Teardowns | March 27, 2017

Microsoft's Surface Dial turns up for a teardown

Tearing down Microsoft’s Surface Studio on Monday last week wasn’t enough. You deserve more. So we pulled out the Surface Dial to see what makes this accessory tick. Or in this case, what makes it click … and spin.

While we don’t recommend taking a Dial out on the ice, it does seem to be constructed with the durability (and repairability) of a hockey puck. Microsoft layered a magnetized back, battery frame, bearing, midframe, and board into a parfait of surprisingly little silicon: a BLE SoC is the only chip of note on the motherboard. The rest is pretty much a spruced-up mouse: You’ve got a mechanical switch for clicks, and an optical emitter/receiver combo to handle spins. Oh, it also has a rubber foot that sticks to displays.
Surface Dial Teardown Highlights:
  • It’s been awhile since we’ve seen anything besides integrated li-ion batteries, but the Dial runs on two AAA batteries. They’re even easy to access. No glue, screws, or clips here—just some magnets holding the Dial’s rubber foot to the device.
  • A beefy bearing makes for a smooth spin on this Dial. That spinny action does double duty in disassembly: a single access hole rotates around to each of the three T6 screws holding the top half of the bearing to the silver cover.
  • We scraped out a pancake vibration motor, responsible for the buzzy feedback you get when spinning or clicking the Dial. The bit of the midframe holding the vibrator has a rubber O-ring, presumably for vibration dampening.
  • You won't be servicing anything here without a guide and courage enough to drill out the plastic plug guarding the single, well-hidden access point. So the Surface Dial earns a 4 out of 10 on our repairability scale.
Such chips. Here it is.
  • Nordic Semiconductor nRF52832 Bluetooth Low Energy SoC
----- More information on the entire teardown can be found at © iFixit's website.
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