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!

A Peek Inside the iPod Touch 5th Generation

October 20, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — jake

It’s easy to overlook that a “new” iPod Touch recently came out of Apple HQ, especially since all the craziness of the iPhone 4S launch is still in full effect. We say “new” in quotes because we learned our lesson with the “new” Nano that was also released the same day — our teardown showed the Nano’s internals were almost identical to the previous year’s model.

After last year’s 4th Generation Touch brought such awesome upgrades — Apple A4 system-on-a-chip, 3-axis gyroscope, two cameras, and Biggest Loser-esque weight loss — we were more than eager to see what the 5th Generation would bring. So what does this year’s Touch have in store?

After close examination, we confirmed that the front panel is, in fact, white. +1 for us. So far so good.

And… that’s about it. To our dismay there is not much else different between the iPod Touch released last year and the one released last week. The disassembly process is identical to that shown in the 4th Generation Teardown, and all of the internals appear to be the same as well. Even the repair-unfriendly ribbon cable connecting the soldered volume buttons to the logic board is right where Apple left it.

Though we observed no drastic changes to the Touch’s innards, we proceded to closely examine the logic board:

 

Notable differences between the 4th Generation and 5th Generation iPod Touch logic boards include the following:

  • Possible upgrade to the WiFi/Bluetooth chip package by Murata with part number RV KM1721006
  • New markings VT1K3441AQ on the A4 chip, whereas last year’s A4 had K4X2G643GE markings
  • New gyroscope with markings AGD8 2131
  • 2129 33DH chip next to the gyroscope seems to have been packaged in the same die with the gyroscope in last year’s Touch

Even though this year’s iPod Touch yielded only minimal changes, we wouldn’t want to rob anyone of a nice layout shot, so here you go:

We’re quite hopeful that next year Apple releases a “Midas Touch” version of the music player, encased in solid gold. They can keep all the hardware the same and just call it “new” again!

iPhone 4S Camera Made by Sony

October 14, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Chipworks definitely has some fancy equipment inside their labs. They took apart one of their iPhone 4S units this morning (using our teardown for guidance, of course) and tossed the 8MP camera directly under an infrared microscope to find out the manufacturer.

The infrared microscope allowed them to look through the whole structure down to the base layer. They saw die markings several layers below the surface.

So what did they see? S O N Y.

The pictures below are of the Sony designation inside the camera. Note that the camera itself is significantly smaller than a dime.

"Sony" spelled out nice and clearly

"Sony" spelled out nice and clearly

 

X-ray cross-section of the 8MP Sony camera

X-ray cross-section of the 8MP Sony camera

You can read more info on the camera discovery straight from the horse’s mouth, or check out more awesome hi-res images of the iPhone 4S innards on our teardown. There is no third option.

iPhone 4S Teardown

October 14, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We sent our henchmen around the world to track down the elusive iPhone 4S, and they found it. With the help of an iFixit user hailing from Germany, Markus Weiher, the iFixit team successfully dismantled Apple’s latest creation. Not even Siri’s incessant urgings and warnings were enough to deter our team from dissecting it!

If you’re one of the billions who’s pre-ordered this phone and you want to peek inside, follow our teardown guide and see for yourself. All you need is a spudger, a Phillips #00 screwdriver, a Pentalobe screwdriver, and the will to explore. Leave your warranty at the door — you won’t need it where you’re going.

Opening the 4S was no more (nor less) challenging than the iPhone 4. We’re always pleased to find a limited amount of adhesive in our patients, and easily removable rear panels are always a plus. However, the same pesky proprietary screws are present, and it’s never a joy to encounter fused (read: expensive to replace) displays. All things considered, the new iPhone 4S isn’t any easier or harder to repair than last year’s model, so it gets the same 6 out of 10 repair score as the previous-gen iPhone 4.

Teardown highlights:

  • Pentalobe screws, again? We were hoping there would be something new to keep us out this year, but it seems that our familiar five-sided friends have not moved far from their home at the bottom of the iPhone 4S. A couple quick turns with our 5-Point Pentalobe screwdriver and out they come!
  • Look closely… closer… there it is: an extra .05 watt-hours in the battery over the iPhone 4! That small change gives you an extra hour of talk time on 3G, but 100 hours less standby time. Go figure.
  • In true iFixit fashion, we removed the EMI shields for your viewing pleasure. The logic board now bares its electronic soul:
  • Apple A5 dual-core processor with 512 MB RAM
  • Toshiba THGVX1G7D2GLA08 16 GB NAND flash memory
  • Qualcomm MDM6610 baseband chipset
  • Qualcomm PM8028 power management IC
  • Qualcomm RTR8605 Multi-band/mode RF transceiver
  • Murata SW SS1830010. We suspect that this package contains the Broadcom chip that reportedly provides Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity, just like in some of the past teardowns.
  • Skyworks 77464-20 load-insensitive power amplifier (LIPA) module developed for WCDMA applications
  • Avago ACPM-7181 power amplifier
  • TriQuint TQM9M9030 multi-mode quad-band power amplifier module
  • TriQuint TQM66052 (possibly a PA-duplexer module)
  • Mysterious Apple chip with markings 338S0987 B0FL1129 SGP
  • Oh hey, what’s this? According to Chipworks, our German iPhone has Samsung DDR2 RAM (K3P markings on the A5 processor), while our Australian iPhone 4S contains Elpida DDR2 RAM (B40 markings on the A5 processor)!
  • We noted that the Verizon and AT&T iPhone 4’s display assemblies had different mounting tab locations. While most of the 4S has resembled the CDMA iPhone 4, the display assembly appears to be the same as the one found in the GSM version.
  • It appears that Apple elected to go with the linear oscillating vibrator that we found in the Verizon iPhone 4, as opposed to the rotational electric motor with counterweight in the AT&T version. This vibrator motor is quieter, softer, and all-around less annoying than its counter-weighted predecessor.
  • We noticed several white and red liquid indicator strips placed throughout the phone. So don’t let your friends pee on it! (No, seriously)
  • Good news: not a single trace of any Cyberdyne Systems components were found… it seems for the time being our judgment day is not upon us.
Removing the 8MP camera

Removing the 8MP camera

 

Final layout

Final layout

Apple Thunderbolt Display Teardown

September 28, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The big box we’ve been waiting for finally arrived. That’s right, Apple’s Thunderbolt Display crashed the party, and not a moment too soon. After managing to hoist this beast onto our operating table — while being mindful not smudge its 500 square inches of arsenic-free glass — we promptly grabbed our scalpels and went to work.

We got the warm fuzzies when we found out that no proprietary tools were required to dissect Apple’s colossal display. In fact, all you really need to pull the guts out of this machine are some heavy duty suction cups, Torx T6 and T10 screwdrivers, and maybe a spudger here and there.

All in all, we were struck by the Thunderbolt Display’s ease of disassembly, and its 8 out of 10 repairability score reflects our admiration. But what did we find inside? Lots and lots of goodies that usually don’t come standard with an LCD monitor. Although monitors usually don’t cost as much as a laptop, either.

Teardown highlights:

  • The LG display found inside is model number LM270WQ1. It’s the same display found in the iMac Intel 27″ from October of 2009, as well as the same basic LG display found in Dell’s competing 27″ monitor  — though the Apple version uses LED backlights as opposed to Dell’s traditional CCFL. Dell’s version is also matte, something that lots of Mac users have been complaining about since the old 30″ Cinema Display was discontinued.
  • The 27-inch (diagonal) TFT active-matrix LCD has a resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels, the standard for displays of this size and price. Its 12 ms response time and 16.7 million colors, however, fall short of the 6 ms response time and 1.07 billion colors of Dell’s comparable display. We might be splitting hairs here, but those hairs would be viewed with 1,053,300,000 less colors on Apple’s display. Just saying.
  • The fan is easily removed simply by detaching a couple of connectors and unfastening a few screws. Apple has, as usual, chosen to go with a large, brushless fan to keep the colossal Thunderbolt Display cool and quiet.
  • Interestingly enough, the Thunderbolt cable that routes into the display also plugs into a standard Thunderbolt socket on the logic board. Apple could have just soldered the cable wires to the board, but instead chose to implement a cover that prevents the cable from being detached from the logic board’s Thunderbolt socket.
  • Both sides of the logic board are packed with enough chips that it’s hard to believe there’s no computer inside this display. Standouts include:
  • Pericom PI7C9X440SL PCIe-to-USB 2.0 host controller
  •  L129NB11 EFL, which looks to be the Thunderbolt port controller
  • Analog Devices ADAV4601 audio processor
  • NXP LPC2144 USB 2.0 microcontroller
  • Delta LFE9249 10/100/1000 Base-T LAN filter
  • SMSC USB2517-JZX USB 2.0 hub controller
  • Maxim MAX9736B Mono/Stereo high-power Class D amplifier
  • LSI L-FW643E-2 open host controller interface
  • Broadcom BCM57761 Gigabit ethernet controller
  • Supertex HV9982 3-channel switch-mode LED driver IC
  • We found some massive speaker enclosures near the side edges of the Thunderbolt Display and eagerly removed the screws holding them in place. Turns out the Thunderbolt Display comes with a 49 Watt 2-speaker sound system, including a miniature subwoofer.
  • We made quick work of the few screws and connectors that held the Flextronics power supply in place and found that this puppy provides 250 watts of maximum continuous power!
Taking out the LCD panel

Taking out the LCD panel

Disconnecting the Thunderbolt cable from the logic board
Disconnecting the Thunderbolt cable from the logic board
A wallpaper made from one of the Thunderbolt Display's chips. Click to view in native 2560 x 1440 resolution.

A wallpaper made from one of the Thunderbolt Display's chips. Click to view in native 2560 x 1440 resolution.