PlayBook teardown reveals it is easier to repair than iPad 2

Still, battery is hard to get out, iFixit finds

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The BlackBerry PlayBook's hardware earned a "repairability" score 7 out of 10 from iFixit, well above the score of 4 out of 10 that the teardown website awarded earlier to the iPad 2.

IFixit, which takes apart popular devices to describe their parts and assess their repair capabilities, posted a video of its PlayBook teardown shortly after the device went on sale Tuesday.

Among other things, iFixit found that it didn't need a heat gun to access the PlayBook's innards, as it did with the iPad 2.

However, the PlayBook's battery can only be replaced by first removing its motherboard, iFixit found. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has stated that the device's battery is not meant to be accessed by users. That's similar to the approach that Apple has taken with the iPad 2's battery, and that means that users of both devices run the risk of voiding their warranties if they do access the batteries. The iPad 2 battery is buried beneath its logic board, and it's glued in place, iFixit found earlier this year (see video).

The guts of the PlayBook are housed within the display assembly, not in the rear case like in most other tablets, according to iFixit. "That's unfortunate from a repairability standpoint," said Miroslav Djuric, director of technical communication at iFixit.

In terms of components, iFixit found that the PlayBook's 20-hour battery is smaller than the iPad 2's 25-hour battery. But that might not matter, since the PlayBook's screen, at 7 in., is smaller than the iPad 2's 9.7-in. display. Meanwhile, the PlayBook's 3-megapixel front-facing camera "crushes" the iPad 2's VGA camera, Djuric said.

Both the PlayBook and the iPad 2 are built using standard Phillips screws to make repairs easier, iFixit found.

IFixit also reported that at least eight chips in the PlayBook were made by Texas Instruments, meaning a "decent amount of dollars [go] to TI with every PlayBook purchase."

The costs of the PlayBook's components were not included in iFixit's summary of its teardown.

The PlayBook is "well-sorted internally and the hardware RIM included is definitely nothing to scoff at," Djuric concluded. "People who decide to take the PlayBook plunge can be reassured that they could replace their shattered glass with some elbow grease."

Attempting to repair the iPad 2's display is considered riskier than attempting to repair the original iPad's display, partly because the glass is substantially thinner, iFixit found.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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