iPod Nano Deconstruction

Monday, September 26, 2005

Very interesting article on the Deconstruction of a iPod Nano

Read the full article at http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/nano.ars/1

Stress testing

What does it take to destroy an iPod nano, and what's inside this tiny package? We wanted to answer both questions and strangely enough answering the first allowed us to answer the second. We could take our turns at purposely rendering the iPod nano broken, and then when it had endured more damage than it could handle we'd end its misery with a respectful autopsy. Now, we know that destroying the iPod nano makes some (strange) grown men want to cry. Rest assured, you can still buy one yourself, and the local priest said all iPod nanos go to heaven.

Because of our initial apprehension about the breakability of our tiny new friend as well as reading about similar apprehension from many potential iPod nano buyers online, we decided to abuse our precious little nano for the sake of science. We wanted to stress test the nano in various real-life situations where iPod users have proven themselves to be a little less than genius in the past to see how the nano could handle the abuse. To break the nano in the most scientific manner possible, we would need 5 or 6 nanos and a high-tech laboratory built for this purpose. Unfortunately, all we had was a single 2GB black iPod nano and a giant parking lot, so we had to make do. What we get is a great idea of how much abuse this little guy can take.

To simulate everyday accidents that could result in a broken iPod, we came up with a few situations that we felt would ultimately leave the nano lifeless:

  1. Sitting on the iPod nano
  2. Dropping it while jogging (4-6mph),
  3. Dropping at various speeds: 8-10mph (slow bicycle), 15-20mph (fast bicycle), 30mph (slow car), and 50mph (fast car)
  4. Dropping the nano from various heights.

Our first test consisted of placing the iPod nano on a solid wood chair and sitting on it, as people are prone to do from time to time. As you can guess, this "test" yielded basically zero damage results—so little, in fact, that we didn't even take pictures.

For our second test, one of us held on to the iPod, jogged about 20 feet and dropped the nano onto a sidewalk. This proved pretty uneventful as well and the nano didn't even skip a beat:

Then, one of us jumped in the car and we started on the higher-speed tests. We drove a slow 10mph around a tiny roundabout and released the nano out of the driver's side window. The nano didn't really slide that much and just fell the to ground. The results for the "slow bicycle" test were duplicated for the "fast bicycle" test. The nano didn't slide much and again, just fell to the ground with some slight scratches.

The nano was still working fine, so we took it up to 30mph and performed the same drop. This time it slid pretty far and surprisingly endured only cosmetic scratches, mostly on the front of the player:

Because of the distinct lack of expected damage from the first two car drops, we sped up to 50mph and launched the nano on an impressive slide and tumble that, again, really only scratched the surface:

Next we tried dropping it from a "considerable" height. The height we dropped it from was approximately 9ft (ie. one of us standing on a stone bench at the park). This was the first point where the iPod started to operate abnormally. The display was seriously bugged out, but the music continued to play and navigating via the scroll wheel still worked as expected:

At this point we were astounded that the iPod nano was still working properly, albeit with a broken display. Because we had honestly expected the iPod nano to break by this time, we were forced to depart from our planned schedule of destruction and try and run over it with the car. Surely, we thought, it could never withstand the crushing power of German automotive engineering.

We placed the nano in the path of the car and drove over it with both front and rear tires. Driving over the nano produced sickening crunching noises which coincidentally sounded a lot like an LCD being crushed. After the first hit and run, the iPod's display was not cracked but was showing some nasty vertical lines. Shockingly, the nano was still playing music and the controls still operated as expected, as we were still able to skip ahead, go back, pause, and play music!

What were we to do now? Baffled, we did the only thing we could think of at the time: we ran over the nano again! This time the screen went totally blank, but the band played on.

In a final act of desperation, we decided to expose the iPod to a catastrophic event that would certainly destroy it. Lacking a really high place to drop the nano from, we decided the throw the nano as high as we could, say 40 feet into the air, and let it land—hard—on the concrete.

Alas, the iPod nano finally gave up the ghost. In addition to the display showing nothing and the backlight being perpetually stuck on, the music finally subsided. The nano had journeyed to the Land Where Consumer Electronics Are Eternally Blessed.

It's dead, Jim.

Since it was dead, we thought we'd open it up and see what made it tick...

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