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Modbook R&D Labs – The Inside Track, Issue No.17

MB_RnDLabs_TheInsideTrack-No17-0225sIMGHello my fellow T?pferlgucker (?).

As mentioned a few weeks back, there are a series of tests and adjustments we make before we can go full bore into production mode.

Making the pen tablet work

Here’s a quick behind-the-scenes look at a few of the most critical components of the Pro X: (a) the pen sensor board, which both charges the pen and tracks its movements; (b) the sensor controller board, which provides the “brains” for the sensor’s charging and tracking, and connects it all to the computer base system; and of course (c) the pen.

We’re currently testing these new components and giving them the final once-over before they can make their way into production. There still need to be noise calibrations performed on the first sets of fully assembled Pro X units, which in turn will be uploaded into the firmware of all controller boards before they can be installed into final production units to be shipped out.

Shown below are the brand new pen sensor boards, along with controller boards and pens, in preparation for testing:

MB_RnDLabs_TheInsideTrack-No17_A

This is a closer shot of the new pen sensor boards with a closeup of their connectors:

MB_RnDLabs_TheInsideTrack-No17_B

Lastly, here’s a comparison of our original pen sensor (digitizer) board for the current 13.3-inch Modbook Pro, shown relative to our brand new sensor board (which this time has a discrete controller board) for the Pro X in all its 15.4-inch glory. You may notice the stiffer and thicker appearance of the larger sensor board. This is to enable the significantly higher performance of the pen in terms of (lack of) latency and better resolution.

MB_RnDLabs_TheInsideTrack-No17_C

There are several advantages to the new design which separates the controller board from the sensor board. For one, it allows us to create a significantly thinner User Interface Panel (“UIPanel” = the complete stack of all display components including the pen sensor board).

The second, even more important, reason is that we can parallelize the workflows required to make a working pen computer. The Sensor needs to be incorporated into the UIPanel while the controller may need firmware updates. Once the UIPanel has been incorporated into the Alphabody assembly, it is not meant to be taken apart later on — similar to the way Apple produces its display panels. The controller board, on the other hand, is installed inside the system near the motherboard, where it can be easily be accessed at any time for updates, or even for complete replacement upgrades. Each controller board’s firmware contains a noise calibration profile specific to the computer base system type installed in the particular Modbook Pro X. Should users at a later time want to upgrade their Pro X to (for example) a future generation of MacBook Pro base system, the firmware can be updated with the new corresponding calibration profile, or even replaced with a new generation controller board if necessary.

Until next time,
Andreas & the Team

The Modbook Pro X is a one time, small production volume project to create a tablet mac computer solution based on Apple’s 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro notebook. While only backers of the project will be able to receive the Pro X, we’ll be sharing insights and updates as we advance the project. Follow us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/modbook/ for notifications our next posts.

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Modbook Inc. is not affiliated with, nor are the Modbook Pro and Modbook Pro X sponsored or endorsed by, Apple Inc.
Disclaimer
The Modbook Pro and Modbook Pro X are enclosure conversion kits that transform an original Apple MacBook Pro notebook-style computer into a tablet-style computer. Apple Inc.'s warranty on the MacBook Pro base system is voided by the conversion and replaced with the Modbook Protection Plan, which covers the entire hardware solution, including the base system.
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