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Cracking Open Live at CES: Samsung Galaxy NexusAt CES 2012, TechRepublic's Bill Detwiler and Jason Hiner crack open the Samsung Galaxy Nexus live on the CNET stage.
Speaker 1: Hey, everybody. I'm Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief in TechRepublic. Speaker 2: And I'm Bill Detwiler, Head Technology Editor of TechRepublic. Speaker 1: We're here today to crack open the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. This is something that we do every week and this is our second day in a row doing one live here on the CNET stage. Yesterday, we cracked open the Amazon Kindle Fire. So today, Bill, it's the Galaxy Nexus. Speaker 2: That's right. Speaker 1: Why don't you tell everybody why we do this and how long we've been doing it and what the deal is. Speaker 2: Well, we've been doing it for about 5 years now, 4 or 5 years. The first thing that we took apart was the Xbox 360, the original and audience and members liked it so much that we started doing one every week. We take these apart because our audience really likes to know what's inside them. It helps them determine what might go wrong and how they might fix them if it does... something does go wrong and they need to replace something. Speaker 1: Very good. So let's get started. Let's jump in and you start cracking open the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Why don't you tell everybody, what's the first thing you do when you're cracking open one of these devices? Speaker 2: Right, well, the first thing you're gonna do is try to get inside the case and you're gonna try and do this as delicately as possible. So with most smartphones that have a removable battery like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, you can just remove the back cover. That's not a problem. And then you can see the battery right here it's inside. So I'm gonna take the battery out and once we've removed the battery, the phone is... is powered down so we're not worried about any kind of shorts inside the... inside the device which is always what we wanna do is remove or disconnect the battery first. Speaker 1: If I need pants inside there or just shorts? Speaker 2: No, just shorts. And so the next point we're gonna do is we're gonna remove the screws that hold the front case and the rear case onto the front panel assembly. Now, luckily Samsung was very kind to us, they're kind to anyone that wants to take these apart. They actually use standard Philips double zero screws. Some device makers don't do that. They use... Speaker 1: That we heard of it started with the name of a (fruit?) especially... Speaker 2: They like to use specialized crews,tri-wing screws, pentalobe screws and the case of the Apple iPhone 4, iPhone 3s. And so... Speaker 1: But even though if you can't there are screw drivers. Sometimes they're tough to find that you can get to do, right? So why don't you tell everybody where you get the tools that you use to do these. Speaker 2: So that's an excellent point. Even though, there are specialized tools required usually with the internet, you can find these kind of tools. You can see I've got a variety here of very small screwdrivers or screwdriver (with bits?) and thin metal blades and I also have some plastic spudgers as these are called. And they help me just disconnect things from inside the case. You can even get specialized case opening tools that are designed to remove glass cases without sort of marring the surface of the metal on the device. Speaker 1: When we first started this, we actually use the butter knife. Speaker 2: We tried that one. That's right. Speaker 1: That's technical tool. Speaker 2: A butter knife, razor blades. Speaker 1: Exactly. Speaker 2: Now we have the all the screws on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus removed from the back panel. We're going to remove this case from around the front panel assembly. Unfortunately, on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, I have to use this metal blade. I'm gonna do so very carefully putting it between the thin... between the case and the metal or the glass panel. So these will be... we're gonna be very gently. I'm even gonna use my fingernail a little bit and work our way around the outside of this. Speaker 1: Now, I do have to say, Bill's a bit of a brain surgeon in this. WE... there was a time when we wanted to do more of these cracking opens and you know we didn't want it to all be on Bill and so we kind of would hire some our contributors, really highly technical people to do this and almost always the device came back like somebody had taken a hatchet to it and was not in working condition. You know one of the things... one of the schticks that we do is that we always try to put these back together in working order. I actually should say, Bill always gets them back together in working order and part of that is because he's real patient with them. You can have a little bit of the Zen thing going, right? speaker 2: You can't force these. That's one of the sort of when people ask me how do I do these or how can they do these. One of the things I tell them is you have to be very patient. You can't force things. So you can see I've got one side of the plastic here popped loose and now we have to get the other side. But again, you can't force it. You got to be patient. You can hear it disconnect there. Speaker 1: A lot of the mistake people make when they're trying to pull their own devices apart or do something like this is that something sort of won't come and they forced it right? Speaker 2: That's right. Speaker 1: And that's when it breaks. Speaker 2: So you can see that didn't take very long but I was very careful not to break the glass panel 'cause we don't wanna do that. And now we've removed the back cover and we can see the insides of the Galaxy Nexus. You can see our main circuit board here. There is the speaker assembly. You can already see one of the cameras. So from this point we're just gonna go ahead and remove the circuit boards and keep... keep on going. Speaker 1: Very good. So when you're doing this in the studio, like... like you said we published one of these every week and Bill does not only the cracking open where he's taking photos all along the way. But he also publishes an analysis post where he talks about what's inside the device and you know what you need to know in comparison to this device to another device. Speaker 2: That's right. Speaker 1: So one of the things that is interesting is that when he's doing this it's kind of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Because Bill is not only cracking it open. He's also taking notes. He's taking photos all along the process. We got some photos up on the screen that show you, you know, Bill taking photos and you know getting into the device and he's making notes of each of these chips, right? So Bill tell us a little bit about that process. Speaker 2: Well, so we have to do 2 or 3 things at one time and we'll be taking things apart on one part of the studio and then moving them over to another part of the studio. And so it takes... it's just another thing that takes a little bit of patience. And one of the interesting things here with the Galaxy Nexus is that there's a lot of little connectors that you have to disconnect from the mother board so you have to be very gentle when you do that because once you're inside one of these devices, if you break the device, if you break one of the small connectors. You have to find the replacement part and that's hard to do. When we take these things apart, actually taking a part is very easy. The hard part is finding replacement components. Manufacturers don't really like to do that. You know they want you to bring the device back to them to be repaired, to be fixed. They won't provide them. Speaker 1: It would be better to buy a new one. Speaker 2: That's right. So they don't provide replacements parts very easily. So it's a matter of being gentle, not forcing things and making sure everything comes loose. Speaker 1: So Bill, why don't you talk a little bit about how we choose which devices to crack open. Speaker 2: Right. Speaker 1: 'Cause you... you're doing one of these every week and you've done lots of different things. You've done almost all the most important tablets this year. You've also done you know all the prominent smartphones. How do you choose which tablets, which smartphones, which products and what are some of the other things you've cracked up? Speaker 2: We've cracked open old computers like the Tandy model 100, an old lovable laptop we've taken a part. Like I said the Xbox 360, PlayStation3. We've taken a part Apple iPhones, iPhone4. Just about any piece of new technology that our audience might want to... that their users might use that they might have to support it and they might wanna use themselves. You know when you're gonna recommend this to a family member, you want it to be rugged. You want it to solid. You wanna know that they're getting a quality product and so we do all kinds of stuff. We've even... even done some old stuff. We've done some old Amigos. So from laptop, smartphones... Speaker 1: Some old Apples, some Macs, some Tandys... Speaker 2: And tablets, yup we cracked open it all. Speaker 1: First IBM PC, right? Speaker 2: That's right. We did. Speaker 1: So some of these is... is for educational value, but some of it is also entertainment, right? Speaker 2: Right. Speaker 1: Because most people who are in technology they're very curious. They... they just like to see what's going on inside, right? Speaker 2: Yeah, we're all geeks. So part of this is just for our own fascination. We love to see what's inside these. You know and you can see here, this is the Galaxy Nexus. I'm gonna hold this up for everybody in the audience to see. This is the Galaxy Nexus' motherboard or the primary circuit board. You can see all the chips that are on there... the processor. There are chips on here from... this has Texas Instrument's processor, a 1.2 GHz processor. There are a lot of chips on here from Samsung. There are chips from Silicon Image. There are chips from... chips from (Indian Cents?). There are all kinds of different chips on there and so when we're doing these, you know, a lot of... a lot of what we do is research on the different types of chips and the manufacturers of those chips, so that we can see how they're used commonly throughout different devices. Speaker 1: And you put those into your analysis.. Speaker 2: We do. Speaker 1: In your analysis mostly show like here are the chips inside, here are, you know, how they compare a lot of times. You'll compare it to other devices. So one of the things that you say when you cracked these open often is that you can tell a lot by... about the company, by the type of device... Speaker 2: That's right. Speaker 1: When you crack it open. So you've cracked open some things this year that you haven't always been really impressed with and you've cracked open some things that you're really impressed with, right? Speaker 2: Yeah. Speaker 1: So tell us which are which. What are the things that you aren't most interested? Speaker 2: Well, the Kindle Fire was an excellent example of something we cracked open. We cracked it open yesterday and just so everybody see, you know, Jason mentioned, that we only show how to put these back together. Speaker 1: Yes. Speaker 2: I'm gonna show everybody. This is the Kindle tablet that we put back together that we cracked open yesterday and I put it back together, so it works, it functions. So everything that we cracked we can get back together. It worked... Speaker 1: He always gets them back together. I mean he always gets them back. I can count on one hand the number of devices over the period of 5 years that Bill has broken in putting them back together or cracking them open. So like I said he's kinda the brain surgeon you know, in this field. All right, so what do you got here? So tell us about what you... what you got. Speaker 2: Well we've removed, like I said, the motherboard. Now we've removed both of the cameras. We have both the rear facing and the front facing cameras and now we're going to remove this board that holds the storage chip and the micro SD card reader. So we're gonna go ahead and pop this loose. Again, you're gonna have to be very careful when you pop loose these connectors. You don't wanna damage the motherboard and then this is one of the things a lot of people ask me. All these metal plates here. These are shields to prevent electromagnetic interference from bothering the chips underneath. So you have to be very gentle when you remove these or you'll risk damaging the chips underneath. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: So we're gonna do that, gently kinda pop this loose. Speaker 1: And you're popping these loose so that you can see what chips are in this thing. Speaker 2: That's right. Speaker 1: When you're doing... you're cracking open, that's what you wanna know. Speaker 2: That's right. We wanna see the processor. We wanna know who makes the baseband modem. We wanna know who makes the storage unit. So for example, this is a Sun Disk storage unit, this is a 32 gig non flash storage... storage chip and underneath that we have a lot more chips there. Speaker 1: Okay. So Bill what's... you know, for people that do want to take or you know break their device, one of the questions we get a lot is somebody drops their phone, it cracks the screen and they wanna... they say, look I just started my contract, you know, I can't... I don't wanna buy a whole new phone. I have to pay retail price for a whole new phone. Can I replace the screen myself? Right? We get that... you get that question a lot I suppose you do. Speaker 2: I do. Speaker 1: So... Speaker 2: I just got that this week. Somebody e-mailed me and they had a cracked screen and they wanted to know whether or not they should replace it or not. Now, and I'll use the Samsung Galaxy Nexus as a good example. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: Here's the problem with a lot of phones. When people break their phone. A lot of times they crack what's called the digitizer, the front glass panel and that's the part that translates the motion of your finger into the actions on the phone, and a lot of them... that's the glass and that's what gets cracked. It's not the screen underneath. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: Sometimes if it is the screen underneath that's cracked, then those are 2 separate components. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: Now with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus unfortunately, the two are almost fused together permanently. Speaker 1: Like with adhesive? Speaker 2: With extremely strong adhesive. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: So unless you have a heat gut, unless you're willing to heat the edge around this glass here and separate that from the... Speaker 1: Get that adhesive soft and then you can pull it apart. Speaker 2: Yes, then more than likely you're gonna have to buy them as a single unit. You're gonna have to buy the front glass panel, the digitizer and the LCD screen. Speaker 1: So that's gonna be a little more expensive. Speaker 2: That's gonna be a little more expensive. Speaker 1: Since you're gonna have to get both. Okay. Speaker 2: Now on the Kindle, we took apart yesterday, they're actually 2 separate units. They're very easy to separate, just simple screws. You lift one right after... one right off of the other and so you can buy them separately and replace them fairly easily. Speaker 1: Okay so if you go to... if you have a device that, you know, breaks and you're not sure... you know if they're separate or if they're the same, you know, you can look at some of Bill's cracking opens the he's done and that can help you figure out, you know, whether you might need to buy just the digitizer or the just the screen or both... when you do it. So that's cracking open blog on TechRepublic. It has all of your cracking opens in it. Speaker 2: Yup and people can follow me on Twitter too. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: @billdetwiler. Speaker 1: Very good. Speaker 2: And get all the latest updates on cracking open. Speaker 1: So Bill what about putting these back together, you know, does it take longer to put it back together than it takes to get it apart. I mean there's a lot of small pieces here. Speaker 2: Not usually honestly because when I'm taking them apart I'm usually taking photos. I'm doing things very gently, especially if I've never been inside the device before. I don't know how the device is put together. The manufacturers don't give you manuals or don't give us manuals to take them apart, so you have to sort of figure your way through the device, you know, when I got the Galaxy Nexus, I didn't know whether I was going to be able to separate this part from the case and the front panel or whether they're going to be 2 separate pieces or together. So, I had to sort of feel my way through it and that takes some time. So, I know, you come in sometimes, you're like, Bill have you got out the part yet? I'm like, no, I'm still working on it. Speaker 1: No, I'm still trying to get this piece, you know, to get to that. It gets back to the Zen thing of if you are trying to take a device apart yourself you know, take... take it easy. If it doesn't wanna come apart, don't force it 'cause that's almost always when you run into trouble. It's almost always when... when it breaks. So let's take a look at what you're doing now Bill. You're pulling something else apart there. What do you got? Speaker 2: So I'm going ahead in removing now that we've removed the circuit boards, now that we've removed the card reader, the cameras, we're gonna go ahead and we're going to remove some of the components here on the bottom. This is going to be the... the headphone jack down here. It's got a single screw that comes out. Speaker 1: So this is an audio unit down here? Speaker 2: This is a little headphone jack. We're gonna go ahead and remove this and then at the bottom we also have the micro USB port and the microphone. So we're gonna go ahead... and there's actually the cellular antenna here you can see this very thin wire. So, while we're talking about it, these are the wires for the radios that are inside the phone. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: We should be very careful with these when you're disconnecting them that you don't rip them, that you don't break them. Speaker 1: So this is a pretty example... one of the things you've said to me before is... you know about how you can tell a lot of other company by the way their products are made is here. On this product they've got a nice line there that holds that antenna wire. Speaker 2: That's right. Speaker 1: Where you say sometimes you'll go in there and you'll see literally just they're taped like wires down... Speaker 2: That's right. Were taped. Speaker 1: They've taped them across. Right? Speaker 2: Yeah and some of the devices I took apart the HTC Flyer. That was a device that wasn't a bad device but you could tell that HTC has a background in phone manufacturing. So, for example... Speaker 1: And not a tablet. Speaker 2: And not necessarily tablet. So the way the wires were ran inside the case, the way they move down to the channel, the way the components were installed, it just wasn't as clean as it could have been. Speaker 1: It's just a little sloppy, right? Speaker 2: It was a little sloppy. I wish they have put a little bit more effort into the design of the internal as they did on the external. So, you know, and you see that sometimes with products from Apple, they do a very good job inside the device just as well as they do outside the device. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: Amazon did a good job with the Kindle. Speaker 1: How about Samsung? You cracked open a lot of Samsung devices... Speaker 2: Samsung does well too. Samsung has history of device manufacturing and so they have, you can see... the cracking open is pretty much complete here. Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: There's not too much... too many other components to remove, so I mean they've done a very nice job of componetizing all the different pieces. The cameras are separate, so if one of the cameras did break and you're able to buy a replacement camera, then you can take this... you could buy you know a very small camera like this. You can take the phone apart, put the camera back into the phone and you know you got a brand new camera. Your phone will work again. Speaker 1: How about... you know one of the questions we get is, how about upgrading your own device? You know taking these things apart and (??) 8 megapixel camera. You know what? I'd like to put a 10, 12, 16 megapixel camera in there, can you do that? Unfortunately, no. They're really... I... I actually did get a call from someone or an e-mail from someone the other day and they wanted to upgrade their memory in their tablet and I told them, well, I'm sorry, unless you have really good soldering skills and you're gonna able to separate this chip from the circuit underneath, you're not gonna be able to upgrade the storage in the phone. It's just not practical. These things are designed... they're customized. These parts are all custom... Speaker 1: Yes. And the software that works with them is customized too. Speaker 2: Yes. And some of the drivers that work with the camera may or may not work with a different camera. It's not like a PC where you can buy a different video card and the video card and the video card become a driver and you... Speaker 1: And you just put new driver. Speaker 2: And you just put new drivers on there. Speaker 1: You have... if you were gonna replace the camera for instance and my question, you would to somehow get into the software itself and... and replace that drive and that get's really messy. Speaker 2: Yeah, you would. I mean, you really just to find a part somewhere. So if... if you would buy a Galaxy Nexus and you drop it the next day, well, I hope you have insurance and take it back to the store and get to you know replace it under warranty. Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: If the warranty is expired or if there's really nothing to lose, then, yeah, sure, go on... and you're willing to this kind of thing. Speaker 1: Right. Speaker 2: Sure, go online, see if you can find the parts. You might be even able to find an old one that one is using anymore that they're willing to sell you parts like maybe it has a crack screen that maybe you need to digitize it or maybe it has... it won't charge anymore, but you need the screen out of it. Well, you can do that. So that's a good way to sort of find spare parts because most of these manufacturers don't sell spareparts to the public, so it's not as if you know you had your phone for 2 years and you can just go into Samsung's website and buy a new camera... buy a new... sure you might be able to buy battery, but not a new camera, not a new card unit and memory chip, that's gonna be harder to find. Speaker 1: Okay. So talk about some of the things that you've got coming up that you're gonna crack open... open 'cause you already got some things in the (??) getting planned to or you know what are some of the things you'd seen at CES that you're interested in cracking open as well? Speaker 2: Well, I'm definitely going to get try and get Samsung to give me one of the new OLED TV's, but I don't know, they might... they might not want me to do that. Speaker 1:Yes. 55 inches... Speaker 1: The 55-inch OLED or maybe 80-inch. Speaker 2: 80-inch? Better? Speaker 1: But we have cracked open a 55-inch TV. We looked at the hardware inside of that, but maybe... Speaker 2: Samsung LED, that was the 55-inch Samsung LED. Speaker 2: That's right. Maybe... maybe Sharp will send me an 80-inch LCD. Speaker 1: Look out there Sharp. Speaker 2: Send me one. Speaker 1: What else? Speaker 2: We're also gonna be taking apart the Motorola Xyboard, their new tablet device. We're gonna take that apart. Speaker 1: Kind of (??) too Speaker 2: That's right. We're gonna be taking apart I think the Motorola Droid Max which has a much larger battery in it. Speaker 1: Oh, the Droid Razar Max. Speaker 2:The Droid Razar Max. Yes. Speaker 1: Yes. Speaker 2: It has much larger battery in it... Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: Than the Droid does, which is very important for people that don't like phones like the iPhone, but they like phones like the Galaxy Nexus that have removable battery. Speaker 1: Light. Speaker 2: People can't get through the day on a single charge, so a bigger battery will help. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: We'll also gonna be taking apart I think the Asus Transformer Prime. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: We got that... Speaker 1: Popular and convertible tablet. Speaker 2: Yup. Another... another tablet that we're gonna be taking apart, so there's a lot of exciting things coming up in the next few weeks. Speaker 1: ASUS Zenbook, isn't that one that's coming up? Speaker 2: Yes. Speaker 1: That's one of the... well, DPC's... the ultrabooks that have been popular... Speaker 2: Yeah, the ultrabook. Speaker 1: At... at the conference? Some other ultrabooks have been popular here. What are some of the ultrabooks you've seen that you know... because you've cracked open some laptops as well. What are the ones you're most interested in and you think the audience would... would enjoy seeing cracked open. Speaker 2: Well, the Samsung... the ultrabook from Samsung. We took open one those, the Series 9. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: It was a good quality. They got some new stuff here. ACER has a really nice ultrabook that we took apart just last week. That should be you know pretty popular. Speaker 1: How about the new HP? That one, the double... glass HP... Speaker 2: The HP Envy? Speaker 1: HP Envy. Speaker 2: It's really exciting too. That's on the list of things I'd like to take apart. It has a Gorilla glass front panel. Not just behind the screen. Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: But on the top too. So they say it's more scratch resistant. They... I'm not so sure about shatter resistant, but it looks very nice. Speaker 1: Yeah, my doubt is about that one. Okay. But what else? Anything else you've seen here that... that you'd like to crack open? What are the things at CES that you're most interested in you know learning more about? Speaker 2: Well, I really like the Nokia, the Lumia 900. I can't wait to see that. A very nice... another phone just like this an LTE phone. Speaker 1: Right. Speaker 2: This is from AT&T though, so it will be interesting to see the chips inside that and how they differ from this phone, that's on the Verizon's network. And it will be interesting to see the new... just the new... the new TV's, the new ultrabooks. There are few more sort of tablets that are kind of interesting and kind of on my radar. I... I did go up to Razer's booth and give a shout out to them yesterday. Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: And they have their new Blade laptop which is a high-end gaming laptop, so if you're in the gaming and if you have $2,800... Speaker 1: Yeah, it's burning a whole in your pocket... Speaker 2: This is a 17-inch laptop that has really unique switchblade interface and so that should be interesting. A lot of nice hardware inside. There are a lot to see. That's gonna be exciting too. Speaker 1: Okay. So Bill where can people go to find cracking open? And where they can go to find you to... to learn more about the stuff that you're doing? Speaker 2: TechRebublic.com. We do a cracking open every week in the cracking open blog. We also do a video describing the device and tear down and then you can always follow me on Twitter, @billdetwiler. Speaker 1:All right. So you can also find me on Twitter at @jasonhiner. And so thanks for CNET for letting us come up here and do this. Speaker 2: That's right. Speaker 1: We're gonna wrap it up. So thanks so much for joining us. Up next will be Molly Wood hosting the CNET Women in Tech panel. You don't wanna miss that. Got some real heavy hitters coming up, so stick around for that and we'll see you next time. Thanks.