After Hours

Amazon Kindle (2011) Teardown: Faster processor, fewer chips

Bill Detwiler cracks open the redesigned 2011 Kindle and discovers a device that's very close to being a truly disposable e-reader.

Amazon 2011 Kindle In late September 2011, Amazon launched it's long-awaited tablet--the Kindle Fire. At the same time, the company also introduced a three new Kindle e-ink readers--the Kindle, Kindle Touch, and Kindle Touch 3G. Last year, I cracked open Kindle Graphite and Kindle Graphite DX. This time around we'll be dissecting all three devices. And, we're starting with the 2011 Kindle.

The new Kindle has a 6" diagonal E Ink display (600 x 800 resolution at 167 ppi), 800MHz 2GB of internal storage, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi support, and a USB 2.0 (micro-B connector). According to Amazon, it measures 6.5" (H) x 4.5" (W) x 0.34" (D) and weighs 5.98 ounces. As of this writing, the 2011 Kindle is available for $79 (with Amazon "Special Offers" advertising) and $109 (without advertising).

After dissecting the 2011 Kindle, I found a faster processor than last year's models, but fewer (and cheaper) components. This year's entry-level Kindle is definitely a no-frills e-reader.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open Amazon Kindle 2011

Cracking Open observations

  • Amazon 2011 Kindle battery packBattery is not user-replaceable: The battery pack on last year's Kindle was rigid and easily removed. The 2011 Kindle's battery pack thin, flexible, and held to the Kindle's metal frame with extremely strong adhesive. Prying the unit loose from the frame would likely damage the battery.
  • Back cover is difficult to remove: The back cover is held in place with plastic clips (which you must release from the front), stiff plastic tabs (which you must bend to dislodge), and a huge patch of adhesive (which I had to cut through). The back cover CAN be removed, but it's not a simple task.
  • Standard Torx T5 screws: I was able to remove all the 2011 Kindle's screws with a Torx T5 screwdriver.
  • Faster processor than last year's Kindles: The 2010 Kindle and Kindle DX both use a 532 MHz Freescale i.MX353 processor. This year's model has an 800 MHz Freescale i.MX50 application processor.
  • E Ink controller chip change: The 2010 Kindle has an Epson KCRE7000 E-Ink display controller. The 2011 Kindle appears to use a Winbond 25Q40BW1G Serial Flash Memory chip to control its E Ink display.
  • No audio codec: The 2011 Kindle lacks audio support, and thus has no audio codec chip. Readers who listen to audio books will need to buy the more expensive Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, or Kindle Fire.
  • Atheros WLAN chip: Amazon stuck with Atheros (Qualcomm) for the Kindle's WiFi support. Last year's Kindle's have the Atheros AR6102 WLAN chip, and the 2011 model uses the Atheros AR6103 chip.

Amazon 2011 Kindle teardown

Internal hardware

Amazon 2011 Kindle motherboardUnfortunately, all but one of the Kindle's important chips are covered by EMI shields, which are soldered to the PCB. To avoid damaging the Kindle, I decided not to remove the shields. Luckily, folks over at Blogkindle.com desoldered the shields. According to their observations, the 2011 Kindle has the following hardware components:

Update 12/19/2011: This post originally appeared in our TR Dojo blog.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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