Turn Your Broken Device Into a Repair Manual

February 29, 2012 Activism, Hardware, Site News — Miro

Our goal at iFixit is simple: to provide manuals for how to fix every device in the world. Why? We believe that if you can’t fix it, you don’t own it.

Yet, even if our in-house team of writers spent the next hundred years creating repair manuals for devices, we’d only hit the tip of the iceberg. There are so many electronics, vehicles, and appliances out there that it’s not conceivable for the iFixit team to write repair manuals for everything. That’s why we’ve enlisted some help from technical writing students around the country. It’s a triple-win: college students practice and hone their technical writing skills, people from around the world gain a comprehensive set of repair guides, and more devices are kept out of the landfills.

But we’re encountering a new problem: as the program grows, the demand for new devices for students is also exponentially increasing. We have been fortunate to receive gracious donations from organizations such as Green CitizenReCellular, and ERI. However, we still need more devices.

 

A student taking off the LCD from a Samsung SGH-X495 cell phone.

Device donations

We’ll welcome with open arms any cell phones, digital cameras, laptops, or tablets you’d be willing to part with. Just send us your old electronic device, and we’ll have a team of students create repair guides for it. We kindly ask that the device doesn’t already have guides (a quick search on our site can easily confirm this), that it’s intact, and manufactured after 2005. In fact, we set up a top-50 wish list for our most-requested devices. The devices don’t have to be functional, and they don’t have to be in perfect shape.

To sweeten the deal, anyone who sends us a device will receive a $5 off iFixit coupon. However, if the device is on the top-50 wish list, you’ll receive a $20 off coupon instead! We understand that these are high-value devices, and we hope our humble coupon code will be a token of our gratitude.

A student removing the back cover from a Game Boy Advance.

So how can I help?

Grab your device and some packing materials; fill out this form and get the device packed up. We’ll email you a packing slip that you can put on the package. Once we receive the device, we’ll put it in our to-be-done queue, and email you a coupon code for your efforts!

Once your device is used for guides, we’ll either keep it for future guide improvements (in case changes need to be made) or properly e-recycle it on our own dime. You’ll never have to worry about sending it to a landfill, and we’ll never sell the device to anyone for profit. That’s our promise for your generous contribution.

A Tale of Two Displays

February 23, 2012 Hardware, Site News — Miro

Our fine friends at Macrumors sent us a special little something in the mail the other day – the same purported iPad 3 screen with which they confirmed the existence of a “Retina” display! Since they had no means of hooking up the LCD to an iPad 2, we investigated the issue a bit further and saw if we could get their LCD running on the current-gen iPad.

So, does the “iPad 3″ LCD work in an iPad 2? No. And here’s the reason why:

iPad 2 LCD cable (left) vs. "iPad 3" LCD cable (right)

iPad 2 LCD cable (left) vs. "iPad 3" LCD cable (right)

The iPad 3 LCD cable is a completely different type than the one found in the iPad 2. Our efforts to plug it in – even partially, if possible – were unsuccessful.

But that didn’t stop us, no siree… We took out our USB microscope and double-verified that this display was indeed a “Retina” display, and also noted some other interesting discrepancies between the two displays. MJ explains it all in this wonderful tale of two displays:

 

 

PlayStation Vita Teardown

February 16, 2012 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We don’t break gadgets — we rip them apart with style. We tear them down, if you will. Today we put our spudgers up against Sony’s PlayStation Vita, the newest addition to their portable gaming platform family.

The Vita managed to freeze itself within five minutes of us trying it out, but we quickly forgot our malaise once we opened it. The device is an absolute gem to take apart due to standard screws, lots of connectors, and a modular design. Repair demerits are few (fused LCD to plastic, some glue here ‘n’ there), so the Vita managed a very respectful 8 out of 10 repairability score.

Cracking open the Vita

Cracking open the Vita

But what else did we find? Here are some of the teardown highlights:

  • Common Phillips #00 screws hold the most of the Vita together. All are easily accessible, though two are cleverly hidden under the accessory port cover.
  • The battery is secured to the back case with a pair of Phillips #00 screws and… well that’s it. There’s no adhesive, and absolutely no reason why users couldn’t replace the batteries themselves! The Vita’s battery runs at a standard 3.7 V and packs an impressive 2210 mAh punch.
  • The PS Vita is very modular. Check out all these connectors! With all these individual components, the Vita should be easy and inexpensive to repair.
  • Though the Vita is the first Sony handheld gaming device to boast two cameras, you shouldn’t cancel your Nikon D800 pre-order quite yet. The 640×480 pixel VGA cameras aren’t likely to wow the folks browsing your Flickr stream.
  • After a fair amount of disassembly, we find our old nemesis: adhesive! We easily win the battle against the evil glue with our trusty plastic opening tool and separate the rear multi-touch pad from its frame. We find an Atmel mXT224 touchscreen controller attached to the rear touchpad.
  • The speakers come out without much fuss thanks in part to their pressure contacts. These types of connections are common in devices where space is a concern and there’s no room for routing and soldering speaker wires.
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sony has used the same basic design for the R and L trigger buttons since the original PSP.
  • As we begin removing the screws for the motherboard, it slowly dawns on us… Colored screws! The pink-ish screws hold the motherboard in place while the blue screws hold attachments to the motherboard. This is one of the few devices in the history of our teardowns to contain colorful screws inside.
  • With the motherboard finally all by its lonesome, we began some chip identification:
  • Sony CXD5315GG quad-core processor
  • Samsung KLM4G1FE3A-F001 512 MB Mobile DDR2 SDRAM
  • Fujitsu MB44C026A
  • Marvell 88W878S-BKB2 Avastar WLAN/Bluetooth/FM Single-Chip SoC
  • Wolfson Micro WM1803E audio codec
  • STMicroelectronics 3GA51H gyroscope
  • Kionix KXTC9 three-axis MEMS accelerometer
Separating the frame from LCD/plastic

Separating the frame from LCD/plastic

 

Final layout

Final layout

Motorola Droid 4 Teardown

February 13, 2012 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

2012 brings another update to the Droid line of smartphones. Motorola’s labs continue to evolve the Droid into a faster, slicker, and more pleasant device to use. This appears to be the best keyboard yet, and the phone feels better in one’s hand than earlier units. Yet it’s not all fun and games at the iFixit labs.

The new Droid also introduces compromises that did not exist in previous iterations: the battery is no longer user-replaceable (according to Motorola, at least), and that swell keyboard is now integrated into the motherboard, meaning you’ll have to replace both components if a key on the keyboard fails. It’s akin to having to replace your brain if your arm breaks. Consequently, the Droid 4 earns a deplorable 4 out of 10 repairability score, which is by far the lowest score we’ve given to a smartphone bearing the Droid name.

Teardown highlights:

  • Motorola has graced every Droid 4 with this mysterious little gem. Initially we thought it to be a SIM card eject tool, complete with a Motorola logo and fancy design — even though you don’t need the tool to take out the SIM card. However, after scanning through the four included manuals (that’s right, we do read the manuals), we discovered that the object is actually a rear panel removal tool! For the first time in the history of our teardowns, a device manufacturer has actually included a tool to help take apart their device — although it’s for a procedure that shouldn’t require a tool to begin with.
  • The first thing we observed on the innards of this Droid was a large sticker covering the battery. It contained identifying information for the phone, as well as several statements telling the user that the battery is not removable. This is a huge (negative) departure from earlier Droids, where the battery was always user-replaceable.
  • Removing the sticker revealed the Droid 4’s battery, and confirmed our assumptions: the Droid’s battery is a lot larger and more troublesome to remove than last year’s model. Two T5 Torx screws and gobs of adhesive hold the battery in place. The adhesive is so strong that you may accidentally bend the battery too much (and cause it to possibly ignite) if you try removing it with just your fingers. So instead, use a flat pry tool like a spudger to pry the battery from the phone.
  • A liquid damage indicator cleverly placed below the micro-SIM cover thwarts our hopes of a Droid 4 deep-sea excursion. Sorry little buddy, looks like you’re going to have to sit this one out.
  • Unlike last year’s Droid, the Droid 4’s keyboard pressure sensors are attached to the back of the motherboard, so you’ll have to replace the entire motherboard if a key fails on your keyboard.
  • Cool! The keyboard letters are printed on raised rubber atop the pressure contacts. Our guess is as good as yours as to why Motorola chose to go that route; there’s no benefit we can see from having the letters printed on the rubber.
  • Motorola definitely understood the importance of designing a good keyboard for this phone. From our limited txt-testing, it appears to be the best Droid keyboard yet. The same shows in its internal construction (aside from it being integrated into the motherboard).
  • Interesting: The microSD card slot is not soldered onto the motherboard, but instead held in place by two screws. The slot connects to the motherboard via some pressure-sensitive pins, as well as a rectangular multi-pin connector.
  • And now for some chip identification:
  • Samsung K3PE7E00M-XGC1 4 Gb LPDDR2.
  • Hynix H8BCS0QG0MMR memory MCP containing Hynix DRAM and STM flash
  • Qualcomm MDM6600 supporting HSPA+ speeds of up to 14.4 Mbps
  • Qualcomm PM8028 chip working in conjunction with the Qualcomm MDM6600 to provide wireless data connection to the phone
  • Motorola T6VP0XBG-0001 LCM 2.0 LTE baseband processor
  • ZE55431140KHD, which appears to be the RAM sitting atop the 1.2 GHz main processor
  • Infineon 5726 SLU A1
  • Skyworks 77483 700MHz LTE PA module
  • Avago ACPM-7868 quad-band power amplifier
  • Texas Instruments WL 1285C WiLink 7.0 single-chip WLAN, GPS, Bluetooth and FM solution
  • ST Ericsson CPCAP 6556002 System on a Chip
  • The back of the board is largely devoid of chips, save for one: the SanDisk SDIN5C1-16G flash memory that we found in the Droid Razr also graces the interior of the Droid 4. As its name suggests, this package provides the 16 GB of memory that comes with every Droid 4.
  • Good news: the LCD is not fused to the glass display. This means users won’t have to purchase the LCD (which is significantly more expensive than just the glass) if they shatter their glass.
  • Not-so-good news: they will have to replace the touchscreen controller when replacing the front display glass, which will add a bit of cost to the repair.
  • What touchscreen controller does the Droid 4 sport, you may ask? The underside of the front panel reveals an Atmel MXT224E touchscreen controller, which we’ve found in several other phones in the past, including the Droid 3.
Removing the non-removable battery
Removing the non-removable battery
Final layout

Final layout

The Droid Razr Packs New Hardware

February 8, 2012 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Our original Droid Razr teardown from last November revealed how the device packs all that fun hardware into such a thin form factor. But recently we’ve heard the good word from the bird that Motorola may be using different components inside Droid Razr units manufactured after our teardown. So of course we just couldn’t resist de-EMI-shielding another Droid Razr unit for the sake of science. That’s just how we roll.

To those who might think we’re just wasting phones without abandon, you needn’t worry – the second unit is also going to be used for our repair guides, so you won’t have to suffer if you’re trying to repair your Droid Razr yourself.

Behold the updates! We removed a ton of EMI shields with our dental pick and exposed all the new hardware that powers this Droid Razr (click on any image to load the ginormous version):

So what’s new? First thing to note is the new SanDisk SDIN5C1-16G flash memory chip. It’s the largest change in the new Droid Razr – literally. The large-and-in-charge SanDisk package resides exactly where the earlier Droid Razr’s 16GB Toshiba flash used to be. To those keeping score, we also uncovered the same SanDisk flash memory chip inside the Nook Tablet.

 Second comes the ELPIDA B8164B3PF-8D-F RAM. This package replaces the Samsung K3PE7E700M-XGC1 4Gb LPDDR2 RAM we found in the original Droid Razr.

And finally, the Hynix H90H1GH51JMP chip that sits atop the  TI OMAP 4430 processor is replaced by a Toshiba Y9AOA111418L8 memory chip.

The rest of the components are largely the same, aside from the Bosch accelerometer being a slightly updated unit. To be extra thorough, we also updated the Droid Razr teardown to reflect this new-found knowledge.

Well there you have it, folks. We certainly hope you’re not particular about which components your Droid Razr sports, because you never know what stuff lies inside unless you open it up and remove the EMI shields – which will certainly guarantee a dead Droid on your hands.

But even if you accidentally break your Droid Razr, don’t worry. Give us a week or two and we’ll have guides for your repairing convenience. Just keep your peepers glued the Droid Razr device page, and we’ll help you out.

Correlated Magnets

January 16, 2012 Hardware, Site News — Phillip

You probably didn’t know that we here at iFixit have a knack for magic. Today, you’ll bear witness to that fact. We’re going to share one of our greatest feats of magical genius with you. Drum roll, please… Behold! Levitating magnets! (ooh, ahh.)

Hovering magnets!

What, not impressed? What’s not impressive about magnets repelling each other? Well, if that doesn’t impress you, check this out.

Hovering magnet, upside down?

Ta-Da! That’s right: those magnets are hovering, yet not completely separating; now that’s impressive! But how’s this possible, you may ask? Shouldn’t the magnets either stick together or completely repel each other?

This isn’t an optical illusion (or Photoshop magic), but science! The pictured magnets are not the ordinary kind you’d get at the local hardware store, but correlated magnets developed by Correlated Magnetics Research, or CMR. But before we delve into the details surrounding correlated magnets, let’s revisit how good old-fashioned magnets work.

A quick lesson in magnet basics: there are two sides to a typical magnet, a “North” pole and a “South” pole. Putting opposite poles together will cause an attraction force (akin to Paula Abdul and a tomcat). Putting same poles together will cause a repulsive force. And proximity affects the strength of these forces—the general rule is that the closer the magnets are, the stronger the forces. These forces can sometimes be so strong that it is impossible for the average person to cause contact between same poles, or separate opposite poles. And the vast majority of magnets out there have one North and one South pole.

A correlated magnet has the unique characteristic of having alternating North and South poles on one side, resulting in simultaneous attract and repel forces. The poles can be built such that we achieve our “magic” above, where there is enough repulsive force to prevent contact—but still enough attractive force to keep the magnets close. Check out how different they can appear from standard magnets when viewed on magnetic viewing film:

Standard (left) and correlated (right) magnets. The light green lines are pole boundaries.

Levitation isn’t the only thing these magnets are good for, however. CMR provided us with several different kinds of correlated magnets, each with unique pole designs that gives them varying attractive and repulsive properties. For example, some magnets were designed so that when two red dots on the handles were aligned, a great amount of force was required to separate them. But when we twisted the magnets and misaligned the red dots, the magnets were much easier to separate.

The attraction force between the two magnets is several magnitudes higher when the red dots are lined up.

The attraction force between the two magnets is several magnitudes higher when the red dots are lined up.

Different pole designs result in different magnet interactions.

So these magnets can make a fun “magic” trick for the kids and would probably make a decent conversation piece in the living room of physicists and engineers, but what are their application in the real world?

Take a home deadbolt lock as an example. When you turn the lock with your fingers, it pushes a rod into the door frame to prevent the door from opening. But you wouldn’t need a deadbolt lock with correlated magnets. They could be used so that two disks would hold the door in the “open” position with a 5 lb force. But when the magnet on the door was turned 90 degrees, it would align more attractive poles and fewer repulsive poles, resulting in a 500 lb force “locked” door.

Too humdrum for you? Instead, how about using them in levitating vehicles? A properly programmed correlated magnet can provide enough repulsive force to keep the heaviest vehicles afloat, but simultaneously provide an attractive force that could mitigate undesired takeoffs. This magnet technology is also under research for use with NASA telescopes, and even the medical world is looking into using correlated magnets in joint replacements.

While not in mass production yet, this cool technology has the power to significantly affect how we construct mechanical systems. We’re excited to see how correlated magnets will be implemented in future products!

Holiday Gift Guide

December 13, 2011 Hardware, Tools — Miro

Alright, friends. It’s that time of year again—to reach into the pocketbook, bust out the pepper spray, and face the hordes of maniacal shoppers.

But wait! You may not need pepper spray this year. We want to make it easy for you to get gifts for your loved ones. We’ve drafted a list of top-notch gifts and stocking stuffers for the tech- and repair-folk dear to you.

What’s even better than a list of great stuff to buy? If it were free. Well, how about the fact that it’s all available right here on iFixit? Spare yourself a chaotic trip to the mall and check out our goodies right now. If that’s not reason enough, check out MJ’s assessment of our holiday wares:

 

 

New Pro Tech Base Toolkit

December 13, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Tools — Kyle

Our Pro Tech Base Toolkit has been a hot item ever since we released it last year — repair techs, DIYers, single-parent moms, and even secretive 3-letter agencies have used them to open their devices.

Not content to rest on our laurels, we’ve spent a year asking our teardown specialists, customers, repair shops, and tool geeks worldwide how to make it better. We paid close attention to their advice, and we’re excited to announce our new 54 Bit Driver Kit and Pro Tech Base Toolkit!

So what’s new? First, we’ve substantially improved our 54 Bit Driver Kit. Some highlights include:

  • Pentalobe bits to open and repair popular Apple devices such as the iPhone 4, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro.
  • T7 through T20 security bits to fit Torx security screws with a pin in the center.
  • A full line of metric nut drivers.
  • JIS bits to fit the screws found in digital cameras, R/C helicopters, and other high-end electronics.
  • A custom 1/4″ to 4 mm adapter to allow our 4 mm precision bits to be used in standard 1/4″ screwdrivers with larger handles, ratcheting handles, or torque drivers.
  • A 60 mm extension that doubles as a T-handle, making it easy to get extra torque and remove stubborn screws.

We’ve kept all the great features of our driver kit including the precision machined, magnetized driver and a full complement of flathead, tri-wing, Phillips, Torx, and hex bits.

MJ provides a nice overview of the new 54 Bit Driver Kit here:

While our 54 Bit Driver Kit is the most capable electronics repair screwdriver set on the planet, getting inside many devices requires more than just a screwdriver. That’s where our Pro Tech Base Toolkit comes in. We’ve carefully selected the components to include the most useful tools for releasing tabs, disconnecting connectors, getting into tight spaces, and picking up small parts. To keep everything portable and well-organized, we designed an all-new tool roll to house everything.

Kit contents:

Want to see more? Watch MJ show off the new Pro Tech Base Toolkit:

We’re offering the Pro Tech Base Toolkit at a very affordable $59.95, and we’re also selling the upgraded 54 Bit Driver Kit set for just $24.95. Give the gift of sweet repair success to your loved ones this Christmas.

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

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.