Kyle’s Interview with Macworld UK

June 29, 2009 Events — Miro

Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit

We mentioned in our iPhone 3GS post that Kyle went all the way to London to obtain the new iPhone. He was, in fact, doing the teardown in the Macworld UK offices!

The great folks at Macworld UK lent us a table and lights, not to mention a portion of their office, for our teardown. Knowing prices in London, just renting the space alone would have cost several thousand dollars, which they provided for no charge!

As part of tearing down the iPhone 3GS, MacVideo’s (Macworld’s sister site) Rick Young recorded a video interview with Kyle. During the interview, they show snippets of how we perform our teardown from the other side of the camera. Viewers are able to get a good idea on the inner workings of iFixit, all the while listening to Rick’s and Kyle’s great chat about several topics.

New iBook G4 12″ 1.33 GHz Guide

June 24, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides — walter

Salutations! A while ago we accidentally spilled the beans on the future publication of one of our most user-requested guides, the iBook G4 12″ 1.33 GHz. Well, we finally crossed the i’s, dotted the t’s, and released them to the public.

This iBook G4 12″ 1.33 GHz is nearly identical to the iBook G4 12″ 800 MHz – 1.2 GHz (if you’re wondering which version you have, you can identify your machine by using our ID Your Mac page). However there are some prominent differences that merit a complete set of new guides for the 1.33 GHz machine:

  • The addition or omission of screws can cause confusion during repair.  The top shield is missing a 5.5 mm screw previously located in the upper left corner; four screws instead of two screws are required to secure the hard drive to the framework; the heat sink is fastened by nine screws instead of eight; logic board replacement requires removal of 12 screws instead of 10. Thankfully all of the screws are neatly labeled in our guides, so you don’t have to worry about missing any of the little changes.
  • This model’s Reed Switch board was relocated from the display assembly to the top of the optical drive.  A combination of a magnet in the display assembly and this sensor enables your iBook to automatically go to sleep when the lid is closed and magically wake up when opened.
  • Detaching the display requires removing the optical drive to de-route the AirPort cables.
  • The AirPort/Bluetooth board must be removed to access the heat sink, but the hard drive bracket does not.

Take a gander at the new guides. We’re always open to any suggestions or comments that will help us improve our work.

iPhone 3GS Teardown

June 19, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — luke

We just flew Kyle, our CEO, to London so he could take apart the iPhone 3GS. The results are in, and here’s what we found:

  • Thankfully, opening the iPhone 3GS is as simple as the 3G. After removing two Phillips screws, the two halves of the phone are separated easily using a suction cup.
  • The iPhone is differentiated externally only by a new model number, A1303. The lettering on the back is now shiny, like the Apple logo.
  • The internal physical design is virtually identical to the iPhone 3G. A random passerby on the street would not know the difference. Heck, even we were struggling to differentiate the two.
  • The new graphics core should drastically improve performance, meaning Apple’s serious about the handheld gaming market.
  • There’s still a “Do not remove” sticker above the logic board. Naturally, we removed it.
  • Nearly all components have been relocated to the front side of the main PCB, including the Bluetooth, Wi–Fi, and Flash memory chips.
  • The battery is 4.51 Watt-hours, or 1219 mAh. That’s about 6% larger than the iPhone 3G’s battery. Hopefully the hardware runs more efficiently, since increased battery life will not come from the battery itself.
  • There is an additional antenna connection near the dock connector. We’re not sure what for just yet. However, we do love exploring these teasers… Stay tuned!
  • For those who are wondering about the fingerprint-resistant coating on their iPhone 3GS screen: The oleophobic, or oil-proof, technology evolved from waterproofing. Oil-proof technology is harder to achieve as oil has a much lower surface tension than water, so it spreads out easier and thus is harder to get rid off. MIT’s solution was to create a coating material which creates a layer of micro fibers, but with a much larger contact angle between the oil droplets and the fibers.

Some comments on usability of the 3GS:

  • Camera quality is much improved from the 3G. Close-up shots were possible down to about 5 cm, and the brightness adjusted well when picking a focus area.
  • The oleophobic screen does seem to clean slightly easier than the 3G’s normal screen.
  • Google Earth (duration of the spinning load wheel) (over Wi-Fi): 3GS: 4.9 sec; 3G: 22.2 sec. A bit faster than Apple’s claim of 2X speed improvement — although we know that one simple test of one application means little in the real world.

We’ll post more notes on the hardware as we analyze it further.

iPhone 3G S Parts

iPhone 3G S Parts

3rd Generation iPod nano Repair Guides

June 17, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides — Andrew

We’d like to announce our all-new repair guides for the 3rd Generation iPod nano!

Replacing parts on the 3rd Gen nano can be quite difficult. We’ve found that removing the rear panel is the hardest step, and chances are slim that you will open the nano without destroying the panel. Unfortunately, you must first remove the rear panel to access any of the device’s internals, so customers are advised to purchase a rear panel if they plan on replacing any of the internals.

The most important aspect of replacing the rear panel is patience. Take your time when working the opening tools around the perimeter of the nano, and make sure not to get cut. Although the iPod opening tools are not sharp, having one slip off the side of an iPod can definitely do some damage.

Our new guides enable you to:

  • Replace a broken display.
  • Solder in a new battery, sparing you the astronomical Apple repair service charge.
  • Upgrade the logic board (including a pre-soldered battery) with a higher capacity unit for more storage capability.

You can also troubleshoot your nano using our troubleshooting guide.

We invite you to take a gander at the new guides, and we hope they help keep your nano in tip-top shape for years to come!

Upgrading a MacBook Pro Hard Drive

June 12, 2009 Hardware, Repair Stories — Miro

Hard drives fail. It’s a fact of life. When moving parts inside the drive wear out, you’ll hear the signature “death whine” of a failed bearing, or the clatter of a dying drive head. Even if your hard drive is happily purring along, hard drive prices have fallen enough that it might be time to upgrade. New 320 and 500 GB drives are readily available for the MacBook Pro, but there’s a few things you should know prior to installing one in your computer.

Whether or not things take a turn for the worse, we can show you how to replace your drive with something newer, more robust, faster, and with higher capacity. However, we cannot recover your lost data. Backups are your friend — nobody but you can save your complete and unabridged collection of Lost episodes.

Apple released three major versions of the MacBook Pro prior to the current Unibody design. We have written detailed information on each model and how to differentiate between them: Core Duo, Core 2 Duo Model A1211, and Core 2 Duo Models A1226 & A1260. Each of these has slight internal differences that impact the way you disassemble them. We took photos of a Penryn (Model A1260) for this article, but the general approach applies to all of Apple’s older MacBook Pros.

Safety comes first. Remove all power sources for this procedure, including the battery. Apple uses sliding switches on these machines rather than the coin-operated MacBook battery latch, which is fortunate, because you’re probably all out of coin from upgrading to the higher-end Pro model. However, the Pro’s dual latches do not make battery removal easy for one-armed people.

Removing the battery exposes the RAM shield, which is held in place by three Phillips screws. This is a great time to “check under the hood” and possibly upgrade the RAM while you’re at it. MacBook Pros come with only 1 or 2 GB RAM standard. Depending on your model, you can easily upgrade to 2 GB (Core Duo), 3 GB (Model A1211), or 6 GB (Models A1226 and A1260).

You’ll need to remove 18 screws to open the top case: four on each side, two on the back, and eight on the bottom case. The screws look quite similar to one another, but will not fit correctly if inserted into the wrong hole. Try printing out the handy MacBook Pro PDF screw guide to keep track of all the screws. Alternatively, egg cartons or ice cube trays can also be useful for this purpose.

Once you’ve removed the screws, you can carefully pull up the upper case. The case still has a cable that attaches the keyboard to the logic board, so it’s not a wise idea to pull it off quickly.

A spudger is a flat plastic prying tool that can be very useful under the right circumstances. Taking the trackpad/ribbon cable off the logic board is one such situation. The spudger’s flat tip — not unlike a flat-blade screwdriver, but with less destructive potential — can squeeze itself in-between the board and male connector. A gentle twist of the spudger will separate the male connector from the socket without harming anything inside the computer. Make sure that the yellow tape is peeled back before removing the ribbon cable.

And just like that, the upper case is off and you have access to the logic board, optical drive, fans, speakers, and most importantly, the hard drive. The drive is cleverly held in place by a screwed-in retaining bracket on the right side. Removing two Torx screws (Apple used Phillips screws for the bracket in some models) releases the bracket, allowing the drive to slide out of the rubber bumpers on the left side.

Once the drive is out, the hard drive cable needs to be detached from the drive. The cable has a somewhat flimsy backing to it, so it’s a good idea to hold it gently and wiggle it side-to-side while detaching. The other side of the cable is still connected to the computer via two small connectors. Don’t yank the cable away from the rest of the computer, as that will undoubtedly break something important. Not wake-up-the-President-of-the-United-States important, but definitely spend-a-lot-more-money-trying-to-fix-the-laptop important.

Four Torx screws hold the drive in place when it’s installed in the laptop. The silver T6 Torx screws slide out of the rubber bumpers on the left side, while the right-side T6 Torx screws still have the bumpers attached. The four screws need to be moved from the old drive to the new one so it will fit securely into place.

As with any repair job, disassembly is only half the battle. Thankfully, all you have to do is follow the disassembly instructions backwards to completely reassemble the MacBook Pro once the new drive is mounted.

Power it up to make sure everything is connected properly. But powering on the machine isn’t the end of your journey. The new drive has no operating system or data on it. You have a couple of options, depending on the state of the old drive. You can clone the old one (if it still works) by installing it into a FireWire enclosure and using Disk Utility to clone. Once you’re done, you can use the enclosure and old drive as a Time Machine backup, in case the new drive ever fails — or as external storage. The other option is to start from scratch with a fresh install from a Mac OS X install disk; this is a cleaner but more time-consuming process. We offer Leopard install instructions on how to perform either procedure, so the choice is up to you. Just make sure the partition is set to the Intel-native “GUID Partition Scheme,” otherwise you may encounter some very interesting problems.

People who’ve had drives fail know how terrible it can be to lose all your data. Do yourself a favor, and make sure you have current backups of everything. Mounting your old drive in an external enclosure after your MacBook Pro hard drive upgrade is a simple and inexpensive strategy.

MacBook Pro 13″ Unibody Teardown

June 10, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We just completed our teardown of the MacBook Pro 13″ Unibody. We found that there’s very little difference between it and its predecessor, the MacBook Unibody. Here are some interesting tidbits about the MacBook Pro 13″:

  • The SD card slot is rather unimaginative, and half the card hangs outside the computer. Apparently, Apple couldn’t free up enough space for a slot that would make the card completely captive.
  • Fortunately, Apple did free up space to include a single FireWire 800 port.
  • The battery is easily user-upgradeable. All you need is a small Phillips screwdriver to open the case, and a tri-wing screwdriver to remove the battery.
  • The battery is definitely heavier (360 grams compared to 302 g for the old one). However, its capacity is 60 Watt-hours, compared to the lighter battery’s 45 W-h.
  • Apple’s claim for battery life in now 7 hours, compared to the MacBook’s 5 hours.
  • The new battery is not interchangeable at all with the older MacBook Unibody. The connectors, size, and shape are different, preventing easy DIY battery rigging.
  • The mid wall dividing the MacBook Pro is now attached to the top case. In the previous model, it was held in by four Phillips screws — just goes to show what Apple is trying to help out its DIY customers.
  • Aside from a couple of visual cues found outside, a casual user would not be able to discern if this was a MacBook Unibody or MacBook Pro.
  • Most screw layouts and brackets are identical to the old MacBook Unibody.
  • Despite now being a “Pro,” the machine makes do with only a single audio jack. The jack supports both analog and digital audio-out, as well as analog audio-in. If you need digital audio-in, this is not the machine for you.

We also just released a full set of MacBook Unibody repair guides. The design is similar enough that the guides can also be used to repair a MacBook Pro 13″ Unibody.

If there are any details you’d like us to investigate, leave a comment in the teardown or hit us up on twitter: @ifixit

Palm Pre Parts Analysis

June 7, 2009 Hardware, Site News — luke
Palm Pre Main Board

Palm Pre Main Board

Our good friends at phoneWreck took our teardown of the Palm Pre and did a thorough analysis of what we found. We added their component diagram to the end of our teardown.

phoneWreck’s observations:

Palm Pre Component Diagram

Palm Pre Component Diagram

There are some pretty interesting things that popped up on the Pre’s PCBs. This is the first production device we’ve seen on the OMAP3 (Open Media Applications Processor) platform. OMAP3 is powered by the 600MHZ ARM Cortex A8, PowerVR SGX 530 (GPU), 430MHz C64x, DSP and ISP (Image Signal Processor) and was clearly designed to pack a punch – Dr. Wreck thinks we’re going to see this processor popping up in future netbook endeavours.

On the connections side we see the usual wifi/bluetooth combo going to Marvell and CSR with the W8686 and 63823 respectively. We also see the BaseBand win going to Qualcomm with the heavily integrated MSM6801A platform. The OMAP3 PMIC comes loaded with a USB tranceiver and Audio codec which even further reduces the overall board density of this device. We’re not fully sure – but it looks as if the Pre’s cool new multi-touch Touch Screen Controller win went to Cypress Semiconductor with the CP6944BA device.

For more more annotated images and analysis, visit phoneWreck. phoneWreck will continue to release more Palm Pre details over then next week as they research the Pre’s hardware design.

In other news, we’re happy to report we have some new teardowns up on our user-contributed teardown platform. We now have teardowns for both the Nintendo Wii and a banana.

Palm Pre Teardown

June 6, 2009 Hardware, Site News — Kyle

We took apart the Palm Pre. Here are our first impressions:

  • We love the feel of holding the Pre in our hands. In its closed position, it feels much more comfortable to hold than the iPhone.
  • Palm’s new WebOS software is impressively smooth! We love how natural it feels to swipe between applications and multitask with Web, Twitter, AIM, and Pandora.
  • Users preferring physical keyboards will be satisfied, but iPhone veterans may be left disappointed at the lack of a software keyboard option.
  • Revealing the keyboard feels awkward and interrupts the smooth WebOS experience. Try before you buy, because this keyboard could be enough to deter picky users.
  • Some parts of the software feel rushed. For example, the app store describes the price of free apps as “$Try now.” It looks like an overeager programmer hardcoded that dollar sign. While certainly not a showstopper, we hope Palm gets a chance to tidy up the little things like this soon.
  • We were the first in line for the Pre. Definitely not as much initial hype as when the iPhone was released.
  • We tested out Sprint’s 3G EVDO network on the road home and didn’t notice any interruptions. Uploads and downloads were fast, and Pandora’s application ran like a champ.
  • A prepaid plastic recycling envelope is included in the box, making it easy to recycle your newly obsolete phone.
  • The Pre is “Inspired by and designed in California,” while the iPhone is merely “Designed by Apple in California.”
  • The Pre’s battery capacity is 1150 mAh, exactly the same as the iPhone 3G, though the Pre is reported to have slightly worse battery life due to its background process capability. The battery is user-replaceable, something the iPhone lacks severely.
  • The Palm Pre is the first phone using Texas Instrument’s new OMAP3 (Open Media Applications Processor) platform.
  • The processor is a 600 MHz ARM Cortex A8 + PowerVR SGX 530 GPU + 430MHz C64x+ DSP + ISP (Image Signal Processor)
  • The Pre is definitely not an easy phone to service. There are lots of fragile and tricky tabs that will make putting the phone back together challenging.
  • Users preferring physical keyboards will be satisfied, but iPhone veterans may be left disappointed at the lack of a software keyboard option.
  • The Pre is definitely thicker compared to the iPhone (17mm vs 12mm). Not only does this allow the engineers more flexibility in designing the physical layout of components, but it also makes the Pre conform really well to our palm.

We’ll post more notes on the hardware soon.

Posting Your First Teardown

June 5, 2009 Events — Miro

Our teardown platform has been a huge hit, and we wanted to take a break from reading all the wonderful stories about it to tell you a bit about how it actually works. We realized that although we’ve used the system internally for years (and have gotten to know the ins and outs of using it), it may be a bit daunting the first time you use our tools to write a teardown.

Each teardown starts with an introduction, where you enter basic information about the device: its name, an introductory paragraph discussing what you’re going to do, and tools required for the job (if any). Two additional options allow you to mark a teardown as “In Progress,” which you should uncheck once you’re done with the whole teardown, and “Unpublished,” which essentially hides the teardown from public view until it is complete. Once you’ve written your introduction, save it and start adding steps! You can always go back and change the introduction later.

A teardown step is just a photo and a few text bullets. You can batch upload images and then modify them in our image editor, which allows you to crop the image to 4:3 aspect ratio (if the image is not already the correct ratio) as well as add markers. We use circles and rectangles to highlight certain areas of the image (like a relevant screw or connector). The markers are usually related to a written bullet point. For example, if you circle a Phillips screw with a red circle on the picture, then you should use a red X bullet for your text instructing the user to remove a Phillips screw.

Show off your writing skills by writing concisely and clearly explaining what you find inside the device. Once the step is finished, save it and start writing the next one!

Publishing a teardown on our platform is actually quite easy. The hardest thing is often disassembling the device itself, but we’ll leave that part to you. For more information, we’ve also put online some guidelines for creating a teardown, a teardown FAQ, and a fun look at what writing a teardown entails. If you get stuck, feel free to email us or leave a note!

Site Launch: User-Submitted Teardowns!

June 4, 2009 Events, Site News — Miro

We are launching a new user-driven teardown platform today. Our new online teardown creation tools allow anyone to easily author and publish teardown guides, complete with disassembly photos and technical details.

www.iFixit.com/Teardown

iFixit uses a powerful home-grown documentation tool to write our repair manuals. Over the years that software has developed into a fast and efficient way to publish the Mac teardowns that we create. Our hardware teardowns and analysis have become world-renowned for providing a first look inside new hardware.

Tons of people have asked us to publish their teardowns to our audience. This demand helped us realize the importance of releasing this platform for everyone, so we spent the last year polishing our tool and making it robust enough for anyone to create teardowns free of charge.

In the past we’ve focused primarily on Apple devices, but we’ve recently expanded and published a number of non-Apple teardowns. Our recent teardowns of the Nintendo DSi, Amazon Kindle 2, and Dell Adamo were massively popular and have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. The deviation from writing Mac teardowns foreshadowed today’s epic announcement. We hope that people use our flexible teardown platform to create teardowns of devices of all kinds, not just Apple products.

We keep our website running fast. Over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about handling large spikes in server traffic. Thanks to cloud computing, RightScale, and Amazon EC2, today we’re able to dynamically scale our capacity to meet demand.

Writing a teardown is simple, and we wrote a step-by-step guide to show people how it’s done.

We are also proud to announce our first user-generated teardowns. Using our tool, PhoneWreck.com has republished their detailed cell phone teardowns and circuit analysis.

We are absolutely thrilled to be launching our new site. This platform has been a labor of love for a long time, and we’re excited to see what tinkerers all over the world create with it. Join us, and show the world what’s inside your gadgets!