Apple Thunderbolt Display Teardown

September 28, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

The big box we’ve been waiting for finally arrived. That’s right, Apple’s Thunderbolt Display crashed the party, and not a moment too soon. After managing to hoist this beast onto our operating table — while being mindful not smudge its 500 square inches of arsenic-free glass — we promptly grabbed our scalpels and went to work.

We got the warm fuzzies when we found out that no proprietary tools were required to dissect Apple’s colossal display. In fact, all you really need to pull the guts out of this machine are some heavy duty suction cups, Torx T6 and T10 screwdrivers, and maybe a spudger here and there.

All in all, we were struck by the Thunderbolt Display’s ease of disassembly, and its 8 out of 10 repairability score reflects our admiration. But what did we find inside? Lots and lots of goodies that usually don’t come standard with an LCD monitor. Although monitors usually don’t cost as much as a laptop, either.

Teardown highlights:

  • The LG display found inside is model number LM270WQ1. It’s the same display found in the iMac Intel 27″ from October of 2009, as well as the same basic LG display found in Dell’s competing 27″ monitor  — though the Apple version uses LED backlights as opposed to Dell’s traditional CCFL. Dell’s version is also matte, something that lots of Mac users have been complaining about since the old 30″ Cinema Display was discontinued.
  • The 27-inch (diagonal) TFT active-matrix LCD has a resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels, the standard for displays of this size and price. Its 12 ms response time and 16.7 million colors, however, fall short of the 6 ms response time and 1.07 billion colors of Dell’s comparable display. We might be splitting hairs here, but those hairs would be viewed with 1,053,300,000 less colors on Apple’s display. Just saying.
  • The fan is easily removed simply by detaching a couple of connectors and unfastening a few screws. Apple has, as usual, chosen to go with a large, brushless fan to keep the colossal Thunderbolt Display cool and quiet.
  • Interestingly enough, the Thunderbolt cable that routes into the display also plugs into a standard Thunderbolt socket on the logic board. Apple could have just soldered the cable wires to the board, but instead chose to implement a cover that prevents the cable from being detached from the logic board’s Thunderbolt socket.
  • Both sides of the logic board are packed with enough chips that it’s hard to believe there’s no computer inside this display. Standouts include:
  • Pericom PI7C9X440SL PCIe-to-USB 2.0 host controller
  •  L129NB11 EFL, which looks to be the Thunderbolt port controller
  • Analog Devices ADAV4601 audio processor
  • NXP LPC2144 USB 2.0 microcontroller
  • Delta LFE9249 10/100/1000 Base-T LAN filter
  • SMSC USB2517-JZX USB 2.0 hub controller
  • Maxim MAX9736B Mono/Stereo high-power Class D amplifier
  • LSI L-FW643E-2 open host controller interface
  • Broadcom BCM57761 Gigabit ethernet controller
  • Supertex HV9982 3-channel switch-mode LED driver IC
  • We found some massive speaker enclosures near the side edges of the Thunderbolt Display and eagerly removed the screws holding them in place. Turns out the Thunderbolt Display comes with a 49 Watt 2-speaker sound system, including a miniature subwoofer.
  • We made quick work of the few screws and connectors that held the Flextronics power supply in place and found that this puppy provides 250 watts of maximum continuous power!
Taking out the LCD panel

Taking out the LCD panel

Disconnecting the Thunderbolt cable from the logic board
Disconnecting the Thunderbolt cable from the logic board
A wallpaper made from one of the Thunderbolt Display's chips. Click to view in native 2560 x 1440 resolution.

A wallpaper made from one of the Thunderbolt Display's chips. Click to view in native 2560 x 1440 resolution.

Samsung Epic 4G Touch Teardown

September 20, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Sprint’s version of the Samsung Galaxy S II has finally graced the iFixit team with its presence. It arrived on our shores just last week and was branded by Sprint as the Epic 4G Touch. Although we’ve watched this phone’s reputation grow throughout Europe, we were very excited to see what all the hullabaloo was about.

We were delighted to find that taking apart this allegedly Epic phone was not too challenging. In fact, the Epic 4G Touch appears to fare better than its overseas cousin in terms of disassembly and repair. Expect to use a Phillips #00 screwdriver and a plastic opening tool if you want to see what’s inside. Expect significant trouble if you try to replace a cracked display.

We wanted to reward the Epic 4G Touch with a laudable repairability score — you can disassemble most of the phone with just basic tools — but its fused display and glass knocked it back a couple points. The iFixit team gave it a very reasonable 7 out of 10 for repairability.

Teardown highlights:

  • The glass panel and AMOLED display are fused, making cracked screens a costly repair. And you have to use a heat gun to take the two apart. So don’t drop your phone!
  • The Epic 4G Touch has slightly more girth than its overseas counterpart, the Galaxy S II. At 9.65 mm and 128 grams, the device gained a millimeter and a 14 grams during its trip to the U.S.
  • Unfortunately, Samsung and Sprint decided not to include NFC support in this variant of the Galaxy S II, which means no Google Wallet support either.
  • We love phones with batteries that are easy to replace, and this device fits that mold — just pop off the back cover. The 1800 mAh Li-ion battery in the device has a claimed battery life of 8.7 hours of continuous talk time and 10.5 days on standby. Compare this with the Galaxy S II’s 1650 mAh battery.
  • The Samsung Epic 4G Touch does not come with a microSD card. If 16 GB of internal memory isn’t enough for you, you’re going to have to spring for your own card.
  • A Phillips #00 screwdriver from our 54 piece bit driver kit and some plastic opening tools allow us to take apart most of the phone. There’s a total of 9 Phillips #00 screws to remove in the whole device.
  • We are pleased to announce that the device doesn’t house a smorgasbord of EMI shields and that its single EMI shield is removable with only a few gentle pries. It made our job easier (and less destructive) for this teardown.
  • The front-facing camera assembly is paired along with what seems to be the LED/ambient light sensor. Since these components share the same ribbon cable, overall repair cost increases if just one component fails.
  • Motherboard chips include:
  • Samsung K3PE7E700B-XXC1 Dual-Core 1.2 GHz Processor
  • Samsung KLMAG4FEJA-A003 16 GB Flash Memory
  • Broadcom BCM4330XKFFBG 802.11 a/b/g/n MAC/Baseband/Radio with Integrated Bluetooth 4.0+HS and FM Transceiver/Receiver
  • Avago ACFM-7325 Band Class 14 PCS/Band Class 10 Cellular Band Quadplexer
  • Toshiba TC31501AAMBG
  • Maxim MAX8997 Power Management IC
  • Maxim MAX8893C Power Management IC
  • Qualcomm QSC6085 CDMA Processor
  • Yamaha YMU823 Audio Codec
  • Newsflash: The display on this Samsung phone is manufactured by Samsung. How about that!
  • AMS452GN05 is the official designation on the display ribbon cable, and it looks to be manufactured around January 11th of 2011.
  • We found the Atmel mXT224E mutual capacitance touchscreen controller. The sneaky fella was hiding on the rear side of the display assembly.
Separating the midplane from the display
Separating the midplane from the display
Final layout

Final layout

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