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Old Aug 23, 2012, 10:44 PM   #1
macrumors 6502
Join Date: May 2011
Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter Teardown

Curiosity has been known to be hazardous to cats, but in this case it can chalk up the demise of one of Apple’s new Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapters.

Recently Hardmac (Macbidouille) performed a teardown of the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter which resulted in some rather controversial conclusions. These ponderings were then used as ammunition to defend the higher price of 3rd party Thunderbolt devices, the argument being that Apple was hitting the $29 price point by way of some chicanery and did not actually use a Thunderbolt controller in their design at all: (note the first response to the first comment by PRPechek, who claims to be a Buffalo employee)

I didn’t buy it, so I decided to take a look-see for myself. It turns out, Hardmac just didn’t finish the job. So without further ado, here are the guts of the Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter in all their glory:

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On the FireWire side we find an LSI L-FW643E-2, which is not terribly surprising as this seems to be Apple's preferred FW chip as of late.

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On the Thunderbolt side we see an NXP chip marked 1112/A, which I reckon to be an LPC1112FHN24 ARM Cortex-M0 micro-controller. This chip can be found in the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter, and is also present on the logic boards of all Thunderbolt equipped Macs in close proximity to the Thunderbolt port/controller. It is not, however, a component used in Apple's Thunderbolt cable.

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If we turn the Thunderbolt connector side of the adapter over, we find what Hardmac missed... An Intel DSL2210 Port Ridge Thunderbolt controller. At only 6x5 mm it's amazing how small this version of the controller is, and that you can hide one in the Thunderbolt connector itself.

A full gallery with high resolution images is available here:

The cable portions of Apple Thunderbolt adapters are not actually Thunderbolt cables at all—they're short PCIe 1.1 x1 cables. They're also fairly spectacular from an engineering standpoint. I counted three larger conductors for power, along with several aramid fibers for strength, surrounded by 11 absolutely tiny double-insulated wires each with its own braided shield. Together they were wrapped again with a foil shield, another braided shield and a jacket. The terminations for such small wires are pretty absurd—which I guess is why Apple patented the process.

Last edited by repoman27; Aug 24, 2012 at 09:51 AM. Reason: Added inline images.
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Old Aug 23, 2012, 10:54 PM   #2
macrumors 603
nuckinfutz's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Middle Earth
The miniaturization of these adapters is truly amazing. I love knowing i'm getting a full speed GigE or Firewire controller in such a small package.
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