MacBook Pro 15″ Core i5 Teardown

April 15, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The new MacBook Pro doesn’t look any different than its predecessor, but Apple has made quite a few subtle tweaks within their latest professional laptop.

We dove inside to find out exactly what a year’s worth of tweaks and improvements looks like.


  • As usual, there’s a sticker warning against removing the battery. Por qué, Apple? The battery is just three screws and a connector away from being able to be replaced.
  • For some odd reason, Apple has stopped using five-point Torx screws found on other MBP 15″ Unibodies in favor of Tri-Wing screws. Perhaps the sound of a thousand technicians crying out in unison made them change their mind?
  • The battery is now rated at 77.5 Wh. That’s just a tad bit bigger (6%) than the 73 Wh battery we found in last year’s 15″ model, but not enough to explain the 2 hour battery life (22%) improvement Apple is claiming for this machine. Apple has dramatically reduced this machine’s power consumption, and we expect it to run quite a bit cooler than the previous model.
  • Apple moved the WiFi/Bluetooth board. This redesign no longer requires that the wireless connections be integrated into the camera cable, greatly decreasing the size of the connector.
  • Since the WiFi/Bluetooth board is now mounted inside the all-metal case, Apple added an antenna that is mounted on the frame for the optical drive opening. Pretty clever! Time will tell what impact this move has on wireless performance.
  • Apple changed the design of this speaker assembly slightly, moving from a single plastic enclosure to separate plastic enclosures for the speaker & subwoofer that are connected by the speaker leads.
  • Apple announced that they are not using NVidia’s Optimus technology as had been widely rumored. Instead, the OS switches to the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics as needed for higher demand applications like Chess, and uses the integrated Intel Core i5 graphics for Solitaire.
  • Apple is using Intel’s HM55 Express Chipset. Apple has clearly tweaked Intel’s chipset to enable the seamless switching between the Intel and NVIDIA graphics. Interestingly enough, the chipset hub (BD82HM55) is not connected to the heat sink.

Taking out the battery

Removing the fan

Final layout


  1. The Apple electrical engineers produce works of art. The quality of the PCB puts all other manufacturers to shame.

    That board is built to last! Just compare it to other laptops like the HP Envy (which has horrible electrical squeals from the cheap DC-DC converts).

    Comment by Charles Mawby — April 15, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

  2. Not sure if it’s possible to tell, can you check what kind of connections have been made between the mini displayport and the audio. Specs say that the i5 family bitstreams dts-hd and dolby truehd, however as they disable the interval video card it would be interesting to see how the audio is routed when just the discrete is fired up (or maybe they leave the audio bits on in the integrated for bitstreaming purposes)?


    Comment by Nino — April 16, 2010 @ 7:25 am

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  4. @Charles

    How can you see that that PCB is any better? Do you design PCBs? I do (1500pin FPGAs)

    The squeeling is due to piezoelectric resonance of the ceramic caps.

    Comment by Ask me — April 16, 2010 @ 8:44 am

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  7. Yes I design boards and this one is fantastic. The layout and orientation of every component is done with care. Apple didn’t just through down components like the other guys. They went out of their way to achieve the best layout for the currently available technology.

    Subtle things like the capacitors being in a grid and organized so to minimize interference with the RAM data bus. They didn’t need to do this but they did anyway (since they already use blind/buried impedance controlled laser-drilled micro-vias). They do the things other designers skip because of time.

    Comment by Charles Mawby — April 17, 2010 @ 12:16 am

  8. The other enjoyable thing about this design is the distances between chips and their I/Os. Almost everything is perfectly placed to minimize crosstalk with other chips.

    For instance the various audio drive chips are right next to the ports. Contrast that to my friggin’ Acer which routes those lines around lots of other chips and the hard disk! I just love hearing my hard disk in my headphones.

    Can’t wait to get mine!

    Comment by Charles Mawby — April 17, 2010 @ 12:32 am

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