HOW IT’S DONE
We rip open the cheaper iPad to see what’s changed in this latest revision.
Apple iPad 9.7-inch (2018)
Unveiled at Apple’s educationfocused event in July, the 2018 iPad is less of a “hot new sequel” and more like a “revised edition paperback with improved illustrations.” While this iPad’s specs reveal two major updates — an upgraded processor, and Pencil support — has Apple quietly changed anything else? Let’s find out with a teardown!
MAJOR TECH SPECS
Apple A10 fusion processor with embedded M10 motion coprocessor 9.7-inch multi-touch Retina display with 2,048 x 1,536 resolution (264 ppi) and non-laminated display assembly 32GB or 128GB of storage 8-megapixel 1080p rear-facing iSight camera + 1.2-megapixel 720p front-facing FaceTime HD camera 802.11a/ b/g/n/ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.2 Touch ID fingerprint sensor + three-axis gyro + accelerometer + barometer + ambient light sensor Apple Pencil support
We’ve been around this block a few times, so we’re going to let ourselves in: iOpener brings the heat; suction and opening tool bring the prying leverage. Like magic, the digitiser panel lifts separately from the display — a good sign for repair. Non-≠ fused display and digitiser glass are better in the event that either breaks. Important for a rambunctious classroom. After freeing some Phillips screws, we lift the LCD panel and disconnect it from the logic board. Before we go further, we slide a battery blocker between the battery and logic board to keep stray electrons from interfering with our teardown. Now we can safely disconnect the digitiser. It has the same two cables as before, but they look a little different. Could they have changed slightly for Pencil compatibility? Look what we found hiding under a shield: the same NXP 8461A1 Touch ID chip that we saw in the previous model. Strong adhesive binds the logic board to the case, so we meet it with some liquid fists. Pow! The offending adhesive quickly gives way, and the board comes out in one piece. And an unfortunate part of that piece is the Lightning connector, a high-use part that will very likely break before the rest of the logic board. You’ll need some pretty serious microsoldering chops to pull off a simple port replacement here. We’re pleased to see that Apple continues to use the battery from the iPad 5 — model number A1484 with a 32.9Wh capacity. Not only does this make more of the same battery available, but reusing existing manufacturing lines usually means less waste. We’re not as pleased that it also brought over the same repair-impeding adhesive from the iPad 5. The good news is that you can already get a replacement battery. Repairability score: 2 out of 10 (10 is the easiest to repair). The LCD is easy to remove once you separate the cover glass/digitiser. Air-gapped, separately replaceable cover glass and LCD makes many drop damage repairs far less expensive. As in all iPads, a solid barrier of very strong adhesive bars the way to any repairs, and makes rework a sticky proposition. More adhesive holds nearly everything else in place. Battery replacement is especially challenging. The LCD has foam sticky tape adhering it to the front panel, increasing risk of damage during disassembly.
You’ll reach the LCD panel quickly enough, but that’s just the start of the journey. Blasting the glue is an essential part of gaining access to the iPad’s innards.