Gears & Gadgets

iFixit dissects the $2,299 Magic Leap One so you don’t have to

Every time a new, expensive gadget becomes commercially available, you can expect the glue-and-screw crew at iFixit to quickly pounce. This month’s Magic Leap One headset, now available for a cool $ 2,299, is no exception, and iFixit has now posted a treasure trove of photos and thoughts on the “mixed reality” device’s tech, performance, and repairability.

“This device is unlike anything we’ve torn down in the past,” the site’s authors write in their lengthy ML1 article. This teardown includes an unusually lengthy explanation of how Magic Leap’s first commercially available headset renders virtual images, à la Microsoft’s Hololens.

Among their discoveries: a four-LED array of infrared sensors is built into each of the headset’s lenses, and the sensors are aimed at users’ eyeballs to track their movement. The headset’s lenses are each equipped with six layers, and each layer is dedicated to one color wavelength (red, blue, or green). Three of those lens layers render near-focused visuals, and the other three render far-focused content—which doubles Microsoft’s own take on the concept. (iFixit is careful to point out existing Magic Leap patents regarding how these function.)

The teardown confirms specs that have been previously revealed, including 8GB of RAM, 128GB of onboard storage, and an Nvidia Tegra X2 SoC. But this teardown, unsurprisingly, reveals a few more important processors and construction elements. Just on the headset alone, iFixit found a separate video-processing unit with 512MB GDDR4 RAM and a 4K-resolution, 60fps video receiver. The ML1’s “Lightpack,” which must be worn in a pocket and connected to the headset, includes a massive fan (made by CoolerMaster, of all companies), a 36.77Wh battery, and a bunch of other chips.

This teardown also reveals how ML1’s headset tracks the handheld “totem” controller that accompanies it: with a trio of copper coils built into the headset as an inelegant bulge. The system measures the magnetic intensity of each coil, relating to the totem, to determine its distance and orientation, as opposed to a Wii- or smartphone-like combination of accelerometer and gyroscope.

One Ars source indicates that this bulge’s design and placement is for the sake of reducing electromagnetic distortion, since (as the above gallery shows) the ML1 has quite a bit of conductive metal. Additionally, the Totem’s trackpad is ringed with LEDs, though iFixit doesn’t confirm whether these emit near-infrared light for the sake of additional tracking.

While some headset elements receive high repairability marks, iFixit mostly condemns the expensive, developer-minded device for its aggressive adhesives, strangely bolted cord, and nigh-unreplaceable battery. The site’s 3-out-of-10 repairability verdict came complete with a wish that Magic Leap’s next model “maintains the thoughtful design and dedication to durability, while also avoiding the short-sightedness of this device.”

iFixit concludes the article by pointing to an unexpected ally. Palmer Luckey, of Oculus fame (and other notoriety), gets credit for providing iFixit “access” to this now-torn-apart headset. (iFixit’s article reminds us that Luckey beat iFixit to posting a comprehensive teardown of this year’s budget-minded Oculus Go headset.)

Listing image by iFixit

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Tech – Ars Technica