Apple Unlocks Bluetooth in iPod Touch 2G

March 17, 2009 Hardware — luke

Today, Apple announced the forthcoming release of iPhone OS 3.0. After almost two years, we’re now finally able to cut, copy, and paste! What took so long?

Although the new OS runs on existing iPhone and iPod Touch hardware, the new OS unlocks a hardware feature we’ve known about for six months. With OS 3.0, Bluetooth is now available on the iPod Touch 2nd Generation. We found a hidden Bluetooth chip inside the Touch when took it apart last September. However, at that time, Apple refused to confirm that the iPod Touch included Bluetooth, and provided no software means to utilize the Bluetooth chip.

Unfortunately for owners of the iPod Touch 2nd Generation, you still can’t take advantage of your internal Bluetooth chip quite yet. Apple says that OS 3.0 will be a $9.95 upgrade and available “this summer.”

The newly-useful Bluetooth chip in the iPod Touch 2nd Generation

The newly-useful Bluetooth chip in the iPod Touch 2nd Generation

iPod shuffle 3rd Generation First Look

March 12, 2009 Teardowns — luke

Lately, Apple just keeps releasing new products, so we’ve been quite busy here taking new things apart. Today, we got our hands on the tiny new iPod shuffle, and opened it up to find out what was inside.

Shuffle Lineup

The usual suspects -- can you find the shuffle?

Here are the highlights:

  • Normal headphones can be used without any adapters, except that the user cannot do anything but play music (no pause, go to next song, etc.)
  • The battery is extremely tiny — about the size of a dime — and consequently has a paltry capacity of 73 mAh. That’s less than half the size of the batteries used in previous shuffles.
  • The weight of the entire shuffle is less than 11 grams, but the headphones add another 9 grams.
  • The rear cover and clip weigh as much as the rest of the shuffle.
  • With the casing removed, the electronics and battery weigh only 4 grams, less than the weight of a single sheet of paper.
  • There is only one screw in the shuffle.
  • The shuffle is not too challenging to open, but the rear cover can deform easily if the user is not careful while opening it.
iPod Shuffle 3rd Generation

All four parts of the iPod Shuffle 3rd Generation

Revised iPod 5th Generation (Video) Guide

March 10, 2009 Hardware — Miro

The iPod 5th Generation (Video) is one of the most oft-viewed guides on our site. We have a high standard of quality around here, and we felt it could use a bit of improvement. That being the case, we took some major steps in determining how to improve our guide.

iPod Video Disassembled

iPod Video Disassembled

A number of customers offered kind words on how to improve the guide, and we listened to their suggestions. User-generated feedback helped us pinpoint the areas that needed improvement and was a huge help in making the instructions more intuitive. Feedback like this is one of the main reasons why we implemented the discussion forums and let users post comments on specific guide steps.

If you’re curious how our testing process works, here’s a rundown: We handed three wooden toothpicks and an iPod Video to a staff member who had never opened an iPod before and told him that he would be fired if he didn’t have the iPod disassembled in five minutes. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite fast enough and we had to let him go. Then we gave the iPod Video to yet another staff member that was also a newbie at opening iPods. We let him use real iPod opening tools this time. The second staff member provided very useful feedback on how to open the iPod, and we’ve reflected his input in the new guide.

We combined both internal and external customer feedback to come up with the following changes:

  • We simplified the instructions for opening the iPod Video. Users will be able to open them with greater ease than before.
  • The spudger is no longer used — all steps that made use of the spudger can now be performed with the iPod opening tools. We figured everyone would appreciate not having to purchase yet another tool to get their iPod functional.
  • Duplicate steps were eliminated.
  • Duplicate steps were eliminated.
  • The guide is now more complete and covers a few more aspects of the device than the previous guide.
  • Tpyos and errors of the grammars have been overwritten with clearer, more descriptive text.

The iPod Video guide is up now. We’re very pleased with the result, and we hope you find the instructions even more useful now. Post a comment on the guide and let us know what you think!

Mac mini 1 TB Dual Hard Drive Upgrade

March 6, 2009 Hardware — Kyle Wiens

We learned that the Mac mini can handle two internal hard drives if you remove the optical drive! We wrote instructions for swapping out the optical drive for a second hard drive, and posted instructions for doing the Mac mini dual hard drive upgrade.

Two hard drives in a mini

Two hard drives in a mini

Our step-by-step guide shows how to:

  1. Swap out the existing hard drive for a 500 GB drive.
  2. Remove the optical drive and install another new 500 GB drive in its place.
  3. Enable Remote Disc to share the optical drive of a nearby Mac or PC.
930 GB available space!

930 GB available space!

Terabyte Mac mini hard drive upgrade

Terabyte Mac mini hard drive upgrade

Swapping in a second hard drive for the optical drive is pretty easy. We put a kit together that includes everything you need. (Almost– some basic soldering is required to connect the power cables.) The kit is just $249.95.

Our terabyte Mac mini hard drive upgrade kit includes:

  • Two 500 GB, 5400 RPM 2.5″ SATA hard drives
  • 15 pin SATA power to 4 pin power cable
  • 6 pin SATA power and 7 pin SATA data to 4 pin power and 7 pin SATA data cable
  • Putty knife
  • #0 Phillips screwdriver
  • Step-by-step instructions online

This kit is available immediately. Now go max out your mini!

Mac mini First Look

March 6, 2009 Teardowns — Kyle Wiens

We got our Mac mini at the same time as the iMac, but we decided to take our time and investigate the hardware thoroughly. Our efforts paid off: Mac mini disassembly.

A Mini Progression

A mini progression (PowerPC on left, 2009 model on right)

Here are the highlights:

  • Both the hard drive and RAM are easily upgradeable once you remove the upper case.
  • The processor is now soldered to the logic board. Those people who had grown accustomed to upgrading mini processors will be greatly disappointed by this.
  • As usual for the mini, a putty knife is required to disassemble it. (we sell this tool)
  • The SuperDrive used in the new Mac mini is finally SATA, as in the new iMacs and MacBooks.
  • If you install 2GB RAM in a $599 low-end mini, it recognizes and uses 256 MB of video memory.
  • Apple’s ‘high end’ $799 mini is a complete rip-off. For $200, you only get 1 GB extra memory (market price $20) and 200 GB additional hard drive space (market price $50).
Mac mini

Mac mini

New iMac Disassembled

March 4, 2009 Teardowns — Kyle Wiens

We took apart our first iMac! Here’s a summary of what we learned:

Disassembling 20

Disassembling the new 20" iMac

  • The processor is socketed (not permanently mounted), but there’s “Warranty void if removed” sticker covering the current processor.
  • As Apple announced, Firewire 400 is no more. Apple threw in an extra USB port to placate the mournful.
  • The display still uses an older CCFL backlight, rather than a LED backlight used in Apple’s new notebooks.
  • The low-end model that we received only has a 320 GB hard drive; unfortunately, replacing the hard drive is quite involved.
  • The Superdrive is finally SATA, and it’s 12.7mm high instead of the slimmer 9.5mm drives in the MacBook Unibody notebooks.
  • There’s space in the low-end model for an additional heat sink. This is assumedly included if you order the model with a higher end graphics card.
  • The only Phillips screw is a single screw on the RAM access door. All the internal screws are Torx.
Removing the glass

Removing the glass

Amazon Kindle 2 First Look

February 24, 2009 Teardowns — luke

We disassembled Amazon’s Kindle 2 e-reader!

Here’s what we found:

  • The Kindle 2 sports a 532 MHz processor, clocking in faster than an iPhone 3G. Amazon used a 90nm ARM11-based Freescale MCIMX31L multimedia processor.
  • The interior of the Kindle 2 is very functional, but not as aesthetically balanced as some of the devices we’ve disassembled.
  • As expected, the E-Ink display uses no power to maintain an existing image. We completely disconnected the screen from the battery, and the content on the screen remained crystal clear even though there was no power to it.
  • Pound for pound, it’s more expensive than the MacBook Pro 17″ Unibody we took apart last week, since the Kindle 2 weighs only 10.2 ounces.
  • As many have reported, the text-to-speech was remarkably clear and surprisingly listenable.
  • The Kindle 2 is thinner than the iPhone 3G, but a hair thicker than an iPod Touch.
  • Completely disassembling the Kindle 2 is simple once the case is opened — we removed only 26 screws and disconnected four connectors.

Interesting photos:

Let us know if you have questions or would like to see anything else. We plan on putting our Kindle 2 back together and using it after satisfying everyone’s curiosity.

MacBook Pro 17″ Unibody Disassembled!

February 17, 2009 Teardowns — Kyle Wiens

We took apart the MacBook Pro 17″ Unibody!

Here are the highlights:

  • Even after paying Apple $2799, this computer STILL doesn’t come with a Mini DisplayPort adapter.
  • There are three tri-wing screws holding the battery to the Unibody case. Apple did this to intimidate people out of swapping the battery, but a small flathead screwdriver works fine to remove the screws.
  • You can replace the battery by removing 13 screws and a replaceable sticker.
  • The battery is HUGE. It weighs 20.1 ounces (1.25 pounds). That’s 20% of the computer’s weight!
  • The Bluetooth board is much easier to access and repair than it is in the MacBook Pro 15″ Unibody, where it is tucked away inside the display assembly.
  • As expected, the 17″ design and internal layout is very similar to the MacBook Pro 15″. Most of the extra space is occupied by the battery. The Unibody case does make the computer feel much more solid than the 17″ Aluminum, which had a lot more torsional flex. This is a very solid computer.

Interesting photos:

If we find anything else, we’ll post news about it here.

Problems with MB Unibody and MBP Unibody Headphone Jacks

February 16, 2009 Hardware — Kyle Wiens

An issue concerning the headphone jacks of MacBook Unibody and MacBook Pro Unibody recently surfaced. Several Unibody users reported that the connectivity between the headphone jack and plug was fickle, and that a slight jostle of the cord would disengage the headphones and re-engage the speakers. We wanted to see for ourselves how serious this problem really was — after all, we wouldn’t want your co-workers to find out you like Enya, would we?

We rounded up three different headphones for testing, each representing a different level of quality of both sound and build: the low-end iPod earphones; the mid-end Grado SR-60s; and the high-end Shure SE530. The three choices conveniently represented all three types of ‘phones — earphones, headphones, and in-ear monitors — and various levels of cost, ranging from  $15 original Apple earbuds to $445 Shure SE530s.

For this comparison we also rounded up four representative Apple laptops: MacBook Pro 15″ Unibody; MacBook Unibody; MacBook Pro 17″ (non-Unibody); and MacBook Air. The testing was simple — insert each headphone plug into each laptop’s headphone jack until it fits completely (indicated by a distinct “click”); then slowly pull out until the music is transferred to the external speakers. Rinse and repeat several times until the  characteristic of each headphone jack is determined.

Headphone Plug and MacBook Pro Unibody: Unruly buddies...

Headphone Plug and MacBook Pro Unibody: Unruly buddies...

Testing indicated that both Unibody laptops definitely had a problem with prematurely-engaging external speakers, an issue most likely caused by the headphone jacks’ internal designs. Complete insertion of the headphone plug would engage the headphones, as it should. However, a slight (1mm) displacement of the plug would re-engage the external speakers and cut audio to the headphones, regardless of which headphones were used. Interestingly enough, this problem was only evident on the MacBook Unibodies, and did not occur on either the MacBook Pro 17″ or MacBook Air. The headphone plug could be displaced almost twice as much on both machines without any audio-switching problems. There was obviously a threshold where external speakers would be re-engaged, but at that point the plug would be almost completely loose from the jack’s internal holding mechanism that keeps the plug in place. 

So what’s a person to do about this problem? Unfortunately there is no DIY solution, such as soldering another headphone jack in place of the “faulty” one. Most users would not want to mess with screwing up their logic board due to an annoying headphone jack. However, there is a fix that seems to take care of the problem — purchasing an iPhone headphone jack adapter that allows for proper fitment of standard headphone plugs. In this case, the cheapest fix is also the best one. But it’s annoying.

New Guide Site

February 13, 2009 Site News — Kyle Wiens

As you can see, we’ve made some changes around here.

New site design

New site design!

Aside from the redecoration, here’s the highlights:

  • This blog. We’ll be posting hardware tips and tricks, troubleshooting advice, teardowns of new products, and news about new site features. Be sure to follow the RSS feed— we promise to provide useful and pertinent information. Today we posted an analysis of the problems people have been reporting with the new MacBook Unibody headphone jack.
  • Guide notes. We’ve always appreciated useful feedback about our guides from people like you, but sometimes it takes us a little while to integrate your disassembly tips into our instructions. Guide notes provide a platform for you to help share what you’ve learned about while working on your own hardware.
  • Troubleshooting notes. Do you have any additional ideas for diagnosing hardware problems? Do you disagree with us on a diagnosis? Post what you know so other people don’t have to reproduce your knowledge the hard way.
  • Community forum. Brag about your triumph over the gremlins Apple hides inside Macs, or get help from everyone with your current problems.
  • Twitter. Follow us and we’ll follow you.
  • Search. This has been our #1 most requested feature. We’re sorry it took so long. How do you like it? Let us know!
  • New navigation. We’ve added helpful background information about specific devices alongside links to the step-by-step guides and troubleshooting documents. For example, if you browse from Mac to MacBook to MacBook Core Duo, you’ll find that we’ve added a list of possible MacBook Core Duo upgrades, links to other useful information on the net, and some historical information on the hardware. We’ll be adding to this over time.

Our mission is to help you fix things. All of these features are designed to make it easy for you to work on your own hardware. Now go out and fix your Mac!