Motorola Xoom Teardown

February 25, 2011 Site News, Teardowns — Kyle

It’s no secret that Motorola/Verizon set up a convoluted procedure to get your Xoom upgraded to full “4G”* speed: spend X hours backing up your data, optionally encrypt and reset your Xoom, ship it to Motorola, and then wait up to 6 business days to get it back. While this procedure still beats a day at the gulag, we’re quite curious why it has to be so convoluted — especially after we snuck a peek inside our unit.

It looks like the Xoom was specifically designed with this upgrade in mind. We had to fully delve into the device to find all the clues, but we believe this is the procedure Motorola will perform on your behalf:

  1. Use a T5 Torx screwdriver to unscrew two screws on the bottom, and then slide the back panel to expose a mysterious circuit board that immediately becomes accessible. In fact, there are retaining clips on the back of the rear panel that prevent it from sliding any further (which of course we immediately circumvented).
  2. Disconnect two antenna connectors, unscrew the two Torx screws holding the board in place, and swap it out with a 4G LTE board.
  3. And… That’s it. Here is a picture of the dummy board we found in our Xoom, which we believe currently acts as a routing path for the antennas.

A seasoned technician can perform this swap in less than 10 minutes. Heck, a donkey could probably pull it off in less than two hours. We have no idea why a customer couldn’t just go to a Verizon store and have on-site representatives enable 4G on the spot, just like they’re able to transfer mobile contacts and perform other activation procedures.

Aside from the upgrade goofiness, the Xoom is a fine tablet in terms of assembly. Its repairability score was 8 out of 10, with slightly unfavorable marks given for a total of FIFTY-SEVEN screws by our count. That’s a lot for a full-fledged laptop, let alone a 10″ tablet. Yet, those screws (of the T5 and T7 Torx variety) allow just about anyone to take apart the device, but they may have Popeye forearms by the time they’re done. As added bonuses, most components attach via individual cables, and the LCD easily separates from the glass — meaning that part replacement cost shouldn’t be outrageous.

Xoom highlights:

  • A dummy SIM card is included in the Xoom, with the inscription “Replace with SIM only after 4G upgrade.” Verizon’s 4G LTE network requires a SIM card, so not every Verizon device will have 4G. Right now the list of compatible devices is very short: the Motorola Xoom and the still-unreleased HTC Thunderbolt.
  • According to Motorola, the Xoom weighs 730 grams, exactly the same as the iPad 3G — although the Xoom is noticeably thicker.
  • The Xoom features a 5 MP rear camera and a 2 MP front camera. At least for now, Motorola’s got Apple covered in the tablet camera arena. And unlike Motorola’s other recent device, the Atrix, both cameras are connected to the motherboard by separate cables. You won’t have to replace a ton of other stuff if just your camera fails.
  • The 3250 mAh, 24.1 watt-hour lithium ion polymer battery boasts a healthy 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing and video playback, and a massive 3.3 days of MP3 playback. It’s also just as beastly as an iPad’s battery, taking up a very good chunk of internal real estate.
  • Major players on the motherboard include:
    • Nvidia Tegra T2 dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU and ultra-low power GeForce GPU.
    • Toshiba THGBM2G8D8FBA1B NAND Flash
    • Samsung K4P4G154EC DRAM
    • Qualcomm MDM6600 supporting HSPA+ speeds of up to 14.4 Mbps
    • Broadcom BCM4329 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, and FM Tuner
    • Hynix H8BCSOQG0MMR 2-chip memory MCP
    • AKM 8975 Electronic Compass
    • Texas Instruments 54331 Step Down SWIFT DC/DC Converter with Eco-Mode

MacBook Pro 15″ Teardown

February 25, 2011 Site News, Teardowns — Kyle

The Thunderbolt port — or the “Thunderport,” as we started calling it around iFixit — is the latest evolutionary change from the folks at 1 Infinite Loop. We were super-excited to try out the port itself, but had to first peek at it from the inside.

The Thunderbolt port (we keep wanting to type “Thunderport” — it just feels so natural) has its own controller IC. The IC is quite prominent on the logic board, being the fourth-largest chip after the CPU, GPU, and logic board controller. We’ll have to wait until a company like Chipworks places an SEM on the puppy to see what’s *really* inside, but we believe the chip’s footprint is a testament to the potential of this port.

The MacBook Pro earned a very respectable 7 out of 10 repairability score. This revision allows you to disconnect the battery without removing it from the laptop. It’s a nice design choice since you *should* remove all power before performing any repairs. The unibody design also allows for easy access to most of the other components, so it won’t be terribly hard to replace things on the machine. The only tricky repair is LCD replacement, which could easily result in shattering the front glass panel.

Thundering highlights:

  • You can chain up to six Thunderbolt devices. That’s not a problem today as we’re not even aware of six products that support Thunderbolt yet. But if the connection becomes widespread, the six device limit might be a problem for some people. In comparison, FireWire supports 63 devices and USB supports up to 127 devices.
  • The lower case is secured by Phillips #00 screws, while the battery is secured by Tri-Wing screws — just like the predecessor. Thankfully there were no pesky Pentalobe screws inside or outside. Apple still considers the battery to be not user-replaceable, and we still disagree.
  • This machine boasts the same 77.5 watt-hour battery as the earlier model, but Apple has decreased their run-time estimate from 8-9 hours to 7 hours. Either Apple’s being more realistic with their battery testing, or the new quad-core i7 is more power-hungry than its predecessor.
  • We’re a tad concerned about Apple’s quality control. We found a stripped screw holding the subwoofer enclosure in place, and an unlocked ZIF socket connecting the IR sensor. They’re not huge issues, but they’re not fitting for an $1800 machine.
  • RAM has been upgraded to PC3-10600. That’s the same RAM used in the 2010 revision of the 21.5″ and 27″ iMacs, but faster than earlier MacBook Pros.
  • The wireless card received a make-over and now includes four antennas instead of three. Wireless connectivity is provided by a Broadcom BCM4331 “wireless solution.”
  • The wireless card bracket is aluminum, rather than the plastic found in earlier MacBook Pro revisions. We believe this change was made for thermal reasons, as a pink thermal pad is visible and used to transfer heat from the Broadcom chip to the aluminum bracket.
  • The logic board features four primary chips:
    • Intel i7 Quad-Core Processor
    • AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU
    • Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub
    • Intel L051NB32 EFL (which seems to be the Thunderbolt port controller)
  • We uncovered gobs of thermal paste on the CPU and GPU when we removed the main heat sink. The excess paste may cause overheating issues down the road, but only time will tell.
  • This machine is still designated Model A1286. Apple’s been using that same model number since October 2008. That’s why we still need to come up with creative names — such as MacBook Pro 15″ Unibody Early 2011 — in order to differentiate between machines. Thanks Apple!

Samsung Galaxy S 4G Teardown

February 23, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The Samsung Galaxy S 4G — not to be confused with the Samsung Galaxy S, Galaxy S II, Galaxy Tab, or the Los Angeles Galaxy — is Samsung’s newest smartphone to date. We set out on an interstellar journey to find out just what makes this phone burn from within.

We heard that Samsung used magnesium to create some of the structural components of the Galaxy S 4G. So we lit a part of the phone on fire to verify. It turns out that Samsung tells no lie — their structural framework IS made of magnesium!

Otherwise, the phone is midpack in terms of features as well as repairability (it received a 6 out of 10 score). Contrary to yesterday’s super-repairable Motorola Atrix, the Galaxy S 4G’s LCD is fused to the front panel glass, essentially doubling the repair cost if you drop your phone. You also have to use a heat gun in order to get to the front panel, so it’s not super-easy to perform the repair.

Thankfully a few tidbits redeem the Galaxy S 4G from being utterly unrepairable: swapping out the battery is a cinch, there’s only trusty #00 Phillips screws to deal with, and the phone is generally assembled using connectors that you can carefully disconnect.

Teardown highlights:

  • We found a bummer from the get-go: a fairly noticeable gap between the glass front panel and the outer framework. It’d be less of a concern if a cell phone’s primary home is in the pocket of its user, but we like using our phones.
  • A cool sliding door keeps the micro-USB port lint-free and somewhat redeems the gap between front panel and framework. You can distract your friends with its cool sliding action.
  • Thankfully the rear panel is easily removed, revealing both SIM and microSD card slots, as well as a user-replaceable battery!
  • The 3.7V Li-Ion battery inside the Galaxy S 4G lists a capacity of 6.11 Watt-hours, or 1650 mAh. We’re definitely seeing a trend of increased battery life among the last couple of teardowns. The question is whether that increased capacity will net any increased use time, or if all the extra juice will be sucked up by the phones’ extra processing power.
  • The compact front and rear facing camera assembly has a NEC MC10170 Image Processor cleverly attached right to its ribbon cable.
  • The headphone jack, earpiece speaker, and proximity/ambient light sensors reside on one cable. Seems oddly familiar, given yesterday’s Atrix teardown.
  • Separating the front panel assembly from the rear panel assembly requires loosening the adhesive around the perimeter. That means it’s heat gun time!
  • On the back of the display assembly we found the Atmel mXT 224 touchscreen controller, which provides capacitive multi-touch capabilities. It’s the same controller found in yesterday’s Atrix.
White flash indicates the frame is made of magnesium. Success!

White flash indicates the frame is made of magnesium. Success!

Final layout

Final layout

Motorola Atrix Teardown

February 23, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The Motorola Atrix is currently the fastest Android phone on the market, packing an impressive assortment of specs: the Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU/GPU, 1GB of RAM, and all the trimmings that one would expect to find in a flagship phone.

But the story doesn’t end there. This is also the most-repairable smartphone we’ve ever taken apart! The Atrix was definitely designed for repairability on the inside, just waiting for our loving hands to disassemble it piece by piece.

After all was said and done, the Atrix received a 9 out of 10 repairability score: there were no proprietary screws, you could replace the battery just by popping off the back cover, and the LCD wasn’t even fused to the front panel glass! Our only gripe was that the two central ribbon cables were soldered to several components (like the cameras and proximity sensors), making the cables costly to replace.

Teardown highlights:

  • The LCD is not glued to the front panel glass — something we haven’t seen in quite a long time. So the ~85% of people who drop their Atrix and shatter just the glass won’t have to spend their money on also replacing a fully functional LCD!
  • The Atrix’ back cover comes off easily, providing access to the user-serviceable battery and the microSD slot. There’s also instructions on the inside of the back cover showing how to remove the battery and reconnect the cover. We applaud Motorola’s drive to help its users with this procedure.
  • We didn’t encounter any VOID stickers or things of that sort while taking apart the Atrix, making it even more repair-friendly.
  • A dual-LED flash flanks the 5 MP camera (which is capable of shooting 720p HD video). A software update to be released soon will reportedly allow for full 1080p video capture.
  • Big players on the front of the board include:
    • Elpida B8132B1PB. According to Chipworks, the Elpida contains 1 GB DDR2 RAM, but also covers the Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU/GPU residing underneath the package.
    • Qualcomm MDM6200 supporting HSPA+ up to 14.4 Mbps
    • Toshiba 16GB NAND Flash
    • Hynix H8BCSOQG0MMR 2-chip memory MCP
  • Two ribbon cables to rule them all: the first cable connects to the front camera, earpiece speaker, power button assembly, and top microphone; the second attaches the rear camera, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, pressure contacts for the headphone jack, and side volume buttons together. So you’ll have to replace ALL the components attached to that cable if just a single component fails.
  • What a decade can do for cables. We pulled a Parallel ATA cable from an old Dell PC and compared it to one of the Atrix ribbon cables. The PATA cable is 0.66 mm thick, while Atrix’ camera cable measures just 0.17 mm! And they’re routing several components through the same cable!
Final layout

Final layout

Verizon iPhone 4 Teardown

February 7, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We all knew that the external appearance of the Verizon iPhone 4 was changed slightly, but we had no idea how many differences were to be uncovered inside — until now.

The Verizon iPhone 4 earned a Repairability Score of 6 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair). You can remove the battery fairly easily once you circumvent Apple’s pesky Pentalobe screws — no soldering required. Other components are connected mostly with regular screws, with limited use of tabs and adhesives.

However, the LCD is still fused to the front glass, and we recommend you wear gloves while performing repairs, unless you want your finger oils to interfere with the phone’s RF grounding points (something we found through personal experience).

Teardown highlights:

  • The iPhone 4′s vibrator received a complete makeover. Rather than using a rotational electric motor with a counterweight, the Verizon iPhone appears to utilize a linear oscillating vibrator for call/message alerts.
  • The phone uses a Qualcomm MDM6600 chip — the same package that’s being used in the Droid Pro world phone. Of course, there’s no way the CDMA iPhone 4 could be a real “world phone” without a SIM card slot, regardless of whether it had GSM capability.
  • We believe the additional notch in the antenna enclosure on the right side of the phone is a result of the switch from GSM to CDMA. An antenna’s operating frequency is directly dependent on its size and geometry, so the change-up required an antenna overhaul. Only time will tell if this new antenna design helps combat the reception problems plaguing the GSM iPhone 4.
  • The display assembly appeared to be identical to that of the GSM iPhone 4 at first glance. Upon further investigation, the mounting tabs are in drastically different locations for the two display assemblies. Sadly, this means the two assemblies are definitely not interchangeable.
  • The battery is listed as the same 5.25 watt-hour capacity, but does have a new model number (616-0520). The new battery also weighs less; it shrunk from 26.9 grams to 25.6 grams.
  • Apple used custom molded rubber pads between the chips and the EMI shields presumably to conduct heat and quell any interference between analog and digital circuitry.
  • Like the Apple TV, there is an interesting set of unused solder pads near the edge of the logic board. These were likely used for testing during development.
  • Big players on the logic board include:
    • Apple A4 Processor
    • Qualcomm MDM6600 CDMA/GSM chip
    • Toshiba TH58NVG7D2FLA89 16 GB NAND Flash
    • Cirrus Logic CLI1495B0 Audio Codec (38S0589)
    • Texas Instruments Touchscreen controller (343S0499)
    • Skyworks power amplifier modules for CDMA/PCS (SKY77711-4 and SKY77710-4)
  • According to Apple, the SIM card and SIM tray were the only user-serviceable parts in the AT&T iPhone 4. Sadly, now the Verizon iPhone “does not contain any user-serviceable parts.” We’ll have parts and repair guides for this iPhone 4 flavor very soon.

Comparison of the internals

Comparison of the internals - the Verizon iPhone is on the left

Final layout

Final layout