Electronic Design

iFixit Tears Down The Google Nexus 7 Tablet

Google's new Google Nexus 7 tablet is hot. I have been debating about buying one and might finally shell out the money for a 16 Gbyte version. I was hoping the Nexus 7 teardown (Fig. 1) by iFixit would help sway my choice. iFixit is well known for their teardowns of the latest tech so it was not surprising to find this teardown even before the tablet is shipped to customers.

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Figure 1. iFixit's teardown of Google's Nexus 7 tablet reveals a display with an integrated, non-removable cover.

The 7-in Nexus 7 tablet (Fig. 2) comes with 8 ($199) or 16 Gbytes ($249) of NAND flash memory. It lacks any type of memory expansion like the MicroSD card slot found on Barnes and Nobles Nook Tablet that I would have liked. There is a Micro USB socket for charging and file transfers.

It weighs in at 340g with a 4235 mAh battery that should support 9 hours of video playback, 10 hours of browsing and 300 hours in standby mode. It is only 10.45 mm thick. The WiFi link supports 802.11b/g/n and it has Bluetooth support along with Android Beam near field communication (NFC) support. There is no 3G/4G support at this point but that is not a deal breaker for me.

The backlit, 1280 by 800 pixel display (216 dpi) has an integrated, non-removable, Corning Glass (not Gorilla Glass) cover. The integrated cover costs less and is the latest trend. For example, Hydis Technologies On-cell touch screen integrates the touch interface as well (see On-cell Touch Screen Panel Slims Down Mobile Display). In theory this makes repairing harder when you consider it is possible to replace just the glass cover on some systems. This is a consideration for scratches but if the cover is shattered then the display is likely trashed as well.

The image resolution is less than Apple's latest iPad with its Retina display but the Nexus 7 is cheaper and faster (or at least it has more cores). There is also a 1.2 Mpixel front facing camera for video conferencing but it lacks a rear camera that I would have preferred.

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Figure 2. Google Nexus 7 tablet is powered by NVidia's Tegra 3 system-on-a-chip (SoC).

The Nexus 7 actually comes apart because it uses a retaining clip. The iPad is actually glued together. It does allow some repairs to the Nexus 7. By the way, iFixit sells tools so you might want to check that out if you plan on fixing a Nexus 7 that is out of warranty. Opening the Nexus 7 exposes the battery. Eventually they get down to the L-shaped motherboard with the Tegra 3.

The other major components exposed include 1 Gbytes of Hynix HTC2G83CFR DDR3 RAM, Kingston KE44B-26BN/8GB 8 Gbyte NAND flash, and Invensense MPU-6050 gyro and accelerometer, and a Max 77612A inverting switching regulator. The WiFi wireless module is a AW-NH665 from AzureWave. Broadcom provides its BCM4751 integrated monolithic GPS receiver.

iFixit rates the Nexus 7 repairability as 7 out of 10 because of the display. The Amazon Kindle is rated 8 out of 10.

The Nexus 7 is powered by NVidia's Tegra 3 (Fig. 3) system-on-a-chip (SoC) and has 1 Gbyte of RAM to work with. It runs Google's latest OS, Android 4.1, that is also known as "Jelly Bean." It also utilizes "Project Butter," Google's video speed up technology that delivers a smooth, 60 frame/s operation.

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Figure 3. NVidia's Tegra 3 is built around the 12-core NVidia GPU and four Cortex-A9 cores plus a low power Cortex Core suitable for managing streaming video.

The Tegra 3 has powered a number of larger 10-in tablets that compete with Apple's iPad. They tend to be almost twice the price of the Nexus 7 but often include features like the rear facing camera and MicroSD expansion.

There is a built-in speaker and microphone that would be handy for video conferencing but the single speaker is a bit lame for audio playback. I suspect that the headset jack will get some use for watching videos or listening to e-books.

It has a full 3D sensor suite including an accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope. It has GPS support as well making it a nice size GPS system.

The Google Nexus 7 obviously targets the Barnes and Nobles Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire. Since it is out later it can use the latest chip, in this case the NVidia Tegra 3. It does not really take on the larger Android tablets or Apple iPad.

I still depend on a laptop so it looks like I'll order the Nexus 7 to complement it. The $200 price point looks good and I actually like the form factor that is on par with the Amazon Kindle I would be replacing. I'll let you know how it works out.

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