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Elbows-Deep In Innards, Then A Flatline

Ultrabook: Behind How Intel is Remaking Mobile Computing
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There’s nothing too out of the ordinary to report with the mini-PCIe Wi-Fi module. Its thinness plays well with the Ultrabook concept, and its antenna wires are secured well around the notebook frame. My issue here is that there are only two wires! I want the added signal quality and performance of a 3x3 Wi-Fi solution. I mean, sure, compared to many phones and tablets and low-end notebooks sporting only one antenna, this is an improvement. I can live with 2x2, but I want better.

When you’ve grown up with Zalman coolers for gaming towers, seeing a CPU heatsink that’s half the thickness of a pancake is a bit of a shock. One has to marvel at the thought that this tiny fan and bit of copper is sufficient to cool an integrated Core i5 processor. Note that there’s a four-wire cable running from the fan to the motherboard, just like on desktop systems. However, notebook cabling tends to be much smaller and flimsier than desktop parts, and it’s very easy to snap something if you’re just bungling around with needle-nosed pliers, a butter knife, or whatever tool happens to be handy. If you try to get inside one of these machines, proceed with absolute, ultra-gentle caution.

To make this point excruciatingly clear, consider how I killed this Ultrabook. It didn’t take much.

I’d been using it for a few days, so I knew it was in perfect working order. You may note in several of the above pictures that the thin Li-ion battery sits smack in the middle of the notebook, nestled in the L-shaped crook of the motherboard and adjacent to the storage drive. Now, as everyone who’s ever worked on notebooks knows, the very first thing you do before opening a notebook is unplug the power and remove the battery. But since there’s no easy way to remove the battery, and it happens to be trapped under two cables that require the opening of four fragile connectors, I sort of forgot this part.

And so it happened that I was tooling around inside the Ultrabook while the battery was still attached. My attention was elsewhere for a moment, and my screwdriver brushed over the I/O daughterboard. I saw a flash of light from my screwdriver tip. I don’t even know where on the board it touched. But that was enough. No matter how many times I checked and rechecked my connections, the little Acer was dead as a doornail—no display, no LEDs, nothing. Learn from my negligence. The battery always comes out first.

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