Teardown: Apple iPad From The Inside Out


Within hours of the Apple iPad becoming available, RapidRepair was taking one apart to examine its beautifully designed but not cutting-edge hardware

Within hours of the Apple iPad’s April 3 arrival, RapidRepair CEO Aaron Vronko and his team were tearing one down to take a closer look at the lesser-known features that Apple has included behind all that glimmer and glass.

“There were a few surprises in both the inclusions and exclusions,” Vronko told eWEEK.

One interesting bit, he said, was a section near the top of the iPad, near the light sensor. “I’d say that’s definitely designed to host a camera, [likely in a future model] six months or so from now,” Vronko said.

Modest memory

A noticeable exclusion, however, was that Apple didn’t opt for 512MB of memory with the iPad, but chose 256MB instead.

“It makes more sense when you consider the single-core CPU that Apple’s made this with,” Vronko said. “But I wouldn’t hold my breath for a multitasking version in the near future.”

The memory decision, Vronko said, likely wasn’t about money, as increasing the memory would have meant the difference of about a dollar per unit, but Apple showing some restraint.

“They just decided they didn’t need it. I think that’s the overarching story—none of the hardware in the iPad pushes the leading edge of design, it just does what it needs to do,” Vronko said. “If you look at the Motorola Droid or Google’s Nexus One—which both have 512MB of memory—they’re pushing the edge of what hardware’s currently available. They want to make sure their devices can take on whatever people decide to throw at them, whereas Apple sits back and says, ‘What do we want this device to be able to do?'”

Still, the iPad’s 9.7-inch display and lightweight aluminum body pack a serious wow factor, and Vronko was quick to compliment additional design elements that most iPad users are unlikely to ever see.

Everything buttoned down

“They’ve done an absolutely fantastic job—this is the first time where the build quality is just outstanding,” Vronko said. “With the iPhone 3G S, the Nano, the build quality was good but not outstanding.”

What does that mean specifically?

“It’s having everything buttoned down,” Vronko said, explaining that in the past, problems have occurred with devices due to bad connectors, which can sometimes come loose. In the iPad, however, Apple has molded the connectors into place.

“The antenna … fits perfectly between the batteries, so it’s not going to have the force of the LCD slowly working it out of place,” Vronko said.

He was also positive about Apple’s decisions regarding the iPad’s battery—”good size, good fit”—which is more likely to offer 11 to 12 hours of life than the advertised 10. As Apple has shown with its financial statements, it likes to err on the side of caution and then over-deliver.

“We also found indications that Apple’s making engineering efforts to solve longstanding battery complaints regarding the batteries overheating,” Vronko said, adding that he plans to look at it again more closely. “There was a little bit of an evolution from the iPhone to the iPhone 3GS to the iPad. We think it’s going to make a big impact.”

Right price?

After getting more familiar with the iPad than most, Vronko was still uncertain about one thing.

Free Prize Draw: Win one of the first iPads in Britain
Free Prize Draw: Win one of the first iPads in Britain

“The question is, Is it worth the money? I think for the starting model with the $500 price point, you can make a strong argument for it,” Vronko said, noting that several Android-based tablets will soon be on the market. “When you get up to $829, if I paid that and a year from now there were more capable [tablets and applications], I’d be pretty upset.”

That said, should Vronko be counted among the early iPad owners?

“I’m going to try to put this one back together tomorrow, and then we’ll see if I have one or not,” he said. “I’ve got about a 75 percent success rate with putting things back together.”

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