Samsung Galaxy Nexus Teardown

November 29, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Thanks to some wonderful folks in the UK, we got our hands on the elusive Samsung Galaxy Nexus even before its release date has been announced on our side of the pond.

And we’re glad that it’s here, as it contains some features we’ve never before seen in a smartphone.

Sadly, it’s not all fun and games. The phone is a bit difficult to get into, and glass replacement is costly due to the glass being fused to both AMOLED display as well as a display frame. So, either get good with a heat gun or just don’t drop the phone. Consequently, the Galaxy Nexus received a mid-pack 6 out of 10 repairability score.

Teardown highlights:

  • Not only does the 3.7 V, 1750 mAh battery power the phone, but the user manual states that it also doubles as the NFC antenna. Of course, we had to see this one for ourselves, so we peeled apart the battery. Lo and behold, there’s a sweet antenna hiding underneath the battery’s shiny wrapper.
  • If you ever want to buy a replacement battery (and keep NFC functional), ensure that the battery has the antenna. Our battery says “Near Field Communication” on it, so that might be a good indicator if it will function as an NFC antenna.
  • The 5 megapixel rear-facing camera is optimized for low light conditions and has a handy continuous auto-focus feature that’ll surely help keep those quick moments clear. If you prefer moving pictures, this camera can capture full HD 1080p “talkies.” We weren’t that impressed with the camera during our five-minute pre-teardown test, but that’s just our impression.
  • The front-facing camera allows for video chat and will take pictures at 1.3 MP or videos at 720p. Pretty standard stuff nowadays. But, the cool part is that is also has a Winbond 8 Mb Serial Flash Memory unit in line to help it buffer all the data it collects.
  • The rear speaker pops off the motherboard without much effort. The ability to replace individual components inside the Galaxy Nexus is always great, since this will make some repairs less costly.
  • The primary internals of the Galaxy Nexus are contained on two L-shaped boards that are held together by soldered wires from the vibrator motor. We found the following chips:
  • Texas Instruments TWL6040 8-Channel High Quality Low-Power Audio Codec
  • Texas Instruments TWL6030 Fully Integrated Power Management with Switch Mode Charger
  • Invensense MPU-3050 Motion Processing Unit
  • Intel XG626 Baseband Modem
  • RFMD RF6260 Quad-band Multimode Power Amplifier Module
  • Samsung K3PE7E700M 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM
  • Samsung KMVYL000LM Multichip Memory Package, which we believe to house an additional 512 MB of RAM in addition to the main processor.
  • Samsung SWB-B42 BT 4.0 Dual Band Wlan FM Tx/Rx. Chipworks says the module is actually manufactured by Murata, and houses a Broadcom BCM4330 die inside.
  • NXP 65N00 Smart Card IC. According to Chipworks, this two-die package houses an MCU and a PN544 NFC controller.
  • The chip labeled as 274 U141 031 hides the Bosch BMP180 MEMS Pressure Sensor, which should be responsible for the “barometer” feature inside the Nexus. The Bosch BMP180 is identified by its markings CMD 173 as noted by our friends at Chipworks.
Checking out the wire bonds in the Bosch BMP180 MEMS Pressure Sensor

Checking out the wire bonds in the Bosch BMP180 MEMS Pressure Sensor

Final layout

Final layout

iPhone 4S Transparent Rear Panels

November 28, 2011 Site News — luke

iPhone 4S Transparent Rear Panel

Update (12/6): We’re now selling the 4S and 4 GSM transparent panels individually. We’re putting more in stock as fast as we can. If we’re sold out, click “Notify me” on the product page and we’ll email you as soon as they’re back in stock.

Apple designs amazing products—inside and out. The internals of the iPhone are absolutely gorgeous, but Apple keeps them covered up! We’re proud to announce our iPhone 4S transparent back panel. Now you can have the coolest iPhone on the block!

The glass panel looks absolutely gorgeous, and we can’t wait to see them on iPhones everywhere. To kick the new product off in style, we’ve put together a special introductory package:

These items normally sell for over $50, but today (11/28) we’re offering the entire package for only $29.95. Supplies are limited. Once we run out of packages, we’ll continue selling the back panel for $29.95.

If you haven’t upgraded to a 4S yet, we’ve also got a package with iPhone 4 GSM panels.

Installing the panel takes seconds—just remove two screws with the included screwdriver, slide the back panel off, and slide the new one on. We’ve even made step-by-step instructions to show you the way.

This is an incredible Christmas gift for your geeky friends.

Thirsty Bags

November 23, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Tools — Miro

If you have ever dropped a phone in a pool or spilled water on your Game Boy, then you know the helplessness of water damaged electronics.

When water comes into contact with an electronic device, it tries to seep into any nook and cranny it can possibly get into. If one of those crannies happens to be near the motherboard, the water may cause a short, rendering parts of the device, or the entire device, useless.

The first step for fixing a wet device is always to immediately turn it off and remove the battery, if possible. As long as no power is flowing through the motherboard, there is no way that the water can cause a short. But how do you get all the water out? That’s where this bag of thirst comes in.

Introducing the Thirsty Bag – the bag that is guaranteed to absorb 100% of the water out of your device and help get it running again. Using the Thirsty Bag directly after an accident can dramatically reduce the chances of a short.

Broken iPhone not included. That's for you to provide.

Broken iPhone not included. That's for you to provide.

We use molecular sieves, the best in desiccant technology, inside the bags to absorb the maximum amount of water from the environment. Molecular sieves work by allowing small molecules (such as water) through their pores while concurrently blocking out larger molecules (the rest of your device). What does that mean for you? Ridding yourself of every drop of liquid in your device.

The Thirsty Bag is big enough to work for PSPs, watches, cameras, calculators, PDAs, and more. It can even dry your larger electronics, like iPads and DSLR cameras, if you use a larger sealable bag. And unlike other home remedies — such as uncooked rice or direct sunlight — these pouches are guaranteed to absorb all of the water out of the device without any risk of damage.

Fair warning: using the Thirsty Bag will ensure that there will be no liquid left inside to cause a short, but it will not guarantee that your device will work afterwards. Think of it as an electronic bandage. You’ll use a bandage if you get shot (and it’ll even extract the bullet for you in this example), but it won’t guarantee that you’ll live. So just as it’s handy to have some bandages around in case you get into a gunfight, it’s handy to have the Thirsty Bag around just in case you drop your iPhone into the toilet while reading this blog post.

Nook Tablet Teardown

November 21, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Today, the Nook Tablet met the Kindle Fire in our operating room. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

But instead of cutting into tension — which we’re pretty sure wasn’t physically possible — we focused on carving into every cranny of the new Nook, which we’ve found to share a lot in common with its fiery foe.

Not going to lie: the Nook Tablet was a tad tricky to get into. Anyone wanting to embark on this adventure will need to gear up with both metal and plastic spudgers, plastic opening tools, a Torx T5 screwdriver, and an extra ounce of patience.

Loads of adhesive, a fair number of screws, and a perplexing internal design guarantees some frustrating situations. Even though the Nook Tablet is almost as simple feature-wise as the Fire, it turned out to be much more difficult to get into; so a middle-of-the-road 6 out of 10 repairability score was definitely appropriate.

Teardown highlights:

  • The Nook has its microSD slot stashed away under a magnetic cover next to the carabiner clip. This could make changing your SD card while rock climbing a bit difficult if you’re using the Nook as a tie point.
  • The two small circles flanking the microSD slot may look like harmless aesthetic pieces, or even buttons, but they actually house insidious screws that will hamper your disassembly efforts.
  • Just as we thought, the rounded sides of the Nook are deceptive. Even though it looks skinnier than the Fire, it’s actually a hair pudgier. The Fire measures in at .45″, but the Nook is .03 inches thicker, at a mind-blowing .48″! Holy smokes!
  • The Nook’s 1 GB of RAM easily conquers its rivals’ (Fire and iPad 2) 512 MB offerings, but we feel that’s a pretty small victory — more RAM does not necessarily translate to more performance.
  • The 3.7 V, 4000 mAh battery provides an advertised 11.5 hours of use time, which easily beats the Kindle Fire’s 8 hours.
  • A little wiggling and out comes the motherboard. Let’s see who we’re dealing with:
  • SanDisk SDIN5C1-16G 16 GB Flash Memory
  • Texas Instruments 6030B107 Fully Integrated Power Management IC
  • Texas Instruments AIC3100 Low-Power Audio Codec With 1.3 W Stereo Class-D Speaker Amplifier
  • Texas Instruments LVDS83B FlatLink 10-135 MHz Transmitter
  • Hynix H9TKNNN8P 1 GB DDR2 RAM
  • The Hynix chip likely covers the Texas Instruments OMAP4 1 GHz dual-core processor, just like in the Kindle Fire.
  • A closer look at one of the ribbon cables reveals a FocalTech FT5406EE8 Capacitive Touch Panel Controller.
  • Ready for more shocking similarities to the Kindle Fire? The Nook Tablet’s 7″ IPS display also runs at a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels and produces the same 16 million colors. Unreal!
Final layout

Final layout

Droid RAZR Camera Made by Omnivision

November 18, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Oh hey, Droid RAZR has an 8MP camera. And it’s made by Omnivision. The wascally wabbits at Chipworks just sliced apart their unit, did some serious digging, and uncovered the goods — just like with the iPhone 4S. Here’s some visual proof:

 

X-ray of the RAZR camera from a side view

X-ray of the RAZR camera from a side view

 

Die mark clearly identifying Omnivision as its creator

Die mark clearly identifying Omnivision as its creator

 

Image of the sensor, showing its pixel density

Image of the sensor, showing its pixel density

Kindle Fire Teardown

November 15, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The Kindle Fire teardown marks an important precedent for us at iFixit: our first in-house chip unmasking. Today, with the guidance from our pals at Chipworks, we fought Fire with heat-gun fire and desoldered the Hynix SoC package to discover that Amazon is making use of Texas Instruments’ OMAP 4430 processor. We were equally delighted with the goodies inside the Fire, as we were with our newly acquired skill.

Blazing your own trail into the Fire doesn’t require much. A Phillips #0 screwdriver, some plastic opening tools, a spudger, and a couple guitar picks will do the trick. By and large, we were blown away with how easy it was to disassemble the Fire. Minimal adhesive, standard screws, and the non-fused display filled us with glee. Although its plain design (no volume buttons, cameras, etc.) meant fewer components, we had no hesitation in rewarding the Fire with a sterling 8 out of 10 for repairability.

Teardown highlights:

  • According to the power specifications listed on the back side of the Kindle Fire, an input power of 5 V DC at 1.8 Amps is suggested. Why is this important? A computer USB port typically puts out no more than .9 Amps (USB 3.0), which means it’ll take a looong time to fully charge the tablet through USB.
  • Very little prying and plucking is required to open the Kindle Fire. It’s a very nice departure from the iPad 2, which is almost impossible to put back together once taken apart. And all you need are some plastic opening tools and guitar picks to help you along the way.
  • Removing the back case reveals the motherboard and a sizable battery. There are shiny metal plates on the back case that help provide protection for the internal components, as well as heat sinking and EMI shielding. Unfortunately, this mirror-like shielding inevitably results in a narcissistic battery.
  • This battery sure puts out… 16.28 watt-hours, to be exact. However, due to the size of the Fire, its battery’s 3.7 V potential and 4400 mAh capacity don’t quite stack up to the specs of the larger iPad 2′s battery.
  • The good news: two years down the line — when the battery decides to go kaput — it will be significantly easier to replace the battery in the Kindle Fire than its Apple competitor.
  • The chips on board:
  • Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 Processor
  • Samsung KLM8G2FEJA 8 GB Flash Memory
  • Hynix H9TKNNN4K 512 MB of Mobile DDR2 RAM
  • Texas Instruments 603B107 Fully Integrated Power Management IC with Switch Mode Charger
  • Texas Instruments LCDS83B FlatLink 10-135 MHz Transmitter
  • Jorjin WG7310 WLAN/BT/FM Combo Module
  • Texas Instruments AIC3110 Low-Power Audio Codec With 1.3W Stereo Class-D Speaker Amplifier
  • Texas Instruments WS245 4-Bit Dual-Supply Bus Transceiver
  • Continuing our IC exploration, we decided to sneak a peak under the Jorjin package’s cover. We uncovered a Texas Instruments WL1270B 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi solution. According to Chipworks, the WL1270 is an older chip that was designed to work with the TI OMAP 3530. It’s interesting that the Fire has it, given that it’s coupled with the newer OMAP 4430.
  • Separating the display from the glass was a breeze, which was a nice departure from the usual fused glass ordeals. Thanks, Amazon!
  • We may be comparing apples and oranges here, but the original Kindle contained roughly 15,999,996 fewer colors. They were as follows: gray-ish, gray, grayer, and grayest.

 

TI OMAP 4430 revealed
TI OMAP 4430 revealed
Final layout

Final layout

Motorola Droid RAZR Teardown

November 11, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

A recent Verizon commercial depicted the Droid RAZR as being able to cut through lamp posts with ease. We figured it would be an excellent replacement for our katanas, which we used specifically for lamp-cutting in the past. Sadly, the phone didn’t function as promised — so instead we investigated how Motorola managed to package all of the RAZR’s technology into such a thin frame.

We found the RAZR’s slim figure was also its downfall. Motorola had to sacrifice repairability in order to attain that slim profile, and consequently the RAZR received a meager 4 out of 10 repairability score. Attribute that to lots of adhesive used throughout the interior, a fused LCD to the front glass, and a tedious (and at times heart-fluttering, should you hear the plastic creaking) disassembly process.

Teardown highlights:

  • The RAZR measures in at a mere 0.28 inches thick, but increases to 0.42 inches at the prevalent camera bulge. For comparison, Verizon bragged back in September that the Droid Bionic was the slimmest 4G LTE phone at 0.43 inches thick.
  • How can something that provides so much rigidity bend so much? The thin plastic back cover, mated with the woven Kevlar, provides tough (yet flexible) protection for the internals. With the tensile yield strength of Kevlar being on par with some steels, the back case is the least of our worries as far as critical future repairs go.
  • Just because the cover is made from Kevlar doesn’t mean it’s bulletproof. Ballistic vests feature layers upon layers of tightly woven Kevlar, as well as a large ceramic plate. Long story short, don’t shoot your Droid RAZR and expect it to survive.
  • The Droid RAZR is equipped with two liquid damage indicators: one on the bottom and one on the right side of the phone. Motorola / Verizon will definitely know if you tried to test the water-proofiness of the phone.
  • It’s quite the ordeal for removing the battery, but at least you don’t have to rip apart the entire device. Instead of the traditional battery connector socket or soldered wires found in other phones, the Droid RAZR utilizes contact points for its battery connector.
  • The battery comes with a handy “remove battery” tab should you ever want to replace it. At least that part of the procedure is easy.
  • Measuring in at 3.79″ long, 2.25″ wide, and .110″ thick with a capacity of 1750 mAh, the battery provides over 300 mAh more capacity than that of the iPhone 4S.
  • We peeled off the plastic cover from the perimeter of the rear-facing camera to reveal a hidden screw near the flash LED. Sneaky, sneaky Motorola.
  • How extreme are the space constraints inside a device this thin? (http://bit.ly/razr_qrtr) From bottom to top, you can see the glass, display, motherboard, motherboard chips, and then a U.S. quarter stacked on top. The quarter was not found inside the RAZR, but is merely shown for thickness purposes — so don’t open your phone with the intent of finding some dough.
  • The majority of the hump on the top of the phone is attributable to the boxy 8 MP camera. It’s a size constraint that many “thin is in” phone manufacturers are struggling to work around.
  • There are a ton of chips on the front side of the motherboard. To keep the design svelte, Motorola packed pretty much everything on one side of the board. Key players include:
  • Toshiba THGBM4G7D2GBAIE 16GB EMMC Flash Memory
  • Samsung K3PE7E700M-XGC1 4Gb LPDDR2 RAM
  • Qualcomm MDM6600 Dual-Mode Baseband/RF Transciever
  • Qualcomm PM8028 Power Management IC
  • Avago ACPM-7868 Quad-Band Power Amplifier
  • Motorola T6VP0XBG-0001 (believed to be the LCM 2.0 LTE baseband processor)
  • Texas Instruments WL1285C Wilink 7 Bluetooth/Wi-Fi/GPS
  • Skyworks 77449 Power Amplifier Module for LTE/EUTRAN Bands XIII/XIV
  • Toshiba Y9A0A111308LA Memory Stack
  • ST Ericsson CPCAP 6556002
  • Hynix H90H1GH51JMP
  • Infineon 5726 SLU A1 H1118 3A126586
  • Bosch 2133 C3H L1ABG accelerometer
  • And the back of the board? Nothing of interest, which makes sense given how tightly packed the motherboard is to the display.
  • The LCD is permanently mated to the glass, meaning you’ll have to shell out money for both even if you shatter just the glass.
Very bendable back cover
Very bendable back cover
Final layout

Final layout

Little Sister Siri

November 9, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Matt

Every smartphone has its share of sensors — little doodads that know when you’re “steering” that awesome car in that awesome game, or making sure you come back home safe by knowing which way is North — and the iPhone 4S is no different in this regard.

During our iPhone 4S teardown, iFixit buddy Markus noted that the new iPhone had a rather unusual-looking black component next to the ambient light sensor. We didn’t make much of a fuss about it since we were knee-deep in disassembly pictures, but the little black box certainly piqued our curiosity.

Now that the teardown is wrapped up, we’ve re-opened the mystery and made a neat discovery about the 4S: that black component is an infrared LED, and the little bugger almost always wants to know if you’re nearby.

It’s no innovation for the iPhone to integrate an infrared proximity sensor. In iPhones past, the IR proximity sensors would only switch on when a phone or Skype call was initiated. The sensor could detect that a face was near and then smartly dim the display / kill the keyboard, and then resume normal activity once it detected the face was not in close proximity anymore.

The 4S, however, has a neurotic tendency of always wondering how close your face is. As long as the screen is activated, that IR sensor will be shining brightly (though you wouldn’t know it, unless you’re a snake, fish, mosquito, or cheap digital camera).

Don’t believe us? Check out MJ’s demonstration:

So we began to ponder: why is the 4S so interested in our faces’ whereabouts? Well, we believe the answer lies with our new search-servant Siri.

Siri is ready and waiting to answer her master’s beck and call at any time. And in order to be as attentive as a personal assistant ought to be, Apple had to design the proximity sensor to be as vigilant as Big Brother, but as cute as Little Sister. So whenever the screen is active, the proximity sensor is active too. Thus, whenever you raise the iPhone 4S to your face, Siri is ready to take orders.

Of course, everyone’s going gaga for Siri’s accommodating attitude, but in light of this new discovery, we’re curious if we should start wearing tin foil hats. Many think that a constant infrared radiation beam is no big deal, but there are some of us at iFixit who aren’t above being extra-cautious.

All kidding aside, the fact that the infrared light is abnormally active isn’t a cause for panic. We come into contact with infrared radiation all the time (every time we venture forth from our caves and step out into the sunlight), and just because the iPhone 4S’s proximity sensor is emitting infrared radiation whenever your screen is active isn’t a big deal. Infrared light is non-ionizing, meaning it is a low-frequency radiation, lacking the energy to influence changes in DNA.

But we recommend keeping your iPhone 4S face-down in a drawer while you sleep. Just in case.

The “New” MacBook Pro

November 8, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Phillip

With the recent wave of mildly-updated “new” products from Apple, we were skeptical that the “new” MacBook Pro would be significantly different from the one it replaced. But, being the inquisitive folk we are at iFixit — and feeling it was our civic duty to investigate the matter, come hell or high water — we pulled out the checkbook and bought one, just to be sure.

Our initial skepticism was validated after pulling off the lower case with our trusty Phillips #00 screwdriver: nothing appeared to have changed. But a closer look within revealed that Apple did make some teeny-tiny modifications to its “new” laptop. Sadly, those changes did not involve any magic unicorns.

Everything seems to be identical to the previous generation at first glance.

The number of graphics memory chips has grown, resulting in double the graphics memory (how about that!) from last year’s model. Looking back at the last MacBook Pro teardown, we find Apple left room for an extra 2 Gb of graphics memory, which they apparently took advantage of this time. The only other big changes worth mentioning are the updated Radeon graphics processor and slightly faster i5 and i7 processors. If you’re keen on details, click on the logic board images below for a full-resolution peek. Fair warning for 56K users: the images may take a while to load, as they’re ginormous.

The growing population of graphics memory can be seen at the bottom center of the logic board.

Shiny new processors!

All in all, any changes to the new Pro are only hardware updates, leaving the internal and external design untouched. We get our hopes up every time Apple says they’ve got something new for us, but recently have become a bit disappointed with their definition of “new.” Undoubtably, the updated MacBook Pro is a little faster and yes, it’s a great computer, but if they’re not going to make significant changes to their machines, can they stop piquing our interest with the n-word? These things don’t run cheap!

Dozuki Open Beta: Let’s start a documentation revolution

November 1, 2011 Site News — eric

In the process of building iFixit, we spent years thinking about the best way to collaborate to write and publish online manuals. As you can tell from the way things work around here, we did a halfway decent job. And we’ve been pestered with requests to run online documentation sites like iFixit for other companies. We’re always looking for interesting ways to fund our mission of teaching everyone to fix everything, so we decided to make that possible.

Dozuki is reimagining how businesses publish instruction manuals, and today we’re excited to announce the launch of our public Beta. Now, anyone can leverage the platform that powers sites like iFixit.com and MakeProjects.com.

Dozuki is the best way to write manuals. Teach people how to do anything– from maintaining a motorcycle to crafting a wooden table or creating a toy robot. We make it easy for you to teach people how to do amazing things.

Start your Dozuki site today!

It’s time for a documentation revolution.

Look at the example manuals above. Do they seem familiar? Well, unless you were around for the First World War they shouldn’t. Since these manuals were originally written, the world has seen a dramatic acceleration in the manufacturing revolution and the dawn of a digital age.

Even more recently, we’ve undergone a communications transformation: all of those previously printed documents are now distributed online via PDFs downloadable from the manufacturer’s website. Even the production process has changed dramatically. Manuals like these are now authored digitally, often utilizing specialized documentation software.

But very little has really changed since the early 1900s. Companies still churn out static manuals that expire quickly: the documentation is written once and then left to age poorly, unrevised until drastically different product revisions force an update.

The world needs living manuals that improve over time, use rich multimedia to convey technical instruction, and are just as mobile as people are. The world needs Dozuki.

Documentation: Content marketing at its finest.

With Dozuki, technical writers and super users alike will have cause for celebrating. Step-by-step guides really accomplish two important goals: they give users valuable resources for solving problems quickly, and they provide a venue for showcasing products. Dozuki-powered manuals allow organizations to effectively evaluate the financial impact of the individual efforts made by members of their documentation teams and user communities.

For example, take iFixit’s “Installing iPhone 4 Display Assembly” guide. This guide alone has over 1 million views; it’s the first search result in Google for its title; and it’s brought in $39,895.34 of referred sales for iFixit’s iPhone 4 Display Assembly.

Effective documentation drives profits. Engaging passionate customers helps documentation stay relevant and generates additional sales as those users are empowered to create and update the support content.

Manuals have remained unchanged for too long. Dozuki is the next evolution in technical documentation. Learn more about the Dozuki platform or get instant access to the Beta at Dozuki.com.

One more thing…

In honor of our Dozuki Open Beta launch, we’re now selling Dozukis on iFixit!

A dozuki is a saw used to make fine cuts into softer woods. Originating in Japan, it allows the user to create a narrow, precise cut due to its thin blade construction.

It is also unique in its design as it only cuts on the pull stroke, as opposed to the European standard (where the saw cuts on the push stroke). Accordingly, the woodworker can use gravity to their advantage when cutting with the saw, but they cannot put their weight into the cut like one could with the European saws.