

The back of the LCD display has only a few cables, none too exciting:

* DisplayPort

* LED backlight

* LED backlight sync

* Ground loop.

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I can't see any of these on any photos associated to this step.

Bertrand Quenin, · Reply

When upgraded (optical) Thunderbolt cables become available, it will conceivably be possible to upgrade the display by replacing the cable. Remember, the transceiver is in the cable.

michaellowry, · Reply

It's interesting to see the TB circuit board. Have you tried to find an Apple P/N for this board? In your opinion, is this what a vendor would need to simulate to build their own TB breakout box (along with a power supply)? Vendors keep saying it's going to be expensive to implement TB. From the looks of this circuit board, I might agree, however the range of I/O devices you get on this board is amazing.

plink53, · Reply

Dose any body now, what the tow other both pin sections do (behind the LCD-Connector and under the output connections)?

or in other words: is there any changes to connect a HDMI or DVI-Display directly at the board (so, that you can use the Thunderbolt for other devises)?

cyrills, · Reply

The LPC2144 also generates the three PWM signals for the HV9982.

(and - I guess - the EDID codes ans misc. others).

This is interesting, because I suspect this chip to be the culprit in the cases of failing backlight.

If it holds no firmware, it should be quite straightforward (and cheap) simply to replace the chip.

3bbe, · Reply

^

|

This is the case with the LED Cinema Display, anyways...

3bbe, · Reply

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