Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 teardown: Unmarked processor, replaceable battery

From the outside, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 looks nearly identical to the larger 10" model, but there are significant differences inside the case.

The Galaxy Tab 8.9 is Samsung's follow-up to the Galaxy Tab 7.0 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets released earlier this year.

The Galaxy Tab 8.9 has a 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of LPDDR DRAM, an 8.9-inch touchscreen display (1280x800), a 2.0 MP front camera, 3.0 MP rear camera, and comes in 16GB and 32GB versions. As of this writing, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is available for $449.99 (US). The current versions only support Wi-Fi connectivity. The Android tablet weighs just under one pound (447 grams) and measures 9.09" (W) x 6.21" (H) x 0.34" (D). It's the same thickness as the Apple iPad 2, but even lighter. It comes with Android 3.1 Honeycomb installed.

I cracked open both the 7-inch and 10-inch Galaxy Tabs and couldn't resist giving the mid-sized model the same treatment. Before the teardown, I expected the Galaxy Tab 8.9 to be a smaller version of the 10.1 (having an almost identical internal hardware layout). I was surprised to learn that this is not the case. The two tablets look a like from the outside and do share some hardware, but there are significant differences on the inside.

Cracking Open observations

  • Easier to open than Galaxy Tab 10.1: Unlike the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Galaxy Tab 8.9's back cover has neither external screws nor adhesive. It is held in place with plastic tabs. I was able to remove the cover using a thin metal blade and suction cup (used to pull upward on the front-panel assembly).
  • Less rigid than other tablets: Unfortunately, the 8.9's back cover is extremely flexible--as was the 10.1's cover. Using plastic cuts down on the device's weight, but also makes the device less rigid than tablets with metal cases or internal frames, such as the iPad 2 or Motorola XOOM.
  • Replaceable battery: Like the Galaxy Tab 7 and 10.1, the 8.9's 6,100 mAh Li-ion battery pack is replaceable.
  • Efficient internal hardware layout: Samsung made the most of the limited space inside the Galaxy Tab 8.9's 0.34-inch-thick case. The internal layout is clean and efficient. The components are packed close together and there is only one large PCB.
  • Not a miniature clone of the Galaxy Tab 10.1: Given the Galaxy Tab 8.9's outward similarities to the Galaxy Tab 10.1, one would think they have a near identical internal hardware layout. Surprisingly, that's not the case. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9 share some chips (such as the Wolfson WM8994E, Invensense MPU-3050, Broadcom BCM4330, and KIONIX KXTF9). But, they have several significant differences. According to Samsung, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 uses a 1.0 GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 T250S application processor, but there's no clearly-marked processor on the motherboard. Either the processor is located within the unknown chip labeled 34LM85AM, integrated into or mounted under the 1GB LPDDR DRAM chip, or hidden beneath the internal mounting frame and not mounted to the motherboard. I've asked Samsung for clarification. But as of publication, the company had not responded--except to say that "the Galaxy Tab 8.9 is powered by a dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 T250S processor". I'll update this article with more information if and when it becomes available. In addition to the processor differences, the 8.9 model also lacks an HDMI output and an external memory card slot. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 isn't a miniature version of the 10.1.

Internal hardware

Our Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 test unit had the following hardware components:

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