Hardware

Motorola Lapdock Teardown: Tiny motherboard, no HDMI output

Bill Detwiler cracks open the Motorola Droid Bionic Lapdock--a Webtop accessory that pushes the convergence of the smartphone and PC one step closer.

In September 2011, Verizon added a fourth device to its growing lineup of 4G LTE smartphones--the Motorola Droid Bionic. Like the Motorola Atrix, released in April, the Bionic supports the Motorola Lapdock accessory. The Lapdock is basically a large docking station complete with keyboard, LCD screen, and trackpad. It's nearly identical to the Atrix Lapdock, but the two are not compatible. Jason Hiner reviewed the Atrix and Lapdock.

After cracking open the Bionic, I was interested to examine the hardware inside the Lapdock. From the outside, it looks like an ultrathin laptop, and I wondered if the internal hardware would also be the same. It was, with a few notable exceptions.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Motorola Droid Bionic Lapdock

Cracking Open observations

  • Standard Phillips #00 screws: I was able to remove all the Lapdock's external and internal screws with a Phillips #00 screwdriver.
  • Laptop-like construction: If it weren't for the phone cradle and forward position of the lid hinges, the Lapdock would be indistinguishable from an average ultra-portable laptop.
  • Interchangeable phone cradle: As I noted above, the Atrix and Bionic Lapdocks have connectors that are specifically designed for their respective phones. You can't connect a Bionic to an Atrix Lapdock. But other than their phone cradles, the Lapdocks appear to be identical. I haven't cracked open the Atrix Lapdock, but I wouldn't be surprised if Bionic version was an exact copy with a different phone cradle.
  • Incredibly small motherboard: Given that the Lapdock lacks a CPU, RAM, and storage module, it doesn't need a large motherboard. In fact, the Lapdock has one of the smallest motherboards I've seen on a laptop-sized device.
  • No HDMI output: The Lapdock has two USB 2.0 ports, but no HDMI output. Given that you can use the Bionic's HD Station accessory to pass HDMI video output from the phone to a TV and monitor, it would have been nice to do the same with the Lapdock. Many laptop users have external monitors. I use a 32-inch TV as a second monitor for my MacBook Pro.

Internal hardware

Our Droid Bionic Lapdock had the following hardware:

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...

10 comments
glegge
glegge

actually, the chip you identify as "Texas Instruments TVL2556 12-Bit, 200 KSPS, 11 Channel, Low Power, Serial ADC with Internal Reference" i'm pretty sure is actually a Texas instruments TPS2556 "Precision adjustable current-limited power-distribution switches".

this device appears to have failed in my lapdock, and is the reason for it no longer detecting or charging my ATRIX. 

I'm just posting this in the hope it may help someone else with a similar issue to myself.

cheers

I should add - great tear down! awesome photos. thanks very much!

kpdriscoll
kpdriscoll

It would be nice if there was a standard interface (ie - micro-usb and micro-hdmi at a certain measured distance) beyond Motorola devices for this. That way if a phone was made to fit, it could be used with the device and expand the market, increasing the volume and bringing down prices. Even if it too an adapter/dock for different phones to meet the interface, it would at least bring some consolidation to the market for accessories of this sort which start to enable smartphones to replace PC's.

erh7771
erh7771

...to be able to take your computing platform with you and have access to most of what is needed. 90% of what I do with a computer can be done on my Evo, it's processor is fast enough for me....I don't game. Hopefully the mobile docking platforms will get better from here. Go Motorola and HTC

bart001fr
bart001fr

You said, "Interchangeable phone cradle: As I noted above, the Atrix and Bionic Lapdocks have connectors that are specifically designed for their respective phones. You can???t connect a Bionic to an Atrix Lapdock. But other than their phone cradles, the Lapdocks appear to be identical. I haven???t cracked open the Atrix Lapdock, but I wouldn???t be surprised if Bionic version was an exact copy with a different phone cradle." So go ahead and interchange them (the phone connectors; I presume they are the same on the Lapdock side) to see how far they have carried the interchangeability. And then report on that (underline 'that'.) Thank you.

htaylor
htaylor

I like the concept. I even toyed with the idea of jumping carriers for the predecessor of the Bionic, the Atrix; however, the present implementation of the concept is lacking for all practical purposes. For a full sized unit, I like the two people who commented before me would like for it to have more laptop like features: Front Facing camera, Scalable port system (cards, usb, firewire, hdmi ), and an enhanced Operating system and not just be an expansion of the phone. I love Android, but imho it is not the operating system for production, and I can not see much personal use for a phone accessory of this size. I can however see an untapped business potential for a more mobile workforce. That being said, I am waiting to see if this is a glimpse at the future or more gadget fad...

bdl6164
bdl6164

One feature mentioned in other opinions is that the Bionic has a front facing camera for Skype type video but when in the lap-dock it is blocked. No web cam pass-through. Really??? However I do like the lap-dock in general and I use it for business and recreation.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

You're observations are spot on. As smartphone and tablet processing power grows to rival that of an average PC, more mobile device manufactures will produce accessories like the Lapdock. And, they'll include more laptop-like features (external memory support, integrated camera, wider port selection, and so forth).

davist@childrensfactory.
davist@childrensfactory.

1) They would have put in a disk. With a disk you could have stored data on the lapdock rather than having to carry it on the phone. There are some things that I do that I do not want to do on a phone so why would I want to store the data there only to move it for use and then put it back when finished. Also would have been nice so the user could sync data as a method of backup. 2) SD or MicroSD slot. The most annoying things about phone is the location of most of their microSD slots. I use these like flash drives and I hate popping the back off, if there would have been one on the dock it would have been nice. For that matter an 11 in 1 reader would have been nice. 3) HDMI port as the article stated I don't understand why they wouldn't and finally 4) Webcam. I mean come on. If I am supposed to want this in place of a netbook or even and Ipad shouldn't I be able to have a front facing camera? Those 4 things would have made me seriously consider this vs just buying a phone and the tablet. There now you have my two cents...and I'm spent.

bigredhdl
bigredhdl

@gleggeThanks for pointing that out.  I'm trying to adapt a lapdock to an HDMI stick and that may be the key to making it work.

beatphreek
beatphreek

The phones themselves have a huge ammount of storage... my atrix ships with 16gb of internal SD memory for user data. And I put a 32GB Sd Card in it... that's nearly 50GB of storage in a phone... I don't worry about space ever. That's pretty much point 1 and 2... plus with the USB host, you can plug whatever you want into it... sd reader, drive... whatever. The reason there is no HDMI out is that the phone isn't set up for dual display... it is displaying to the the Laptop. If you want to display to the TV... then just plug it in to the TV with an HDMI cable... the Phone provides the graphics system. The phone has the front facing camera and it is in fact useless in this scenario... so yeah I think you are right there. Honestly they way over priced these from the get go. They are just monitors and keyboards in a fold up package... I think its a good start to the future of portable personal computing... but it lacks at the present time. Its why I didn't bother to get one. Especially with the increased data plan requirements...