Apple Pencil packs in the smallest logic board iFixit has ever seen

By , Nov 19, 2015

Apple Pencil iFixit teardown 000

According to a teardown analysis of the Apple Pencil performed by iFixit, Apple’s optional Bluetooth stylus accessory for the iPad Pro packs in the smallest logic board that the repair firm has ever seen. Despite its minuscule appearance, Apple’s engineers had to fold it in half to fit inside the Pencil’s tiny enclosure.

As if that weren’t enough, the Apple Pencil is choke full of other radical technological solutions, said iFixit.

The Apple Pencil (model number A1603) is 175 mm tall and 8.9 mm deep, has a built-in Lightning connector for charging, comes with a spare tip (the Lightning Connector cap snaps into place with magnets) and offers up to twelve hours of battery life.

Sophisticated tip

Sunk deeply into the tip is a tiny metal bit that connects to one of the two emitters in the tip. The iPad Pro’s digitizer determines the Pencil’s angle and orientation relative to the display, and adjust the pen stroke accordingly, by measuring the distance from each emitter to the screen.

Apple Pencil iFixit teardown 005

As you know, the Apple Pencil uses energy efficient Bluetooth 4.1 to connect to the iPad Pro. In fact, the iPad Pro’s enhanced screen technology detects when an Apple Pencil is touching the screen and automatically pairs with it and switches to scanning at twice the rate of finger inputs to reduce lag.

Tiny battery and logic board

Unlike Microsoft’s Surface Pen that uses a user-replaceable AAAA battery, the Apple Pencil has a built-in 3.82 V, 0.329 Wh lithium-ion rechargeable battery that holds “just five precent of the charge of an iPhone 6s battery.”

Apple Pencil battery iFixit teardown 001

It takes less than fifteen minutes to fully recharge the Apple Pencil, with a quick 15-second charge providing 30 minutes’ worth of runtime. The Pencil ships with a Lightning-to-Lightning adapter to save users from having to “precariously charge their Pencils directly from their iPads,” in iFixit’s own words.

Apple Pencil iFixit teardown 004

As for the logic board, it’s “definitely one of the smallest we’ve ever seen,” weighing in at an incredible one gram. “This little board gets even littler, folding in half to make the most of the minimal space,” notes the teardown.

The chips

iFixit identified the following chips inside the Apple Pencil:

  • ST Microelectronics STML151UCY6 Ultra-low-power 32-bit RISC ARM-based Cortex-M3 MCU
  • ST Microelectronics AS5C Y533 (also found in the 2015 Apple TV)
    L05286 QS4 VG Z SGP 528
  • EWX 01129
  • Cambridge Silicon Radio (Qualcomm) CSR1012A05 Bluetooth Smart IC

Apple Pencil iFixit teardown 003

Low repairability

As you might have guessed, it’s really difficult to repair an Apple Pencil because the components are packed so densely together. iFixit gave the accessory a repairability score of one out of ten, ten being the easiest to repair.

While both the pen nib and cap can be replaced if worn out or lost, one cannot get inside the device without destroying it. “The layers of plastic and metal holding interior components are impossible to remove without shredding,” notes the site.

Apple Pencil iFixit teardown 002

More worryingly, however, the built-in battery “is impossible to replace,” giving the device a limited lifespan. “When the Pencil’s 0.329 Wh battery dies for the last time, so does the Pencil,” notes iFixit.

Apple usually provides battery replacement services for iOS devices and Mac notebooks but has yet to announce one for the Apple Pencil.

Source: iFixit

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  • Chindavon

    Impressive to squeeze that kind of tech into that small of an enclosure.

  • rockdude094

    If iFixit is impressed I’m impressed

    • theemptyhead

      ifixit gave 1 out of 10. How is that impressive for them?

      • TexRob406

        Reading is really hard.

      • theemptyhead

        What do you mean?

      • Ethan C

        “Apple Pencil Repairability 1 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair)” how hard something is to repair ≠ how impressive something could be

      • theemptyhead

        If you can’t fix it it’s unimpressive in “ifixit” view. It’s unimpressivess is not in terms of the productivity of the pen.
        There’s a reason they gave 1 out of 10. (10 is easiest to repair).

      • Ethan C

        I don’t understand how you came to that conclusion or thought I was talking about the productivity of it. They showed interest in how unusual the inner workings were, the folded logic board, and rated it 1 out of 10 because it’s clearly hard to repair considering you need to slice it up. The technology inside it can still be impressive even with a low repair rating, the productivity doesn’t make the parts any more or less exciting.

      • theemptyhead

        Showing interest and being impressed is different. Impressed by one tiny logic board doesnot mean they’re overall impressed by how the apple engineer designed the whole pencil.

        ifixit stated that considering apple named it pencil there should be eraser on the back end instead of lightening connector.
        Since there is noway to replace battery it’s lifspan will be short.
        And as ifixit is there to repair things isn’t it obvious they’re unimpressed by its unrepairable design? (1 out of 10)

        When s-pen, so thin can do more than what apple pencil can do without the battery and bluetooth, I don’t see why anyone should be impressed by this $100 apple pencil.

      • Ethan C

        Well that clears up why we’ve been of different pages the entire time. I’ve only been talking about the tiny technology inside it and you’ve been talking about the pencil as a whole. I don’t think that they wrongly gave it the score that they did, but it doesn’t mean that the inner workings are any less impressive.

      • The Guy

        I think he read it but left comprehension at the door.

  • Ricky

    Well maybe ifixit never opened up other bluetooth stylus like adonit

    • Chindavon

      Would be a nice comparison to look at side by side.

  • JaeM1llz

    “Apple Pencil is choke full of other radical technological solutions”

    *chock full

  • George

    This doesn’t surprise me considering apple loves making things thinner/smaller.

  • Apple usually provides battery replacement services for iOS devices and Mac notebooks but has yet to announce one for the Apple Pencil.

    Of course they haven’t announced one. If the battery can’t be replaced then it doesn’t make sense to offer a battery replacement service…

    I guess when the battery dies you’ll have to buy a new Apple Pencil. It’s a good job there as cheap as a regular pencil…

  • theemptyhead

    ifail.

  • coLin

    it’s “definitely ONE OF the smallest we’ve ever seen,”

    The title is misleading.
    iDB where did you learn to do that? CNN?!

  • Abhinav Tiwari

    Just bought for $78