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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mac Mini Mid 2011 Teardown

July 21, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Our brand new Mac Mini swooned us with promises of “2x faster everything” and the new Thunderbolt I/O. Naturally, we had to take a look inside, just like we did with the new MacBook Air earlier today.

This year’s Mini is a great example of “less is more.” Apple has done away with the optical drive and replaced it with some good old-fashioned emptiness. We found that hole (as well as the empty extra SATA connection on the logic board) to be perfect for adding a secondary hard drive — essentially bypassing the $400 premium over the “server” model. The only snag in this master plan is being able to find another hard drive cable to hook it up to the logic board, something we’ll work on sourcing.

Kudos to the Mini for receiving an excellent 8 out of 10 repairability score. There’s no proprietary screws or glue, and you can easily replace the existing RAM and hard drive (or almost any other component) if needed.

Teardown highlights:

  • Apple removed the optical drive from this Mini, but would love to sell you one for an additional $79. Sweet!
  • Some of the screws inside the machine were quite interesting. We found T6 screws that were screwed into the top of T8 screws. A screw within a screw
  • The big question with this Mac Mini: “Can I install a second hard drive myself?” The extra empty space seems to imply so. There is definitely plenty of room for a second hard drive underneath the first. The only deterrent is the availability of a second SATA hard drive-to-logic board cable.
  • The new Mini has the same fan as the old Mini, and even the older Mini. Sticking with the brushless, high blade density blower, this single fan is quiet and effective — just the way we like it.
  • The Broadcom BCM20702 Single-Chip Bluetooth 4.0 Processor with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support is identical to the chip found in the 13″ MacBook Air we took apart earlier in the day.
  • Big players on the logic board include:
    • Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub
    • Intel V116A068 2.3 GHz Dual-Core i5
    • Intel L116IA35 Thunderbolt port controller IC, similar to that found on the Early 2011 21.5″ iMac
    • Broadcom BCM57765 gigabit ethernet and memory card controller
    • Texas Instruments XIO2211 FireWire Controller
    • irrus Logic 4206B Audio Controller
    • SMSC 1428-7 System Management Bus temperature sensor
Plenty of space for the second hard drive.

Plenty of space for the second hard drive.

Final layout

Final layout

MacBook Air 13″ Mid 2011 Teardown

July 21, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

With the release of these newly-updated MacBook Airs, people have been asking us what Apple updated under the hood. The answer? More than is evident at first glance. The new MacBook Air is visually very similar to the last revision, but it includes substantial improvements to the chipset and IO controllers. Moving to built-in graphics freed up tons of room on the logic board and allowed Apple to squeeze a new ‘Platform Controller Hub’ with Thunderbolt support onto the board.

Although today is an exciting day for Apple, it’s a sad day for consumer repair. Apple decided that this “svelte and sexy” MacBook Air will replace the “simple and serviceable” white plastic MacBook. So while your backpacks will be significantly lighter, future repairability and upgradability will suffer tremendously.

Check out iFixit’s MJ talking about the new MacBook Air on YouTube:

Teardown highlights:

  • A Broadcom BCM20702 chip on the wireless board adds Bluetooth 4.0 support with BLE. BLE chips hold many advantages over classic Bluetooth including 128 bit AES security, 6 ms latency (classic Bluetooth is 100 ms), and less power consumption.
  • A Broadcom BCM4322 Intensi-fi Single-Chip 802.11n Transceiver gives this Air the ability to get internet… through air.
  • Just like in the mid-2010 MacBook Air, the SSD is not soldered on the logic board. Thankfully this means you can upgrade the SSD for more storage, but you’re still out of luck if you need extra RAM.
  • Other than a larger plate to accommodate the bigger die face of the Core i5 processor, the heat sink looks nearly identical to the one used on the Core 2 Duo Airs of last year. We’ll do some testing to see if temperatures are any higher in this machine.
  • Surprisingly, there isn’t too much excess thermal paste between the processor and the heat sink. This is a nice departure from Apple’s recent trend of assaulting processors with gobs of thermal paste.
  • Big players on the logic board include:
    • Intel Core i5 Processor-2557M with integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics
    • Intel E78296 01PB10 / E116A746 SLJ4K Platform Controller Hub. We’re guessing this includes an integrated Thunderbolt controller. It’s not this part, but it’s similar.
    • Hynix H5TQ2G838ZR 4 GB RAM
    • SMSC USB2513B USB 2.0 Hub Controller
  • Shifting to integrated graphics on the processor freed up a lot of room on the board — enough for Apple to add the sizeable Thunderbolt-capable Platform Controller Hub.
  • A new addition to the upper case is the network of LEDs attached to the keyboard backlight cable. A couple LEDs transmit light through fiber optic channels to evenly illuminate the keys on the keyboard.
  • The thickness restrictions of such a thin display were the deciding factor in not equipping the Air with a FaceTimeHD camera.
Final layout

Final layout