iFixit Blog Has Moved

April 19, 2012 Site News — Elizabeth

Back in January of this year, we launched iFixit.org, the “repair stories” site, where we’re celebrating awesome repair people and investigating the sources and consequences of consumer electronics manufacturing.

In March, we merged this blog with iFixit.org. From now on, we’ll be announcing new teardown and products on iFixit.org. This blog is discontinued.

We’ve merged the two sites’ RSS feeds, so if you read on RSS, no need to update. Please do update your bookmarks, however.

New URL: http://www.ifixit.org
New RSS feed: http://feeds.ifixit.com/ifixitorg

And, as always, you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus for updates. Thanks for your support!

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.

Going to Macworld? We Are

January 23, 2012 Events, Site News — Elizabeth

This weekend, we’ll be in San Francisco at Macworld | iWorld, the annual Apple fan convention held from January 26-28 at the Moscone Center. We’ll be presenting at three events on Thursday and will have an informal meet-up in Oakland on Friday evening. If you’ll be attending, come say hi!

Thursday, Jan. 26, 10-10:45 a.m.
TechTalk: The Doctor is In!
Room 2011

Have a broken iPod lying around? Bring in your broken Apple hardware. Kyle, Luke, and the iFixit team will be joined by folks from the Fixit Clinic to diagnose, troubleshoot, and repair Apple devices. We’ll help diagnose your issues and figure out what needs fixing. We’ll provide a workspace, troubleshooting tools and equipment, expert advice, and even parts for some common repairs. Come pick the brains of our Apple experts, or share your repair victories with like-minded DIYers. We’ll bring a selection of parts to fix many common iPod and iPhone problems on the spot, including failing batteries and cracked screens.

Thursday, Jan. 26, 11-11:45 a.m.
Hardware Repair Showcase
MacWorld.com Stage (in the expo area)

Come learn how to do some cool and easy upgrades on Apple devices! We’ll show you how to replace the back of your iPhone with a transparent rear panel to show off its beautiful insides, how to put a second hard drive in your Mac Mini, and how to replace your laptop’s optical drive with a hard drive.

Thursday, Jan. 26, 5-7:30 p.m.
RapidFire: A Crash Course on Apple Repair—iFixit Shares the Basics of Repairing Your Apple Hardware
Room 2006

RapidFire is a series of five-minute talks, each of which will teach one thing quickly and effectively. In our five-minute RapidFire talk, we’ll show you the best tricks and tips to troubleshoot, get inside, and repair your Apple products. We’ll demonstrate how to handle water damage, bad reception on an iPhone, and ways to get inside devices with the right tools and tricks. Come join us for a quick, visual demonstration to better inform you with the basics of Apple repair knowledge.

If that’s not enough iFixit for your weekend, we also invite you to join us Friday, January 27 at 7 p.m. for shop talk, food, and drinks at the awesome Oakland technology salon Tech Liminal (268 14th St., Oakland, CA 94612). Fixit Clinic people will be there, too. No worries if you don’t have a car—Tech Liminal is pretty close to the 12th St. Oakland City Center BART stop.

Hope to see you there.

Announcing iFixit.org: The People Who Are Fixing the World

January 19, 2012 Activism, Repair Stories, Site News — Kyle

iFixit has been helping people fix their stuff since 2003, with free, easy-to-use, step-by-step repair guides for all sorts of hardware—from electronics to automobiles. We believe in taking control of the devices you own by opening them up and tinkering with their insides. Our vision? A world where everyone has free access to repair manuals for everything. We make it easy, with our guide-creation software, for people to share their repair knowledge with the world.

On this new site, we, the iFixit team, will share the philosophy behind our work, some of the repair stories that we’ve historically been posting on iFixit.com, as well as posts from guests on similar sustainability issues.

(more…)

STOP SOPA+PIPA

January 18, 2012 Activism, Site News — Bob

Many of you are already aware that many of your favorite websites have gone dark or posted censorship warnings today. Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, Imgur, and Craigslist, among a slew of others, are protesting U.S. legislation that would significantly impact the freedom of the internet.

iFixit stands with them.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are pieces of legislation currently under consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, respectively. Both bills lack the correct technical language to do what they intend (you know, actually stop piracy), and instead are vulnerable to overly broad interpretation that could seriously impact the innovation, freedom, and secure operation of the internet.

There are plenty of places where you can get an in-depth analysis of what’s wrong with the bills, so we’ll keep it simple. These are the ways in which SOPA and PIPA would directly impact our operations here at iFixit:

  • Blocking our free, open-source content.
    For censorship purposes, SOPA/PIPA define sites as “domestic” or “foreign” based on their domain name, not their actual base of operations. While iFixit.com is a U.S. domestic domain name and company, we use a Content Distribution Network (CDN) to serve you images and other page content when you view a guide. The CDN finds the geographically-closest server to you so the page loads fast. Based on the loose definition in the bill, some of your guide may be “domestic” and some of it may be “foreign.” Guide images and other content could be inadvertently blocked by blanket domain blacklisting.
  • Teaching repair could be rendered illegal.
    According to the language in the bill, facilitation of criminal violations are enough to get you in trouble. This means that helping users with troublesome DVD region restrictions or tearing down an FBI tracking device could get us in legal hot water. Worse yet, we’ve opened up our site for users to submit and edit their own guides, and we’ve built a community of people who love to help others fix things. All of the work, content, and contributions would be put in jeopardy if the two bills are enacted. Since teaching the world how to do stuff is kind of our bag, this would significantly stifle our mission of teaching the world how to fix everything.

In fact, it’s questionable that iFixit could have even succeeded in a post-SOPA world. We started in a dorm room in 2003 by writing repair manuals for electronics made by a certain big Silicon Valley company because they weren’t publicly available. If we’d chosen a hip “Web 2.0″ domain like iFix.it (FYI, not us!), our site would be considered foreign even though it hails from the U.S. If a certain big Silicon Valley company didn’t like what we were up to, they could have filed a complaint and had our website blocked in the U.S. Game over.

Please take the time to call or write your representatives and let them know how you feel about SOPA and PIPA. It’s difficult for them to make the best decisions for us if they don’t know how we feel, so take a step back from the keyboard (Reddit’s down anyway), pick up your phone, and SPEAK UP!

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!