Dell Streak Teardown

August 18, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We’ve been looking forward to the Streak for a long time. This not-so-little half-tablet, half-phone defies easy categorization, and Dell seriously piqued our interest. So we took it apart.

The Streak’s internals are quite easy to access. Dell designed the device so that a mechanical engineering degree was not required for a successfuldisassembly. We were able to reverse engineer the assembly process within minutes.

Teardown highlights:

  • The LCD is bonded to the front panel glass to increase the strength of the device, as well as the sensitivity of the capacitive touch panel. The front panel’s solid construction should withstand drops from above waist height.
  • Sadly, the Streak’s LCD is permanently adhered to the front panel glass. However, that LCD/glass subassembly is held in the front panel with some very strong adhesive, and could be removed with enough careful prying.
  • The five T5 Torx screws holding the unit together are found right underneath the bezels on the front of the device. It’s super easy to open it and take it apart.
  • The 1530 mAh battery is easily replaceable and is covered with a sheet of steel, rather than plastic, to decrease its overall thickness. We wonder if the Streak can double as body armor, but we find it unlikely.
  • The Streak has a second 2 GB microSD card near the top of the motherboard. This card is used to house system and applications files only, and Dell doesn’t want you to remove it.
  • The “C”-shaped motherboard comes out easily after disconnecting some cables. Rather than using daughterboards like the Droid 2, the Streak has all components attached to this singular motherboard.
  • Big players on the motherboard include:
    • Qualcomm: QSD8250 Snapdragon processor, MXU6219 RF transceiver, PM7540 power management chip
    • Analog Devices ADV7520 Low Power HDMI™/DVI Transmitter
    • Hynix H8BES0UU0MCR NAND-based MCP
    • TriQuint Semiconductor TQS 7M5012 Power Amp (Quad-band GSM)
    • Texas Instruments TPS 65023 integrated Power Management IC

Unplugging the display

Final layout

Motorola Droid 2 Teardown

August 12, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Motorola made significant evolutionary changes to the Droid 2‘s internals (1 GHz processor, 802.11n, etc.) that provide an overall speedier experience for the user. Yet, the phone’s internal layout is so similar to the original Droid that it is difficult to discern which is which once they’re apart. Motorola certainly took the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it route” by keeping everything people didn’t complain about exactly the same, and upgrading the bits that mattered. Who wouldn’t like smoother games and faster browsing?

The phones are so similar that you can use our Droid repair guides to fix pretty much anything on the Droid 2! We’re updating the guides to compensate for a couple of small differences — the Droid 2 uses T3 and T5 Torx screws in place of Phillips — but anyone can use the guides right now without much hassle.

Teardown highlights:

  • Unlike the iPhone 4 with its “Authorized Service Provider Only” pull tab, the Droid 2 has a helpful note stating “Battery Removal Here.” Thank you, Motorola.
  • The Droid 2 has a 3.7V, 1390 mAh Li-Ion Polymer battery, identical to the one found in the Droid. Yet, Motorola advertises a 575 minute usage time for the Droid 2, compared to a 385 minute usage time for the Droid. That’s a claimed 49% improvement while still using the same battery!
  • The Droid 2’s 5 MP rear-facing camera with dual-LED flash supports DVD-quality video recording at 6 more FPS than the original Droid – 30 FPS vs. 24 FPS.
  • The Droid 2 uses the same 3.7 inch, Full WVGA, 854×480 TFT LCD as the original Droid.
  • After de-routing the ribbon cable through the slider mechanism, the keyboard can be easily removed from the back of the slider bracket. We believe that you can transplant a Droid 2 keyboard into your old Droid (they look identical on the back side) but haven’t tested it yet.
  • The camera board is actually a separate circuit board that can be easily removed from the motherboard, just like in the original.
  • We suspect the TI OMAP 3630 processor is buried beneath an Elpida K4332C1PD package, which appears to be a DDR mobile RAM chip. We’ll have Chipworks investigate this further.
  • The Droid 2 has a SanDisk SDIN4C2 8 GB NAND flash package that wasn’t included in the original Droid. But it includes a half-as-large micro SD card, so out the box it doesn’t have more capacity than the original.
  • The TI WL1271B WLAN Bluetooth/FM chip gives the Droid 2 802.11n capability.

Lifting off the plastic rim

Final layout

Magic Trackpad Teardown

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

We’ve noticed an interesting trend after having dismantled so many Apple products: “thin and pretty” does not translate well to “user serviceable.” The Magic Trackpad is no exception to this trend, having few parts that can be replaced without potentially destroying the whole device.

There were no magical unicorns inside, but we did uncover a plethora of components within the Trackpad’s very thin profile. Even though repairing the components might be infeasible, we’re still impressed by everything Apple’s engineers managed to stuff into the Trackpad.

We also created a Vimeo video slideshow for an alternate teardown viewing experience!

Teardown highlights:

  • This is one of the few Apple products where the battery is user serviceable.
  • The battery screw has square threads! While square threads have the highest mechanical efficiency of all lead screws, their difficulty of manufacturing makes them prohibitive for most applications. Kudos, Apple, for sweating the details.
  • After a good amount of quasi-non-destructive prying, the inner spacer can be removed from the trackpad. This spacer prevents the highly unlikely event of squeezing the lower panel against the logic board hard enough to damage it.
  • The ribbon cables are ridiculously thin and are stuck to the underside of the touch pad. If you plan on servicing your Trackpad, proceed with caution.
  • After using a heat gun to warm up the adhesive, the touch pad can be carefully pried off the aluminum chassis. This step is not for the faint of heart. A copious amount of heat, guitar picks, and plastic opening tools were required to make the touch pad budge.
  • The Magic Trackpad has a unique way of triggering the mouse button. As you press down on the top surface of the pad, the two rubber feet near its front edge push on a plate attached to the chassis. The plate squeezes the electronic mouse button switch, producing the characteristic “click.”
  • At the heart of the Magic Trackpad’s logic board lies a Broadcom BCM2042 for Bluetooth connectivity — the same chip used by the Magic Mouse.
  • We also found a Broadcom BCM5974 touch screen controller chip that provides multi-touch functionality. This is the same chip you’ll find in the iPhone, iPod Touch, and MacBook Air.

Disconnecting the touch pad ribbon cable

Final layout

Announcing a new member of the iFixit family, Make: Projects

July 20, 2010 Site News — Kyle Wiens

I don’t like to keep secrets. I’d much rather talk about the process of building iFixit as we go, explaining our rationale and motivations. We work most effectively by interacting with you and taking advantage of community feedback: we really do value your perspective and advice.

So I am thrilled to finally be able to tell you about a top-secret project we’ve been working on for a while: Today, in conjunction with Make Magazine, we are launching Make: Projects.

John Park with his PIR Sensor Arduino Alarm

Make is a DIY publisher started by the best technology book publisher on the planet, O’Reilly. Their mission is simple: to teach people how to make awesome stuff. I absolutely love everything about them. Their community comes out en masse at Maker Faire every year. Their staff are some of the smartest, friendliest, most in-the-loop people in the publishing industry. And they write the coolest, best-documented, and most practical project instructions out there. We are fortunate to be collaborating with them.

The new site runs on the same software platform that we do, making it easy for anyone to publish step-by-step guides that show you how to make things.

Here’s the best way to think about this:

Simple enough! Of course, those are both monumental goals. Make is already off to a good start, though—they’ve already got over a hundred projects online, and more are going up every day.

Modding toy Tonka trucks

The idea for this project came about a year ago when I was talking with Dale Dougherty (co-founder of O’Reilly and founder of Make) about the need for a common procedural manual file format. Dale has even more experience with documentation than I do, having written the book on sed and awk, two absolutely critical UNIX utilities we use for manipulating text. Our “Aha!” moment occured when we realized that iFixit’s repair guides have almost exactly the same underlying structure as Make’s project tutorials. The problem they have is that magazine layouts don’t convert very well to the web.

Make has the same problem most publishers do: their content is stuck in Indesign, and Adobe has traditionally done a very poor job of enabling semantic markup and compatibility with external workflows. That may not matter to you, but it’s the reason they have never really posted their full project library online (their digital edition provides online viewing, but it’s Flash-based and not very web-friendly).

We’ve actually been blown away by how easy it has been to map their projects into our rigid, semantic, step-by-step guide framework. You can see the results for yourself: their projects look absolutely phenomenal online.

We are absolutely thrilled to take the same collaborative software that we use to enable people to work together on service manuals and provide it to the burgeoning DIY maker movement. This will be an invaluable tool for hackerspaces and groups like DIY Bio to build a knowledge base.

What’s in a manual?

Our procedural manuals have:

  • Title
  • Time required
  • Difficulty
  • Tools
  • Parts + Materials
  • Summary
  • Introduction
  • Step-by-step instructions. Each step has:
    • Up to three photos
    • Up to ten bullets
  • Conclusion

Now that two of the largest publishers of DIY instructions are using the same format, there are some exciting possibilities for enabling the community! I’ll be writing more about this soon.

What goes where?

There are some interesting grey areas where the sites may blend, and it will be up to the communities to decide what content belongs where.

What belongs on iFixit:

Instructions to make things last longer. Repairs, upgrades, hacks to existing things that make them work longer, maintenance techniques.

What does not belong on iFixit:

Anything that does not help make things work longer. Examples: mods and hacks that add ancillary functionality.

What belongs on Make:

Instructions to make things. Examples: ways to make innovative crafts, mods like Maquariums, new kite designs, Arduino hacks, and DIY manufacturing techniques.

What does not belong on Make:

Repairs, maintenance, tips for making things last longer. Duplicate builds of existing projects.

Sometimes repair requires manufacturing, like this capacitor discharge tool, thus creating a grey area. (BP’s repair of the oil well is certainly the most prominent example of this, but I doubt they’ll be teaching us how to do what they did.) We’ll work with the combined communities on to further clarify the community policy on what belongs where. This is real-world information architecture, and I’m looking forward to helping coordinate this.

What changes were made for Make?

Those of you already familiar with iFixit may wonder what we had to change to make the platform work for Make. In addition to the obvious facelift, we made two primary changes:

  1. We renamed ‘Device’ to ‘Topic’. So where on iFixit guides are organized by device (like installing a battery or an LCD in a specific iPod), on Make guides will be organized by topic (like Rocketry or Soft Circuits).
  2. You can add Make guides to up to two topics. This makes sense for projects like Arduino Blinking Bike Patch that should be visible by browsing to either Soft Circuits or Arduino.

How do we organize everything?

iFixit is organized by device. The instructions to install an iPod battery are nested this way: Media Player -> iPod -> iPod Nano -> iPod Nano 4th generation.

Make: Projects is organized by topic. To learn how to make a solar-powered LED bracelet, you’d browse through Craft -> Jewelry -> Solar Joule Bracelet.

Now go teach people to make something!

The internet is still quite poor at connecting the digital world with the physical. Make: Projects is a big step forward in our efforts to make the internet better by teaching people how to do real things.

Oil Leak Could Transform Repairmen into Superheroes

July 15, 2010 Repair Stories, Site News — Kyle Wiens

For the first time in our nation’s history, our hopes and dreams and economic fate rest, not on a warrior or a politician or an astronaut, but on a team of repairmen.

Todd Schilla (left) and Ryan Gressett (right) co-pilot a remotely operated vehicle lowering a top hat onto the oil well in the gulf of Mexico. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley.

The effort to seal the ruptured oil well in the Gulf is the grandest and highest-profile repair job since the Apollo 13 duct-tape fix. It is requiring a vast effort, leveraging all the ships and equipment and manpower that the most powerful companies and nations on earth can bring to bear.

It would be thrilling if the consequences of failure were not so dire.

Whatever the ultimate solution is, the men and women who finally do fix the ruptured well should be regarded as national heroes.

Continue reading our full editorial on Wired.com.

iPhone 4 Wallpapers: Gyro and Internals

June 30, 2010 Hardware, Site News — Miro

This morning we published a teardown of the iPhone 4’s vibrational gyroscope. We tried our best to explain how vibrational gyroscopes function and have documented their internals at a microscopic level.

The pictures were worth a thousand words. Everyone was thrilled to see Chipworks‘ images of vibrational gyroscopes, and one user even made an iPhone wallpaper out of them.

We loved the “gyroscope wallpaper” idea so much that we re-created the same wallpaper for everyone to enjoy, and included an “iPhone 4 Internals” wallpaper to boot:


Just click on the pictures above within your iPhone’s browser to access the full-resolution images. If for some reason you cannot click on the images, you can use the Gyro and Internals links, respectively.

iPhone 2G, 3G & 3GS users, do not fret — the images are 2:3 ratio and will look just fine on your phones.

This is a buy zero, get two free promotion, practically unheard of outside of iFixit. Enjoy!

iPhone 4 Gyroscope Teardown

June 30, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Apple first announced the iPhone 4’s gyroscope at WWDC 2010, but it was largely overshadowed by other big players inside the phone — the A4 processor, Retina display, and external antennas. A lot of technology gets stuffed into vibrational gyroscopes (the type found in the iPhone 4), yet a casual observer may barely notice the chip itself, let alone the phenomenal contents within it. We’ve partnered with Chipworks to show you exactly what’s inside these little gems.

GK10A MEMS die, found in the iPhone 4's gyroscope

Vibrational gyroscopes have a ton of practical uses, including automotive yaw sensors, game controllers, and image stabilization in cameras. Now, iPhone 4 applications and games can also benefit from their superb accuracy. The teardown covers not only the iPhone 4’s gyroscope, but vibrational gyroscopes in general. We tried our best to explain how vibrational gyroscopes function and have documented their internals at a microscopic level.

ST LYPR540AH Tri-axis MEMS gyroscope, shot by a scanning electron microscope.

iPhone 4 Repair Guides

June 25, 2010 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Miro

We’ve had the iPhone 4 in our hands for only a couple of  days, which happens to be just enough time to create a comprehensive set of repair guides! We hope you never have to use our guides, but we’ve got you covered if you do.

During our teardown, we investigated the repairability of the front and back glass panels. It turns out that you’ll be able to replace the back glass with little effort, but you won’t be able to replace the front panel without also replacing the LCD. The LCD, glass panel, and digitizer come as one unit in the iPhone 4, and they are inseparable without damaging the device. We’re going to keep investigating to see if there are some methods of separating the LCD from the rest of the front panel, but the “outlook [is] not so good,” so to speak.

The good news is that whatever goes wrong with your beautiful iPhone 4 — whether you crush the home button, damage the front-facing or rear-facing camera, or short out the iPhone logic board while taking a swim — you can fix it, and we can help.

Removing the rear panel

Replacing the rear camera

Replacing the front panel assembly

Replacing the logic board

iPhone 4 Teardown

June 24, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We had a blast taking apart the new iPhone 4. Apple definitely spent time giving the phone a thorough makeover, meticulously changing every little facet.

We are happy to splay the fruits of their labor for your enjoyment!

You can view the teardown, or head to YouTube to check out our video slideshow.

Teardown highlights:

  • Like the iPhone 3G and 3GS, there are two silver Phillips screws at the bottom of the phone. But removing these screws releases the rear case instead of the front glass, giving you immediate access to the battery.
  • Unfortunately, the LCD panel is very securely glued to the glass and digitizer. If you break the glass, you’ll have to replace the glass, digitizer, and LCD as a single assembly.
  • The 3.7V, 1420 mAh Li-Polymer battery is not soldered in place, and is very easy to remove.
  • In what can only be described as a work of genius, Apple has integrated the UMTS, GSM, GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth antennas into the stainless steel inner frame.
  • The iPhone 4 sports two cameras — a VGA front-facer, and a 5 MP beauty on the back. Both are located on their own independent boards, making it possible to physically remove the cameras without damaging the phone.
  • The phone uses the 1 GHz ARM Cortex A8 core, much like its bigger sibling, the iPad.
  • Unlike the iPhone 3GS and iPad — which are both equipped with 256 MB of RAM — the iPhone 4 has a whopping 512 MB.
  • The AGD1 is the new 3 axis gyroscope that we believe is designed and manufactured by ST Micro for Apple. The package marks on this device do not appear to be the currently available commercial part, L3G4200D.
  • Broadcom provides both a BCM4329FKUBG 802.11n with Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and FM receiver and a BCM4750IUB8 single-chip GPS receiver.
  • We’ve identified chips from Broadcom, Cirrus Logic, Numonyx, Samsung, ST Micro, Skyworks, Texas Instruments, and TriQuint.

Removing the camera

The iPhone 4 splayed out

Mac Mini Mid 2010 Teardown

June 16, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We were finally able to acquire a Mini after some patient loitering outside our local Apple store. We were the only people in line, but we’re a committed bunch.

The 2010 Mini has been heavily revised. The main external difference is the new “pancaked” look — it’s wider than the previous Mini, but significantly thinner.

The power brick is gone (the power supply is now internal), and Apple has finally included an all-important HDMI port. However, Apple’s engineers didn’t stop there, and we found some very cool internal improvements!

You can check out the teardown, or alternately, view our YouTube video slideshow (for those who like moving pictures).

Teardown highlights:

  • With a simple counter-clockwise twist, we were able to gain access into the Mini’s internals. Gone are the days of the putty knife. You will be missed, old friend!
  • Removing the RAM is very simple this time around, requiring only the simple prying of two clips.
  • The fan doesn’t have too much work to do, since the new Mac Mini is the most energy-efficient desktop, running on less than 10 watts at idle!
  • There are two blind holes in the case of the Mini that are meant for the ends of Apple’s custom U-shaped logic board removal tool. We just used two Torx screwdrivers. We call them the “Mac Mini logic board removal tool.”
  • In keeping with its space saving design, the fins directing air toward the vent hole are slanted to allow for better fan placement.
  • The new Mini’s power supply churns out a minuscule 7 Amps at 12V. Compare that to the 25.8 Amps at 12V cranked out by the iMac Intel 27″, and you can understand how they fit the power supply inside the Mini.
  • The Mini’s 3/8″ woofer dome won’t be popping ear drums anytime soon.
  • Apple had to get creative with the antenna placement because they switched to unibody construction for this Mac Mini.

Removing the logic board

Mac Mini in pieces