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Sony Vaio VGN-UX50 Ultra Mobile PC Teardown

13 October 2006
The following is an overview of a teardown analysis conducted by IHS Technology Teardown Services.

Main Features

The Sony Vaio VGN-UX50 is an ultra-portable PC running the Microsoft Windows Professional operating system, and using an Intel processor and chipset. The platform is aimed at providing a Windows computing experience in a very compact and mobile form factor. The UX50 has wireless capability out of the box, with the inclusion of support for the 802.11b and 802.11g WiFi standards, as well as Bluetooth wireless networking. The UX50 has a strong take on multimedia, with the inclusion of integrated dual cameras (1.3MP and VGA) and speakers. Sony has addressed the growing concern for security on mobile computers, by including an integrated biometric fingerprint scanner.


Overview

The Sony VGN-UX50 is an Ultra Mobile PC - meaning a fully functional PC that could be called a 'palm-top' computer. While certainly larger and bulkier than a device such as a Blackberry or other PDA, the Ultra-Mobile PC is far more than a PDA - ity is a fully functional (albeit 'low-end' in terms of functionality) PC, running full Windows XP - and offering most of what you would expect from a low-end PC - an Intel 945GMS express chipset, 1.06GHz Intel Core Solo processor, 512MB of on board SDRAM and memory expansion ports (flash only) in memory stick Duo and compact flash formats.

The screen is relatively small, but crisp and bright - a 4.5 in TFT active matrix with up to 16.2 million colors and features a touch screen (with a small stylus included). And although it is very small, connectivity is complete - the VGN-UX50 features 802.11 a/b/g wireless (Intel wireless card bundled with chipset) connectivity, Bluetooth, and even a full-sized (not 'mini') USB - A port (more connectivity is also available when using docking station).

Dual camera modules are included (a 1.3MP camera module on the backside, and a VGA module aimed at the user for video chat and conferencing), and there is even a fingerprint scanner on the front.

Then there is the matter of the keyboard. Although it is good that a full QWERTY keyboard is available by sliding up the display. Although it looks very slick, our team concurs that this is a major deisgn flaw - the keypad has no tactile response, and the keys are perfectly flush making it very difficult to feel the keys and know when they have been pressed. It's a major problem for any serious user rendering this device almost useless to the serious traveler / user who wishes to leave a much bulkier laptop at home - because lugging and using USB keyboard would be almost a necessity.

Target Market

The VGN-UX50 targets both the consumer and business markets, with its strong multimedia capabilities appealing to the consumer segment, and wireless networking capabilities along with small form factor appealing to the business segment.

Given the price tag of roughly $1500, it may have a hard time finding a market as it has the feature set of a laptop half this price - so the question is - who is willing to pay 2x for these weaker features in exchange for the form factor of something approaching a PDA.

Released

Q2 2006.

Pricing and Availability

$1500 and up, however as of the time of this writing (10/9/2006), there are some websites selling the VGN-UX50 for less, closer to the $1400 mark.

Volume Estimations

iSuppli believes that while the even though the UMPC market is very immature, it does have potential. We believe the Vaio VGN-UX50 will undergo a production volume of approximately 100,000 units. However, this figure is heavily dependant on: the success of the product in the market, the success of the UMPC market overall, and the future roadmap for the VGN UMPC models from Sony - simply stated how quickly the company decides to replace the product.

As a reminder, volume production assumptions are not meant to be necessarily 'market accurate', and our meant primarily to be used for our cost analysis in terms of amortized NRE and tooling costs, especially for custom components specific to the model being analyzed (mechanical components especially).

Market Sector / Performance

The UMPC category forms a subset of the Notebook PC market. At this stage in time, iSuppli does not breakout a separate forecast for the UMPC category due to its immaturity. In 2006, we expect the Notebook PC market to achieve unit shipments of 76 million units, representing annual growth of 23 percent. The UMPC segment has the potential to be a large market, with Intel clearly believing that the segment could be high volume market. The appeal to the consumer (portable multimedia) and corporate user (wireless connectivity and small form factor with full PC functionality) is appealing, and will help in increasing the market penetration of the device. The pricing makes the product somewhat of a costly luxury item to the consumer audience, while the strong gadget factor inherent in the device will limit its initial appeal to technology-educated consumers.

Function / Performance

No 'real' performance testing was performed, however several here at iSuppli tried using it for several days before teardown began. The concensus is that screen is small and a little difficult to read - especially if you are far-sighted or require reading glasses (even though there is a zoom function), and the keyboard is useless. Otherwise it behaves as one would expect from a similarly spec'ed laptop.

Sony Vaio VGN-UX50 Ultra Mobile PC Cost AnalysisSony Vaio VGN-UX50 Ultra Mobile PC Cost Analysis

Cost Notes

As is often the case with systems we analyze, the majority of dollar value items that drive the total cost of this system can be found in the top 10 or so items, which in this case, are as follows:

Main Cost Drivers Representing ~80% of total direct materials cost for the VGN-UX50 without docking station

Intel - U1300 - CPU - Intel Core Solo Processor 1.06GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 533MHz, 65nm Process, Ultra Low Voltage

Toshiba Semiconductor - MK3008GAL - 30GB, 1.8', UDMA/100 ATA-5, 4200RPM, 2MB Buffer

Sharp - Display Module - 4.5' Wide SVGA LCD, Touchscreen, 1024 x 600 Pixels

Nanya - NT5TU32M16AG-37B - SDRAM - DDR2, 512Mb, 32Mx16, 533MHz, 4-4-4, 1.8V, PbF (x8)

Intel - QG82945GMSSL8TC - Northbridge - Graphics and Memory Controller Hub

Intel - WM3945ABG - Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG, 802.11a/b/g Mini PCIe Card

Intel - NH82801GBMSL8YB - Southbridge - ICH7 I/O Controller Hub

Sony - VGP-BPS6 - Battery - Li-Ion - 7.4V, 2600mAh

Ibiden - 10-Layer - Motherboard - FR4/RCF HDI, 3+4+3, Lead-Free, Halogen-Free

Materials and Manufacturing* ~$605.10

* - This is the total for the main unit, including stylus and battery, but excluding the power supply, docking station and other items. The totals online include power supply, docking station and some but not all other 'box contents'.

The total materials and manufacturing costs reported in this analysis reflect ONLY the direct materials cost (from component vendors and assorted EMS providers), AND manufacturing and test. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the material manufacture of the core device itself - cost of intellectual property, software, software loading and test, licensing, shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only EMS provider and the OEM's margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device and exceptionally in some circumstances the packaging and literature as well.

Manufacturing Notes

Country of Origin / Volume Assumptions

The Sony Vaio has a number of various sub-assemblies built in various countries - see the 'Overview' section on the online presentation for a list of countries of origin for the major sub-assemblies such as display, hard drive, etc. As for final assembly - the product is labeled as Made in Japan, and as we have seen with other devices from Panasonic and other Japanese manufacturers, that when in doubt about the origin of an assembly that is not labeled - we are assuming made in Japan, except for custom plastics and metal mechanical components.

Country of origin assumptions relate directly to the associated cost of manufacturing, where calculated by iSuppli. In the cases of 'finished' sub-assemblies (such as chargers), we do not calculate internal manufacturing costs, but rather assess the market price of the finished product in which case country of origin assumptions may or may not have a direct effect on pricing.

Design for Manufacturing / Device Complexity

There is no doubt that the Sony Vaio is a complex device, which, in the case of this teardown comes from two areas - the component count, but also the overall density of the design. As we have seen from Apple products, where the design envelope is typically pushed by the drive to have ultra-compact form factors with maximum functionality, designers are obliged to use more costly manners of implementing all aspects of the design. Onboard electronic component density is heavy, and the motherboard has more in common with handset PCBs than most other motherboards in terms of component packaging.

In terms of interconnect, dense designs often implement expensive flex circuitry to help interconnect various ports. Flex circuits are always more costly than basic rigid PCBAs and manufacturing costs for flex circuits are also more expensive than with rigid PCBAs.

Finally - the component count in the Vaio, interestingly is lower than even one of the most basic laptops we have analyzed at iSuppli, an entry level Dell. When compared with the Dell in terms of sheer component count, the Vaio only has 1735 total component count (for the core device only - not the docking station, etc.), where the entry level Dell laptop has 1872 total discrete components. Furthermore, given all of the extra bells and whistles this Vaio features in a fraction of the space, it adds up to a very complex device. Keep in mind, that as is often the case, the sheer bulk of components in terms of raw count are represented by passive components, such as resistors and capacitors for which placement is automated and relatively low-cost to perform.

On the other hand, the Vaio features 250 mechanical components, and many discrete sub-assemblies requiring an extensive amount of hand assembly time, and the overall density of the deisgn and small form factor also increases complexity in terms of manufacturing cost.

Component counts have a direct bearing on the overall manufacturing cycle times and costs, and also can increase or decrease overall yields and re-work. Our calculations of manufacturing costs factor counts and more qualitative complexities in the design. The cost of manufacturing is also, to some extent, increased in this case because of assumed labor rate applied for Korea vis--vis much lower rates applied when the country of origin is China.

Note that manual labor has a much smaller effect on auto-insertion assembly lines (for the Main PCB, for example), where manufacturing costs are much more capital equipment intensive and driven by these investment costs.

Design Notes

The core design is based on an Intel 945G chipset bundled with an Intel-based 802.11 a/b/g wireless solution. Other sub-assemblies add major features such as the two discrete camera modules (1.3MP and VGA), the UPEK-based fingerprint authentication module, and Alps Bluetooth module. The display from Sharp features Sharp's own proprietary version of LTPS technology, and the Toshiba 1.8 format 30GB hard drive is very similar to that used in the iPod Video.

Motherboard

CPU

  • Intel U1300 CPU - Intel Core Solo Processor 1.06GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 533MHz, 65nm Process, Ultra Low Voltage

Northbridge

  • Intel QG82945GMSSL8TC Northbridge - Graphics and Memory Controller Hub

Southbridge

  • Intel NH82801GBMSL8YB Southbridge - ICH7 I/O Controller Hub

I/O & Interface

  • FlashMedia PC Controller and IEEE1394 Open HCI Host - Texas Instruments - PCI8412ZHK
  • Microcomputer - 16-Bit, Single Chip, 64KB ROM, 3KB RAM, On-Chip LPC Interface - Renesas - HD64F2111BVCTE

Memory

  • (8x) Nanya NT5TU32M16AG-37B SDRAM - DDR2, 512Mb, 32Mx16, 533MHz, 4-4-4, 1.8V, PbF
  • ST Microelectronics M25P80 Flash - 8Mb, Serial, 40MHz SPI Bus Interface

Other Sub-Assemblies

Fingerprint Authentication Module

  • TouchStrip Fingerprint Authentication IC - UPEK - TCD41
  • TouchStrip Fingerprint Authentication Scanner - UPEK - TCS3

Hard Drive

  • Toshiba Semiconductor - MK3008GAL - 30GB, 1.8', UDMA/100 ATA-5, 4200RPM, 2MB Buffer

Display Module

  • Sharp - LS045W1LA01 - 4.5' Wide SVGA LCD, Touchscreen, 1024 x 600 Pixels

Wireless Card

  • Intel - WM3945ABG - PCIe Mini

Bluetooth Module

  • Alps - UGPZ6

Camera Modules

  • Primary - 1.3MP / CMOS - Samsung Image Sensor, Finished Module Manufacturer Unknown
  • Secondary - VGA / CMOS - Samsung Image Sensor, Finished Module Manufacturer Unknown

Sony Vaio VGN-UX50 Ultra Mobile PC - Box ContentsSony Vaio VGN-UX50 Ultra Mobile PC - Box Contents



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