Do-it-yourself electronics repair (as is a consumer's right) is sometimes tricky business, especially with today's devices trending towards increasingly complex and precise designs that are difficult to crack into and muck around. If you were hoping Samsung's new Galaxy Note 10+ 5G would be an exception, prepare for disappointment. A teardown analysis of the flagship phablet reveals how difficult it is to perform a DIY repair on this handset.
There were some positive surprises hidden within the guts of the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G as well, and we will cover those in a moment. First, however, let's talk about the process of opening one of these suckers up. As has become common practice, a heat gun and plastic pick are useful tools for the job—it's now standard practice for smartphone makers to glue the two halves of a phone together.
For this year's model, the teardown revealed a slight change in construction, with the cover being contoured around the volume and power buttons. Nevertheless, with some patience and careful prying, the cover eventually pops off to reveal the internal bits.
Once inside, things get temporarily easier, thanks to a few Phillips screws holding down the midframe assembly. This also reveals one of the surprises with the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G—the motherboard sits solely at the top of the device, similar to the Pixel 3.
"While this allows for a wider battery, it makes the connection between mother and daughterboard trickier, necessitating these annoying interconnect cables that block battery access," the teardown gurus at iFixit point out.
For most people, replacing the battery is probably the top reason for wanting to dig into a smartphone. In this case, it's difficult. The teardown gurus busted out their iSclack tool to gain some leverage, but it still required a lot of isopropyl alcohol (and patience) to thwart the stubborn adhesive. The battery itself is a capacious 16.56 Wh model, compared to the 15.4 Wh batter found in the Galaxy Note 9.
One of the interesting discoveries inside the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G is a stacked motherboard design, as shown in the image above. It appears Samsung was inspired by Apple in an effort to save (and maximize) space.
Also mingling within the mess of electronics are a trio mmWave antenna modules. This is a pleasant discovery, as having directional beamforming antennas on each side, plus a third facing the screen, helps the handset achieve better 5G connectivity.
Overall, the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G earned a rather dismal 3 out of 10 "Repairability Score" (the easier a device is to repair, the higher the score). It received kudos for the use of equally-sized Phillips screws, and it did not hurt that many of the components are modular and independently replaceable.
On the negative side, however, the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G was dinged for the heavy use of glue. No matter what the repair, a user must start by peeling off the fragile glass rear cover, and that is a painstaking process. It's also disappointing that once inside, replacing the glued-down battery is tougher this round.