First Google TV Teardown

October 25, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The Logitech Revue just came into our possession. It’s the first device on the market that uses the Google TV platform, and we were quite excited to take it apart to see what someone gets for a couple hundred dollars over the Apple TV.

In short, not much. The Revue is a plastic box with a motherboard inside. Its specifications are built up just enough to be slightly better than the Apple TV, but everything about it screams “netbook.” It has netbook processing power, netbook plasticky feel, and even a netbook-style keyboard.

We discovered the true specifications for the Revue, which also confirms our “netbook” impressions. Here’s how it stacks up when compared to the Apple TV:

  • CPU: The Revue has a 1.2 GHz Atom processor, compared to Apple’s 1 GHz A4.
  • RAM: The Revue has 1 GB DDR3 vs. 256 MB for the Apple TV.
  • Flash memory: The Revue has a total of 5 GB NAND flash, split amongst a Samsung and a Hynix chip. Apple chose to simply use an 8GB Samsung NAND flash module.

Aside from the RAM, the Revue offers very little (if any) extra performance when compared to the Apple TV, and is on par with netbooks released back in September 2008 (Dell Mini 9, we’re looking at you).

The Revue did score high marks on repairability: 8 out 10, with 10 being easiest to repair. Opening the case is super-simple — only 4 screws and a bunch of clips stand in your way. All the screws are of the Phillips variety, but it would be good to have a plastic opening tool handy if you choose to peek inside your own unit. The fan’s easily accessible and the motherboard connectors are simple to to disconnect.

Revealing the 1.2 GHz Atom processor

Revealing the 1.2 GHz Atom processor

Final layout

Final layout

Out of the box we had high hopes for this little machine. But as we were carefully taking it apart, we started getting scratches (from a towel!) on the top surface. Post-teardown we reassembled it and spent ~20 minutes setting it up, only to find a just-OK user experience. Unfortunately, the Revue let us down.

Perhaps our parents might like it — who knows.

MacBook Air 11″ Teardown

October 21, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — luke

Removing the 64 GB SSD

The new MacBook Air is an exercise of proprietary engineering. While you can easily access everything once you remove the proprietary screws, you can’t really replace any component with an off-the-shelf part, unless you source it from Apple or someone involved in Apple-based repair (*cough*). Most components — RAM included — are soldered to the logic board, preventing them from being replaced. We definitely recommend users to buy the 4GB RAM version of the Air, as the paltry 2GB already borders on obsolete by today’s standards.

The one standout in this proprietary sea is the 64 GB SSD. It’s not locked down like the rest of the components, although it is a very slim and unusual form factor (for a hard drive). It’s attached to the logic board with what appears to be a new mini-SATA (mSATA) connector, which brings hope to super-slim-laptop-hackers all across the globe. This may enable some crafty tinkerers to rig a larger drive inside the Air, provided they can fit everything within the tight confines of the .68″ thick case.

We gave 11″ MacBook Air a not-so-good repairability score of 4 out of 10, with 10 being easiest to repair. Simply put, a plethora of proprietary parts prevents people from painlessly fixing their machines.

Teardown highlights:

  • The flip-open port door has been scrapped and the IR sensor and sleep LED are gone. In exchange, the new model manages to fit an extra USB 2.0 port along its right edge.
  • Apple apparently doesn’t want you inside this thing. They decided to use proprietary 5-point security Torx screws to attach the lower case. Once inside, the Air is held together with more normal 6-point T5 and T8 Torx screws.
  • The battery is comprised of six individual lithium-polymer cells, which combine to form a 35 Watt-hour battery.
  • Although in a different form factor, the new MacBook Air uses the same Broadcom BCM943224 Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chip as the current lineup of MacBook Pros.
  • The back of the trackpad has a Broadcom BCM5976A0K chip on it, likely responsible for the multi-touch capabilities of the the trackpad.
  • The 11.6″ MacBook Air features a resolution of 1366×768. That’s a few more pixels and noticeably more widescreen (16×9 vs 16×10) than the 1280×800 resolution of previous Air models. In a welcome improvement, Apple has substantially enhanced the rigidity of the display assembly.

iFixit’s Red Ring of Death Fix Kit

October 15, 2010 Hardware, Site News — Andrew Goldberg

Picture this scenario: you’re deep into the seventh hour of a Halo tournament when your Xbox 360 suddenly shuts off. You turn it on again and are greeted by the most unfriendly of messages — a ring of lights, once happy and green, is now red. Since your Xbox 360 is out of warranty, what can you do? (Hint: we can help!)

No wonder it has cooling issues -- look at all that thermal paste!

The red ring of death (RROD) failure is most common on early Xbox 360 models due to their inadequate cooling system. As the console heats up, the motherboard warps slightly near the largest source of heat — the processors. The X-clamps that are used to hold the heat sinks against the processors do not provide enough clamping force, so after many heat cycles the processors desolder themselves from the motherboard. The GPU is most vulnerable to warping due to its large footprint and the demand placed upon it by graphics-intensive video games.

Installing the all-important heat sink machine screws.

iFixit’s Red Ring of Death Fix Kit solves the problem of desoldering chips by eliminating the X-clamps altogether. Instead, the heat sinks are secured to the motherboard by machine screws to provide a firmer-than-factory clamp on both processors. Highly conductive Arctic Silver Ceramique thermal paste is included in the kit to replace Microsoft’s poorly applied factory thermal paste. In addition, we’ve added small stick-on heat sinks to protect two small integrated circuits on the board from future failure caused by thermal cycling, as well as high quality thermal pads to protect the RAM chips on the underside of the motherboard. The kit includes all the tools you’ll need to access and remove your toasty motherboard, as well as the ones you’ll need to install the all-important heat sink machine screws. As a cherry on top, we’ve created an install guide to take the guesswork out of fixing your Xbox 360.

Contents of iFixit's Red Ring of Death Fix Kit

You may also want to consider installing the kit on your Xbox 360 if it’s out of warranty, even if it doesn’t have the dreaded RROD lights on it yet. Xbox 360 failure rates are estimated to be anywhere between 23% and 54%, so chances are quite high that your Xbox will develop the RROD at some point in its life. Our kit allows you to take a preemptive strike on the RROD and ensure a long and happy life for your console.

Purchase the sweet iFixit Xbox 360 RROD Kit for just $29.95!

Nokia N8 Teardown

October 8, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Following on the tepid success of the N97, the N8 is Nokia’s direct competitor to the iPhone 4 and high-end Android smartphones. Betting the farm on the success of the N8, Nokia packed this phone full of features—but we wanted to see how much awesomeness was really inside.

The big hardware news with this phone—aside from being the first modern phone Nokia has released in nearly two years—is the 12MP camera and its massive flash. This is one of the few phones that has a Xenon flashtube (and associated giant capacitor), and we were blinded by its brightness.

This phone is built tough! The N8’s frame uses more metal than most phones, giving it a rugged feel. In fact, this is the beefiest phone we’ve taken apart all year. We awarded it a coveted 8 out of 10 repairability score for three primary reasons: the glass is not fused to the AMOLED screen, the battery is easily-replaceable, and the phone is overall quite easy to disassemble. Once you know how to take it apart properly, even a Finnish caveman could do it (provided they were evolved enough to handle a Torx screwdriver).

Teardown highlights:

  • The 12 MP camera is a honker. In other smartphones, the thickness of the camera drives the thickness of the phone. With this phone, Nokia chose to protrude the camera outside of the back cover. This will either make it easier to grasp the phone to take it out of your pocket or make it a hassle when returning the phone to your pocket.
  • As opposed to many other smartphones that use either a single or double LED flash, the N8 uses a Xenon flash tube—the same kind of flash found in full-size cameras. A large capacitor on the flash module supplies the high voltage necessary to produce such a brilliant flash.
  • Although it requires the removal of two screws, the battery is quite easy to replace. Thumbs up for no soldering required!
  • Thankfully the glass is not fused to the face of the 640 × 360 3.5″ AMOLED display, so you don’t have to replace both if the glass breaks.
  • There’s nothing cutting-edge in the display—it was manufactured all the way back on February 2, 2010. Its touch screen controller is a Synaptics T1201A, the same chip found in the Microsoft Kin Two and RIM Blackberry Torch—not exactly ground-breaking tech.
  • Nokia got pretty creative with their antenna placement, as this device is primarily encased in aluminum. The main antennas are located near the flat plastic plates on the top and bottom of the phone.
  • The design of the steel mid-plane is genius. Rather than using a discrete EMI shield like every other phone we’ve seen, Nokia integrated the large EMI shield into the mid-plane. (Electromagnetic interference shields protect sophisticated chips from outside interference.)
  • The daughterboard at the top of the motherboard has an interesting design, connecting to the main motherboard via a ribbon cable that is sandwiched between the many layers of the motherboard. On most devices, ribbon cables are attached with ZIF connectors or are soldered to the surface of the board, not sandwiched between layers.

Final layout

The N8's massive flash

The N8's massive flash

Be Prepared: Six Must-Haves for Desert Driving

October 4, 2010 Hardware — Kyle Wiens

This is a continuation of my series of posts about repair at Burning Man. I travelled to the heart of Nevada’s inhospitable Black Rock Desert to study the effects of accelerated entropy on technology.

Not everybody can fix a car. But if you drive yours out to the Black Rock Desert, odds are pretty good you’re going to need to find someone who can. The super-fine alkali dust is the perfect material to clog air filters, and the conductive dust has a nasty penchant for knocking out alternators. While I was there, I was blown away by the incredible variety of cars that people bring to Burning Man. I marveled at moving piles of junk that looked like something from Mad Max. Given the combination of old vehicles and hostile desert conditions, most people are unprepared for car problems. In fact, the DPW folks have coined the acronym ‘USV’ for a lot of the cars that show up: Unprepared Sh*tty Vehicle.

Wingman blowing out a clogged air filter

Wingman blowing out a clogged air filter

In my last post, I talked to Wingman (the main auto mechanic on the playa) about the problems people run into on the playa, and some desert repair tips and tricks. He also gave me some tips for preparing your vehicle for the next time you head out on a major desert expedition.

First, make sure your car will make it *to* the desert. I talked to a number of people that had car problems on the way to Nevada! I totally understand how that can happen. Dealing with auto maintenance issues is always the last thing on my to-do list when I get ready to leave for a trip, but I’m starting to think I’m doing it wrong. While routine maintenance is easy to do at the last-minute, you’re in trouble if you find a major problem. It’s hard to obtain quality parts at the last-minute, and you end up paying the price, both in quality and in your pocketbook. Save yourself the trouble and do a pre-trip check a week or two ahead of time.

Checking for a valve stem tire leak with soapy water

Checking for a valve stem tire leak with soapy water

Now, if this is starting to sound like preaching, I totally sympathize. It’s easy to write repair tips and tell folks to come prepared. I got the ‘be prepared’ mantra pounded into my rather thick skull in the Scouts, and I’ve yet to fully absorb what it means. I thought I was prepared for Burning Man: I had enough food for ten people for a week and a well-endowed toolbox. I even had some emergency flares and a quart of oil: I thought I was set. But I missed a few things, and it bit me—hard—on the way home. Before I tell you how I screwed up, here’s what Jim recommends.

Now where is that darned air filter?

Now where is that darned air filter?

Six things your car needs you to bring to Burning Man

  1. Spare coolant. Jim recommends two gallons, although I think that’s probably a little over the top unless your coolant tank leaks like the one in my Explorer.
  2. Couple quarts of oil. I’ve got at least a quart in each of my cars, and boy has that come in handy a few times.
  3. Tire and tools. Because they came with your car, see? Unless you bought yours used, like me. Then you might be missing one or two things.
  4. Spare bulbs. This suggestsion is a rather surprising, Burning Man-only addition: The Police are in force at the festival, and they are hankering for any opportunity to pay for the replacement parts for their vehicles by fining you for routine violations—like having one headlamp out at night. Spare bulbs are far less expensive than fix-it tickets.
  5. Spare belt(s). Belts don’t cost much, and while replacing a busted one with panty hose is possible, I don’t recommend it.
  6. Duct tape and wire. Obviously. Because you can’t take every part with you, but you can always hack a temporary fix. I saw a couple of different people who had successfully patched their tires with duct tape.
Alternator won't fit? A little bailing wire and the right tent stake can fix that

Alternator won’t fit? A little bailing wire and the right tent stake can fix that

I’ll be the first to admit I only have a couple of these parts in my cars. That leads me to a a rather embarrassing story: driving back from Burning Man on I-5, a semi truck forced me off the road while dodging another fast-moving semi merging onto the freeway. The Law of the Freeway is simple: big things always win. Knowing all-too-well what my place in the food-chain was, I dodged out of my lane quickly. Sliding into the left shoulder, my rear tire collided with something that meant business at 70 MPH. I found out later that it sliced a nice 1/4″ circular hole in my tire. But no problem, right? I knew I had a spare. Pulling off to the side of the road, I was perversely excited to get some exercise after five hours of driving.

Of course, I had all of my camping gear jammed into the trunk blocking access to my spare. I was quite the image when a highway trooper pulled up: standing on the site of the freeway, covered in playa dust, removing camping stoves and boxes of food from my trunk as fast as I could. The officer told me that he normally asks people if they need any food or water, but joked that he clearly didn’t need to worry about me.

Imagine my chagrine he watched me finally get to the spare and realize that I had no jack! (I had the crank handle, but not the jack itself.) So I asked the cop to borrow his. And guess what I learned? the CHP has an unfortunate (if understandable in hindsight) policy against loaning out their eqipment. I felt pretty stupid having to call a tow truck just to jack up my car. In fact, once he arrived I pridefully refused to let the tow truck driver help. It was my tire and I fixed it my dang self.

Got filters?

Got filters? Inside the DPW spare-parts vault.

Do yourself (and Wingman) a favor: be better prepared than I was. I’ve posted some more photos of Wingman’s Burning Man repair yard over on my flickr stream.

Burning Man: Wingman’s Auto Repair Yard

September 30, 2010 Hardware, Repair Stories, Site News — Kyle Wiens

This is a continuation of my series of posts about repair at Burning Man. I travelled to the heart of Nevada’s inhospitable Black Rock Desert to study the effects of accelerated entropy on technology.

Wingman is standing by

Wingman is standing by

Most people only stay in the Black Rock Desert for the week of Burning Man. But the Department of Public Works has to run eighty vehicles non-stop in the desert for two months setting up and tearing down the infrastructure for Black Rock City. Their work never stops, even in a dust storm. They buy most of their vehicles at auction, and you can imagine what sort of vehicles they get with their spartan budget.

The task of keeping the DPW fleet running lies with Jim Sweet, known on the playa as ‘Wingman.’ He runs the three-man repair crew responsible for keeping these clunkers humming. His team may be the most important folks on the playa: without them, work would quite literally grind to a halt.

The Black Rock City auto repair yard

The Black Rock City auto repair yard

Wingman’s ‘shop’ is a shipping container full of spare parts (primarily air filters and alternators), cases of oil, hand tools, an air compressor, and one luxury item: a tire changer. Their setup is strictly mobile: I didn’t see much that you couldn’t fit into a truck bed toolbox. I spent a day shadowing Jim, watching him handle the never-ending trickle of people with car problems that filtered under his shade structure. He has a heart of gold. There’s a huge temptation for mechanics to focus on the problem, and gruffly ignoring the people with the issue. Jim doesn’t work like that. He refused to talk to anyone about their car until he knew their name.

His approach isn’t just altruistic. He thinks that if people know the person at the repair yard, they’re more likely to try to fix things themselves and perform regular maintenance. This is a really interesting idea, and jives well with my philosophy that if you can’t fix it, you don’t own it.

A medical team takes a break from prowling the playa to blow out their air filter

A medical team takes a break from prowling the playa to blow out their air filter

An aside: Jim wanted me to make sure to mention that his repair shop is for DPW vehicles only. There isn’t a repair camp on the playa large enough to handle all the vehicle problems that happen out there, and he’d be quickly overwhelmed if they tried to help everyone. So be prepared to fix it yourself!

Deserts: Where even eye-wash station become hazards

Deserts: Where even eye-wash stations become safety hazards

Jim describes his work as ‘triage.’ He told me that he’s forced to avoid major jobs in the field because the dust fouls everything up. Instead, he hacks in whatever fixes he can—anything to keep the car running long enough to get it back to a real shop. I asked him what the most common repairs were, and this was his list.

The top 6 desert-induced car problems

  1. Flat tires. No surprise here, tires fail under the best of conditions. But you’ve got a spare. And a jack. And a tireiron. Right?
  2. Dead alternators. This is tricky to fix without a spare part, and who carries around a spare alternator? I saw one guy who couldn’t find a spare manage to keep his art car running by running his generator alongside the engine. Hack? Definitely, but it kept his battery topped up long enough for him to limp home.
  3. Random electrical issues. Conductive dust. Everywhere. ‘Nuff said.
  4. Overheated cooling systems. Deserts are hot, man! Save a water bottle or three for your car. If you do start to overheat, run the heater to vent as much heat as you can.
  5. Clogged air intakes. DPW blows out the air filters of all eight of their fleet vehicles every other day!
  6. Sticky thermostats. Thermostats are mechanical, and they wear out and clog with dust.

Mechanic helping mechanic: Wingman diagnosing an electrical issue on the bike repair van

Mechanic helping mechanic: Wingman diagnosing an electrical issue on the bike repair van

The law of the land is simple: make it work with what you’ve got, or you’re not getting out. I saw another art car with a failed alternator. The proprieters of this vehicle had managed to snag a new alternator, but it was the wrong one. Hey, an alternator’s an alternator, right? You just gotta make it fit. So they modified heavy-duty tent stakes into metal brackets and wedged the new alternator into place. Presto chango, a functional art car!

Apple TV 2nd Generation Teardown

September 29, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The 2nd Generation Apple TV is the least expensive iOS device Apple has ever shipped. The set-top box continues the trend of cost-cutting that we saw in the iPad, even sharing several parts with its tablet cousin.

The big news: we uncovered a Samsung NAND flash chip and found it has a whopping 8 GB of storage! The A4 processor has 256 MB of integrated RAM, the same as the iPad and the 4th Gen iPod Touch.

Apple’s current HD movies generally run less than 4 GB, but Apple needs around 512MB for the OS and likely wants to leave room for video quality improvements over time.

This is the easiest to service new Apple product we’ve seen recently. We awarded it a coveted Repairability Score of 8 / 10. The ease of repairing this device, integrated high-efficiency power supply, low 6-watt power consumption, and efficient stand-by mode lead us to believe this may be the most eco-friendly set-top box of all time.

Teardown highlights:

  • The Apple TV has 256 RAM, just like the 4th Generation iPod Touch and the iPad. The key marking of interest on the A4 processor package is “K4X2G643GE,” which is identical to the marking found on the iPad.
  • We found Samsung K9LCG08U1M 8GB NAND flash chip inside the Apple TV! It’s the same chip we found when taking apart the iPad. This is a pretty remarkable amount of storage for a $99 device.
  • We are pretty sure the flash memory is used to cache your favorite shows while they’re being streamed.
  • There is an empty spot right next to the Samsung NAND flash that looks to be the perfect size for putting another Samsung NAND flash chip. Could Apple be planning a higher capacity Apple TV in the future?
  • Wi-Fi board brought to you courtesy of Panasonic! This is the first time we’ve seen a Wi-Fi board from Panasonic in an Apple device. A different division of Panasonic usually supplies the optical drives for Apple’s laptops.
  • The Panasonic Wi-Fi board contains a Broadcom BCM4329XKUBG 802.11n Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM, exactly the same as the one we found on the iPad.
  • The solder pads near the side of the logic board look to be a *perfect* match for a dock connector! This Apple TV seems to be a couple of features shy of a full-on computer. Perhaps this logic board will be used in future iPads?
  • Apple is continuing its theme of hiding power supplies inside their devices. It’s especially impressive here, considering that the Apple TV is only slightly larger than a 60 watt MacBook AC adapter.
  • The sticker on the power supply has this rating: 3.4V @ 1.75A. We’ll save you the multiplication: that’s just 5.95 watts!
  • Apple brags that when in standby mode, the Apple TV uses less power than a night light. We don’t suggest trying to use the status LED to illuminate your dark hallways, though.

Removing the logic board

Final layout

iPod Nano 6th Generation Teardown

September 9, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Despite keeping the same price tag as its predecessor, the new Nano is a bundle of trade-offs. Gone are the days of click wheels, cameras, and video playback. Instead, users get a multi-touch screen, a clip, and a device that’s slightly easier to repair.

Judging by the both the internal and external features of the device, we feel the new Nano is more like a Shuffle with a screen than a Nano with true multi-touch.

Apple is seriously reaching by calling the Nano “multi-touch.” 3M defines multi-touch as the “ability to simultaneously detect and resolve a minimum of 3+ touch points.”

The Nano does not support three touch points. In fact, the only gesture the Nano supports that has two touch points is rotation.

We’ve learned from reliable sources that Apple’s internal documentation suggest support for pinch to zoom, which is not present in this version of the iPod Nano’s software. Was this feature cut at the last minute? Could it be added back in with a software update? Only time will tell.

Teardown highlights:

  • This iPod Nano’s battery only has two wires, one red and one black. All the other iPod Nanos we’ve taken apart have included three battery wires. That third battery wire typically ties into a thermistor, a resistor whose value changes with temperature (a poor man’s thermometer). Presumably the iPod Nano’s battery is small enough and the charge rate is slow enough that overheating is not a concern.
  • The 1.54″, 240 x 240 pixel LCD screen is equipped with multi-touch, although how anyone is supposed to comfortably fit more than one finger on the display is a mystery.
  • The Nano has a 220 pixels-per-inch (PPI) screen, the highest pixel density on an Apple device aside from the iPhone 4 / iPod Touch 4th Gen. That’s almost double the iPad’s paltry 132 PPI density!
  • Pure speculation: The front glass on the Nano sticks up about .3 mm from the outer case. Why, you ask? Presumably due to the thickness of the headphone jack. Apple wanted to keep the device as thin as possible, and the curvature of the edges would have forced the case to be thicker for a completely flush glass panel. A thicker case was ditched in favor of the glass sticking out slightly.
  • Like its cousins — the iPhone 4 and the new iPod Touch — the touchscreen, LCD, and front glass are inseparable.
  • The Nano’s battery has a capacity of 105 mAh, compared to the Shuffle’s 51 mAh. We assume the Nano uses the extra juice to power its display (which the Shuffle lacks).
  • The headphone jack, volume buttons, and sleep/wake button are all found on the same ribbon cable that snakes around the inner perimeter of the Nano. Very efficient!
  • There’s a total of eleven screws in the Nano — quite a hefty amount for such a small device.

Removing the battery

Final layout

iPod Touch 4th Generation Teardown

September 8, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

First, an observation: this thing is thin! So thin that there is literally no room for the 5 MP camera in the iPhone 4.

Second, some news: The 4th Generation iPod Touch’s A4 processor package has the same 256 MB Samsung SDRAM markings found on the iPad’s processor. Many developers will be disappointed that it doesn’t have the 512 MB found in the iPhone 4, but Apple had to keep costs down to hit the $229 price point.

We found several notable improvements from the previous Touch, especially a more repair-friendly front panel that can be easily removed with a heat gun and some careful prying. This is by far the easiest Touch to open, although it’s not completely straightforward once you get inside.

Teardown highlights:

  • This is the easiest iPod Touch we’ve ever cracked open — a bit of glue and two tabs hold the front panel in place. We hoped that the insides would continue to be repair-friendly, but then found that the front glass and LCD panel were permanently fused together. This will prevent dust from getting beneath the glass, but unfortunately will also make repair more expensive.
  • Like all other revisions of the iPod Touch, the battery is soldered to the logic board. This isn’t a surprise given the slim form factor of the iPod, but we wish Apple would make battery replacement easier, especially on a Touch that is now easier to open.
  • Apple did add more space between the battery’s three solder points compared to the 3rd Gen Touch. This should make the soldering job a little easier when replacing the battery, as there’s less chance of accidentally bridging the contacts.
  • The EMI shield is surprisingly heavy, weighing in at 11 grams. The entire iPod Touch is only 101 grams, meaning Apple has devoted more than 10% of the iPod’s weight to this metal EMI shield.
  • Unfortunately, the rear-facing camera is only 960×720 resolution. That’s only about .7 megapixels, compared to 5 megapixels on the iPhone 4. Apple was forced to sacrifice still photo resolution in order to squeeze the camera into the Touch’s slim package. Going forward, we expect Apple to adopt improved micro camera technology as better cameras come to market.
  • For those of you who are wondering, there’s no way the iPhone 4’s rear camera can be installed in the Touch.
  • In a first for the iPod Touch line, the headphone jack is not soldered to the logic board. There’s also a liquid damage indicator on the bottom of the headphone jack, so don’t use your Touch to stir the coffee.
  • This primary antenna is situated near the front glass panel. Its new location eliminates the need for the plastic “window” found on the 3rd generation Touch. There also appears to be a secondary antenna located on the headphone jack.
  • Contrary to Apple’s initial claims on their FaceTime marketing page, the iPod Touch does not have a vibrator. Apple’s website has been updated to remove this claim.

Prying out the logic board

Final layout

Nintendo Virtual Boy Teardown

September 3, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Our week of game console teardowns is coming to a close, and we have a super-extra-special teardown for today. We partnered with Engadget to bring you a glimpse of one of the most interesting game consoles ever — the Nintendo Virtual Boy!

Direct quote from our guys who created the teardown: “The Virtual Boy is bar none the coolest device we’ve ever taken apart.” Everyone at the office agrees that it’s an awesome console, so much so that there have been arguments over who’s going to play it next.

Nintendo called the Virtual Boy a “32-bit, 3-D experience” that “eliminates all external stimuli, totally immersing players into their own private universe.” Even so, TIME Magazine listed the Virtual Boy as one of the worst inventions of all time, and PC World called it one of “the ugliest products in tech history.” Of course, neither Time nor PC World ever opened one, so what do they know?

Teardown Highlights:

  • The Virtual Boy was only available in North America for seven months — from August 14, 1995 until March 2, 1996 — with only 770,000 units sold. Compare that with the Nintendo 64, which sold 32.93 million units over its lifespan.
  • Virtual Boy tech specs:
    • 20 MHz, 32-bit RISC Processor
    • 128 KB dual-port VRAM
    • 384 x 224 pixel resolution
    • 2-bit monochrome display (black and three shades of red)
    • 16-bit stereo sound
  • The Neoprene eyepiece completely encompassed the player’s field of vision. This not only isolated the player from the rest of the world, but prevented anyone else from seeing what the player was doing. If only the Virtual Boy could play “other” content…
  • Games such as Mario’s Tennis support the use of the Extension port to hook up two Virtual Boys for multiplayer play. Regrettably, Nintendo never got around to releasing an appropriate cable.
  • In order to deliver a full range of motion in a virtual 3-D environment, a method of controlling motion in the z-axis was required. To overcome this hurdle, a second D-pad was added to the controller.
  • The modular construction of the Virtual Boy indicates it was designed with repair in mind. A damaged controller port or audio system could be individually replaced rather than having to replace the whole motherboard.
  • Each 4-color display unit was manufactured by Reflection Technology Inc., and featured a 1×224 pixel resolution with 32 levels of intensity. The “image” produced by the display is merely a row of red LEDs. Used in conjunction with an oscillating mirror, a full image is produced.
  • The mirror oscillates and the LED refreshes with such speed that the human eye perceives a single image across the view plane.
  • To oscillate the mirror, alternating electrical current at high frequency is passed through a copper coil attached to the mirror. A stationary iron core is attached to the display unit, forming a solenoid to produce the motive force needed for oscillation.
  • Because the entire image is produced by a single row of LEDs, the refresh rate is incredibly high. The pattern of LEDs displayed changes 19,277 times every second!

Removing the bottom cover

Final layout