May 3, 2021

Over the weekend, I replaced my PinePhone’s motherboard. I did this for two reasons; firstly, the early Braveheart edition (v1.1) model I owned wasn’t capable of driving an external monitor, and secondly, the on-board WiFi chipset had failed.

To be honest, I was quite apprehensive about the job. I’m not the most dexterous person in the world, and the phones I’ve opened in the past were really unpleasant to work on - custom fasteners, fragile connectors, glue, …

The PinePhone, however, was a joy to work on. All I needed was one fine Philips head screwdriver, and a couple of plastic spudgers to compensate for my chubby fingers :)

Ready to remove the inner cover

Fifteen fine Philips head screws later, and the inner cover just popped off:

Inner cover removed

With that off, I could take a look at the motherboard under lights and magnification, courtesy my beloved LED illuminated desktop magnifier. You can see a few ribbon and press-on connectors around the board; those came off very easily with fingers and plastic spudgers.

Motherboard magnified

With the board out, I could remove the front- and rear-facing cameras:

Cameras removed

At this point, assembly became a straightforward reversal of the disassembly, starting by attaching the cameras to the new motherboard and fitting it:

New motherboard fitted

… then reattaching the inner cover:

Cover reattached

… and finally testing the new motherboard, including verifying the WiFi and cameras:

Testing

From start to finish the entire process took around half an hour, and has resulted in a more capable phone (more RAM, convergence, working WiFi). A real triumph of the PinePhone team’s approach to user serviceable design.

Arbitrary Tech has a great video of the entire process, which was invaluable to me throughout the process:

Now I can begin the process of configuring the PinePhone for use as a daily driver, with the intent of replacing my Google Pixel 2 - and possibly, courtesy a USB-C docking bar, my laptop as well.