15-inch MacBook Pro teardown offers a closer look at Apple's Thunderbolt

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
The Thunderbolt port inside Apple's new MacBook Pro lineup has its own prominent integrated circuit controller that is the fourth-largest chip found inside the notebooks, a teardown of the 15-inch model has found.



iFixit wasted no time peeking into the new 15-inch MacBook Pro this week after it was released on Thursday. Internally, the new MacBook Pro features a few minor changes and design tweaks, but the addition of a Thunderbolt port for high-speed data connections and Mini DisplayPort video is arguably the highlight of the products unveiled this week.



In its teardown, the solutions provider found that the controller for Thunderbolt is the fourth largest chip on the logic board, after the CPU, GPU and logic board controller.



"We believe the chip's footprint is a testament to the potential of this port," they said.



iFixit ranked the new 2011 MacBook Pro a 7 out of 10 on its reparability scale. It noted that the new version allows for the battery to be disconnected without removing it from the laptop.



The addition of a "spudger" makes disconnecting the battery easier.



"It's a nice design choice since you *should* remove all power before performing any repairs," they said. "The unibody design also allows for easy access to most of the other components, so it won't be terribly hard to replace things on the machine. The only tricky repair is LCD replacement, which could easily result in shattering the front glass panel."



Apple added a fourth antenna to the wireless card.



Other noteworthy details from the teardown:

You can chain up to six Thunderbolt devices. In comparison, FireWire supports 63 devices and USB supports up to 127 devices.



The lower case is secured by Phillips #00 screws, while the battery is secured by Tri-Wing screws, just like the predecessor. There were no Pentalobe screws inside or outside.



The new MacBook Pro has the same 77.5 watt-hour battery as the earlier model, but Apple has decreased their run-time estimate from 8-9 hours to 7 hours, likely due to more stringent testing.

The Thunderbolt controller is the fourth-largest chip in the new MacBook Pro.

iFixit said they're concerned about Apple's quality control, as they found a stripped screw holding the subwoofer enclosure in place, and an unlocked ZIF socket connecting the IR sensor.



RAM has been upgraded to PC3-10600. That's the same RAM used in the 2010 revision of the 21.5" and 27" iMacs, but faster than earlier MacBook Pros.



The wireless card received a make-over and now includes four antennas instead of three. Wireless connectivity is provided by a Broadcom BCM4331 "wireless solution."

The new MacBook Pro received a 7 out of 10 for repairability.

The wireless card bracket is aluminum, rather than the plastic found in earlier MacBook Pro revisions. The change was likely made for thermal reasons, as a pink thermal pad is visible and used to transfer heat from the Broadcom chip to the aluminum bracket.



The logic board features four primary chips:

Intel i7 Quad-Core Processor

AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU

Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub

Intel L051NB32 EFL (which seems to be the Thunderbolt port controller)

The teardown uncovered a great deal of thermal paste on the CPU and GPU when the main heat sink was removed. The excess paste may cause overheating issues down the road, iFixit said.



The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is still designated Model A1286. Apple has been using that same model number since October 2008.

For more details and photos, see the complete teardown at iFixit.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 59
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,601member
    Too much thermal paste, a stripped screw and unlocked ZIF socket. I take all of this with a pinch of salt from these guys. Ifixit are a commercial operation and any comments they make with regard to any product are driven by commercial reasons. Just look back at all the hullabaloo they created over the screws in the iPhone 4 so they could sell their replacements for $$.



    Coming soon from ifixit:



    Replacement Macbook Pro anti-strip screws $20 each

    Macbook Pro thermal grease kit - $20

    Macbook Pro ZIF tool, lock down the ZIF sockets with this handy non cable piercing plastic tool - $30



  • Reply 2 of 59
    The new MBPs support jumbo ethernet frames... just like the Macbooks from 2 years ago
  • Reply 3 of 59
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


    Too much thermal paste, a stripped screw and unlocked ZIF socket. I take all of this with a pinch of salt from these guys. Ifixit are a commercial operation and any comments they make with regard to any product are driven by commercial reasons...



    It actually troubles me a bit in the Apple side. I have never seen ifixit comment on build quality before, and publicizing it doesn't bode too well for Apple. People buy Apple for quality.
  • Reply 4 of 59
    "In comparison, FireWire supports 63 devices and USB supports up to 127 devices."



    Yeah, but ask the folks at a tech repair shop like TekServe in NYC about that. They'll tell you that chaining even a half-dozen Firewire or USB devices can lead to large-scale data corruption. (Yes, I learned this the hard way.)



    So anyway, I've learned not to take the tech specs at face value. It will be great if TB really DOES support the chain length claimed. But I'd ask around first.
  • Reply 5 of 59
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post


    It actually troubles me a bit in the Apple side. I have never seen ifixit comment on build quality before, and publicizing it doesn't bode too well for Apple. People buy Apple for quality.



    It may be an isolated instance since it is obviously a very early item in a new assembly line, but a bit of a concern none the less. I'm sure Apple will take notice of the remarks.
  • Reply 6 of 59
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,251member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mister Snitch View Post


    "In comparison, FireWire supports 63 devices and USB supports up to 127 devices."



    Yeah, but ask the folks at a tech repair shop like TekServe in NYC about that. They'll tell you that chaining even a half-dozen Firewire or USB devices can lead to large-scale data corruption. (Yes, I learned this the hard way.)



    So anyway, I've learned not to take the tech specs at face value. It will be great if TB really DOES support the chain length claimed. But I'd ask around first.



    Totally agree. Also isn't this apples and oranges anyway? As I read it the Thunderbolt is a bus connection not a device connection.
  • Reply 7 of 59
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    It may be an isolated instance since it is obviously a very early item in a new assembly line, but a bit of a concern none the less. I'm sure Apple will take notice of the remarks.



    Cease and Desist type of Notice?



    I remember the first MBPs with the Core Duo having issues with too much thermal paste. I had one who's graphics processor cooked itself to death. I underclocked the darn thing, and ran my fans on high when ever the machine was running... and it still burnt out.



    Wait till Rev B folks. Apple usually catches their glitches by then.
  • Reply 8 of 59
    irelandireland Posts: 17,737member
    Thunderbolt and Lightchip.
  • Reply 9 of 59
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,251member
    I love how Apple always give us more at the previous price. The cost of the MBP has actually come down to absorb the cost of the Thunderbolt technology. In 2012 when the HPs and Dell's of this world play catch up with Apple yet again it will be interesting to see if, on their paper thin margins, they can do that too.
  • Reply 10 of 59
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,251member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    Thunderbolt and Lightchip.



    Great movie Staring Jeff Sandybridges no less.
  • Reply 11 of 59
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by camroidv27 View Post


    I remember the first MBPs with the Core Duo having issues with too much thermal paste. I had one who's graphics processor cooked itself to death. I underclocked the darn thing, and ran my fans on high when ever the machine was running... and it still burnt out.



    You must be a troll otherwise you would blame Adobe for that.
  • Reply 12 of 59
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


    I love how Apple always give us more at the previous price. The cost of the MBP has actually come down to absorb the cost of the Thunderbolt technology. In 2012 when the HPs and Dell's of this world play catch up with Apple yet again it will be interesting to see if, on their paper thin margins, they can do that too.



    what do HP and dell have to catch up to? thunderbolt? i bet only .01% of computer users cares about it and it will probably die along with VL Bus or go into obscurity like firewire



    i've compared the price of the new MBP to a dell just because my wife has been bugging me for one and it's about right. Dell with slightly better specs is $1500 to $1799 for MBP. difference is in the thunderbolt chip, no crapware and higher margins for apple. not that i would buy a dell or HP for that much money



    otherwise it's normal to get more power for the same or lower price. don't know why iFans seem to be so amazed by it. chips get smaller and you can pack more on one chip instead of multiple chips. makes things cheaper to make.



    i'm personally waiting for the ipad 2 to come out. the computer era of desktops and laptops is long gone. a computer is something you store your data on and do tasks like photo editing or sending the photos to be printed at wal mart. otherwise it's not used 99% of the time unlike your iphone/ipad or android phone. other than mobile professionals why anyone would spend $2000 on a laptop in 2011 is beyond me
  • Reply 13 of 59
    ksecksec Posts: 1,567member
    The ThunderBolt Chip is possibly made with 65 or even 90nm. Hence its size. Since it is in very low production quantities and at its first incarnation. Once it get shrink to 45nm it should be much smaller.
  • Reply 14 of 59
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,783member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The new MacBook Pro has the same 77.5 watt-hour battery as the earlier model, but Apple has decreased their run-time estimate from 8-9 hours to 7 hours, likely due to more stringent testing.



    Please explain why this is likely or why it's not more likely due to new components and revised firmware.
  • Reply 15 of 59
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by camroidv27 View Post




    Wait till Rev B folks. Apple usually catches their glitches by then.



    KILL this myth!
  • Reply 16 of 59
    (new battery life)

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post


    Please explain why this is likely or why it's not more likely due to new components and revised firmware.



    Absolutely. Apple already is very stringent with their numbers.
  • Reply 17 of 59
    who makes apple's motherboards, do we know?
  • Reply 18 of 59
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ksec View Post


    The ThunderBolt Chip is possibly made with 65 or even 90nm. Hence its size. Since it is in very low production quantities and at its first incarnation. Once it get shrink to 45nm it should be much smaller.



    Or baked into Ivy Bridge, launched by Intel at CES 2012, and in new MacBook Pros in about a year from today.



    This is where the whole "Apple exclusive for a year" nonsense came from. Intel worked with Apple on Thunderbolt, and even got the request to develop such a thing directly from Apple. The mini-Display port used for Thunderbolt was actually developed by Apple. So while Apple had early access to implement Thunderbolt, the parts are available to anyone.



    However, if you're a PC maker, there's little demand for Thunderbolt today and by the time the manufacturers could implement it in their models, Ivy Bridge would be coming up.



    This is also why Thunderbolt is going to succeed. Support for it will come with the new chipsets. This is a big deal, and by the way one of the reasons why FireWire remained a vital, yet niche, technology.



    If Intel doesn't also announce USB 3.0 support in Ivy Bridge, guess what manufacturers are going to go with considering Thunderbolt is included?



    Yes, expect multiple Thunderbolt ports, and fairly early removal of a bunch of legacy ports. Apple will lead with this with the MacBook Air, but next year we'll see others starting to remove the legacy ports to save space and reduce cost and complexity.



    Thunderbolt is kind of a big deal.
  • Reply 19 of 59
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,251member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post


    what do HP and dell have to catch up to? thunderbolt? i bet only .01% of computer users cares about it and it will probably die along with VL Bus or go into obscurity like firewire



    i've compared the price of the new MBP to a dell just because my wife has been bugging me for one and it's about right. Dell with slightly better specs is $1500 to $1799 for MBP. difference is in the thunderbolt chip, no crapware and higher margins for apple. not that i would buy a dell or HP for that much money



    otherwise it's normal to get more power for the same or lower price. don't know why iFans seem to be so amazed by it. chips get smaller and you can pack more on one chip instead of multiple chips. makes things cheaper to make.



    i'm personally waiting for the ipad 2 to come out. the computer era of desktops and laptops is long gone. a computer is something you store your data on and do tasks like photo editing or sending the photos to be printed at wal mart. otherwise it's not used 99% of the time unlike your iphone/ipad or android phone. other than mobile professionals why anyone would spend $2000 on a laptop in 2011 is beyond me



    I am not disagreeing but I use computers to create so I have far different needs such as massive and fast external storage for HD video so this is huge. Never the less I agree we are all moving away from desk tops as power dramatically increases in mobile devices and laptops. I am migrating from a Mac Pro more and more to a MBP i7 with external ACD. This latest update makes that for me and many creators a far easier decision. Re HP and Dell catching up, I am also thinking models they sell to creators and they will have to follow suite. Everyone knows they cost less to start with but many of us prefer Apple quality and OS.



    BTW Thunderbolt's ability in the future to replace all those other ports will be great for consumers too, even if they don't need the speeds.
  • Reply 20 of 59
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    as a home user it's nice that MBP's have better quality and support but for my use i can buy a new dell/hp in the $700 range every year for three years and it would be the same as one MBP with AppleCare. i was actually looking to buy an MBP for that reason after my latest HP experience a few years ago, but changed my mind after i got a new lenovo to replace it. and the new dell/hp's i see seem to be made better. and i use my iphones and android phone so much that my lenovo usually sits in my bag unless i'm at work or need to VPN into work to do something
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