MacBook Pro 15" Unibody Early 2011 Teardown

Teardown

Teardown

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

We got our hands on Apple's newest MacBook Pro 15" on February 24, 2011. This is Apple's first laptop to sport a quad-core processor, and also adds a brand-new I/O technology with a Thunderbolt port. Follow us on Twitter to get all the latest updates.

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Edit Step 1 MacBook Pro 15" Unibody Early 2011 Teardown  ¶ 

  • We got our hands on Apple's latest Unibody laptop. This is Apple's first portable to sport a quad-core processor: Intel's Core i7.

  • This machine includes Thunderbolt, a new I/O connection that combines PCI Express and DisplayPort into a single connector.

  • Thunderbolt claims to provide 10 Gbps throughput for both input and output. It appears that both PCI Express and DisplayPort receive their own 10 Gbps data channel. That's nice, as you don't want your display competing with your external hard drive for bandwidth.

  • You can chain up to 6 Thunderbolt devices including up to 2 HD displays. That's not a problem today as we're not even aware of 6 products that support Thunderbolt yet. If the connection becomes widespread, the 6 device limit might be a problem for some people.

  • In comparison, FireWire supports up to 63 devices in a daisy-chain, while USB does not support daisy-chaining.

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Edit Step 2  ¶ 

  • This machine is still model A1286. Apple's been using that same model number since October 2008.

  • Apple still includes the warning to not throw your MacBook Pro in the trash. These warnings were missing on the Verizon iPhone we took apart a few weeks ago.

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Edit Step 3  ¶ 

  • The lower case is secured by ten Phillips #00 screws. There are no pentalobe screws since Apple still considers the RAM and hard drive to be user-replaceable. However, like the machine this replaces, the battery is not user-replaceable (at least according to Apple).

  • The RAM in this machine is PC3-10600 RAM. That's the same RAM used in the 2010 revision of the 21.5" and 27" iMacs, but different from earlier Apple laptops. PC3-10600 RAM is backwards compatible with the PC3-8500 RAM in older MacBook Pro Unibody machines, but you can't use older PC3-8500 RAM in this machine.

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Edit Step 4  ¶ 

  • This machine boasts a 77.5 Watt-hour battery. That's the same capacity as the previous revision, but the reported battery life has gone from 8-9 hours to 7 hours. Has performance really decreased, or is Apple being more realistic with their estimates? We don't have 7 hours to wait and find out, so we'll have to leave that investigation to someone with a fully-assembled unit.

  • Just like the previous revision, the battery is secured by Tri-Wing screws.

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Edit Step 5  ¶ 

  • A spudger makes disconnecting the battery easy enough.

  • On this model, you're able to disconnect the battery without having to remove it from the laptop. It's a nice design choice since you need to disconnect the battery before performing any repairs.

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Edit Step 6  ¶ 

  • The wireless card includes support for 802.11n wireless with 3 antennas as well as what seems to be a dedicated antenna for Bluetooth 3.0.

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Edit Step 7  ¶ 

  • After removing a soldered EMI shield, we find 802.11n wireless connectivity provided by a Broadcom BCM4331 "Single-Chip 802.11n Dual-Band 3x3 Wireless Solution." Bluetooth 3.0 support is handled by a BCM2070 in a separate, shielded section of the board.

  • According to Broadcom, the BCM4331 chip provides "three transmitting and three receiving streams of data in both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. Increased number of streams and antennas results in faster speeds, longer range, fewer dropped connections, and better overall wireless coverage."

  • The BCM2070 Bluetooth controller is described as follows on the Broadcom site: "The Broadcom BCM2070 is a monolithic, single-chip, stand-alone baseband processor with a high performance integrated 2.4-GHz RF transceiver. It is fully compliant with Bluetooth 3.0 and all prior standard features...using advanced 65-nm LP CMOS technology,"

  • The wireless card bracket is aluminum, rather than the plastic in previous revisions. Perhaps this change was made for thermal reasons, as a visible pink thermal pad is used to transfer heat from the board to its aluminum bracket.

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Edit Step 8  ¶ 

  • Like most 15" Unibody laptops, there are two fans. To make sure things stay cool, there's a plethora of temperature sensors scattered throughout the machine, including near the trackpad, in the battery, and on the logic board.

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Edit Step 9  ¶ 

  • The main board lifts out along with the heat sink still attached. This is a nice feature, as this way you have to remove the heat sink and reapply thermal paste only if you're completely replacing the logic board.

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Edit Step 10  ¶ 

  • This machine features not only the large primary heat sink, but also two smaller heat sinks.

  • Holy thermal paste! Time will tell if the gobs of thermal paste applied to the CPU and GPU will cause overheating issues down the road.

  • The Mid 2010 15" Unibody was equipped with only one large heat sink to cool just the CPU and GPU. Also for that revision, the graphics switching chip seen in the second image was present, but didn't receive a heat sink.

  • The chip under the heat sink in the third image is a new chip that is most likely the Thunderbolt controller.

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Edit Step 11  ¶ 

  • The Thunderbolt port is shown in the top left corner of the first picture. Also seen are the traces leading to what we think is the Thunderbolt controller IC.

  • In the second picture is the AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU.

  • If you're wondering about the AMD GPU, ATI was purchased by AMD in 2006. However, only within the last few months has AMD retired the ATI name and begun branding their graphics chips with AMD.

  • In the third picture is the quad-core Intel i7 processor.

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Edit Step 12  ¶ 

  • Front side of the logic board (gigantic version can be seen here):

    • Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub

    • AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU (labeled as AMD 216-00809000)

    • Quad-Core Intel i7-2630QM Mobile Processor (labeled as 2V041112A0127)

    • Broadcom BCM57765B0KMLG Integrated Gigabit Ethernet and Memory Card Reader Controller

    • Intel L051NB32 EFL (we assume this is the Thunderbolt port controller)

    • Parade PS8301 U08FUC

    • TDK 6T213HF 1045 H

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Edit Step 13  ¶ 

  • Back side of the logic board (gigantic version here):

    • Samsung K4G10325FE-HC04 1 Gb (128 MB) GDDR5 SGRAM graphics memory, a total of 2Gb (256 MB)

    • Cirrus 4206ACNZ audio controller

    • SMSC USB25138 USB 2.0 Hub Controller Family

    • Lattice Semiconductor LFXP2-5E Low-Cost Non-Volatile FPGA (Field-programmable Gate Array)

    • ST Microelectronics 6640 N053

    • Intersil ISL6263 CHRZ and ISL6236 IRZ Single-Phase Synchronous-Buck PWM voltage regulators for GPU core power applications

    • Cypress CY8C24794-24L

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Edit Step 14  ¶ 

  • Aside from the logic board differences, there really isn't much else that makes this machine different from its 15" Unibody ancestors.

  • Small plastic plates adhered near the display hinges seem to keep the display data cable and antenna cable bundle stationary while the display is opened and closed.

  • The SuperDrive used on this machine has the model number UJ8A8, making it presumably different from the model UJ898 used in the Mid 2010 15" Unibody.

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Edit Step 15  ¶ 

  • One thing that has us a little concerned about the new models is their quality control.

  • A stripped screw near the subwoofer enclosure and an unlocked ZIF socket for the IR sensor should not be things found inside a completely unmolested computer with an $1800 base price.

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Edit Step 16  ¶ 

  • MacBook Pro Unibody 15" Early 2011 Repairability Score: 7 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair).

  • Easily removable bottom panel and readily accessible battery connector allow for easy repair of most components without touching the battery screws.

  • Unibody design allows for easy access of most components with minimal amounts of extra work needed to get to them.

  • Absurd amounts of pre-applied thermal paste may cause problems down the road.

  • Tri-wing screws limit the average person from replacing their own battery.

  • LCD replacement is still very tricky, which could easily result in shattering the front glass panel.

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Comments Comments are onturn off

Is the processor model right? The i7-2629 is a 25 W, dual core (not quad core) part.

marinelayer, · Reply

This may be a really stupid question, but would it be in any way possible to replace the superdrive with an (SSD) harddrive?

Joost, · Reply

My thoughts exactly! I asked MCE about Optibay here: http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?st...

Martin Cleaver,

Unfortunately, preliminary reports indicate that the optical drive is connected to an SATA-II port, which may be affected by the Sandy Bridge bug, so I would hold off until the situation is clearer.

Paul Vernaza,

Paul - thanks for the heads up on this. So I did some digging - the best assurance I can find is on http://www.macworld.com/article/158134/2... : "Earlier this year, Intel discovered problems in the chipset of Sandy Bridge processors that were shipping, but Apple vice president of worldwide Mac hardware marketing David Moody told Macworld that the company was using the latest updated versions, which corrected the flaw."

From http://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?p... I understand that as delivered, the motherboard is designed to work with an optical drive on the optical drive port (3gb/s) & a SSD or HDD on the main 6gb port.

Open questions for me:

1) Where's the actual quote of what David Moody said?

2) What might "corrected" mean?

3) Given that he is a hardware executive, is it reasonable that they did a hardware correction, (rather than a software patch)

4) Can we trust that Intel's budget for the recall replaces for full HDD support on the optical drive port?

@mrjcleaver

Martin Cleaver,

I covered the "Sandy Bridge bug" issue in my comment on Step 12 of this guide yesterday. The PCH chip in the machine ifixit performed the teardown on is a B3 stepping chip without the 3Gbps SATA bug. For full technical details of the S-Spec codes for fixed B3 stepping chips see this Intel product change notification - http://ghz.gr/sites/default/files/pcn110...

Emyr,

Thanks Emyr - I had read your comment yesterday but it didn't click that it addressed the Intel Sandy Bridge bug.

Martin Cleaver,

Just found this message on the MCE website:

PRODUCT UPDATE February 24, 2011: The MCE OptiBay for Unibody MacBook Pro (above) has been certified to be fully compatible with the new MacBook Pro 13", 15", and 17" (Early 2011) models just released today by Apple.

On this page: http://store.mcetech.com/Merchant2/merch...

Joost,

Thanks Joost - they've promised me an email when they are 100% sure... still waiting for that though!

Martin Cleaver,

Can you fit a 1TB drive (12.5mm tall)? That would change everything! Apple offers the MB Pro 15" with a 750GB drive and those are usually 12.5mm tall.

tamasko, · Reply

The 750GB drives have been available in a 9.5mm high form factor for a while now. The drive space doesn't seem to be any taller than that.

cityzen,

I asked an Apple Rep today, but they don't know about the drive space. At least up until the new MBP's, all Unibody 15" and 17" would fit the 12.5mm. Only an 1/8th of an inch taller, but...

I too am using the 12.5mm 1TB Seagate in my older 17" MBP. Hoping that it will fit into a new 15". Jim

Jim Pollock,

Yes. I have one in mine.

Henrik Dahl,

Looks like they are using the new 12 character serial numbers on the 15'' now.

John Batchelor, · Reply

There could be more clarity around the wireless card. It does not have an "Extra" antenna for 802.11, that J3 antenna is hooked into the BCM2070 Bluetooth chip at the bottom of that wireless board, so it's a bluetooth antenna.

Apple is still ahead of the game with a 3x3:3 radio, as most APs (Even Cisco enterprise APs) do not support 3 spatial streams today. In fact, most Cisco APs are 3x2:2 (3 antennas, 2 transmit chains, 2 spatial streams). Aruba APs are mostly 3x3:2 (3 antennas, 3 transmit chains, but still only 2 spatial streams). Mobile phones with 802.11n today are usually 1 spatial stream and 1 antenna (Which is why they max at a 65mbps data rate). Most laptops are 2 spatial stream (Max at 150mb data rate on 2.4ghz, or 300mb on 5ghz (when 40mhz wide channels are enabled). Apple is claiming 450 mb data rates because in a 40mhz channel 5ghz situation, they can use a 3rd spatial stream. Most APs don't yet support this, but the AIrport Extreme from Apple does.

Ifixedit, · Reply

Might be nice to get close-ups of the PCH and hard drive, in light of the Sandy Bridge bug. Initial reports are that the HD is connected to an SATA-III port and should therefore be unaffected... but it would be nice to know the exact HD model regardless for those considering upgrading it.

Paul Vernaza, · Reply

In addition to Emyr's point (that the machine iFixit toredown has the revised PCH Hub), check out http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.p... which further discusses the point.

Martin Cleaver,

Can You confirm if the Displays are interchange able to the MID2010 Model.

Display have the same resolutions and the cables are all at the same place as far as i recognize also there is also no change in that connector?

Klaus, · Reply

It's tough to say for sure (because we haven't tested it). What I do know is that this machine has four antenna connectors while the Mid 2010 has three, and the camera cables connect in slightly different locations between the two machines.

Andrew Bookholt,

The reason for the decrease in performance, according to an article I read on Tom's Hardware, is most likely due to the new i7 processor consuming more power.

Nathon Dalton, · Reply

Excellent writing! Many thanks.

Deepthi Hegde, · Reply

Excellent article in both looks & quality. Many thanks.

Deepthi Hegde, · Reply

did you measure the voltage/current supplied by the thunderbolt port?

thompsonfamily, · Reply

Regarding Thunderbolt: separate channels are just a simple, constant bandwidth allocation. It's not always best. Best is making all the bandwidth available as needed via intelligent arbitration. USB tries to do this with its different endpoint types (bulk, interrupt, isochronous, and control) and bandwidth negotiation for isochronous streams. Of course, there is overhead associated with this.

The six device limit is not yet clear. Intel claims that Thunderbolt supports a switched architecture with multiple topologies. The six device limit may only apply to daisy chains. However, I can't (as of now) find more details on this.

cityzen, · Reply

The WEEE Logo is required on all electronics to be sold in Europe.

kalfalfa, · Reply

Actually its more of a question. Is that tape or a thin matted plastic holding the ribbon like antenna down?

deryl, · Reply

It's a metallic fabric tape to probably ground the cable and protect the connector from EMI.

Andrew Bookholt,

Anyone get a close look at the screws holding down the optical drive? I'm curious as to what sort of screwdriver I may need since apple seems to be no-longer using phillips there.

vicrhombus, · Reply

They are T6 Torx screws.

Andrew Bookholt,

I tried to edit Step 7 to point out the BCM2070 Bluetooth chip and how 3 antennas are for wifi while the forth is for Bluetooth, but the edit was apparently denied without explanation. It seems complete and correct information is not desired here.

cityzen, · Reply

Can anyone tell me the size of the screws holding the plastic mount of the wireless platine?

Not the screwdriver size, the screw itself. One of them had much too much loctide applied, and does not come off without damaging the head.

Frank Fuchs, · Reply

The Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub is not just a "graphics switching chip". It is an I/O hub, where all the various I/O interfaces come together before going to the CPU and memory. This includes PCIe, USB 2.0, SATA, ethernet, HD audio, and various other interfaces as well as the display outputs.

cityzen, · Reply

Question on the thermal paste. Since the gobs of thermal paste applied to the CPU and GPU will cause overheating issues down the road, is it advisable for us to redo the thermal paste to avoid issues in the future especially overheating? Guess this probably will void the warranty. Any advice anyone?

dw4510619, · Reply

Regarding the imperfect thermal paste;

Why would this be a problem? As long as the thermal conducting surfaces are covered, simply installing the heatsink will squish out any excess while not set; leaving the required thickness and coverage to perform.

Sure; it's less pretty, but do you see it every day? And overspill onto the green varnished parts of the chip(s) isn't going to have any effect.

Better people leave well alone than cause mass panic of the less capable ripping off heatsinks, sandpapering chips, and under applying paste to a single corner, thinking this will ensure optimum performance or something...

Googlyhead, · Reply

I should probably also have said; just b'cos one has a less-than-aesthetically-pleasing goo application doesn't mean they all have. I'm sure there's temperature monitoring tools that can help you see if there's any deficiency, without the need to pop the covers.

Googlyhead, · Reply

Going by Apple's specs, looking at Intel's site I believe these are the 3 i7 CPU models in the 15" 2011 MBP:

Intel Mobile i7 compare Hyperlink

So from low to high performance, the chips should be:

2.0 GHz Quad Core i7-2630QM

2.2 GHz Quad Core i7-2720QM

2.3 GHz Quad Core i7-2820QM

Dangerous Dave, · Reply

The Intel H65 PCH hub appears to be a B3 stepping without the SATA bug (SLJ4P). Buggy B2 stepping chipsets were SLHxx.

Emyr, · Reply

Context, as relating to Sandy Bridge issue: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Cougar-...

Martin Cleaver,

You missed marking the important LSI FW843 Firewire controller chip in Step 12 (it's between the Broadcom BCM57765B0KMLG and Parade PS8301 chip).

audio01mail, · Reply

The PS8301 could be a Display Port repeater. A similar part is here:

http://www.paradetech.com/wp-content/upl...

barabas, · Reply

1gb is not 128mb...

Paul Kim, · Reply

But 1 Gbit (Gb) is 128 GBytes (GB). I'm not too happy about the notation either, since it leads to lots of confusion. Too much abbreviation, it seems.

cityzen,

Your teardown is of a HDD based machine. If I bought a SSD 128gb & added HDD via MCE Optibay, I'd seek to move the SDD into the OptiBay, because http://www.ehmac.ca/anything-mac/84938-d... "regular hdd slot has the sudden motion sensor which hdds should have and the optical bay doesn't have the sudden motion sensor which for an ssd doesn't matter anyway"

Martin Cleaver, · Reply

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudden_Moti... , the MacBook Pro has in the past featured a Kionix three-axis accelerometer chip, (KXM52-1050), for protecting its HDD. That said, I couldn't see a KXM chip on the teardown photos (but didn't find them on past models either.)

My conclusion / assumption on this is that the SSD models are all build-to-order vs, ready made for the HDDs. The drive is considered user replaceable - such that users can swap either HDD for SSD or (less likely) SSD for HDD - meaning the motherboards must be identical and include the Sudden Motion Sensor.

I suppose that shifting the SSD to the OptiBay and adding a HDD would necessitate changing a PRAM / NVRAM setting.

I've an outstanding request with MCE Technologies asking them to verify http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?st... - they've emailed to say they will know within a few days their official opinions. That link shows people have already fitted exiting OptiBay models.

Martin Cleaver, · Reply

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