iFixit teardown suggests the reported Studio Display webcam problems are rooted in software, not hardware

In its initial Studio Display teardown, the repair site iFixit has concluded that there’s nothing terribly wrong with camera hardware. That’s good news because it indicates Apple should indeed be able to fix camera performance in software.

iFixit tears apart Apple’s Studio Display

Apple’s $1599 external monitor with an LCD panel and no ProMotion launched in March, with reviewers ripping its integrated web camera to shreds. Issues range from poor image quality and abysmal low-light performance to flaky Center Stage and beyond. Apple has chalked up the unfortunate incident purely to the software side of things, saying a future software update should improve web camera performance.

And now, repair wizards over at iFixit have concluded in their initial teardown of the Studio Display that there’s actually nothing wrong with the integrated twelve-megapixel camera hardware-wise. It’s a strong indicator Apple might indeed be able to undo this disaster painlessly with a quick Studio Display firmware update. Read: How to update the software powering your Apple Studio Display

Good news about the infamous web camera

A still image from Apple's commercial for the Studio Display showcasing a creative professional editing an illustration on their Mac Studio and Studio Display, with the tagline "Introducing Studio Display" displayed near the top of the image
Image credit: Apple / YouTube

A closer inspection of the camera reveals a sensor almost identical to the selfie camera on the iPhone 11 series. Don’t forget that the Studio Display is also equipped with the iPhone 11’s A13 Bionic chip which, among other things, takes care of computational photography processing. Theoretically, there should be no discernible difference between the two cameras in terms of video conferencing, only there is. Someone from Apple’s imaging team is probably dusting off their resume.

Is that… an iMac?

A still from iFixit's teardown video showing the internals of the 27-inch Apple Studio Display with its 5K Retina LCD panel removed
Image credit: iFixit / YouTube

If you only took into account the internals, you could easily confuse the Studio Display with an iMac. From the inside, the Studio Display looks like a real desktop computer: There are multiple big chips, coupled with an impressive dual-fan cooling system not too dissimilar from that in the iMac Pro. iFixit has found the Studio Display panel to be exactly the same as the display seen in the ‌5K iMac‌.

The two devices are so similar internally that iFixit says you can comforably use an ‌iMac‌ opening tool. iFixit’s video clearly shows a logic board with an A13 Bionic chip—the same engine that drives the iPhone 11—and 64GB of storage. One of the things it does is provide a spatial audio experience via the display’s six-speaker system.

Why so thick?

Marketing image showcasing the M1 iMac colors

A quintessential Apple design, the 27-inch Studio Display measures just 1.2 inches (3.1 cm) thick. That’s an impressive feat of engineering but it pales in comparison with the M1 iMac which is 11.5 millimeters thick, or just under half an inch. So why does the Studio Display end up having a fifty percent thicker enclosure? For starters, the Studio Display lacks the iMac’s chin that housed all of the electronics.

Not only that but Apple evidently wanted to cram power supplies inside this thing. And the only way of achieveing that was to create some extra space inside by making the whole Studio Display thicker. iFixit found the power supplies to be “crazy thin.” In comparison, the M1 iMac cheats by having an external power brick that sports an integrated Ethernet port so of course it can afford to be thinner.

What about a repairability score?

iFixit was impressed with the speakers but noted that the entire speaker system is secured with copious amounts of glue that will make removal or disassembly more difficult than necessary. iFixit has so far shared its early impressions in the initial teardown video, embedded top of post. A complete teardown will follow soon, at which point iFixit will calculate a repairability score for this new $1,599 Apple display.

Which has an ordinary LCD panel. And no ProMotion.