Zune HD: Microsoft Debuts New Manufacturing Talent

September 24, 2009 Hardware — Miro

We glossed over one very important detail when we tore apart Microsoft’s new PMP last week. The Zune HD is the first mass-market gadget we’ve seen that has a machined aluminum case!

Machined aluminum parts are harder and more rigid than plastic parts, at very little (if any) cost to the overall weight of the device. Machined aluminum is also not as easy to dent or mar as the plastic counterpart, meaning that the Zune won’t suffer from case scratches that plague other music players. So what’s the catch? The main negative factor in using machined aluminum parts is the increase in manufacturing cost.

If you’ve ever opened up a recent MacBook or MacBook Pro, the milling pattern on the Zune’s back panel will look familiar. The mill’s bits start out large, and progressively get smaller as the internal features of the shape become pronounced. Every milled part includes a “final pass,” a slow and light finishing pass that provides a smooth final surface. We measured the final pass milling marks and found that Microsoft used a 3 mm bit on the Zune HD, while Apple used a larger 3.5 mm bit on our MacBook’s upper case. Interestingly enough, the Zune’s milling marks are readily more apparent than those on the MacBook, as evident in the photos below. Apple must have polished the interior side of the upper case to achieve such a smooth finish.

Comparing the Zune HD with a MacBook Unibody upper case.

Comparing the Zune HD with a MacBook Unibody upper case.

Microsoft has spared no expense on the Zune HD. The guys at iSuppli may prove us wrong, but we’re doubtful that Microsoft is actually making money with this product. Consider that they put an OLED screen, machined aluminum back cover, top-notch processing power, and solid user interface in a 32 GB package retailing for less than $300.

When we conducted our teardown, we found that Microsoft went the extra mile and engraved a “For our Princess” on the inside of every Zune HD as a tribute to a Zune team member who passed away during development. The cost may be meager — a couple of seconds of additional machine time — but their sentiment was priceless. With traditional manufacturing process, changing a mold at the last minute to add an engraving would be prohibitively expensive, but their new milling process allowed Microsoft to add a touching note without substantially increasing their costs.

A clear view of the For our Princess engraving and machining marks.

A clear view of the "For our Princess" engraving and machining marks.

So what’s this mean for the future? Microsoft has beaten Apple at their own game and produced a multi-touch PMP that is smaller, lighter, and vastly easier to repair than the iPod touch. We expect other devices to follow the Zune’s lead. Expect to see other companies use advanced manufacturing processes and materials to add rigidity, substance, and flair to their products.

iFixit featured by Tekzilla

September 19, 2009 Hardware — Kyle

We’re not really into tooting our own horn– we’re usually far more interested in showing you how to fix things or talking about what a great job the engineers did designing the hardware we take apart. But Veronica Belmont and the other friendly folk over at Revision3’s technology news show Tekzilla decided that we were worth mentioning, and we’re honored. The segment about us is halfway through the show and lasts about a minute.

iFixit on Tekzilla

PS3 Slim Teardown Video on G4 TV

September 16, 2009 Hardware, Teardowns — Miro

We caught G4’s eye recently with out PlayStation3 Slim Teardown. They invited Kyle to their studios in Hollywood to show how to disassemble the PS3 Slim. G4 filmed the whole process and also interviewed Kyle about iFixit’s teardown platform. Watch the video below or click on the HD icon to visit G4’s website to watch it in HD!

Microsoft Zune HD Teardown

September 15, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — luke
Following up on our slew of iPod teardowns last week, we’ve just finished taking apart the new kid on the block: the Zune HD. Microsoft has taken a long time to get to market with this device, and the hardware shows it. It’s lighter than the iPod touch, smaller in two dimensions (skinnier and shorter, but 0.4 mm thicker), claims better battery life with a smaller battery, and beat Apple to market with an OLED screen.
Highlights:
* The Zune has a Samsung-manufactured 3.3 inch OLED display. This part is likely the most expensive item on the Zune’s bill of materials, and contributes to the improved battery life.
* The OLED screen is incredibly thin (1 mm) and seems more rugged than a traditional LCD panel.
* We can confirm that the Zune HD does NOT have 802.11n support. Instead, it’s got a super efficient Atheros AR6002GZ 802.11g chip: http://www.atheros.com/pt/bulletins/AR6002Bulletin.pdf
* The Zune has an Nvidia Tegra 2600 processor, supporting OpenGL ES 2.0 and programmable pixel shaders. In a stark contrast to Apple’s relationship with Samsung, NVidia’s product page (http://www.nvidia.com/object/product_tegra_apx_us.html) actually has a link to buy the Zune HD.
* The battery capacity is 660 mAh. That’s about 16% less than the 789 mAh battery in the new iPod touch. However, Microsoft promises a longer run time than the touch for both music and videos. They may have pulled it off– Microsoft certainly had a lot of motivation to push for super low-power hardware solutions in this device.
* Toshiba supplied the NAND flash in our unit, and Hynix provided the SDRAM. However, we’ve had reports that Microsoft is using a few different suppliers for these parts.

Following up on our slew of iPod teardowns last week, we’ve just finished taking apart the new kid on the block: the Zune HD. Microsoft has taken a long time to get to market with this device, and the hardware shows it. It’s lighter than the iPod touch, smaller in two dimensions (skinnier and shorter, but 0.4 mm thicker), claims better battery life with a smaller battery, and beat Apple to market with an OLED screen.

The Zune HD in 9 easy-to-assembly pieces

The Zune HD in 9 easy-to-assembly pieces

Highlights:

  • The Zune has a Samsung-manufactured 3.3 inch OLED display. This part is likely the most expensive item on the Zune’s bill of materials, and contributes to the improved battery life.
  • The OLED screen is incredibly thin (1 mm) and seems more rugged than a traditional LCD panel.
  • We can confirm that the Zune HD does NOT have 802.11n support. Instead, it’s got a super efficient Atheros AR6002GZ 802.11g chip.
  • The Zune has an Nvidia Tegra 2600 processor, supporting OpenGL ES 2.0 and programmable pixel shaders. In a stark contrast to Apple’s relationship with Samsung, NVidia’s product page actually has a link to buy the Zune HD.
  • The battery capacity is 660 mAh. That’s about 16% less than the 789 mAh battery in the new iPod touch. However, Microsoft promises a longer run time than the touch for both music and videos. They may have pulled it off– Microsoft certainly had a lot of motivation to push for super low-power hardware solutions in this device.
  • Toshiba supplied the NAND flash in our unit, and Hynix provided the SDRAM. However, we’ve had reports that Microsoft is using a few different suppliers for these parts.

iPod shuffle stainless steel SE

September 11, 2009 Hardware, Teardowns — Kyle

If you like shiny things, Apple has an iPod for you. It’s like getting a free mirror! And it’s only $20 extra.

Pulling apart the new Shuffle SE

We’ve already taken apart one of these little guys, but we took apart the $99 iPod shuffle Special Edition because we were curious about the new case material. This iPod features an incredibly shiny stainless steel enclosure. According to Apple’s marketing-speak, “It’s as brilliant as your taste in music.”

  • Contrary to Apple’s typical claims of “smaller packaging to save the environment,” this iPod’s packaging is 65% larger than the original 3rd Gen shuffle.
  • The new shuffle weighs in at 17.2 grams, nearly 61% more than the 10.7 gram aluminum shuffle.
  • The black 3rd generation had a black screw, while our silver special edition had a silver screw. It looks like Apple gives you matching screws.

After removing the internals, the stainless steel casing weighs 12 grams. That doesn’t seem like much, except that the iPod itself only weighs 5 grams. Over 70% of this iPod’s weight comes from its shell!

Removing the logic board and battery

iPod Shuffle case, logic board, and battery

iPod touch 3rd Gen: Where’s the camera?

September 11, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — luke

Another day, another teardown. Today we took apart the new 3rd Generation iPod touch!

Getting inside

Getting inside

Our analysis reveals a Broadcom BCM4329 chip, which supports 802.11n. This is a big deal, as even the iPhone 3GS doesn’t support 802.11n. The iPhone 3GS has a BCM4325 wireless chip, which only supports 802.11 a/b/g. We don’t know yet if 802.11n will be supported in software, but at least the hardware’s there.

This reminds us of last year when we broke the news that the 2nd Generation touch had Bluetooth support in hardware. Apple didn’t enable software support until 9 months later with iPhone OS 3.0.

The Broadcom chip also supports FM transmission. There’s Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and a FM receiver and transmitter packed into this chip. If they built in the antennas, and if Apple adds software support, you could theoretically stream music to your car stereo without any external hardware. But that’s a lot of ifs.

New Broadcom BCM4329 chip

New Broadcom BCM4329 chip

We also analyzed the internal layout of the iPod, and it appears that Apple left room for a camera in the top of the device. There is a 6mm x 6mm x 3mm space between the Broadcom chip and the wireless antenna. There isn’t enough depth for an iPhone-style autofocus still camera, but just enough room for the camera that Apple used in the 5th Generation iPod nano. We did not find any headers on the board for a camera cable.

Space for a camera?

Space for a camera?

Video Camera Unveiled: iPod nano Teardown

September 10, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Kyle

We took apart the new 5th Generation iPod nano! We have finished our hardware analysis and high-resolution photos of the internals.

This iPod employs copious amounts of glue and adhesive to hold everything together. That makes it easy for Apple to put together, but hard to take apart. We had to remove the camera bezel before we could start the disassembly.

Complete parts disassembly

Complete parts disassembly

This iPod employs copious amounts of glue and adhesive to hold everything together. That makes it easy for Apple to put together, but hard to take apart. We had to remove the camera bezel before we could start the disassembly.
As expected, the main ARM processor dwarfs everything else on the board.
Toshiba is the source for the 8 GB of flash memory. Our memory chips were made in Taiwan in July of this year.
There is no space for a larger camera in the 6.2 mm thick iPod without reducing the size of other components.
The speaker is very similar to the speaker in the iPod touch. The audio simply comes out the bottom of the iPod.
The new 240×376 display boasts 17.5% more screen real estate than the previous model.
The tolerances on this iPod are incredibly tight. There’s no wasted space inside.

Things we noticed:

  • As expected, the main ARM processor dwarfs everything else on the board.
  • Toshiba is the source for the 8 GB of flash memory. Our memory chips were made in Taiwan in July of this year.
  • There is no space for a larger camera in the 6.2 mm thick iPod without reducing the size of other components.
  • The speaker is very similar to the speaker in the iPod touch. The audio simply comes out the bottom of the iPod.
  • The new 240×376 display boasts 17.5% more screen real estate than the previous model.
  • The tolerances on this iPod are incredibly tight. There’s no wasted space inside.
The nanos little video camera

The nano's little video camera

Size comparison:

  • iPhone 3G: 12.3 mm thick
  • iPhone camera: 6 mm + rubber mount
  • iPod nano: 6.2 mm thick
  • iPod nano camera: 2.75 mm
  • iPod touch: 8.5 mm thick

Including the mount, the iPhone camera is thicker than the ENTIRE new iPod nano!

Unlike the nano, the iPod touch could conceivably support an iPhone-sized camera, although it would certainly be an engineering challenge.

We wish Apple would a little effort into making iPods repairable, instead of forcing people to throw them away when they break. Recent iPods have become increasingly difficult to successfully repair. (One positive note is that unlike the iPhone, we haven’t seen many issues with broken glass on the nanos.)

Our iPod nano teardown is here:
http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPod-Nano-5th-Generation/1157/1

Sliding out the Nanos internals

Sliding out the nano's internals

Taking out the iPods click wheel

Taking out the iPod's click wheel

Camera surgery

Camera surgery

Retrieving a Stuck CD is as Easy as 1, 2, 3!

September 2, 2009 Hardware, Site News — walter

Hi there. Have you ever found yourself troubled by a nasty optical drive that just won’t let go of your favorite CD? Did you ever wish you could just tear that sucker apart and retrieve your long-lost companion? Worry no more, we here at iFixit have released a new jammed optical drives guide for such moments. All you need is a Phillips #0 screwdriver and a bit of patience to accomplish the task.

It’s a quick three-step guide that will surely help you rescue your precious CD from the treacherous grips of your optical drive. Our guide walks you through the most daunting procedures:

  • Removing the screws from the optical drive.
  • Lifting the top cover from the optical drive.
  • Obtaining inner peace by retrieving your CD.

Actually that pretty much covers the guide. Who knew happy and everlasting peace could be found in just three simple steps?

Take a look at our new guide and give us your comments, your opinions, your huddled thoughts yearning to breathe free. Do you know of any other methods to recover a CD from within an optical drive? We’re always looking to improve our guides!