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:

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...

22 comments
anery_anne
anery_anne

Often replace the battery Often replace the battery

anery_anne
anery_anne

Often replace the battery Often replace the battery

anery_anne
anery_anne

Often do not use to battery took it down, keep dry Often replace the battery

TimGummer
TimGummer

I love my graphite EXCEPT, frankly the navigation - one of the things i thought would be easy peasy with an ebook - really sucks - in fact it's turned out to be a lot worse than paper. There isn't any simple way to flip through a book, back and forth, easily use the contents, search etc. As much as I love integrating devices, I value that I don't get distracted by web browsing and notifications etc when I'm reading the kindle - so that's great, and the e-ink is fab for outdoors, and long battery life. But from the look of videos I've seen, i'll likely upgrade to a kindle touch (not the fire), for the sake of being able to navigate somewhat like (or better than) a paper book.

sipeki
sipeki

Just had a thought touch screen means touching the screen. Which will leave finger prints on the display which make the text not so crisp to read. Does the touch screen show up finger prints?

bigjude
bigjude

I really love the one I have (the 2010 model) which presents pages as fast as I can read them so why would I want anything different? I HATE touch screens too and hardly ever use the Android tablet that I bought as an away-from-home substitute for my laptop. That said, one of the really best things about Kindle and the Amazon Whisper service is being able to download a whole series of books when you find an author you like. As a voracious reader I like reading everything that author has written, one after the other. The very worst thing is the rapidly rising prices of Kindle editions of popular authors books to a level where in some releases the Kindle edition costs MORE than the print edition. Also, the way in which some authors are only releasing the very expensive Audible Audio editions instead of straight Kindle e-books. When I'm too blind to read I'll start listening.but that won't be for a few years yet. There is no way that I'll pay $US23 for an e-book and I'm feeling rather cheated by this.

jsm555
jsm555

I have a Kindle graphite (I also bought my wife and son their own as well) - and love it, and I never thought in a million years that I'd want an e-reader, because I love books. I still buy books, but only those that I want to keep, like first editions and autographed copies. But the new Kindles will never darken my night table. Why? I HATE touch screen. My Blackberry Torch drives me totally up the wall, dialing when I don't want it to, turning off all connections when I check an email, etc. Touch screen is nice for a STATIONARY device, like a desktop computer, but when you're constantly handling a device - like a cellphone or an e-reader - you get a lot of problems. A real touchpad would have been a nice touch, but the touch screen is a bad design, imo. Also, I almost never use the keyboard on my Kindle (it's an e-reader, not a web device, remember). I know that touch screen devices are 'cool' and 'sexy' but I think I'll stick with my old antiquated Kindle graphite!

nwallette
nwallette

Simple, minimalist, no-frills -- whatever you call it, this seems like a good strategy. It's just an e-book reader, and if it works as well (or better) than previous Kindles, it'll match up well as a low-cost model for those that just want to read books. Now the Fire.. I think the industry should stay away from names based on this particular element. It seems anything with this naming scheme is afflicted with ambivalence. Kindle Fire -- is it an e-book reader or a tablet? Is the Torch a touch-screen smartphone or a BlackBerry? Nobody knows... In this market, you have to know what you are, and sell it with confidence. Anything less is destined to fail miserably. Hmm... so.. Windows 8 --> Windows Flame? (BTW, yet another T.R. forum bug. If I attempt to post the First Comment after someone else has already done so, nothing happens.)

debbiernoble
debbiernoble

im 50 yrs old started college, want something lite not my laptop no more too much trouble to carry, shopping for a tablet going crazy with all the reviews, please help me in choosing one out . i do like the toshiba thrive and was also looking at the amazon but i do want a 10" screen help.

the.fantom
the.fantom

...do happen, but, I've never seen them get to a point where they interfere with reading...although, I do keep a couple strategically placed micro-fiber cloths around the home and workplace...

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Fingerprints are probably one of the most annoying consequences of using your finger to control current touchscreen devices. There are screen "protectors" that will reduce fingerprints, but in my experience, they also negatively affect the display's viewing quality.

cblapp
cblapp

I'm getting a Kindle Touch for my mother - the techno-phobe. The buttons are too small for her to use, but the touch screen allows her to flip a page more like she would in a real book. Learning the buttons on her cell was almost too much, so the closer to her normal motions the better.

fscolaro
fscolaro

I'll keep my old Sony PRS-505 until I really need WiFi... best human interface.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

This Kindle (the $109 2011 base model - without Special Offers) doesn't have a touchscreen display, neither do the Kindle Keyboard models. Only the Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire have touchscreens.

Brutusbiker
Brutusbiker

There are actually only two alternatives: One is the iPad (with 3G, please!) -- you may get a less expensive (hardly) used one at e-bay; after installing iOS 5 you will get pretty much the same as you get with an iPad 2, less the cameras. The other is a very light laptop. Choose one with an SSD (solid-state drive) of 128 GB, such as the MacBook Air with 11.6 in. screen. The new ultra books by Acer and Samsung are also great, but for the small price difference I'd stick with the MacBook air. My personal choice would be the small, airy, metal, light, fast laptop: although the iPad is great, in terms of versatility and all-around useability, a very light and fast starting, long battery-lastin laptop wins out.

perldude69
perldude69

I would start by completing my sentences, using punctuation and proper grammar.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

There are lots of 10-inch (or pretty close) tablets out there, each with pros and cons. Before buying a tablet, ask yourself these questions: Do you want/need a tablet that runs Google Android, Apple iOS, or Windows? Do you need a tablet with WiFi and cellular connectivity or just WiFi? What do you want to do with the tablet? If you're already an Apple user and like Apple products, go buy an iPad. Despite improvements in the Android operating system, the iPad's iOS is still the most intuitive mobile operating system out there. If you absolutely hate Apple products, you'll need to consider an Android or Windows tablet. And since there aren't really any true Windows tablets yet (wait for Windows 8), you're looking at an Android device. When it comes to Android tablets, there are small differences (ports, screen, power adapters, etc.) between the various device, but all of them offer basically the same computing experience. I would go to a store and actually try a few of them before making a decision.

tomtermini
tomtermini

With an iPad2, I use a logitek keyboard/cover and iWorks for most standard applications. Plenty of apps, and just works.

TechRepub
TechRepub

I'm on my 3rd battery with the my Sony, just keeps running. I carry it and a smart phone and I'm good to go all day long