Droid Bionic Teardown

September 12, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Motorola’s Droid Bionic ties its cousin, the Atrix, as the most repairable smartphone we’ve torn down. All you really need is a Torx T5 screwdriver (and some untrimmed fingernails, if you want to forego plastic opening tools) to take the whole phone apart!

Not surprisingly, it received a 9 out of 10 repairability score, as the phone is held together with a limited number of screws and plastic clips. Adhesive is minimally used in its construction, and many components can be replaced individually — they’re not tied together with long, delicate ribbon cables. Heck, you can even replace the LCD separately from the glass!

It warms our DIY hearts to disassemble devices like the Bionic. It gives us hope for a world where people fix their devices instead of tossing them in the trash.

Teardown highlights:

  • A sticker, some clips, and a few — ahem, ELEVEN — screws around the perimeter of the Bionic are all that prevent us from peeking inside. All screws are of the Torx T5 variety, which are easily surmountable using iFixit’s 54-piece bit driver kit.
  • We were greeted by a forest of EMI shields once we removed the rear cover. It took us forever to desolder all the shiny squares.
  • We disconnected the loudspeaker from the otherwise unexciting rear case; it looked to be ideal for proclaiming the characteristic “Drooooooiiiiid” upon powering on the phone.
  • The 4G LTE SIM card module is held in place by two additional screws — and that’s the extent of screw-type fasteners inside this phone. They’re also the same T5 Torx size, meaning you only need one screwdriver to take apart the phone.
  • We’re relieved to see that Motorola isn’t using the same long ribbon cables found in some of their other devices. This is wonderful, since it means you don’t have to replace two or three fully functional components that are tied to the same cable as your dead component.
  • The rear-facing camera simply pops out. Inscription on the component is this wonderful gem: “NCAABA 65161 0100698 2001 SH.” We think that’s code for “8 MP behemoth,” but that’s just speculation.
  • The camera measures in at 7.1 mm x 9.3 mm (length x width) and weighs a porky 1.2 grams! Much like the Droid X and Droid X2, the large camera seems to be the main reason behind the “hump” at the top of the phone.
  • After some slash-and-burn on the EMI shield forest, we found the big players on the motherboard:
  • Elpida B8064B2PB-8D-F 1 GB DRAM and TI OMAP 4430 processor
  • SanDisk SDIN4C2-16G 16GB Flash memory
  • ST Ericsson CPCAP 006556001
  • Qualcomm PM8028 power management chip that works in conjunction with the Qualcomm MDM6600 to provide CDMA connectivity
  • Hynix H8KCS0SJ0AER and Hynix H8BCS0QG0MMR memory MCP containing Hynix DRAM and STM flash
  • ATMEL MXT224E-CCU Touchscreen Controller
  • Motorola T6VP0XBG-0001, believed to be the LTE baseband processor.
  • TI WL1285C, an 802.11n Wi-Fi/FM/GPS/BlueTooth 3.0 all-in-one solution
  • The back of the motherboard is absent of any notable features. It is possible that Motorola placed all of the chips on one side of the board to keep the thickness of the device to a minimum.
  • The qHD display in this phone originally appeared in the Motorola Atrix earlier this year, and we’ve seen one in every Motorola Android phone since.
Final layout

Final layout

Simon Says: “Learn to Solder”

August 29, 2011 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Matt

If you read the title of this post and thought that we spelled “soldier” wrong, then you’re in the right place.  We’ll teach you the basics of soldering and provide you with an alternative to practicing on your iPhone — a nifty little “Simon” game!  Along the way, you’ll learn what a capacitor does, how to interpret those enigmatic, colorful bands on resistors, as well as which way a diode goes on a circuit.  Not sure what a diode is?  You’ll learn that too.

Who knew that hunching over and squinting at a 1.5″ x 2″ green board could be so much fun?  Not to mention that you’ll get to have your way with some hot stuff… Seriously, soldering irons get very hot, so be careful as you brandish that fiery weapon.

We’re convinced that by the time you’re done creating this nifty little device, you’ll have the burning desire to be an electrical engineer at heart. And if you finish soldering this cool little game, and you come to realize you don’t like taking orders from Simon, you’ve picked up the skills along the way to unmake Simon.  Just grab some desoldering braid and have at it!

 

iFixit announces the world’s cheapest repair manual: the HP TouchPad

August 20, 2011 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — bruce
Tidy little black box.

Tidy little black box.

When HP announced the TouchPad, we were excited. We enjoyed ripping apart the Palm Pre, but decided to wait until WebOS caught on before taking apart the new TouchPad. Now that it is at the height of its popularity, it’s high time to pay the little-tablet-that-could-have-been-great some attention. Because if we don’t, no one ever will, and that’s sad. So without further ado—and before HP takes the TouchPad out behind the barn and shoots it—we’re launching a full set of repair guides and a native iFixit WebOS app!

The hundreds (possibly even single-digit-thousands?) of people who’ve spent their hard-earned money on a TouchPad are about to be joined with at least a few thousand more users. Rumor has it HP is sitting on excess stocks of 200,000 unsold units. To clear the excess stock—and drive the last nail into their stillborn child’s coffin—HP just announced that the TouchPad will be sold for $99 this weekend.

So we have decided to repurpose the TouchPad as a dedicated repair manual. For $99, you could head down to AutoZone and buy a couple outdated service manuals. Or, for the same price, you can get a brand-new Touchpad and have all of iFixit at your fingertips. Imagine: the largest online service manual, always up to date, and completely portable. Your workshop might never be the same!

But it would be unconscionable for us to recommend you buy a tablet that has already been discontinued without a plan for making it last. Yes, the TouchPad is the cheapest repair manual the world has ever seen. But it’s also got a built-in battery with a finite life and a fragile glass screen. HP cut this machine off at the vine before it bloomed, and it would be insane to expect them to help you service it. Buy the TouchPad, and you’re on your own. But we can help.

Fixing your TouchPad

Tablet computers are the best money-making compromise the tech industry has ever seen: they combine raw computing power of a full-size PC with the “discard-every-year-or-two” promise of the cell phone in one tidy package. This allows the manufacturer (whether HP, Apple, or another) to effectively keep selling updated, high-profit tablet PCs to consumers at a steady rate.

Tablets are tidy black boxes that scream “toss me” at the first sign of trouble. And although they haven’t been around that long time, we’re seeing the same disturbing disposability with tablets that we’re accustomed to with cell phones.

That’s why it’s so crucial to have repair guides for the TouchPad. Even though at a glance the tablet is a screen with a magic cover that “just works,” there’s tons of repairable stuff to be found inside. If something breaks, you don’t need to buy a new one—heck, you won’t be able to. Instead, use our repair guides to fix it yourself! Keep one more device from joining the rest of its brethren in the landfill.

Opening the TouchPad.

Opening the TouchPad.

Repair stuff with the iFixit WebOS app

So you took our advice, rushed down to Best Buy, and bought a soon-to-be-defunct tablet. Well done! Now you can hop onto the WebOS app store and download our app, thanks to a certain Ben Tattersley! Using our open API, he single-handedly created a free WebOS application to display our guides. He did a bang-up job—the app is really quite good. Which is a shame, because most of you reading this will never know it. Yet the thriftiest 1% of you that do buy the TouchPad at fire-sale prices will get always-on access to thousands of iFixit guides. (There’s no web link, because HP apparently never got around to it. But trust us—buy a TouchPad, tap the ‘HP App Catalog’ icon, and search for iFixit.)

Tablets are the best way to use repair manuals: you can take them almost anywhere, their long battery life ensures you can make good progress on your repairs, and touch scrolling means you can navigate easily even with dirty hands.

We open source all our mobile apps. Ben set up a Github repository for the iFixit app, just in case you’re interested in contributing to the code. Or not. Decide for yourself whether you want to join us in embracing a dead platform.

The iFixit WebOS app

The iFixit WebOS app

P.S. If you want to buy a tablet that you can use as something other than a repair manual, get an iPad. We’ve got a native app for it, too.

Dozuki: A new way to write how-to manuals

August 18, 2011 Site News — eric

I have a big announcement to make. For the first time ever, iFixit is branching out from our core business of selling parts and tools. We’re going to start selling software—the same software that we use to run iFixit. This is something that astute observers may have expected from the development, and success, of Make: Projects.

User manuals are stuck in the 20th century. Even the best manuals are still distributed as static PDFs. Service technicians are often stuck with documentation that is months, if not years, out of date. Users hate IKEA-style manuals with vague instructions, confusing graphics, and no photos.

We started iFixit with the idea that there was a better way—that useful documentation could help people do amazing things.

Our intuitive, step-by-step repair manuals changed the world. Millions of people have fixed their own electronics using iFixit’s manuals—making it the most popular service documentation platform ever created.

Today, we are announcing Dozuki: the software behind iFixit’s manuals. We’re taking the site that you all know and love, and turning the technology behind it into software products that we’re going to sell to manufacturers. Dozuki has two products, Guidebook and Answers. Check it out at dozuki.com, and let me know what you think.

Guidebook makes step-by-step instructions come alive.

Guidebook is a modern procedural documentation platform. Guidebook makes it easy for anyone to create how-to instructions or publish service documentation for complex devices. Every manual is available online, as downloadable PDFs, through dedicated mobile apps like iFixit’s iOS app—or through custom API applications. It’s simple for technicians to suggest changes, so manuals consistently get better over time.

Answers transforms conversations into archived wisdom.

Answers is enterprise-grade Q&A for experts. Answers is a structured tool for focusing expert conversations into a useful (and searchable) knowledge base. Answers gives companies the ability to make their products a hub for knowledge exchange.

Building expert communities

iFixit won top online community this year at South by Southwest (SXSW). This announcement makes their expertise at building communities available to manufacturers of all sizes. Dozuki isn’t just a content management system—it’s a community platform that empowers companies to give their expert customers a voice. Companies that allow their customers to extend their documentation will see consumers flock to sustainable, durable products. By joining the community, manufacturers have the opportunity to set a positive tone, provide leadership, and increase long-term demand.

Workgroup collaboration

Dozuki also targets enterprises needing collaborative workgroup tools. Imagine improving the productivity of distributed teams by giving people access to domain expertise already available within the company. Dozuki can transform existing procedures and support documents into a framework for social interaction.

Proven solution

Dozuki’s powerful framework has powered iFixit onto Inc’s list of the 5000 fastest growing companies for the past three years. iFixit is now one of the largest Apple parts companies in the world, hosting complete service manuals for every major Apple product. iFixit’s popular gadget teardowns receive millions of views and drive consistent e-commerce growth.

We partnered with O’Reilly to bring Make Magazine’s exciting do-it-yourself projects into the digital realm. Their successful Guidebook community, Make: Projects, allows users to post their own DIY projects alongside Make’s professional articles.

Dozuki is in private beta now and will be launching publicly this fall. If you’re interested, head over to dozuki.com and add yourself to the beta invite list. We’ll be inviting members of the community to the beta early.

What does this all mean?

We’re very excited about what this means for iFixit. We’re constantly looking for ways to continue investing in the site and hire more engineers without running advertisements on iFixit. We’re as committed as ever to building a free online repair manual for everything, and if Dozuki is successful, we’ll have additional resources to throw at making the world’s best repair manual. As always, we’re committed to making iFixit the best that it can be, and I welcome your feedback and feature suggestions.

9.5mm Optical Bay Hard Drive Enclosure

August 15, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Brett

It's time to say goodbye...

Gone are the days of spinning optical media! Say goodbye to the huge stacks of jewel cases, 700 MB limits, and skipping tracks whenever you drive over speed-bumps. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, CDs are no longer the way of the future. They’re a thing of the past, just like their eight-track ancestors. Box them away, use them as shiny coasters, and by all means stop putting them in your computers.

Here are the days of mass storage, near-instant access, and skip-proof handling. As hard drives and solid-state drives continue to drop in price, they continue to rise in usefulness and availability. They are faster, stronger, and better than optical media, and they can be written an almost infinite number of times.

So what are you waiting for? Get rid of that dusty old optical drive inside your unibody MacBook or MacBook Pro! With this optical bay enclosure, you can disguise any hard drive as an optical drive and use it as a secondary drive. Once installed, the second drive will be considerably faster and safer than your optical media.

We’ve been selling a similar optical bay drive enclosure for some time now; but in true iFixit fashion, we’re never satisfied with the status quo. Our revised optical bay enclosure specifically addresses a small shortcoming of the old one — the earlier version had no flanges to allow it to be securely screwed to the front of the unibody case, causing the enclosure and hard drive to be a little loose. In our new-and-improved enclosure, there are added flanges and screws to make sure that the hard drive is as snug as a bug in a rug.

The new-and-improved enclosure is tailored specificially for unibody MacBooks and MacBook Pros

Mac Mini Dual Hard Drive Kit

August 12, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Miro

We found in our teardown that the new Mac Mini had a lovely empty spot for a secondary drive. Needless to say, in the days following the teardown we received hundreds of requests for some way to add a secondary drive to the new Mini without having to buy the $400-extra Server model.

It took a while to sort out the gremlins and align the stars, but it’s finally here! Our new Mac Mini Dual Hard Drive Kit is the perfect solution to add a second hard drive to your Mini.

Want instant-on access? Just couple the kit with an SSD or the Seagate Hybrid 500GB SATA drive (which includes a 4GB SSD on it) to make Lion run like a cheetah. Or, if extreme storage is your thing, install two Seagate 750 GB drives into your Mini for 1.5 Terabytes of storage awesome!

Each kit contains:

We managed to toss all the components above into one tidy little package and set the price to $69.95. And once you have the kit, just follow our awesome instructions to get your second drive installed properly.

Every Day We’re Hustlin’

August 8, 2011 Site News, Video — Melissa

MJ Repairing a MacMiniThough it has been an absolutely gorgeous and mild summer here at iFixit headquarters, we’ve been working diligently in the studio, producing tons of new repair and teardown videos. What can we say? We love what we do. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve released recently:

Macbook Pro 13” Unibody Hard Drive
Macbook Pro 13” Unibody Upper Case
Mac Mini (Core Duo) Hard Drive
Macbook Air 2011 Teardown

There are dozens of more videos on our YouTube channel, ranging from game console repairs, to a Q&A segment called Ask iFixit, to a particularly informative video on ESD. If you think our time spent hunkered down in the studio is worth the effort, stay up-to-date with all of our teardown and repair videos is by subscribing–for free–to our YouTube channel!

Lastly, we love to answer questions. For example, maybe you want us to show you how to repair a jetski? Or maybe your boat is on the fritz? Or perhaps you have some other project in mind that would require us to go to the lake and enjoy the fabulous weather? If you’ve got a question that you’d like to have answered, email it to askifixit at ifixit.com, and we might feature it on an upcoming episode of Ask iFixit.

We’ll be back periodically to share our latest video offerings. Until then: Happy Fixing!

–MJ

Wanted: Technical Writer / Tinkerer

July 27, 2011 Hardware — Miro

iFixit’s staff is the focal point of a global community showing people how to fix the things they own. We believe that we can make the world better by empowering people to take control of their hardware.

We are the world’s foremost experts on Apple repair, and we’ve set the gold-standard for online repair documentation. We have already helped millions of people fix their own devices, and we plan to help tens of millions more.

We’re looking for a full-time writer/tinkerer to spearhead our repair effort by creating unparalleled repair guides for electronics, cars, motorcycles, appliances, and just about anything else we think would be fun to take apart. The ideal candidate has a passion for succinct communication, loves to take things apart, and fixes all their friends’ stuff.

Candidates should:

  • Enjoy tinkering!
  • Have certain mechanical aptitude — know their way around an engine or home repair project.
  • Have impeccable grammar.
  • Have editing experience, and enjoy correcting tpyos and errors of the grammar.
  • Progress through life with a sense of humor.

This position is full-time at our San Luis Obispo office (next to Cal Poly campus). Apple industry experience is not necessary; neither is any specific degree. We’d say that the ideal candidate would probably be a mechanic with a liberal arts background.

Want to know what it’s like to work at iFixit? Our team made a video about just that.

To apply: email us a PDF of your resume, as well as a short cover letter explaining two things: why you’re badass, and why you’re the ideal candidate for this job.

ESD is not a venereal disease

July 27, 2011 Answers, Site News, Tools — Jeff

Electrostatic discharge and novice electronics repair

Block Image

Take precautions before handling

Beware: a short stroll on your Dacron® carpet can load the surface of your skin and clothes with enough spare electrons to cook that RAM you just took out of its special little pink or silver bag. Recipes for Abbacchio Al Forno aside, cooking your RAM is something to avoid. If you are new to tinkering with electronics, you may not have heard of electrostatic discharge (ESD) safety procedures. ESD is a sudden electric shock that your electronic device may incur if it isn’t handled properly. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the components inside your device get, the more sensitive they are to those crackles and pops you hear on a dry day when you pet the cat.

Electronic components become smaller every year; so just about any electronic device you own has components that require proper care on your part before you start fiddling inside. Be it the innards of your smart phone or the logic board, RAM, or hard drive in your laptop, the free electrons on your skin are just itching to attack all those tiny semiconductors.

By the way, you and all the objects around you are exchanging static charges all the time. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you don’t see a spark, there is no energy transferred. That visible spark between your finger and a door knob may have contained several thousand volts, but some electronic components are sensitive to static discharge of less than one hundred volts. You are unlikely to see, feel, or hear these smaller (yet still potentially damaging) exchanges of charge. Just scooting your butt around in your chair can load up enough zap juice to cause mayhem.

Just the facts ma’am

So, every time you or other objects move around, making and breaking contact with various surfaces, a static charge may build up. A particular surface may hold or dissipate that charge depending on all sorts of factors, like relative humidity in the air, conductivity of the material, etc. If those details don’t put you to sleep and you want to know more, have a look at the web page of the Electrostatic Discharge Association. It’s loaded with detail mostly intended for folks in manufacturing who really need to keep ESD under control.

For the electronics repair novice, the key tidbit to keep in mind is that bad things happen when your electronic components (with one level of charge) suddenly come in contact with something with a different level of charge. Spare electrons on the surface try to find equilibrium and create havoc. If they rush from one object to another and some tiny electronics are in the way, the semiconductors get cooked. Yet when all components in your device are assembled, they share one big happy charge together. So there’s no problem until  you start taking it all apart — that’s when the potential for different charges rears its ugly head.

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ESD Safe symbol: a triangle/hand under an arc.

The objective of ESD safe procedures and tools is to dissipate or equalize unequal charges before they can flow through delicate electronics, or to slow the exchange of that electrostatic charge enough so it does not cause damage. If your hands, work surface, tools, and electronic parts are all at the same charge or all connected to a decent ground, there will be no exchange of charge between them when they come in contact. This is the purpose of anti-static wrist straps and mats. Those special pink or silver plastic bags containing your new disk drive or RAM chip are designed to dissipate static charge slowly enough to prevent damage. The pink or silver plastic is neither a good conductor, which would dissipate an unequal charge too quickly, nor a good insulator, which would hold a potentially damaging charge for a long time. Likewise, the special plastic grips of ESD safe tools are intended to slowly dissipate an unequal charge. Used together with the right procedures, ESD safe tools and anti-static mats and wrist straps may keep your new RAM fresh and uncooked.

So what’s a novice to do?

A few simple precautions will help keep you from creating inadvertent paperweights:

  • Unplug your electronic device.
  • Remove rings, watches, and bracelets from your fingers and wrists.
  • Ground your work surface. Lay down an anti-static mat and use its wire lead to connect to ground. This can be a water pipe or an unpainted metal part of a grounded appliance like a washing machine, dryer, or refrigerator. You may connect directly to the ground wire of an AC outlet but only if you are certain you know what you’re doing. You may wish to consult an electrician. Can’t get to a good ground? Then clip your mat to something big and conductive like the steel legs of a work bench. This at least gives you a charge reservoir to equalize everything with.
  • Ground yourself. Wear an anti-static wrist strap and use its wire lead to connect to your anti-static mat.
  • Keep your new parts in their pink or silver bags until you are ready to install them.
  • Place all your bagged new parts on the anti-static mat before you work with them.
  • Place your electronic device on the anti-static mat.
  • Place your tools on the anti-static mat.

Everything, including your hands, should now have an equal charge and you can get to work. As you work keep a few things in mind:

  • If your electronic device has a metal case, its charge should be equalized by just sitting on your anti-static mat. If your electronic device has a plastic case, touch a metal internal case component before you disconnect any internal parts. For example, removing the battery from a MacBook exposes its internal metal frame. Touching your grounded hand to these metal parts will equalize the charge of the internal components with you and your work surface. Touch those same internal metal frame parts regularly as you work, particularly just before swapping sensitive components like RAM sticks.
  • Any parts that you may wish to keep should be placed in ESD safe pink or silver bags for storage.
  • Caution: ESD safe procedures will not protect you from high voltage discharge from a CRT display or any other glass tube monitor or television. In addition, power supplies built into desktop CPUs or other devices contain capacitors with similar potential for high voltage discharge.

Once you have your device reassembled and working again, don’t forget to remove that silly-looking strap off your wrist. Then it’s time to shuffle across the carpet and zap the cat on the nose.*

 

* We do not condone the abuse of animals, even if it’s zapping your cat on the nose.

What bike repair guides should we create?

July 25, 2011 Hardware — Miro

We’d like to expand our selection of general-purpose guides for non-electronic devices, starting with bicycles — and we’d like your help!

We envision a set of guides for bikes that will cover the majority of common problems (or maintenance techniques) that folks encounter with their pedaled rides. So the question is: what kind of bike guides would you like to see us create?

Ones that immediately come to mind are:

  • Front/rear wheel replacement
  • Tire patching
  • Brake adjustment
  • Seat/handlebar adjustment
  • Derailleur adjustment
  • Cleaning and oiling the bike’s chain/sprockets
  • Pedal removal and installation

So what guides are we missing from that list? Are the above guides a good enough assortment to cover the basics of bike repair?

If we created the guides using one type/brand of bike, will they apply to all kinds of other bikes? For example, we have a great set of guides for this Specialized Expedition mountain bike. How useful would those guides be for someone with a Bianchi road bike?

Those are the questions that need to be answered, and we’d love your input. If you have any suggestions regarding these guides, please visit our iFixit Meta page and share a word or two!

Replacing a bike's rear brakes.

Replacing a bike's rear brakes.