iPad Wi-Fi Wallpaper

May 10, 2010 Hardware, Site News — Miro

Hey folks, here’s another great iFixit wallpaper for you to enjoy! We snapped a few photos of the iPad internals during the iPad Wi-Fi teardown and correctly cropped them so you could peer through the LCD in your iPad.

Predictably enough, we encountered one small problem after we put the wallpaper on our tablet: the iPad’s uncanny ability to rotate the display, including the wallpaper itself. During “quality assurance testing,” the portrait wallpaper didn’t look too appealing in landscape mode, and vice versa. But we realized that most iPad users keep it locked on a specific orientation most of the time, so we created both orientations to mitigate the problem.

So here are two iPad “internals” wallpapers, one for landscape mode and one for portrait mode.

How to set it as your wallpaper on your iPad:

  • Click on the links above or pictures below to view the whole wallpaper.
  • Long-press on the image to save it.
  • Go to your images, find the right wallpaper image and click the options button in the top-right corner to set it as wallpaper.

This is how the iPad wallpapers look like when on the iPad itself:

That’s so Meta!

May 4, 2010 Hardware, Meta, Site News — Kyle Wiens

We discourage discussion about iFixit in our Answers site. Why? Because people who come to Answers are looking for help with hardware troubleshooting. They don’t want to hear about our community policy for helping people reset their passwords, or have to sift through new feature requests. They just want to learn about hardware! Like Fight Club, the golden rule on iFixit is to not talk about iFixit.

Online communities run into this problem all the time. The die-hard, dedicated members want (and need) to talk about how to get better at what they do, and how to make the community better. But it’s also important not to intermingle this discussion with questions from regular users.

Our favorite meta mug. Thanks for letting us help you help others!

We’ve used UserVoice for feedback in the past, but it doesn’t allow discussion in a way we find particularly engaging, and it doesn’t integrate nicely with our single-iFixit login. So we’re going to use the same software we use for Answers! Today, we are launching meta.ifixit.com. Why meta? Our dictionary defines the prefix “meta-” as “denoting a change of position or condition,” and we think that’s exactly right. We want to continue moving our community and content forward, constantly evolving to get better at helping people fix things. Meta is going to be the place where we, as a community, decide how to evolve.

We have a few ideas for things we want to do on Meta. You may have some more. Think of this as a brainstormed list of ways we can all brainstorm together. How Meta!

  • Discuss new feature ideas, software changes, and report bugs. We’re hoping this will be the perfect place to interact with the software development team behind iFixit.
  • Document the details of our platform. We’ve rolled out a tremendous number of new features lately, and we need a place to keep you in the loop on how everything works.
  • Request content and discuss development of future content. I really want someone to write a Super Nintendo repair guide. It’s the only major gaming console for which we don’t already have a repair manual!
  • Set community policy. We don’t control iFixit, and Meta will give us an open, democratic forum to discuss and set policies.
  • Make decisions about content organization. Users with moderator privileges can make bulk device changes, like changing MBP 15″ to MacBook Pro 15″, and Meta will be a good place to request changes like this.
  • Have a little bit of fun. Not too much, mind you. But if we’re all not enjoying helping people fix things, then we’re doing it wrong.
  • Discuss our mission. It’s important to learn each other’s background and talk about why we all do what we do.

We have made a few changes to our Answers engine to support Meta. We have a new ‘discussion’ mode that you can set on questions. Discussion topics ‘opt out’ of our reputation system, so votes on questions and answers don’t impact your reputation. Reputation earned on meta is completely separate from reputation on the main site.

How do we organize Meta?

Tags. Every thread can have up to four tags, and we’ll use these to categorize questions. Tags will be much more important on Meta than they are on Answers, because (obviously) threads can’t be organized by device.

What Meta is not for:

iFixit support. As we’ve done with Answers, we’ll keep routing sales support questions to our customer service team and removing them from the public site.

Software troubleshooting. There are better sites out there for software problems. We’re staying focused on our core mission: Making hardware work longer.

Postscript

Once again, we are hugely influenced by those who have gone before us. In this case, iFixit Meta is 100% inspired by StackOverflow Meta. Thanks to Jeff and all the folks who have contributed to make Stack Overflow awesome!

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.

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

Low resolution internal iPad photos

April 2, 2010 Hardware — Kyle Wiens

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.

Apple Tablet Teardown

March 31, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We had to resort to some subversive techniques involving a cop from Ottawa, a donkey, and three uncouth janitors to obtain this pre-release Apple Tablet (don’t ask, because we won’t tell). We felt we compromised our morals at first, but we quickly got over it and began tearing this sucker apart.

Apple has completely changed directions since their original press announcement, but the new hardware we got is actually much improved in a number of ways.

Apple definitely snuck away some interesting tidbits inside — things they didn’t want people to know prior to release. Initially we thought the battery was going to be difficult to take out, but boy were we wrong!

You can also check out the video slideshow of our teardown!

Teardown highlights:

  • The tablet has a user-replaceable battery! You can use Apple’s proprietary battery pack, or you can just buy four AA alkaline batteries if you’re on the go.
  • Contrary to Apple’s published specification, the tablet we got measures in at 1.1 x 4.7 x 8.3 inches, and weighs a svelte 1.4 lbs. It’s a bit smaller and lighter than Apple is advertising, but definitely thicker.
  • After much (careful) wiggling and prying, the rear case lifts right off the tablet. Apple has made a complete about-face, making their new tablet the most user-serviceable device they’ve released in over a decade.
  • This machine is much more expandable than anticipated. It has TWO Type II PC Card slots!
  • The single 8 Ohm, .3 W speaker provides only mono sound. You can’t really expect stereo, especially with this kind of economy.
  • Major players on the board include big wins for Sharp, DEC, and Cirrus Logic.
  • Each chip has 4 MB of mask ROM, for a grand total of 8 MB of mask ROM! Shocking!
  • The reverse of the mask ROM board looks to have space for four more chips. Looks like Apple’s planning to roll out incremental upgrades yet again.
  • There is a spot on the front of the unit where a camera could be implemented perfectly. We wonder why it wasn’t included, as well as what Apple has in store for next decade.

Opening the back cover

Removing the logic board

Final layout

Nintendo DSi XL Teardown

March 28, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro


Nintendo used a shrink ray on the “reverse” setting to develop the XL from a stock DSi.

The obvious changes are readily visible on the exterior — larger size, larger screens, even a larger stylus — but we also found several internal updates once we opened our burgundy unit.

You can also check out our YouTube video slideshow of the teardown!

Teardown highlights:

  • Nintendo is again using a custom ARM CPU, manufactured in December of 2009. This chip is marked identically to the DSi, and definitely not the Tegra chip that had been rumored.
  • The logic board grew proportionally to its casing. We’re sure Nintendo’s engineers were happy with not having to pack as much electronics as possible in a smaller design. In this instance, Nintendo’s going against the normal trend in electronics
  • Battery capacity is significantly greater than the DSi.  The DSi uses an 840 mAh battery compared to the DSi XL’s 1050 mAh battery. Given the internal similarity of the XL to the original DSi, we assume the extra juice helps power the larger-sized screens.
  • The DSi XL weighs in at 314 grams, about 45% more than its smaller DSi cousin (only 217 grams). A significant portion of the heft comes from the larger screens, and 4 grams comes from the added battery juice. The XL is really on the outer limits of what people consider to be portable — especially for a hand-held game console.
  • Nintendo redesigned the battery connector to eliminate a long ribbon cable spanning the width of the old DSi.
  • The lower display is held in place solely by the pressure of the logic board secured over it — no screws!
  • Although the screen size has been enlarged, the resolution still remains the same at 256 x 192 pixels per screen.
  • Reassembling the triggers is quite difficult. Take them apart if only you dare (or need to).
  • Power management is now relegated to a TI 72071B0 charging circuit. This used to me a Mitsumi component in the smaller DSi.
  • No “Supersize Me” inscriptions were found anywhere on the internals.

Removing the top display

Final layout

Nexus One Infographic

March 24, 2010 Hardware, Site News — Miro

The Nexus One deserves more attention. Its hardware is really quite impressive, and yet no one seems to be buying it! Very few people outside the tech world even know that it exists.

To give Google a little boost, we made this lovely infographic: a direct comparison between the Nexus One and the iPhone. Our biggest beef with the Nexus One? There isn’t a parts supply chain for it yet, meaning all repairs have to go through HTC’s overpriced mail-in service. Boo! Hopefully we’ll be able to fix that soon.

Click on the graphic for a much, much larger version!