iPad 3G Teardown

April 30, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We leisurely waltzed into line around 4:40 today and were one of the first of 30 people to get an iPad 3G at our local Apple store!

It’s great not to have to fly across the world and wait overnight in line.

The iPad 3G definitely shows some interesting differences when compared to its Wi-Fi-only sibling, mostly due to its additional 3G / GPS functionality.

Teardown Highlights:

  • The immediate visible difference is the inclusion of a black plastic RF window on top of the iPad for better antenna reception.
  • The black RF window significantly changes the opening procedure. You cannot start separating the display using the notches on the top (à la Wi-Fi version), since that will undoubtedly break the RF window. You have to start from the right side and gingerly proceed to the top and bottom of the iPad.
  • There are actually FIVE antennas in this iPad:
    • Two antennas handle the cell reception — one is in the RF window on top, the other attaches to the LCD frame.
    • There’s a single GPS antenna that is also housed in the RF window on top.
    • Just like the iPad Wi-Fi, there are two antennas that handle Wi-Fi / Bluetooth connectivity, one in the Apple logo and another to the left of the dock connector.
  • Who would’ve thought: Apple uses the same 3G baseband processor in both the iPhone 3GS and the iPad 3G.
  • The baseband processor in question is the Infineon 337S3754 PMB 8878 X-Gold IC. It was actually white-labeled on the production unit, but with enough sleuthing we were able to confirm its true identity.
  • The iPad 3G has a Broadcom BCM4750UBG Single-Chip AGPS Solution, whereas the iPhone 3GS uses an Infineon Hammerhead II package. Big win for Broadcom!

Final layout

The communications board

Copper foil attaching the second antenna

The Future of iFixit Content

April 28, 2010 Hardware, Site News — Miro

iFixit’s emphasis on electronics

iFixit started out by creating repair guides for Mac laptops, and over time expanded to iPods, iPhones, and iMacs. We’ve established a strong repair guide foundation in Apple products, as well as a solid reputation for being the first to tear down the latest electronics on the market.

Last week we released our open repair manual wiki for everyone to utilize. It might seem like a fair assumption that content on iFixit should be centered around electronics, but we want to stress that our repair focus is much more broad than that — think Wikipedia scale. We feel everything deserves the chance to be repaired, regardless of whether it’s a pair of jeans or an iPad.

Content that we welcome

We want to include repair information for anything that the community feels needs repair information. Some examples include:

  • Automobiles: You can add more background information on your Honda Accord, or show someone how to replace the brakes on your Dodge Caravan.
  • Game Consoles: Perhaps you’re a wizard of the SNES console, and can create some awesome repair guides for it; or maybe you know of a stellar solution for the Xbox 360′s Red Ring of Death.
  • Household Repair: Maybe you’ve repaired the base of a lamp or a vacuum cleaner and would like to share how you did it.
  • Motorcycles: The Suzuki FA50 is the only “motorcycle” on our site, so this section definitely could use some more repair guides.
  • You name it: The areas above are just a start. You can add areas for power tools, bicycles, other types of electronics (think multimeters, robots, HDTVs, etc.), camping gear, sports equipment — the list goes on. The community is the ultimate decision maker on what makes it to the site. What are you interested in fixing?

Less welcome content

Simply put, we don’t want content that’s not repair-related. That includes kung-pao chicken recipes, tips and secrets for beating Farmville, and pictures of funny kittens. Ask yourself: “Will someone benefit from this information when they’re trying to repair their device?” If the answer is “Yes,” you should definitely add it to iFixit’s growing database.

Gray areas

The community will also have to determine which gray areas to include, and which do not belong on the site. For example, is a Motorola Droid unlocking guide something that belongs on iFixit? On one hand, unlocking a Droid doesn’t seem like a repair procedure. But if making the Droid function on another network is required for it to be useful in Uganda, then perhaps that’s something that the community would want to enable. It’s up to you to decide.

I want to contribute. But where do I put the information?

It depends on the type of information you’d like to contribute. If you want to make a repair guide for a device, start one. If you’re looking to add a picture or a summary for a device, or polish a repair guide, visit the Contribute page. On there you will see a list of all the devices and repair guides that need fixing. If you’d like to just add links to web resources — such as a really cool forum that contains a wealth of information on the device — just visit the device’s page and click “Edit” on the top right corner. It’s as simple as that.

Maker Faire 2010

April 26, 2010 Events, Site News — aguenther

Maker Faire will invade the San Mateo County Event Center May 22-23, and we need your help to run the iFixit Repair Center! The festival is the epitome of the do-it-yourself mentality. There is no larger concentration of geeky hobbyists and enthusiastic inventors than at Maker Faire.

The exhibits border on insane: remote-controlled R2D2′s, 15ft twin tesla coils, trebuchet contests, two-story-tall mechanical giraffes; and that is only a sampling of the courtyards outside the main exhibitors’ hall.

For the past few years we have gone to Maker Faire to spread our knowledge of how to fix things. This year our presence is going to be greater than ever. Not only will we be showing people how to fix things, we will be writing repair manuals on the spot. To make all of this happen we are going to need YOUR help!

We’re looking for people with repair experience in:

  • Automobiles
  • Bicycles
  • Motorcycles
  • Macs
  • Appliances
  • Clothing
  • Musical Instruments
  • Electronics
  • Mobile Phones

As a volunteer, you will help people with problems within your area of expertise, but also get a chance to talk to other experts and resolve some problems you might be having!

Volunteers will be provided with free Maker Faire admission, a pass to the invite-only “Maker to Maker” event on Friday, an iFixit t-shirt, and other cool perks!

To volunteer, just fill out our Maker Faire volunteer form.

All volunteers should receive an email confirming their volunteer status within a week. Volunteers will be assigned one or more shifts depending on their preferences and availability.

We are updating our Maker Faire 2010 section with the latest news — check periodically for additional information. Please email us with any questions, and let us know as soon as possible if you can contribute to this awesome event!

How to Contribute

April 25, 2010 Site News — Kyle

There’s a big task ahead of us: writing a repair manual for every device in the world. We’ve divided the task into lots of smaller parts to simplify contributing to the site, even if you have only a couple of minutes to spare. Here is some helpful information to get you started!

The easiest thing you can do is start adding device photos to new repair manuals. It only takes a few minutes, and encourages other people to add more content.

Getting Started

Photography

Writing

Examples

I learn best by watching other people do great work, and then immediately jumping in feet-first and trying it out myself. The community has posted some great repair guides in the last few days that are worth learning from. The photos on this LG VX9200 LCD repair guide could use some improvement, but the writing is superb. Some of our simpler repair guides are also worth learning from.

If you’re working on instructions for a device that already has some step-by-step guides, it’s important not to duplicate content. We allow you to build on top of existing instructions by using prerequisites. I’ll talk more about how prerequisites work in another post, but there is a brief description here and you can see examples in our repair manuals.

Welcome to Repair 2.0

April 22, 2010 Events, Site News — luke

Today iFixit is changing repair forever. Today — Earth Day, 2010 — we are launching a global repair community. Our goal? To teach every person on Earth how to fix every thing they own.

You know us as the folks who take apart new hardware and show people how to fix Apple products. We’re not going to stop doing any of that, but starting today we are going to massively expand our scope: We are relaunching iFixit as the free repair manual that anyone can edit.

Repair is stuck in the 20th century. Service manuals are almost never available online, and the few troubleshooting forums that exist are rife with spam and ad-baiting. Reliable parts suppliers that understand e-commerce are few and far between.

Making repair accessible to everyone is the best shot we’ve got at reducing e-waste and starting to make our high-tech lives sustainable. We can’t keep throwing away cell phones every 18 months! We need to get every last bit of functionality from the things we own before we toss them aside.

What if everyone had free access to a repair manual for everything they owned? How much longer would our things last? Our mission is to give people the information, parts, and tools they need to make their things work as long as possible.

We showed our vision to officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, and they were ecstatic. Andrew Fanara, Product Development Team Leader for the ENERGY STAR Program, commented that “the EPA would like to see more done about the growing e-waste problem, and iFixit has a novel, community-driven approach to make electronics work longer. We are encouraged by their solution, and are looking forward to observing the environmental impact of iFixit’s platform.”

Join us, and together we’ll fix the world!

MacBook Pro 15″ Core i5 Teardown

April 15, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The new MacBook Pro doesn’t look any different than its predecessor, but Apple has made quite a few subtle tweaks within their latest professional laptop.

We dove inside to find out exactly what a year’s worth of tweaks and improvements looks like.

Highlights:

  • As usual, there’s a sticker warning against removing the battery. Por qué, Apple? The battery is just three screws and a connector away from being able to be replaced.
  • For some odd reason, Apple has stopped using five-point Torx screws found on other MBP 15″ Unibodies in favor of Tri-Wing screws. Perhaps the sound of a thousand technicians crying out in unison made them change their mind?
  • The battery is now rated at 77.5 Wh. That’s just a tad bit bigger (6%) than the 73 Wh battery we found in last year’s 15″ model, but not enough to explain the 2 hour battery life (22%) improvement Apple is claiming for this machine. Apple has dramatically reduced this machine’s power consumption, and we expect it to run quite a bit cooler than the previous model.
  • Apple moved the WiFi/Bluetooth board. This redesign no longer requires that the wireless connections be integrated into the camera cable, greatly decreasing the size of the connector.
  • Since the WiFi/Bluetooth board is now mounted inside the all-metal case, Apple added an antenna that is mounted on the frame for the optical drive opening. Pretty clever! Time will tell what impact this move has on wireless performance.
  • Apple changed the design of this speaker assembly slightly, moving from a single plastic enclosure to separate plastic enclosures for the speaker & subwoofer that are connected by the speaker leads.
  • Apple announced that they are not using NVidia’s Optimus technology as had been widely rumored. Instead, the OS switches to the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics as needed for higher demand applications like Chess, and uses the integrated Intel Core i5 graphics for Solitaire.
  • Apple is using Intel’s HM55 Express Chipset. Apple has clearly tweaked Intel’s chipset to enable the seamless switching between the Intel and NVIDIA graphics. Interestingly enough, the chipset hub (BD82HM55) is not connected to the heat sink.

Taking out the battery

Removing the fan

Final layout

A Peek Inside Apple’s A4 Processor

April 5, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Deconstructing processors like the A4 usually happens behind the closed doors of only a handful of companies. These global reverse engineering firms are the investigative arm of the electronics marketplace, gumshoes who do research for the people who need to find out who is making what circuitry, as well as what manufacturing process they’re using to do it.

They’re the ones who delve deep into processors, audio controllers, and every other part you’d find inside a cell phone or iPad, figuring out layer by layer the exact composition of each package.

We partnered with the best company in the semiconductor reverse engineering trade, Chipworks, to bring you a closer look at how semiconductor teardowns are conducted, as well as a peek inside the iPad’s chips.

Chipworks has X-rayed, cross-sectioned, and ground through the A4 processor. In addition to showing you what’s inside, we’re also going to show you how they did it.

Apple A4 Teardown

What did we find?

  • The A4 package has three layers: two layers of RAM (Samsung K4X1G323PE), and one layer containing the actual microprocessor.
  • This Package-on-Package construction gives Apple the flexibility to source the RAM from any manufacturer they want—they’re not locked into Samsung.
  • It’s clear from both hardware and software that this is a single core processor, so it must be the ARM Cortex A8, and NOT the rumored multicore A9.
  • We don’t expect to find any markings from PA Semi, Apple’s recent acquisition, but it’s safe to assume they played a major role in designing this package.
  • Every iPhone processor that we have dissected has had a Samsung part number on the processor die. We have not found any such Samsung markings on the A4 (outside of the DRAM), perhaps the clearest sign to date that Apple is now in firm control of their semiconductor design.
  • There’s nothing revolutionary here. In fact, the A4 is quite similar to the Samsung processor Apple uses in the iPhone. The primary focus of this design was minimizing power consumption and cost.
  • Software benchmarks indicate that the A4 has the same PowerVR SGX 535 GPU as the iPhone 3GS, but verifying this via hardware is quite difficult. If this is true, and it likely is, graphic performance on the iPad is fairly poor relative to the screen size.

The A4's internals

Grinding down a package

Utilizing an SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) to scan a package

iPad FCC Teardown

April 2, 2010 Site News, Teardowns — Kyle

The FCC was kind enough to show the internals of the WiFi iPad before it was released! The photos that they put up had the interesting bits hidden behind grey squares, but we were able to extract the raw files! We have analyzed the images in detail and posted a pre-teardown teardown.

One word of caution: This is likely a preproduction board, and Apple very well may have changed some suppliers since they gave the FCC a sample unit. Take this data with a grain of salt until we are able to analyze a production model tomorrow.

We’re very happy to report that Apple didn’t solder the battery! The iPad uses the same battery attachment system as the iPhone 3G and 3GS.

Low resolution internal iPad photos

April 2, 2010 Hardware — Kyle

The FCC has put out a bunch of iPad photos today, including these picked up by the plucky investigative journalists over at Engadget.

iPad battery and antenna layout

Bottom of iPad main board (with interesting bits blacked out)

Our engineers are going over the photos to see if there’s anything interesting that the FCC failed to obfuscate.

Update

So what can we learn from these photos? The first thing to know is that this isn’t the entire device. We don’t see anything on the touchscreen display in these photos.

Second: the large chip in the top right is the A4 processor. You can tell because the connector to the top left of the processor is the same connector visible in this photo from Apple’s video. The smaller part just right of the processor with the dot in the right corner is a likely a power component. The large part behind the processor with the dot in the top right corner may be flash memory, but it’s impossible to tell right now.

The board is quite small— less than 1/4 the size of the full iPad. There appear to be two distinct battery packs, with room between them for the 30-pin WiFi / Bluetooth cable to run almost the full length of the tablet.

The contours on the rear panel make it clear that the iPad’s rear panel is machined out of a solid block of aluminum. It looks like Apple left in quite a bit of material to increase torsional rigidity and make the unit durable.

We can’t nail down the precise antenna location yet, but it looks like they are behind the Apple and on the bottom of the case to the left of the dock connector.