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Teardown of Apple's 21.5-inch Thunderbolt iMac find removable graphics board

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
A look inside Apple's new 21.5-inch, Thunderbolt-equipped iMac desktop discovered the ability to swap out the graphics processing unit board for a new one.

iFixit posted the results of their iMac teardown on Wednesday, offering a peek inside Apple's new all-in-one desktop. The model they dissected includes an AMD Radeon HD 6750M GPU paired with four Hynix GDDR SDRAM chips.

"With a bit of magic, the GPU heat sink detaches from the logic board, exposing the AMD GPU board," the solutions provider said. "You heard that right, folks -- you don't have to replace the entire logic board if your GPU explodes from too much l33t gaming. You can just swap out the GPU board for another one."

iFixit also noted that the CPU and GPU on the machine they looked at had proper amounts of thermal paste applied. That's a change from the new Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro they looked at in February, which had excess thermal paste on both the CPU and GPU that could lead to overheating issues.

The new iMac also features a controller chip for its high-speed Thunderbolt input/output port that is similar, but not exactly the same, as the one found in the MacBook Pro. The iMac sports an Intel L102IA84 EFL Thunderbolt port IC.



Though the model looked at by iFixit did not include the optional SSD boot drive, they concluded that it would reside beneath the system's optical drive, as that was the only space where "something was clearly missing." There are three mounting points under the optical drive that have nothing attached to them in the model powered by a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 quad-core Sandy Bridge processor.



Other highlights from the teardown:
The LED display is manufactured by LG and is denoted by its model number LM215WF3. This is the same display used in the previous generation 21.5" iMac.

The Wi-Fi card is powered by an Atheros AR9388-AL1A 802.11n wireless LAN chip.
Bluetooth is served up via a Broadcom BCM2046 Bluetooth IC, and the card also includes 256 KB of SST 39VF200A CMOS Multi-Purpose Flash (MPF). That same Broadcom chip was found on the very first MacBook Air.
The new iMac was given a score of 7 out of 10 on the company's repairability score.

For more, see the complete teardown, with additional images and details, at iFixit.
post #2 of 22
While interesting, by the looks of that GPU, it doesn't look like it adds anything other than easier repairs for the Geniuses when you take it into a store. The proprietary nature of that card isn't going to allow anybody to walk into their local computer store and buy an off-the-shelf card. And the sheer size of today's modern GPU's wouldn't even be able to fit inside the iMac chassis, so I don't see how this is too big of a deal.
post #3 of 22
I thought Apple has been using this graphic card connection for awhile now in the iMacs. For some reason I my brain is telling me that I read that they were doing this with the 2009 refresh as well.
post #4 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by hittrj01 View Post

While interesting, by the looks of that GPU, it doesn't look like it adds anything other than easier repairs for the Geniuses when you take it into a store. The proprietary nature of that card isn't going to allow anybody to walk into their local computer store and buy an off-the-shelf card. And the sheer size of today's modern GPU's wouldn't even be able to fit inside the iMac chassis, so I don't see how this is too big of a deal.

Are there any mobile GPUs available at retail for PC laptops? Not trying to be a smart-alec because I genuinely don't know. (But I can't recall ever seeing laptop graphics cards on store shelves)
post #5 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicroma View Post

I thought Apple has been using this graphic card connection for awhile now in the iMacs. For some reason I my brain is telling me that I read that they were doing this with the 2009 refresh as well.

Here is a picture of the 2009 27" iMac. The GPU is on a separate card in the top left:
post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Unicron View Post

Are there any mobile GPUs available at retail for PC laptops? Not trying to be a smart-alec because I genuinely don't know. (But I can't recall ever seeing laptop graphics cards on store shelves)

I don't expect it to be a retail stocking part. If anything, it's something I'd find online.

There is an existing card format known as MXM, but it might have fallen by the wayside. I can find replacement parts though.

http://www.amazon.com/HP-Laptop-NX94...4517214&sr=1-5

http://www.amazon.com/Compaq-8530p-8...4517214&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/HP-nVidia-Quad...517214&sr=1-23

http://www.amazon.com/Compaq-nVidia-...517214&sr=1-17

http://www.amazon.com/HP-FX1600-Mezz...517214&sr=1-15

Most of those are options and upgrades for specific computers. Given that iMacs are pretty popular, I think there's a chance that someone might make upgrades. Back in the day, some companies made add-in cards for the proprietary slot in the original iMac. You're probably not going to see a desktop chip in there though.
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The LED display is manufactured by LG and is denoted by its model number LM215WF3. This is the same display used in the previous generation 21.5" iMac.

Isn't it a bit yellow tinted compared to the 27"? I really hope the screen of new 21.5" would be better calibrated than the old one. Look like that's not the case.
post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicroma View Post

Here is a picture of the 2009 27" iMac. The GPU is on a separate card in the top left:

I liked iFixit's comment about how this component looks like the Starship Enterprise.
post #9 of 22
As others have noted, just because the graphics card is a discrete chip does not make it at all easy to replaced. I take these things apart for a living, and the iMac has had a dedicated graphics card for some years now... you still have to take out 5-6 parts before you can get to it, and it's a proprietary shape (looks like an "L" with the card fitting a blade connector and the heatsink going off at an angle, as noted in the pictures above.)

The only way you're going to see upgrades to the graphics card is if apple pushes them out (guess how many times that has happened?)
post #10 of 22
What the chance of taking one of these newer 2011 iMac graphics cards and putting it in my 2009 27" iMac that currently has a 4850?
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicroma View Post

What the chance of taking one of these newer 2011 iMac graphics cards and putting it in my 2009 27" iMac that currently has a 4850?

Different shape, not possible \
post #12 of 22
Quote:
l33t gaming

Quote:
AMD Radeon HD 67x0M



That's a good one, thanks iFixit.
post #13 of 22
Huh, so that's what my iMac would look like if I smashed it.
post #14 of 22
I'd gladly get an iMac someday if there was the option to upgrade the graphics card...the sealed nature of the all-in-one just keeps pushing me back to a MacPro, though for most purposes its overkill.

Upgrading my Mac (be it desktop or laptop--can I just say Other World Computing rocks!) has been part of my consistent 'maximize my investment' user philosophy and the success of such as compared to the headaches I've had doing so w/ the PCs in my life has made me a loyal Apple hardware customer. Hear that Apple? Throw us a bone, let us upgrade the GPU in an iMac, and you can reap more than by 'forced obsolescence'!

Sigh. We can dream, right?
post #15 of 22
Welcome to over 4 years ago. Apple started using removable graphics cards in the original 24 inch (which came out in late 2006). Every iMac with dedicated graphics since then has used a removable card.

Stop reporting invalid info. You should really check your stories before posting them. Any ACMT could have told you this.
post #16 of 22
Move the SD card slot!
post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by jediorange View Post

Welcome to over 4 years ago. Apple started using removable graphics cards in the original 24 inch (which came out in late 2006). Every iMac with dedicated graphics since then has used a removable card.

Stop reporting invalid info. You should really check your stories before posting them. Any ACMT could have told you this.

THIS. It's an MXM card. They've been used in upper-end laptops for years. They've been used in iMacs for nearly five years. NO ONE has made upgrade kits in that time, probably because you have to gut the iMac to get the GPU out, which is a pain in the butt. This is a complete and utter non-story.
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicroma View Post

What the chance of taking one of these newer 2011 iMac graphics cards and putting it in my 2009 27" iMac that currently has a 4850?

I believe this is what you are looking for mate, also I am about 99% sure this is a desktop class card; however I could be wrong.

http://www.mxm-upgrade.com/m17xR3.html
http://www.mxm-upgrade.com/
post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

A look inside Apple's new 21.5-inch, Thunderbolt-equipped iMac desktop discovered the ability to swap out the graphics processing unit board for a new one.

iFixit posted the results of their iMac teardown on Wednesday, offering a peek inside Apple's new all-in-one desktop. The model they dissected includes an AMD Radeon HD 6750M GPU paired with four Hynix GDDR SDRAM chips.

"With a bit of magic, the GPU heat sink detaches from the logic board, exposing the AMD GPU board," the solutions provider said. "You heard that right, folks -- you don't have to replace the entire logic board if your GPU explodes from too much l33t gaming. You can just swap out the GPU board for another one."

iFixit also noted that the CPU and GPU on the machine they looked at had proper amounts of thermal paste applied. That's a change from the new Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro they looked at in February, which had excess thermal paste on both the CPU and GPU that could lead to overheating issues.

The new iMac also features a controller chip for its high-speed Thunderbolt input/output port that is similar, but not exactly the same, as the one found in the MacBook Pro. The iMac sports an Intel L102IA84 EFL Thunderbolt port IC.



Though the model looked at by iFixit did not include the optional SSD boot drive, they concluded that it would reside beneath the system's optical drive, as that was the only space where "something was clearly missing." There are three mounting points under the optical drive that have nothing attached to them in the model powered by a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 quad-core Sandy Bridge processor.



Other highlights from the teardown:
The LED display is manufactured by LG and is denoted by its model number LM215WF3. This is the same display used in the previous generation 21.5" iMac.

The Wi-Fi card is powered by an Atheros AR9388-AL1A 802.11n wireless LAN chip.
Bluetooth is served up via a Broadcom BCM2046 Bluetooth IC, and the card also includes 256 KB of SST 39VF200A CMOS Multi-Purpose Flash (MPF). That same Broadcom chip was found on the very first MacBook Air.
The new iMac was given a score of 7 out of 10 on the company's repairability score.

For more, see the complete teardown, with additional images and details, at iFixit.



No big news here, I've unfortunately had to have my nVidia 8800GS card replaced 3 times in my early 2008 24"iMac. It had to be done by an authorized Apple repair center, but it is possible.

In all honesty,Apple could do everyone a huge favour and make access panels on the backside to make it easier to get to the HD and vid card. Those are the 2 things mostly likely to fail.
post #20 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Markovich View Post

No big news here, I've unfortunately had to have my nVidia 8800GS card replaced 3 times in my early 2008 24"iMac. It had to be done by an authorized Apple repair center, but it is possible.

In all honesty,Apple could do everyone a huge favour and make access panels on the backside to make it easier to get to the HD and vid card. Those are the 2 things mostly likely to fail.

Hard drive yes, video card no. I've replaced more power supplies, fans, optical drives, and probably even motherboards than video cards in iMacs. I do wish Apple would make the hard drives in iMacs user replaceable, though.
post #21 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicroma View Post

What the chance of taking one of these newer 2011 iMac graphics cards and putting it in my 2009 27" iMac that currently has a 4850?

Pretty slim. Oh, it would probably work, but the part is going to be so expensive to buy and such a pain to replace (or added expense if you have someone else do it) that it would be cheaper just to sell your old iMac and buy the 2011 model.
post #22 of 22
Seperate graphics cards have been the norm since Apple first introduced the aluminium iMacs in 2007. I would have thought this would be common knowledge amongst people such as those at ifixit.
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