Teardown: Inside Google's Nexus 7 tablet

Allan Yogasingam - July 5, 2012 Teardown: Inside the Google Nexus 7 Amazon shook the consumer electronics market last year when it introduced the first sub$200 tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire. Many were skeptical of the online vendor’s foray into electronics, but some saw it as a stroke of genius. By leveraging its vast library of online titles, Amazon set itself up to compete on content with industry leader Apple. The Kindle Fire was an instant hit by combining Amazon’s library of e-books, music and movies with one of the lowest tablet price points featured quality technology. In the fourth quarter of 2011, IDC reported over 6 million units of the Kindle Fire were sold, making Amazon the No. 2 tablet maker with 16.8 percent of the overall market. Hence, it was strange then that few companies tried to replicate Amazon’s model. Tablet manufacturers are still trying to compete with Apple, releasing products with specifications close to or better than the iPad. The result has been that few tablets under $400. Perhaps only one company, Google, possesses the resources and the content to offer a tablet capable of taking on the Kindle Fire. The first Google-branded handset, the Google Nexus One, was manufactured by HTC and was the first to be sold directly by Google to consumers. It served as the template for other Google devices like the Nexus S, the Nexus ONE and the Galaxy Nexus. With each product, Google partnered with an established device manufacturer, focusing its own efforts on the user-interface and optimizing its Android operating system for a particular device. Google finally introduced its first branded tablet, Nexus 7, at its I/O conference last week (June 27) with a price tag of $199, meaning it will compete directly with the Kindle Fire. The Android OS, particularly Honeycomb, had long been used by iPad competitors. The Nexus 7 tablet also included the latest version of Android, 4.1, or Jelly Bean. Like Kindle Fire, Nexus 7 offers specifications comparable to other tablets while also taking advantage of the rich library of applications that were available through Google’s Android Market. Featuring a 7-inch display, Nexus 7 also uses Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3 processor while also sporting 1 GB of internal RAM and the option of up to 16 Gb of storage. What's inside? Since the Tegra 3 processor’s first design win inside the ASUS Transformer Prime, it has been steadily grabbing more socket wins. According to our IRIS database, Tegra 3 has at

least five design wins, including a major win in the new Microsoft Surface tablet. The 1.3-GHz, low power SoC was the first mobile applications processor to incorporate four cores each in the CPU and GPU. The Tegra 3 features "Variable Symmetric Multiprocessing" that uses a single low power core for tasks requiring less power consumption.

Front side view of the Nexus 7 communications board (click on image to enlarge).

New vendors Among the chip suppliers in the Nexus 7 are familiar companies like Maxim, providing the main power management IC (MAX77612A), and Texas Instruments with two design wins also related to the power management. Hynix also won a socket for memory with its 2 Gb DDR3 SDRAM modules on the main board. We also found a 8-Gb memory module from Kingston manufactured by SanDisk/Toshiba and a PN65 NFC secure module from NXP. The latter device was recently found in the Samsung Galaxy S3. Broadcom was another notable design winner with it BCM4330 802.11n with Bluetooth wireless transceiver and BCM4751 integrated GPS receiver. The BCM4330 is paired with an AzureWave AW-NH665 802.11n Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM radio module. Among the chip makers not usually seen in tablets is ELAN Microelectronics, which provided controllers for the Nexus 7’s touchscreen. We have previously seen ELAN microcontrollers in handsets manufactured for the Chinese market, so the Nexus 7 represents a major design win for the Taiwanese vendor. The combination of a high-end processor, a multitude of applications optimized for Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and a $199 price tag for the 8 Gb model give Google a chance to make a dent in the tablet market. Early indications are that the pre-orders for the Nexus 7 are substantial. If Google succeeds with Nexus 7, the pressure will grow on Apple to introduce its own 7-inch

model, the protests of the late Steve Jobs notwithstanding.

Key components: Nvidia Tegra 3: Quad-core mobile applications processor Hynix H5TC2G83CFR: 2 Gb DDR3 SDRAM Kingston KE44B026BN: 8GB memory module Realtek (RMC) ALC5642: Audio codec and headphone amplifier Maxim MAX77612A: Power management IC Texas Instruments TPS63020: Buck-boost converter; SN75LVDS83B LVDS display serdes Fairchild FDMC6675BZ: P-channel power MOSFET ELAN Microelectronics eKTF3624BWS and eKTH1036BWS: Controllers for resistive touchscreen Broadcom BCM4751: Integrated monolithic GPS receiver InvenSense MPU-6050: Six-axis (gyro and accelerometer) MEMS device AzureWave AW-NH665: 802.11n Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM radio module NXP Semiconductor PN65: Secure NFC module

Back side view of the Nexus 7 communications board (click on image to enlarge).

Allan Yogasingam is a technical research manager at UBM TechInsights, a sister company to EE Times. For a closer look at the UBM TechInsights teardown analysis of the Nexus 7, please visit the firm's website. Out of the box

The Google Nexus 7 Tablet as manufactured by ASUS (click on image to enlarge).

Removing the back cover

Removing the back cover of the Nexus 7 (click on image to enlarge).

Revealing key internal components

Removing the back cover of the Nexus 7 reveals some of the key internal components (click on image to enlarge).

Back cover with shielding

The back cover of the Nexus 7 with some shielding (click on image to enlarge).

The front of the Nexus 7

The front of the Nexus 7 featuring the PCB and LCD touchscreen (click on image to enlarge).

Removing the shielding

Removing the shielding around the main PCB (click on image to enlarge).

Lithium-polymer battery pack

The 3.7V, 16Wh lithium-polymer battery pack (click on image to enlarge).

Closer look at the display

A closer look at the display manufactured by HYDIS (click on image to enlarge).

Revealing the apps processor

Revealing the Nvidia Tegra 3 applications processor (click on image to enlarge).

The main PCB

A look at the main PCB with the shielding removed (click on image to enlarge).

Removing the speakers

Removing the speakers from the Nexus 7 (click on image to enlarge).

Markings on the speaker

Revealing the markings on the speaker (click on image to enlarge).

Removing the main PCB

Removing the main PCB from the Nexus 7 front cover (click on image to enlarge).

Board separated from the cover

The board separated from the cover (click on image to enlarge).

Backside of the PCB

The backside of the PCB with shielding (click on image to enlarge).

Front of PCB

The front of the Nexus 7 PCB with some of the main components visible (click on image to enlarge).

Front cover minus main board

The front cover minus the main board (click on image to enlarge).

Removing LCD touchscreen

Beginning the process of removing the LCD touchscreen (click on image to enlarge).

Removing the board enclosure

Removing the board enclosure (click on image to enlarge).

HYDIS-manufactured display

A look at the HYDIS-manufactured display (click on image to enlarge).

Markings on the display

The markings on the HYDIS display (click on image to enlarge).

Separating the display, cover

Separating the display from the cover (click on image to enlarge).

Further separation

Further separation of the front cover (click on image to enlarge).

Removing the shielding

Removing the shielding reveals the flex connector to the touchscreen (click on image to enlarge).

Touchscreen components

The flex connector and the components related to the touchscreen's operation (click on image

to enlarge).

Backside of the main PCB

A closer look at the backside of the main PCB (click on image to enlarge).

Touchscreen separated from the glass

The touchscreen separated from the glass (click on image to enlarge).