A 2020 Teardown Mega-Season Recap

We do teardowns year-round, but fall is when a lot of devices launch, right before Black Friday and the holidays. But this past teardown season was extra wild. 2020 brought us a record-breaking number of iPhone launches, and two near-simultaneous major game console releases, on top of the usual pile of products. We understand if you’ve fallen behind on all this content, because we barely kept up with it.

With a bit of breathing room, though, we can look back, dig deep, and decide which items go on our wishlists. Join us on this speedrun through 10 teardowns in 600 words or less. Unlike a speedrun, however, you can pause at any time, and click to see much more about any one device. Want to skip the reading entirely and watch the Let’s Play? We’ve got a YouTube supercut for you!

Apple Watch Series 6

The Series 6 may look unchanged from the outside, but the insides were nicely streamlined. We found an easier opening procedure with fewer tricky steps, and beefy batteries—no metal wrapper for the 44 mm one though—all possible thanks to a refactored, roomier case. Even with the departure of the dreaded Force Touch Gasket, it wasn’t quite enough to move the needle on the scorecard, so the Apple Watch Series 6 maintains a 6/10 on our repairability scale.

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro

Apple released four iPhones this fall, starting with a first wave: the 12 and 12 Pro. Our take? It’s a 5G world, and Apple’s just living in it. Both the 12 and 12 Pro have some serious design compromises to make way for new 5G components. The batteries are tiny—even with increased demands thanks to 5G—while the logic boards are huge. And even though the speakers and Taptic Engines shrunk, the phones still score a regular-sized 6/10 on the repairability scale.

Xbox Series X

If 5G built the iPhone, cooling built the Xbox Series X. After years of death rings, Xbox is ditching thin and going for a beefy block of moderate-temperature gaming. We loved the dual-layered motherboard and heatsink sandwich, and we’re a big fan of the … Big fan. Despite the repair-hostile paired optical drive, the Series X is modular enough to earn a 7/10 repairability score.

iPhone 12 mini and iPhone Pro Max

The iPhone 12 mini seriously miniaturized some major components: Taptic Engine, speakers, and even the MagSafe ring. Unfortunately, the minification process also required shrinking the battery. 

On the other end of the scale, the iPhone 12 Pro Max seems full-bodied enough to hold its own against 5G power pressures, keeping its huge camera assembly, high-tech L-shaped battery, and a modular SIM reader. They still both earn a middling 6 on our repairability scale.

M1 Macs

As if that wasn’t enough Apple content, our favorite fruit company also released three new Macs powered by brand new Apple silicon. The now-fanless MacBook Air circulates less air, relying on passive cooling. 

The MacBook Pro looks startlingly similar to its predecessor—no fancy new clothes to match the new brains. And the Mac mini? Well … Creative Electron X-rayed, it at least! 

PlayStation 5

We actually managed to get our hands on a PlayStation 5 and only kind of regret ripping it apart. Much like the Series X, this tower of power is a sprawling vista of chips and heat management. Featuring a sweet dust port to keep the beefy fan clean and liquid metal to conduct heat from the motherboard, this console is destined to be a cool customer. Just like the Xbox Series X, the PS5 scored a 7 out a 10.

DualSense Controller

And for teardown taster menu dessert, how about that DualSense controller? We’re incredibly impressed with both the modularity and the compact design of these new controllers. The variable resistance trigger is managed by a lever, driven by a worm gear, spun by a little motor—dead simple and very cool. The joysticks are a bit less joy-inducing, as we’d prefer not to see soldered-on sticks. 

Phew! How’d we do? Not satisfied with these quick tastes? Check out our full teardowns to get a deeper dive into any of these exciting devices, or the tons more we haven’t talked about. Speaking of things we haven’t talked about: We haven’t covered the HomePod mini, Mac mini, or iPad Air just yet. If you’re itching to see them, or other devices, let us know in the comments!