Xbox One X inside

The latest Microsoft 2017 home game console, the Xbox One X, which features major hardware upgrades focused on enabling games to be rendered at 4K resolution, it’s really impressive, with a SoC of 6 Tflops power from AMD, 12GB GDDR5 and 1TB of inner storage.

Microsoft_Xbox_One_X_000

Really paves the future for the coming years, and faces face to face with its next and closest competitor, Sony’s PS4 Pro (with 4.2 Tflops).

Their acclaimed game controller, due its ergonomy and good response, can be also color tailored, and this Volcano Shadow Special Edition really looks pretty good:

Microsoft_Xbox_One_X_Volcano_controller

And for curiosity, you take a take a close look inside:

Xbox One X Console Explode Dark Gray

And there, you can easily identify the big efforts in RF shielding, Thermal management and board size optimization.

Apple HomePod – Breaking Barriers

After sometime waiting something new from the big Apple, they surprised us again with a new product line to compete face-to-face with Google and Amazon.

Apple_HomePod_001

But in this case, it is slightly different. From CPU side, it is so powerful as an iPhone 6, as it uses the Apple A8 as main core. And from sound point of view, its woofer and seven-tweeter array disposed in 360º, will be able to cover perfectly a big room.

One of the cool things, besides Siri interaction is that this “smartspeaker” can be palced anywhere in the room, as it automatically analyzes the acoustics, adjusts the sound based on the speaker’s location, and steers the music in the optimal direction. Whether HomePod is against the wall, on a shelf, or in the middle of the room, everyone gets an immersive listening experience.

And from its inners, we can see again its delicious and exquisite arrangement of components:

Apple_HomePod_003

Something really amazing for what many people will consider only as a speaker:

Apple_HomePod_002

And of course, available in two different colors: Black and White, so finally an awesome and nice smart speaker which  you want to place in any spot of your room so that it looks good, and not to go unnoticed, quite the opposite. 😉

MSI Vortex – Radical Desktop Design

From time to time we see new desktop designs with some changes in their housing and approach, but this new MSI, really caught  my attention, reminding me so much the Mac Pro approach, but with a more aggressive design:

MSI_Vortex_001

It is not taller than 27cm and close to 4Kg weight, being quite compact and powerful for our desks.

In next image you can see a complete 3D exploded view of all its internals and how they are arranged; which is complex and awesome at same time:

MSI_Vortex_002

And also how is intented to dissipate all its inner heat generated:

MSI_Vortex_003

Simply, a tiny but powerful Beast 😀

Samsung Gear 360 (Looking inside)

It looks like 2016 will be the year of Virtual Reality explosion phenomenom and general availability for everybody, and not only for consumption of contents (glasses), but also for creation.

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_000a

And being a market that nobody wants to neglect, Samsung seems that will present they first product, interballly called as “Proyect Beyond” (started at 2014) but commertially as Samsung Gear 360 (SM-C200) in the next MWC 2016.

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_000b

It looks like very promising although the price is still not disclosed.

And we look inside, we can see the level of complexity that this “16 Full-HD + 1 Top camera” implies:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_000c

In the next images you can take a look of how it is build and all its inners parts. It looks like its assembly/dis-assembly will not be easy:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_001

Being though as portable system, Samsung engineer’s had to add up to 3 battery packs at bottom side:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_003

And thermically speaking, a big aluminum plate on top of the PCBA and cameras to dissipate the heat:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_004

We can also see the Ultra Wide-Angle Optics, composed by several lens, in each of the cameras:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_005

Then, after last year first aproach to VR from vendors, proposing their high resolution high-end smartphones screens to main screens for the VR glasses, this year, many user will be able to create their own VR videos and share them all over the world.

Ad here a prototype used for first Samsung field tests:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_006

Let’s see how the people surprises us with their inner VR creativity! 🙂

Sega Mega Drive – 25th Anniversary

The electronics evolves by leaps and bounds, but today, 25 years ago, the first 16bits home console reached Europe.

It was the SEGA Mega Drive, a console which stills today have a cool and smooth mechanical design:

Sega_Mega_Drive_16bits_000

But what you can find even more interesting are its internals, look in next photo its inner mother board:

Sega_Mega_Drive_16bits_001

As you can see most of the IC’s were still through-hole devices, being the main CPU and GPU the only ones SMD chips; which were also even designed in-house, and some patch wire-wrapping too! 😀

Those days are already gone, but I still feel somewhat nostalgic when I look at this pre-historic electronics for someones 😉

Smartphones, Premium Materials,… and Cases?

Since the first smartphones with premium materials were released in the market with Glass, Metal, Leather, Wood, … I realized that something was changing, making these devices more personal, more human, and less commodity parts.

But since then, many smartphones models and manufacturers have joined the party, but most of them still have the same problem.

We still need to use (or are adviced to do it) a case or protector in case we can keep our daily devices as new as first day:

Samsung_S6_case

This is something that I really don’t understand and don’t like at all; which is the purpose of adding strengthen Glass front or back panels, Metal frames of even full metal unibody housings if at the end the feeling that I will have in my hands will be the touch of a soft, and common plastic?

Well, the good thing, is that I am not the only one realizing this situation, and some market players, as Apple and Jony Ive team, already began to solve it. But how, simply using more robust materials in their creations, as the latest iPhone 6s, which uses the strongest 7000 Series aluminum alloy for metal body and the strongest cover glass used on any smartphone in the world; using a special dual ion‑exchange process, which makes it stronger at a molecular level and the most durable in the smartphone industry.

iPhone6s

Of course, the research is still not over. I believe that current metal alloy is strong enough to avoid scratches and floor impacts, and even the screen is already strengthen to don’t worry anymore about having your keyrings and iPhone’s in the same pocket. Anyhow, even if I am not fully convinced about the total reliability of the front cover glass against floor fallings, I believe that Cupertino guys are going in the right direction and next iPhone generations (as the next iPhone 7 – 2016) and next ones, will be even more roboust enough to avoid using no more cases neither screen protectors at all in normal user cases.

But, of course, not only Apple is working in that direction, also Moto by Lenovo did it with their first Moto X Force with Shattershield display:

moto_x_force_0

And Motorola is so proud and convinced about it that the company will offer 4 years warranty on the screen of the device, and claimed they have spent 3 years developing this shatterproof screen; which has five layers to ensure its durability and are designed to absorb shock and protect the display from breaking:

moto_x_force_1

Basically, the first layer is an exterior protective glass which Moto says comes with a proprietary hard coat designed to guard against dents and abrasion, followed by an interior glass in the second layer to provide a clear protective shield. Then, there is a dual touch layer, which ensures that in case of an impact where the primary touch sensitive layer is damaged, the second one takes over to maintain touchscreen performance. The fourth layer is the AMOLED display, which Moto says can absorb shocks. And finally the fifth layer is the aluminum chassis, which provides structural integrity and durability.

Moto 360 – Skeuomorphism cannot be always the best

There are many discussions about which is the best shape for a smartwatch: Round or Square; and even in the Android world you can find examples for both:

  • Pebble Time: Square (Rectangular)
  • LG G Watch: Square
  • LG Watch Urbane: Round
  • Samsung Galaxy Gear Live: Square (Rectangular)
  • Sony Smartwatch: Square
  • Motorola Moto 360: Round

Apple decided to choose for the Square flavor for all its models of the new product line.

Well, we could debate plenty about who is right or wrong, but here I want to take a look to the insides of the Moto 360 and the trade off in its internal design to make it round.

moto360_1

The first thing that we see inside of it, its is Heart Rate sensor, much smaller than Apple approach, but based in the same methodology known as photoplethysmography.

moto360_2

For your information, it’s theoretically capable of also acting as a pulse oximeter for assessing your oxygen saturation level. However, as far as we know, these enhanced capabilities are not (yet) enabled, neither for the Moto 360 or Apple Watch due lack of 100% accuracy always under all kind of circumstances.

Then, once opened, the first thing that you see is the screen flex cable connected to the main board, which also has an RF shielding on top all the circuitry:

moto360_3

And further, at the other side, its 300mA battery, which is not round at all, unless you doubt about it 😉 ; so limiting its maximum capacity size to the diameter of the round watch:

moto360_4

In the other side of the bottom plastic cover, we can see the inductor for the wireless charging power system, which follows the Qi inductive power transfer standard, (which is most “de facto” nowadays standard):

moto360_5

And then, finally, we reach the PCBA (Top and Bottom views) with all the tiny components reaching all the limits of the round shape at top side:

moto360_6

It is pretty cool (from the electronics point of view 😉 , as Apple Watch made a higher system integration, but also more expensive) to see how the PCB designer used up to the last piece of area.

Moreover, we can identify some of the main IC components on it:

  • TI – TMS320C5545: DSP (for Voice processing)
  • TI – WL18G/31/46C1VRI: Wireless transceiver module, handling Wi-Fi (but not enabled), Bluetooth, and Bluetooth Low Energy protocols
  • Micron – MT46H128M32L2KQ-5 IT: 500MB LPDDR SDRAM
  • Toshiba – THGBMAG5A1JBAIT: 4GB NAND flash (e-MMC interface)
  • Solomon Systech – SSD2848K1: Display controller (driving the LCD)
  • Atmel – MXT112S: Capacitive touchscreen controller
  • TI – AFE4490: AFE for the pulse oximeter sensor
  • TI – 1211A1: USB 2.0 PHY transceiver (for inner user or debug)
  • TI – TPS659120: Power Management Unit
  • TI – BQ51051B: Wireless Power Li-Ion Charger Receiver
  • Wolfson Microelectronics (Cirrus Logic’s) – WM7132: MEMS microphone
  • Wolfson Microelectronics (Cirrus Logic’s) – WM7121: Second MEMS microphone (companion for noise cancelation)
  • InvenSense – MPU-6050: Single package MEMS Six-axis accelerometer + Gyroscope

And then one of the cool things is the CPU, which is located just underneath the Micron SDRAM package, which is a TI – OMAP3630, labeled as X3630ACBP:

moto360_7

It is a SoC from some years ago, but with the Software optimized, powerful enough to have the smartwatch’s responsiveness consistently snappy and cheaper.

For instance, Apple developed its own SoC, but for Motorola/Lenovo, this integration approach was cheaper than developing a SoC from scratch, or paying IP royalties to newer CPU vendors.

Besides, for those who remembers that in old days Motorola made their own chips, remember that Motorola spun-off its semiconductor unit (Freescale today, and next year part of NXP); so as you see, they mostly invested in TI chips rather than other suppliers.

Finally, you can see how looks like the circular LCD screen of  it:

moto360_8

Although circular screens are not mainstream, we assume this LCD solution approach was cheaper than an OLED option, even taking into account the lighting and power consumption drawbacks of this screen technology compared with OLED.

Well, my last comment will be regarding its ‘ugly’ LCD’s bottom side ‘black line’ characteristic, which you can clearly see in this photo:

moto360_9

There is located the ambient light sensor. And although I don’t know if Motorola (Lenovo) deeply studied another possible location for it; unfortunately, it really destroys all the ‘hype cool‘ thing of having a non-pure UX rounded screen smart watch 😦

Apple Watch S1 – Looking inside its entrails

We didn’t need to wait long to be able to take a look in the entrails of Apple Watch S1, which as Apple says “An entire computer architecture on a single chip“:

Apple_S1

But after open it, we can say that it is more than a ‘single chip‘ as you can see here: Apple_S1_Decapped

It is a whole minituarized board containing all kind of sub-systems (IC’s and passives) which we would expect to find in a portable wrist computer:

  • CPU: Apple APL 0778 (with GPU PowerVR SGX543) (based on Samsung’s 28nm LP process) (not yet benchmark but already claimed to be as powerful as an Apple A5 at lower clock speed to save power).
  • RAM: 512MB from Elpida
  • FLASH storage: 8GB from Sandisk/Toshiba
  • WiFi/BlueTooth: Single stream BCM43342 from Broadcom
  • NFC interface: From NXP+AMS
  • Accelerometer/Gyroscope: Brand new 6-axis from STMicroelectronics
  • Touch Screen controller: AD7149 from Analog Devices
  • PMU: D2238A from Dialog Semiconductor

Following table is an aprox. breakdown cost of whole Apple Watch 1st gen:

Apple_Watch_Costs

As you can see, it nearly looks like an old iPhone4S (2011) (without cellular/GPS) but in a tenth of original size. Before finishing, just for your fun, you can see also a X-Ray shot of it, which shows you all the component PAD’s placed in the PCB:

Apple_S1_Xray

And also a collage containing the silicon DIE’s:

apple_s1_xray2

It is pretty impressive, and only the first step in Apple Watch miniaturization process.

Apple_Watch_BluePrint

So, I am really excited to see its evolution in the coming years. 😀