Pixel 6 teardown shows a lot of heat dissipation, questionable mmWave layout


The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are out, which means it’s teardown time. PBK Reviews have Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6 videos that we can select.

Open either phone and you’ll find a ton of heat dissipation. The back of the screen is covered with copper, so it’s a big heat sink. Underneath the screen, the interior is covered with a sticky, heat-dissipating graphite film, which makes the phone look surprisingly messier than the carefully organized interior of the iPhone 13. Below is located Following heat dissipation: an aluminum middle plate that connects to the main chips with heat tape.

The back of the screen is also interesting. On the left is the fingerprint reader below the display, and you can see why companies are so fond of these components compared to capacitive rear fingerprint readers. An optical drive is a super thin sticker on the back of the screen, it looks like it’s only a millimeter thick. You can also spot the cutout for the brightness and proximity sensors below the display, which like the fingerprint reader, live invisibly below the display.

The back of the screen is a large copper radiator.  You can see how thin the fingerprint sensor is on the left - it's just a sticker.  Just above the camera lens on the right side is the cutout for the proximity and light sensors below the screen.
Enlarge / The back of the screen is a large copper radiator. You can see how thin the fingerprint sensor is on the left – it’s just a sticker. Just above the camera lens on the right side is the cutout for the proximity and light sensors below the screen.

PBK Reviews

PBK Reviews spotted some interesting differences between the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. On the Pro model, the haptic engine sits at the bottom of the phone, while the base Pixel 6 has it towards the top. The bottom is a better location, as that’s usually where your hand is, giving you a stronger feel of the haptic motor. Depending on region and carrier, some Pixel 6 models have mmWave and others do not. If you get a model without mmWave, what you will find in the mmWave spot is … a dummy metal block.

This teardown confirms what we suspected about the Pixel 6’s 5G mmWave functionality – it doesn’t seem very well thought out. For starters, mmWave isn’t a great phone feature. It gets disproportionate attention because operators use mmWave to justify 5G speed claims in their advertisements. The truth, however, is that hardly anyone has reliable access to mmWave. A recent OpenSignal survey showed that users of compatible devices spend only 0.8% of their time on mmWave.

Even though you could find an mmWave array with the Pixel, the Pixel 6 only has a single mmWave antenna, which sits along the top edge of the phone (in a highly visible plastic window). Much of the rationale for including mmWave in a phone revolves around its reputation for enabling high download speeds. Most of that speed would be for media consumption, in which case the phone would be in landscape mode. But with the antenna up, the mmWave signal will be blocked by your hand in landscape mode. Compare this Pixel’s design decision to that of the Galaxy S21, which has two mmWave antennas, each located on a long edge of the phone, and it’s more likely that the Galaxy S21’s mmWave signal will perform better in either. landscape orientation. Qualcomm’s original mmWave documents recommended four antennas, one on each side of the phone, because it’s so easy to block an mmWave signal with your hand. Most people will probably never find an mmWave signal, but even if you could on the Pixel 6, the location of the antenna makes it look like it’s just spec sheet padding.

The Pixel 6 Pro motherboard.  This soldered USB-C port will be difficult to replace.
Enlarge / The Pixel 6 Pro motherboard. This soldered USB-C port will be difficult to replace.

Unfortunately, iFixit appears to have dropped out of the Pixel line, with the site’s last full teardown being the Pixel 4. One thing I really miss is iFixit’s investigation of the motherboard chips, which is only covered in this article. neither of the two videos. It would be nice to take a look at the Google Tensor SoC, this discrete Samsung Exynos 5G modem, and all the other components that Google uses, but this video is only about replacing parts.

Regarding repairability, the USB-C port is soldered to the motherboard, which will make it more difficult to repair a commonly damaged component. As usual, everything is glued, which means that any repairs could compromise the water resistance of the device. PBK Reviews also tried swapping out some parts to see if there were any iPhone-style soft locks preventing repairs. While replacing the screen, they encountered an error message while replacing the fingerprint sensor. A later update to the video description says they then made the sensor work by visiting Google’s official repair site, running calibration software, and then resetting the device to the factory.


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