Audio and Video

Rio Forge Sport 512MB MP3 Player Teardown

05 April 2005
The following is an overview of a teardown analysis conducted by IHS Benchmarking.

Main Features

MP3 player, 512M Bytes of storage, Mini USB interface with full-size USB connector, Monochrome display, FM radio, and uses 1 AAA battery.

Rio Forge Sport 512MB MP3 Player Main ImageRio Forge Sport 512MB MP3 Player Main Image

Marketing / Positioning

Flash music (mp3 and other format) players are, obviously, a booming segment, and are expected to produce approximately $3.8B in revenues in 2005, and expanding rapidly over the coming years. Currently, the 'sweet spot' for the market is still 256M Byte players, with 512M and up representing more the leading edge.

For the overall market, ISuppli projects total Flash mp3 player sales to be approximately 41 M units in 2005, and 55 M Units in 2006 (with another 43M units of HDD models sold during the course of 2005 and 2006).

The Rio Forge Sport is one of seven flash player models currently offered by Rio. The Forge is offered in three memory increments from 128MB to 512MB, with this model representing the high end of all Rio players currently. All of the Forge players have expandable memory through an SD/MMS memory card slot, unlike the iPod Shuffle which we analyzed simultaneously with this model.

The Rio Forge Sport and iPod Shuffle players are different in many respects both from a feature point of view, but also internally. The iPod is extremely compact when compared with the Rio, but makes a lot of tradeoffs that the Rio has not made. The Rio has a display (a pretty important feature when a player can store hundreds of songs), an FM radio with the ability to record FM programs (an extra vis-a-vis the Shuffle), the ability to expand via memory card, and finally the Rio's use of a very simple and common AAA cell with 20 hours of play time (vs 12 on the Shuffle). This last 'feature' is really a user perception as to whether a built-in battery is a 'plus' or not. While the iPod's use of a built-in custom Lithium-Ion Polymer cell makes the overall device more compact but who really wants to have to deal with the end of life issues and costs the battery replacement will entail? (Racket alert!) The Rio's use of a AAA cell is pragmatic - and frankly at twice the playtime of the iPod - pretty impressive from a mere Alkaline cell.

We have assumed, for the purposes of this cost assessment, that the the Rio Forge will be produced over an approximate 2 year life cycle with a total lifetime volume production of 5 Million units (128, 256, and 512MB combined). These assumptions are used in our cost calculations (details below).

Rio Forge Sport 512MB MP3 Player Cost AnalysisRio Forge Sport 512MB MP3 Player Cost Analysis

Cost Notes

Main Cost Drivers only three representing approximately 86% of total materials cost

Memory (512M bytes - Samsung NAND Flash)

Media Processor (Sigmatel STMP3510)

Display (1" Monochrome STN)

FM Radio Module

Subtotal - Total Direct Materials Cost

Materials and Manufacturing**

* - This price is a reflection of major OEM market pricing as of 3/8/05. This pricing does not assume any 'special' relationship pricing between Rio and Samsung, in the form of rebates or other discounts. Flash and other memory pricing is volatile, therefore this pricing represents only a snapshot in time of the market. It is interesting to note that the choice of using two 256M x 8 bit cells, rather than one 512M x 8 bit cell is $2 more costly when compared with the use of a single cell in the iPod shuffle. Although the 'real-estate' was available in the Rio - this could have provided a form factor improvement.

* This cost reflects only the direct materials cost (from component vendors and assorted EMS providers), manufacturing and test. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the manufacture of the core device itself - cost of packaging, accessories, literature, shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only Apple's final product margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device (the player, in this case) itself.

Rio Forge Sport 512MB MP3 Player - Display PCB and Main PCB SeperatedRio Forge Sport 512MB MP3 Player - Display PCB and Main PCB Seperated

Manufacturing Notes

Labeled as Made in China, it is assumed that all of the manufacturing, including PCB stuffing, plastics molding (and other custom mechanical components), as well as final assembly. These assumptions affect both the assumed costs of manually manufactured elements (based on relative local skilled and semi-skilled labor rates), and auto-inserted device (such as surface mount components on PCBs).

Furthermore, our total production volume assumption used here may not be highly market accurate from a marketing point of view, however, it is used here for the purpose of estimating the amortization of certain test set-up costs and other NRE charges for such things as injection molding tools for the enclosures, etc.

Although this assumption affects the bottom line, changes in the quantity assumption generally produce a very small total cost variance, as typically in quantities of several hundred thousand and up, amortized NRE costs are usually quite small on a per unit basis.


The Rio Forge design is modular in the same manner the iPod Shuffle is designed (and probably most MP3 players are) - separating the main printed circuit board functionality from the board which holds the memory chips - however, when compared with the iPod, the Rio is much less dense, and uses larger components with more far more open space. Overall the Rio design selections do not pay the same close attention Apple did to achieving the smallest form factor possible using all of the latest cutting edge packages extensively. This is much more conventional in internal design and package choices. Furthermore, the Rio has a lot more discrete components and is less integrated than the iPod design.

Rio Forge Sport 512MB MP3 Player - Keypad PCB Top Enclosure and Display (Memory) PCBRio Forge Sport 512MB MP3 Player - Keypad PCB Top Enclosure and Display (Memory) PCB

Modular - The two main modules are the Display (and Memory) PCB (which contains the two Samsung 256M x 8 bit chips and serves as the interconnect and mounting board for the display module), and the Main PCB. The use of the display board as a sepearet vessel for the memory is pragmatic but not as clever as the iPod design, because it allows Rio to produce the 128MB, 256MB, and 512MB MB boards separately, and 'snap-in' via board-to-board connector whichever board they actually need to produce at the moment of final assembly. It is not as clever or modular as the iPod design because the display is also integrated here - for maximum manufacturing flexibility this board really should contain only the memory chips.

Density - Whereas the iPod is an envelope-pushing design making maximum usage of micro-sized packages (chip scale packages, 0201 discretes, etc.), the Rio is more conventional and is not uniquely focused on maximizing every cubic millimeter of space. (No CSPs or any discretes smaller than 0402).

Overall - the Rio has a total of approximately 225 discrete components, whereas the iPod has approximately 170. However, we believe that the manufacturing cost on a per component basis for iPod is likely higher due to the use of very fine-pitch devices, higher density and smaller component sizes.

Major Components

  • Memory - Samsung NAND Flash - 2 x (256M x 8 bit)
  • Audio Processor - 'System on a Chip' - Sigmatel STMP3510 (vs the iPod's STMP3550)
  • Display - 1" Diagonal Monochrome CSTN - VDS
  • FM Radio - KSE, KST-MK000 Series (Principally Philips TEA5767 chip with tuning fork crystal and passives)

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