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By Mark Kaelin
The second generation Microsoft Zune media player is that company’s answer to the various iPods Apple has put on the market with at least video and MP3 capability. As a general purpose media player, the Zune is more than serviceable. It is not spectacular, but the Zune does just what you expect — play music and videos, display pictures, and manage your media library. But the question remains — what the heck is inside. In this TechRepublic Cracking Open Photo Gallery we examine what is actually in a Microsoft Zune.
The Microsoft Zune
The Zune experience
The Zune ships with the standard stuff for a media player: the power/USB cable, headphones (ear buds), and really lame documentation. (Can’t anyone write just a little documentation for us?)
Microsoft has about 10 pages of warranty and other legal mumbo jumbo, but very little about how to actually use the darn thing.
Almost a click wheel
The Zune has a familiar look with a wheel style controller, but it doesn’t operate the same way an iPod does. The wheel is really a north, south, east, west button, with a center OK button.
No engraving on our Zune.
The graphical interface is efficient, but not very eye-catching.
The Zune will display downloaded album artwork so you can know what you are listening to.
Not many connections in our Zune — one hole for a USB/power cable and one audio jack for headphones.
I approached the Cracking Open like I approached it for the various iPods. I made the assumption that the Zune case was merely clipped together. But, alas, I was wrong. There were some screws lurking under this clip-on shiny plate.
And they weren’t just any screws either. They were tri-wing security screws, which were made famous during our Cracking Open of the Nintendo Wii.
We have clips
Of course, there are still plenty of clips to pry apart.
The shiny clip looks odd on the Zune — now we know why — hiding screws, shame on you Microsoft.
The back plate is similar to the iPods — sturdy lightweight metal.
A first look at the guts
One of the first things you’ll notice about the inside of the Zune is that there are three more tri-wing security screws holding the housing in place.
A typical battery
The battery is similar to almost all of the small devices we have cracked open. If they are all made by the same manufacturer, that company must be really busy.
The infamous ribbon cable
The manufacturer of ribbon cables must be busy too. Like the iPods, the Zune uses them for internal connections.
Lots of chips
Most of the chips in the Zune lie within this circuit board sandwich.
Ribbon cable gates
Boy I hate these things — ribbon cables are often connection with these gates. There are difficult to get separated and darn near impossible to get back together. This is where we lost the iPod Nano.
More to see
We need to get a closer look at the chips, which means the whole housing has to come out. There are two clips that need to be separated and the rest should follow suit.
The black wire has a clip, but I have never seen one like it before. I’ll hold off on that for the moment, maybe it won’t be necessary to remove it.
We have separation
The clips were the key. We are not looking at the LCD side of the Zune insides.
Through the looking glass
I was careful not to leave any fingerprints on the underside of the glass.
A Hynix chip
That’s a Hynix chip – we have seen these chips in iPods — another busy manufacturer.
The focus is off a bit, but you can see it does indeed say Hynix.
Silicon on display
Here we have another Hynix chip. I think can assume that the previous Hynix chip was the 4GB of storage. This one is most likely the operating RAM.
The big chip from China looks to be the CPU.
The rest of the Zune’s chips. I am guessing the chip with the wavy lines is for sound reproduction.
The chips located under the silver cover marked 7921 handle the wireless remote interaction with some Zune accessories.
The LCD screens in the Zune looks similar to other devices we have looked at — another busy manufacturer.
I can see myself.
A closer look at the underside of the circular controller.
All the pieces
The Zune is remarkably similar to the iPod Nano. Many of the parts are exactly the same. The difference is that the interface chips and software in an iPod are made by Apple.
I know some die hard fans will protest, but the insides don’t lie. The Microsoft Zune is just a few Apple chips from being an iPod. If I get a Zune for a Christmas gift, I will not be disappointed.