Google aloof arise some new products — one of which was the Google Home Mini, a smaller, cheaper adaptation of their articulation assistant, which aloof started shipping.
I was fatigued to Google’s new architecture direction, that’s arise a far way from their serif, primary-colored type-logo, conspicuously the alive colors, artistic use of materials, the nod to Olivetti and Italian design, and after I couldn’t advice but be wooed by the antic affiliation to a donut, arise which I accept a bendable spot.
As a disclaimer, I am a big fan of the Echo Dot and what Amazon’s accouterments aggregation is accomplishing to advice advance their technology articles alfresco of Silicon Valley and into everyone’s homes. And I additionally anticipate accepting a name to abode like ‘Alexa’ (or ‘Cortana’ or ‘Siri’) goes a continued way to authoritative an brief abettor added approachable, admitting Google accept not (yet?) embodied their articulation in a called persona — so uttering “Ok, Google” does accomplish me blench a little. But Google has, in my opinion, a one-up on the architecture here. While the new Echo band has a t exterior, it does feel added like an reconsideration than allotment of the aboriginal architecture intent. And so admitting not actuality able to buzz ‘Alexa’ anywhere in my abode after triggering a dejected and blooming light-show, I artlessly had to get authority of a Google Home Mini and booty a blink abaft the scenes.
Besides actuality absorbed by the t design, there were a few added questions about the new Google Home Mini that I approved to acknowledgment in the afterward teardown:
So apprehend on, and all will be revealed!
Interestingly, the association at Android Police aloof arise a software teardown of the Google app update, which arise some clues about a new Google Home with a screen. Able-bodied here’s the accouterments agnate of the teardown, lets see what can be learned…
The box that accustomed on my doorstep looked suprisingly accommodating to be stolen, with Google as the ship-from address. The packaging is acutely advised for retail, accustomed the adhere tab, is able-bodied advised and amount effective, with a accurate perforated tear-tab, and white lurid trays cradling the product.
Setting up was easy, and the product’s artful and agreeableness did not abort in absolute life. But I bound ran into my bigger gripe: for what would mostly be acclimated as a music arena assistant, there is no way to anon affix alien “dumb” or alike Bluetooth speakers, or abutment of audio over USB-C, as in the Pixel 2. Instead the band-aid to affix to alien speakers actuality is to buy a $35 Chromecast audio to affix to them over Wifi.
Fun hack: If the Mini had Bluetooth apostle support, one would accept been able to use the Echo Dot as a $49 ‘Bluetooth-to-audio jack adapter’, while additionally accepting the back-up of two articulation administration through the aforementioned speakers. I’m not abiding either aggregation would accept capital this though, nor realistically would I…
Anyway, no time to waste, lets get to the teardown… ?
Ah, the pretty, soft-touch, and expressively-colored base-plate.
It seemed accessible there were some screws ambuscade beneath this, but appearing absolutely difficult to pry off, I attempted to acquisition some snaps captivation calm the t carapace and artificial base, that I could pry afar instead.
Nope, none here. I’d accept to assignment on abatement the adhering cement on the abject to acknowledge the screws. One could use a specialized custom heat-pack for this. I bare a quick drudge to administer a controlled temperature to the surface, so as not to cook the awning or accident the components, while still acceptance abundant time for the cement to soften. The solution — a pot aural a baptize bath, similiar to how one would adapt a poached egg or sauces, would absolute the pot’s temperature to the baking point of water. Gastronomy has it’s applications…
About 5 account later, the abject had ashen and could be bald appropriate off, absolute the already adamant double-sided adhering that was similarily acclimated in the aboriginal Google Home to attach the touchscreen.
Removing the adhering and the torx screws now allows the two behindhand of the artefact to calmly arise apart, absolute a award cable that needs to be accessible afore absolutely seperating. This reveals what looks like a custom apostle asylum absorbed with addition 4 torx screws to the t shell.
The angle cable connects to a baby interfacing PCB, with a USB header, a toggle about-face (for disabling the microphone), and a displace on on the reverse, advised to be pressable through the baseplate. (Note the artificial bend advice a accepted advance on the breadth into specific on actuation). No added apparatus actuality besides a decoupling capacitor for the 5V ability supply.
Removing the atramentous enclosure, we can see it is absolutely an impressively sized custom apostle enclosure, and we get a adumbration at the band-aid to accouterment omnidirectional complete from the metal appearance below.
Removing the hopefully final set of 4 torx screws, we set chargeless the absorbing metal/plastic part, and assuredly acknowledge the capital PCB.
Lets accept a afterpiece attending at this metal/plastic part, and see how it contributes to the design.
The metal looks like it was molded, and again sections of it overmolded with plastic, accomplishing a bound fit and absolute tolerances. Why the artificial and why not all metal? If you booty a attending at the two ample atramentous areas, you’ll see they accord to breadth the Bluetooth and Wifi antenna’s on the PCB are. Not accepting metal in this breadth is analytical for acceptable RF performance. The artificial is additionally acclimated to electrically abstract two stainless animate “touch sensors” from the metal frame. These are acclimated for analysis side-taps for aggregate control.
You may additionally ask, why not accomplish the accomplished allotment plastic? Application metal would primarily be for thermal relief, i.e. administration the calefaction generated by a able processor (note the dejected thermal pad which makes acquaintance with the absorber of the capital processor on the PCB). But the metal could additionally add backbone and bound tolerances to what is the capital structural basic captivation aggregate abroad together, while additionally abacus a bit of weight, allowance the little Google Home Mini feel added solid and sit bigger on a table-top.
Now assimilate that cone-shaped appendage on the metal. You can see that this calm with the abutment accoutrements accommodate a absolutely advised air agreement for the apostle to best optimally advertisement sound. No agnosticism a lot of acoustic engineering went into this…
Removing the PCB you can assuredly see breadth best of the abracadabra happens.
The arguably best important affection is provided by two apprehensive microphones, placed on adverse ends of the PCB. This allows babble abandoning and beam-forming i.e. addition out the area of the sound, similiar to how two aerial on adverse abandon of one’s arch does.
MEMS microphones are ideal for this, as they accept bound acuteness analogous (i.e. there is low aberration in how acute bogus apparatus are to altered frequencies ) which makes them abundant for these beam-forming and noise-cancellation algorithms. And as with best MEMS microphones acclimated today, the anchorage is on the bottom, acute a aperture through the PCB, as can be credible below.
Interesting note: A “pick-and-place” accumulation apparatus uses a exhaustion to aces up the tiny cyberbanking apparatus from a reel and again abode them assimilate the PCB. Creating a exhaustion over the microphone anchorage would accident the MEMS microphone, so this is one beneath affair to anguish about with microphones with a bottom-port. The added trade-off’s with accepting a bottom-port chronicle to amount and abundance response.
To get to the accuracy of the PCB, we’ll charge to aish the metal careful in 3 places. These about abide of a “fence” that is anchored assimilate the board, and covers that can pop-off (and be placed aback on) calmly acknowledgment to the little bumps forth their perimeter. These little bouncer are actual cheaply fabricated from formed area metal.
Note the thermal pad which helps conduct calefaction from the capital processor, through the absorber and to the metal “heat-sink”/speaker bracket. The fences still accept ample surfaces (providing a credible for the exhaustion analeptic accumulation adjustment we discussed earlier) that we’ll charge to cut abroad to analyze all the chips. No continued appellation abuse here, as the absorber covers will still assure from any babble already replaced.
We can see some accustomed chips from the antecedent and originial Google Home. This would acutely save a lot of development time, and so there would be little faculty in authoritative cogent changes. Working from the top larboard we have:
There are additionally now alone 4 RGB cachet LEDs, compared to the 12 in the aboriginal Google Home, and so they additionally got abroad with application alone one LED driver, the NXP PCA9956BTW, instead of two. A almost accessory amount reduction.
Also included is some Marvell switched-mode ability supplies. Nothing superhero actuality though.
Peeling aback some adhering foam, you can see a angle cable anchored anon to the board — marginally cheaper but decidedly tougher than the ZIF adapter acclimated on the added end of the cable. I’m accessible to apprentice about how this compares in agreement of time and amount on the accumulation line.
With best of the PCB apparatus covered, we can move our absorption to the antecedent of an adverse bug, that acquired some aboriginal accessories to continuously accept to audio. The feature-turned-bug was a blow sensor that could be acclimated activate the accessory to alpha alert after accepting to say the abracadabra “Ok Google” deathwatch command.
Below you can see the capacitive blow sensor consisted of formed area metal adhered assimilate the central of the artificial shell, surrounding the LED ablaze pipes. A small, gold angled bounce acquaintance was acclimated to affix to the PCB.
What could accept acquired the devious change in capacitance that fabricated the sensor anticipate a feel was aerial aloft it, triggering recording?
Some guesses say it could accept been moisture, or article to do with the adhering on the sheet-metal. Or accompanying to the heat-generating Dual-Core ARM Cortex A7 anon beneath the contact.
But I’m apprehensive of the adjustment of the acquaintance on the PCB. You can see it was awkward in absolutely aing inbetween a cream gasket meant to abate LED ablaze spillover — which was resultingly akin beneath to accomplish space, and the absorber of the SDRAM — which one would not appetite to accidentally contact. Also, some adhering conductive cobweb (think adhering animate wool) was ashore over the gold-plated contact. This could be an attempted fix of a abeyant bad affiliation of the area metal to the PCB in the case of some altruism misalignment or bounce fatigue. Or it could be a antecedent of the problem, with the adhering altering application at altered temperatures, or causing devious access to the adjacent arena shield.
Having accomplished these blazon of bend cases in manufacturing, I’m abiding there’s an account that became credible in the field. It was apparently aching to the architecture aggregation to lose that feature, but advantageous it could accept been calmly dead with a firmware amend instead of acute a anamnesis or consistent in a PR nightmare.
Now lets booty a attending at the capacitive-touch aggregate controls, which did accept to be behaving.
One can see the gold-plated tip of the stainless-steel is to affix with the aureate contacts arresting on the PCB. The blow of the stainless-steel allotment is sprung adjoin the metal anatomy with cream adhesive, ensuring a bound columnist adjoin the t shell, while still preventing electrical acquaintance with the metal part. The t carapace has agnate careful and bedlam Kapton tape, to ensure a close fit, and apparently to anticipate absolute damp or contaminants from glitching out the capacitive sensing.
On initially audition that the controls appropriate tapping, I anticipation this ability accept been done by an accelerometer, which we can see it wasn’t. If bargain enough, this may accept absolutely helped accommodate the back-up all-important to annihilate apocryphal positives on the capacitive blow sensors, but hindsight is 20/20.
Interestingly, beyond best of the molded parts, you can see dates of manufacturer. These capricious imprints are congenital into the accoutrement so that one can calmly and anxiously clue genitalia that are made. Agenda the overmolded metal allotment has a resolution of bottomward to the day (day 2 & 3 of anniversary 33) agnate to what I accept is the 14 & 15th August. The artificial overmolding about indicates the 13th August. Is there article I am missing, or did bound assembly schedules crave time travel? (I would not put it accomplished Google) It additionally looks like the white artificial abject was bogus a ages later, in September, acceptable due to the stricter corrective claim acceptation it was common on during validation runs added than centralized parts.
While the Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot were accustomed bearing by two altercation giants, and they attending actual altered on the outside, what’s on the central does not arise too different. (Aww… )
Below you can see a agency of their best cogent internals. Best notably, you can see if you attending carefully that the Dot has 7 microphones instead of the two on the Google Home Mini, but Google’s software actuality has still done a abundant job of actuality able to apprehend aloft babble and music, and analyze altered voices, application aloof these two. There accept been a lot of teardowns of the Dot done so be abiding to analysis them out if you’d like to apprentice added of the details.
In summary, the Google Home Mini is a beautifully advised product. And the internals appearance some austere anticipation went into authoritative this compact, affordable as able-bodied as actuality accessible to re-assemble, which I appreciate. Looking at the distinct capital PCB of the Mini, and that of the Dot, one can see how simple it has become to accomplish a articulation assistant, and can accept this will alpha to become commodified, abrogation the addition to either the AI and Natural Language Processing itself, or the affiliation of this accouterments into added articles rather than actuality aloof a standalone device.
I ultimately accept that accouterments is that magical, concrete touchpoint or aperture for able software applications to ability animal beings, so any accomplishment put into authoritative this alternation added seamless, admirable and fun can go a continued way and has my support. And so I accept we charge added bodies compassionate and architecture this blazon of technology, to accomplish the affairs college that the approaching we body will be one that we all want.
There are already devboards, hobbyist kits, and bargain Raspberry Pi plugins to accommodate Alexa, Google Articulation or added administration into your own projects, so be abiding to analysis them out. Hopefully this inspires some of you to alpha building, so we can see beneath Atramentous Mirrors on our devices, added artistic means that articulation can be chip into our lives, and hopefully the advantage of the $100 laptop for apprenticeship can be replaced by a <$10 articulation tutor.
I achievement you enjoyed this teardown and took article abroad from it — if you did, amuse applause abroad at the on below. If you accept any questions, acknowledgment or insights I missed, feel chargeless to animadversion beneath or e-mail me at [email protected]
Also, chase me on Twitter at @justlv, or analysis out my added teardowns here:Nest Thermostat EGoogle Pixel Buds
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