iMac 21.5″ (EMC 2428) Teardown

May 4, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We got up this morning to news that the new iMacs were out, so we knew what we had to do: start sharpening our suction cups!

Our suction cup gamble paid off. We found very soon that this model iMac opens in the same way as previous generations. All you have to do is pull off the magnetically-held display glass with two medium-size suction cups, and then remove the screws holding the LCD in place.

But what lies inside? We knew of only one way to find out…

The 21.5″ iMac (EMC 2428) scored a very respectable 7 out of 10 Repairability Score. Most of the disassembly is pretty straightforward and accomplished using a T10 Torx screwdriver and suction cups. A casual user can easily replace the RAM, and it’s moderately difficult to access the hard drive and optical drive.

However, more adventurous users (those wanting to upgrade the CPU/GPU) will have to take out the logic board, which is a tricky process; they will also have to void the warranty if they replace the CPU. It’s also quite difficult to reassemble the LCD and glass without a dust mite getting stuck in between the two.

Teardown highlights:

  • The LED display is manufactured by LG and is denoted by its model number LM215WF3. This is the same display used in the previous generation 21.5″ iMac.
  • Similar (but not exactly the same) to the Thunderbolt IC we found in the latest MacBook Pro 15″, the iMac features the Intel L102IA84 EFL Thunderbolt port IC.
  • The optional SSD appears to reside beneath the optical drive — that’s the only space we could find where something was clearly missing. There’s three mounting points under the optical drive that have nothing attached to them in our machine, since this option is only available on 2.7 GHz 21.5″ iMacs.
  • If you want to remove the logic board, you have to snake it out from the rest of the iMac — a combination of pulling up, as well as away from the casing. After a little bit of jiggling, it comes right out.
  • In usual Apple fashion, one heat sink is reserved for the CPU, while the other oversees the GPU. And, in usual Apple fashion, you have to void the warranty in order to get a peep at the CPU processing power underneath.
  • Of course, we’ll do almost anything in the name of science.
  • After popping off the CPU heat sink, we can get a good look at the Core i5 processor. Our machine is powered by a quad-core 2.5 GHz Core i5-2800S CPU with 6 MB of Intel Smart Cache.
  • With a bit of magic, the GPU heat sink detaches from the logic board, exposing the AMD GPU board. You heard that right, folks — you don’t have to replace the entire logic board if your GPU explodes from too much l33t gaming. You can just swap out the GPU board for another one.
  • The main chips on the GPU board include the AMD Radeon HD 6750M GPU, as well as four Hynix H5GQ1H24AFR T2L 1 Gb GDDR SDRAM chips (totaling a cumulative 512 MB).
  • Thankfully, both the CPU and GPU on this machine have proper amounts of thermal paste applied, a happy departure from the gobs applied to the MacBook Pro we recently took apart.
  • At the heart of the Bluetooth board lies a Broadcom BCM2046 Bluetooth IC, as well as 256 KB of SST 39VF200A CMOS Multi-Purpose Flash (MPF). We found this same Broadcom chip a long time ago in the first MacBook Air. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
  • Key players on the logic board include:
    • 2.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5-2800S CPU with 6 MB of Intel Smart Cache.
    • Intel BD82Z68 Platform Controller Hub
    • Broadcom BCM57765B0KMLG Integrated Gigabit Ethernet and Memory Card Reader Controller
    • Cirrus 4206BCNZ audio controller
    • SMSC USX2061 (we believe this a USB 2.0 Hub Controller Family)
    • Intersil ISL6364 CRZ Single-Phase Synchronous-Buck PWM voltage regulator for GPU core power applications
    • Intel L102IA84 EFL Thunderbolt port IC
Taking off the CPU heat sink

Taking off the CPU heat sink

Final layout

Final layout

Nikon D5100 Teardown

April 26, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

It seems as though all the hot new electronics these days are tablet-this, phone-that. Frankly, our engineers had enough. Their spudgers were getting soft; we needed to do something that would present a *challenge* and get them sharp again.

They were desperate for something more mechanically complex to chew on than the cell phone and tablet fare we’ve been feeding them lately. And we knew exactly where to turn. We’ve already written a Nikon D70 repair manual, so we know first-hand how difficult it is to take apart a professional  SLR camera.

What better way to infuse a bit of fun in our teardowns than taking apart another SLR camera? Enter the just-released Nikon D5100.

Teardown highlights:

  • The D5100 utilizes a 16.2 megapixel DX format CMOS sensor to capture images. This sensor has the same specs of the sensor used by the Nikon D7000.
  • Chipworks reports that each pixel on the sensor is 4.8 µm wide. That’s about half the diameter of a red blood cell.
  • The sensor has a special glass cover that turns red when viewed at an angle, but is completely transparent when viewed head-on. Neat!
  • Unlike other recent teardowns, the battery can be easily replaced by opening the compartment with your thumbnail.
  • The 7.4 V 1030 mAh EN-EL14 Li-ion battery is used by the D5100, D3100, and the COOLPIX P700. Sadly, it’s not compatible with other cameras in the Nikon lineup, such as the D90 and D7000.
  • Definitely make sure to discharge the large-and-in-charge 330µF flash capacitor if you attempt any repairs on the D5100. Otherwise you risk accidentally killing your camera.
  • The camera has roughly 4 billion screws holding it together. We had to skip a lot of the “unscrewing this screw” pictures in order to keep the teardown interesting, since we took out 37 of them to get to the teardown layout shot.
  • You can easily access the motherboard by removing the rear cover. You just need to remove twenty-ish #00 Phillips screws, disconnect 9 ribbon cables, and desolder a few wires…
  • The D5100 contains a lot of the same chips found in the Nikon D7000. Key players include:
    • Nikon EXPEED 2 EI-154 1051 Z05 image processor
    • Samsung K4T1G164QF-BCE7 1Gb DDR2-800 SDRAM (total of 3 Gb = 375 MB)
    • MXIC MX29GL128EHXFI-90G 128 Mb parallel flash memory
    • Toshiba TMP19A44FEXBG low-power microcontroller
    • Nikon EI-155 M4L1BA00 00151044
    • Nikon NHHS-2 049M8
  • There’s a light blue pad wedged between the bottom of the flash capacitor and the bottom camera frame. It conducts heat away from the capacitor to cool it down during flash-intensive shooting.
  • The top cover is a feat of engineering by itself. Within its walls are contained: Main control wheel, shutter/aperture control wheel, live view lever, On/Off switch, “info” button, record button, shutter button, exposure compensation button, IR sensor, AF lamp, flash, flash control circuitry, flash actuator, and the microphone.
  • The flash is actuated by a linear solenoid that pushes on a lever to release the spring-loaded flash — either automatically if the sensor detects a low-light situation, or when the flash button is depressed.
Taking off the D5100 top cover

Taking off the D5100 top cover

Final layout

Final layout

iPhone 4 Transparent Rear Panel

April 25, 2011 Hardware, Site News — scott

Update: We’re quite sorry for the misunderstanding, but an internal miscommunication led us to initially claim these panels were made of plastic. They are in fact glass. We’re apologize for the mixup — we’ll be making the responsible parties walk the plank.


We never judge a book by its cover here at iFixit. In fact, we usually remove the cover and judge it from the inside! Electronic circuit boards can be a work of art, and the complexity of their design is something we marvel at. We hold that sentiment for the iPhone 4, which has a cool battery/logic board layout that’s unfortunately hidden by its opaque rear panel.

We felt that was wrong — why shouldn’t you be able to see the sweet innards that Apple engineers toiled over so meticulously? We had to do something about it, so we put our heads together and came up with a solution: our new transparent iPhone 4 rear panel!

At this time, you can only install this product in the  GSM iPhone 4.  We have nothing against the Verizon users; Apple chose to modify the rear panel layout for the Verizon version, and sadly our panel can only fit GSM iPhone 4 units.

You can even go the extra mile and remove the EMI shielding from your logic board as a means to show off your iPhone 4 even more, although we don’t recommend you do this. It looks pretty dang spiffy without the EMI shielding, but that might cause the phone to operate improperly.

One of the added benefits of using this panel is that it’s made from plastic — meaning it’s less prone to fracture, and far cheaper to replace than the glass original panel. The lens and flash diffuser are already installed on the panel, so all you have to do is pop out the screws, slide the old panel out, and slide the new one in. As usual, we have a guide to help you succeed in your endeavor.

It doesn’t get any easier to modify your phone and make it look extra marvelous. The panels are in stock and ready to ship. Order yours today!

Maker Faire 2011

April 14, 2011 Events, Meet iFixit, Site News — aguenther

Maker Faire 2011Maker Faire is once again invading the San Mateo County Event Center May 21-22, and we need your help to run the iFixit Repair Center!

Maker Faire is the epitome of the do-it-yourself mentality. There is no larger concentration of geeky hobbyists and enthusiastic inventors than at Maker Faire. Sharkmobiles, underwater concerts, robotic giraffes, Tesla coil symphonies and a life-size game of mousetrap are just a few of the awesome exhibits staged outside the main hall.

We have been going to Maker Faire every year to spread our knowledge of how to fix things. This year we are hoping to teach more people than ever. This is where you come in.

Enjoy working on your motorcycle? Have you built your own computer? Replaced components of your roadbike? We need you! Volunteer to teach others what you know. We are looking for people who are passionate about repair and reuse. You don’t have to be an expert – but you do need to be enthusiastic about what you do know and eager to share. Volunteers will draw on their collective repair experience to help Maker Faire attendees fix their broken stuff. In addition, volunteers will receive free admission to Maker Faire as well as an iFixit t-shirt.

To volunteer, fill out our Maker Faire volunteer form.

All volunteers will receive an email confirming their volunteer status within a week. Volunteers will be assigned to one or more shifts depending on their preferences and availability.

We are updating our Maker Faire 2011 page with the latest news, so check back periodically for additional information. You can email us at MakerFaire@ifixit.com with any questions. Volunteer space is limited, so sign up now and help contribute to this awesome event!

Restoring Your Headlights

April 5, 2011 Hardware — Miro
Ford Taurus - after restoration

Ford Taurus - after restoration

We at iFixit are fans of DIY car maintenance and repair just as much as for electronics. We feel it’s our civic duty to share with the world if we’ve found some product that was absolutely brilliant, or produced excellent results.

One such product is the 3M Lens Renewal Kit.

Some of my relatives had really crappy headlight lenses. So crappy, in fact, that the light coming through the lenses was severely compromised — enough to present a potential danger from not seeing an object during the night. Something had to be done, and I took matters into my own hands.

This weekend, I performed a headlight restoration intervention.

3M’s instructional video on headlight restoration outlines the entire procedure really well. It’s definitely worth five minutes of your time if you’re considering embarking on such an adventure. You’ll get to see first-hand how all the attachments are used to make the headlight go from crap to awesome. Note that the blue Ford Taurus’ headlight looked almost identical to the one in the video before I began the procedure.

Acura Integra - driver's side lights before and after procedure.

Acura Integra - driver's side lights before and after procedure.

So how did it go? Absolutely smashing. It took me a little over two hours to mask six headlights (two Taurus lights, and four Integra lights) and perform the procedure on all six. I did them in “assembly line” style, where I’d use the 500 grit sanding disk on all six, then the 800 grit disk on all six, etc. That way I didn’t have to switch disks (in theory, at least — the 800 grit disk wore out and I had to swap it for a fresh one), even though I ran the risk of ruining all six lights instead of just one. I figured they couldn’t possibly look worse than they already did. The kit contained everything I needed for the procedure — minus the drill — and had more than enough materials for six lights:

  • 1 – 3M drill backing plate
  • 1 – 3M Masking Tape PN 0000 25 ft.
  • 4 – P800 grit white abrasive discs
  • 6 – P500 grit yellow discs
  • 1 – P3000 Trizact foam disc
  • 1 – Orange foam compounding pad
  • 1 – 1 oz. 3M headlight lens polish sample
Acura Integra - passenger's side lights before and after procedure.

Acura Integra - passenger's side lights before and after procedure.

In the end, I used just one 500-grit disc, two 800-grit disks, and 2/3 of the headlight rubbing compound. The “Trizact” disc was 50% worn after the procedure, and there was at least half the masking tape remaining. The kit definitely contains enough materials to clean up even the largest of headlights, even though 3M’s instructional video strangely cautions you that it might not.

Originally I had considered purchasing some of the components separately, especially because I already had some of the sandpaper required for the job. But I soon realized that the full cost of the kit would be significantly more expensive had I acquired everything individually, and my hodge-podge of stuff would not be as user-friendly. For example, the kit’s sanding discs come pre-cut and with velcro backing, making it super-simple to attach to the backing plate. This would not have been nearly as easy had I chose to do the “cheaper” method, which would have invariably cost me more time and money.

I had to pay full retail price ($25) at Autozone (as opposed to $16.34 on Amazon), since even Amazon’s Prime shipping couldn’t get it to my relatives’ door in time — and it was still worth every penny.

iPhone 4 Oppression Kit

April 1, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Kyle Wiens
Typical Apple engineer locking down your iPhone.

Typical Apple engineer locking down your iPhone.

Apple is watching your every move. If you have already liberated your phone, reconsider. If your iPhone came with Phillips screws, you’re not out of the woods either. Fact of the matter is, if your iPhone has Phillips screws on the bottom, YOU MIGHT BE IN DANGER.

On the lookout for offending individuals.

On the lookout for offending individuals.

“People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.” We read this in a book once. It might be relevant, or it might be over-the-top fear mongering. (But what if it’s not?)

We’ve known for a while that the carriers know where you are at all times. What if they are sharing your every move with Cupertino? Recent reports from the jailbreaking-and-tethering community indicate that Apple and their confederates know far more about what you’re doing with your phone than previously thought. What if Apple finds out that you liberated your phone?

This clear and present danger has convinced us that we were wrong all along. Our days of preaching open hardware and liberating phones are behind us. Instead, we are dedicating ourselves to protecting you and your loved ones with tried and true proprietary screws.

I’m convinced. Quickly, tell me what I need to buy!

You need safe, proprietary Pentalobe screws. They’re similar to Torx — except that the points have a rounder shape, and they have five points instead of six. Hence the prefix “penta,” Latin for “five,” and “lobe,” Latin for “point.”

To ensure 100% maximum protection, we’re selling these Pentalobe screws as part of a kit — the iPhone 4 Oppression Kit. You get everything you need to lock down your phone from prying hands:

  • Two Pentalobe screws to replace the Apple-fretting Phillips screws you used to liberate your phone.
  • Two screwdrivers for the task: a Phillips driver for the old screws, and a Pentalobe driver for the new screws.
  • iPhone 4 Oppression Kit card, which you should keep in your wallet as a faithful card-carrying member. As an added bonus, the card is a more Apple-approved color: white.
iPhone 4 Oppression Kit

iPhone 4 Oppression Kit

You’re risking the well-being of everyone around you with every minute that passes without the safe, secure Pentalobe screws in place. Buy the Pentalobe Oppression Kit today — if you swap your screws fast enough, your family will still be there when you get home!

iPad 2 GSM & CDMA Teardown

March 29, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Apple decided to offer the iPad 2 in a number of flavors that would make Baskin Robbins proud: two colors, three drive capacity sizes, and three connectivity choices (Wi-Fi only, 3G GSM on AT&T, and 3G CDMA on Verizon). All in all, that’s 18 different versions of essentially the same device.

Our original iPad 2 teardown featured the black, 16GB, Wi-Fi only version. There’s absolutely no reason why we’d take apart 17 other iPads, but we felt it worthwhile to at least document the differences between the Wi-Fi only, GSM, and CDMA versions. Enter the iPad 2 GSM & CDMA teardown, which compares the three major versions of the new iPads!

Apple still managed to infuse something different for each iPad 2 flavor. The logic boards are probably the best example: both the CDMA and GSM variants had WWAN boards — which of course contained completely different chips — attached to the logic boards, while the Wi-Fi version had empty space. But the empty space was magical, per Apple rules, although startlingly devoid of anything.

Logic board comparison. From top: Wi-Fi, GSM, and CDMA models.

Logic board comparison. From top: Wi-Fi, GSM, and CDMA models.

But not all differences were restricted to the logic boards. There GSM, CDMA, and Wi-Fi units also had different numbers of antennas that handle the WWAN reception for each model. Notice that the CDMA version has one additional antenna connector when compared to the GSM version:

Back cover comparison. From top: GSM, CDMA, and Wi-Fi.

Back cover comparison. From top: GSM, CDMA, and Wi-Fi.

For more iPad on iPad on iPad goodness, you’ll have to take a look at the iPad 2 GSM & CDMA teardown!

Nintendo 3DS has 128MB RAM

March 28, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Miro

Our friends at Chipworks have decapsulated and analyzed the mysterious Fujitsu MB82M8080-07L chip we found in the Nintendo 3DS. It turns out that “MB82M8080” is actually code for “MB82DBS08645” (of course!), which is the actual part number for the memory dies inside the chip. From that information, Chipworks deduced that they have a 512Mb FCRAM die on their hands. As there were two dies inside the chip, 2 dies x 512Megabits = 128 MB of RAM!

Photo of one MB82DBS08645 512Mb decapsulated die. There's two inside, but they're identical.

Photo of one MB82DBS08645 512Mb decapsulated die. There's two of these inside the Fujitsu memory chip.

Fujitsu claims that their Fast Cycle RAM has a data rate of 3.2 GB/sec, which is approximately double the capability of DDR2 RAM, according to their chart. That’s certainly an impressive statistic, but we’ll have to see if the relatively-low memory amount hampers the 3DS’ performance over time.

X-Ray of the MB82DBS08645 512Mb die

X-Ray of the MB82DBS08645 512Mb die

Introducing: Ask MJ

March 21, 2011 Site News, Video — Melissa

In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve delved into the wonderful world of online video in a big way. Our primary focus has been producing high-quality repair videos as a supplement to our existing repair guides. We know that sometimes it’s helpful to see someone perform a specific step in a repair (using a suction cup to lift the display off of an iPhone 3GS for example), and our repair videos are designed for just that. If you haven’t caught one yet, might we suggest you start with our iPhone 4 Display Assembly video? And of course, we’re also filming select product teardowns. If you’ve got three-and-a-half minutes, check out our iPad 2 teardown video and tell us what you think.

iFixit.com is made more and more valuable by contributions from you, the community, and we expect that our foray into video can be improved the same way. (Aside: Congratulations to you, the iFixit community for winning “Best Community Website” at SXSW 2011!) So, to up the ante a bit, we’re launching a new video segment based entirely on your questions; the segment is called “Ask MJ,” as it will be curated by yours truly. Some questions that might pique your interest:

  1. Which repairs do you want to see performed? Is there a specific step in a repair that you’d benefit from seeing on video?
  2. Have you “repaired” something, but for some reason it still doesn’t work?
  3. What questions do you have about self-repair or iFixit in general?

Email your questions and repair requests to askmj-at-ifixit.com, and if we shoot a video in response to your question/request, I’ll send you some shwag. (Because who doesn’t love free stuff?)

The segment will be ongoing, and the frequency will depend entirely upon the number of requests we receive. To stay up to date with all of the latest teardowns, repair videos and future episodes of Ask MJ, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

I look forward to your questions and requests!

People for the Ethical Treatment of iPads

March 21, 2011 Hardware — Kyle Wiens