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Exposing the insides of Chromecast

Posted: 29 Apr 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Chromecast  LED  micro USB  Micron  DDR3 SDRAM 

My always powered-up Chromecast had gotten sporadic use since last year, most recently a few weeks ago without any problems. So I was baffled a few nights ago to find that it was not found by my Android tablet. My iPad and Mac weren't able to detect it on the network, either, no matter that I power-cycled it a few times. Its integrated LED emitted only a steady white glow, it ignored my multiple by-button factory reset attempts, and it wouldn't output anything over HDMI to a connected display. Eventually, I threw in the towel, suspecting either a hardware failure or a flawed automatic firmware update, and put it on top of the teardown candidate pile. Following a LIFO (last in, first out) strategy, here it is for your inspection.

 Chromecast

I'm not lucky enough to own a set of iFixit's fancy dissection tools, but a thin flat head screwdriver applied to the gap between the case and the HDMI connector and twisted did the trick:

 Opening the case

Here's what you'll see when you remove the underside of the case:

 Underside of the case

Further remove the system from the case topside, flip it over and more metal shielding awaits your eyes:

 More metal shielding

In the above photo, I've also shown the reset button, which mates to the switch in the upper right corner. Below the switch, on the far right side, is the micro USB connector used solely (as far as I can tell) for Chromecast power purposes. The two patches of thermal paste mate the shielding to an aluminum heat sink:

 Two patches of thermal paste mate the shielding to an aluminum heat sink

You might guess that those same two thermal paste patches correspond to the locations of heat-generating ICs on the PCB topside, and you'd be right:

 Two patches of thermal paste mate the shielding to an aluminum heat sink

The paste-obscured chip in the center of the PCB is a Marvell DE3005-A1 SoC, which the company also refers to as the ARMADA 1500-mini. To its right is the equally paste-masked AzureWave AW-NH387, an IC that handles 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM receiver functions (the latter feature isn't harnessed by Chromecast). And speaking of wireless, in the bottom right corner you can see the PCB-etched antenna.

Flip the PCB over, remove the other Faraday shield, and you can scan the Chromecast's memories:

 Chromecast's memories

On the left, closest to the HDMI connector, is a Micron MT41K256M16 4 Gbit low-power DDR3 SDRAM. Its nonvolatile counterpart to the right is a Micron MT29F16G08 16 Gbit NAND flash memory.

I'm admittedly a bit bummed that my Chromecast has expired (and speaking of bits, if I had to hazard a guess, I'd suspect that at least one of them has unintentionally flipped in the flash memory-stored software), but at $25 for a refurbished replacement (and $32 and change brand new), I'm not going to sweat the issue. Google likely priced Chromecast to best-case break even, with an expectation of making subsequent profits on streamed-content rentals and sales.

So what's the result of crossing streams? Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

About the author
Brian Dipert is Editor-in-Chief of the Embedded Vision Alliance. He is also a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the company's online newsletter. And he's an off-hours freelancer as the Principal at Sierra Media, where he contributes to (among other things) the Brian's Brain blog at EDN Magazine. Brian has a BSEE from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.





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