iFixit’s Playdate teardown reveals magnetically-powered crank that shouldn’t wear out

Technology

This week, iFixit reviewed the reparability of the Playdate — the upcoming retro handheld console from Panic. Overall it seems to be a fairly repairable machine with some nice surprises inside. iFixit expressed some nitpicks in its review but no serious issues. It still worked after having been completely taken apart and reassembled.

iFixit admits its grading scale isn’t well suited to the Playdate, calling it a category all its own, but nonetheless gave it a six out of 10, with 10 meaning easiest to repair. Some of the main positive points are that you can get into the device with regular flathead and Phillips screwdrivers, and that the battery isn’t hard to remove. The main drawbacks are that the controls can’t be swapped individually, and Panic soldered the USB-C port to the main board.

The biggest pleasant surprise iFixit found is that one of the Playdate’s defining features, the crank, likely won’t wear down or degrade, which means users probably won’t eventually run into problems like the drifting associated with the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller or the Nintendo Switch’s JoyCons.

iFixit discovered the crank works by rotating a cylindrical magnet which contacts a sensor. According to iFixit this is an elegantly simple design, with no wiper, spring, or surface to wear out.

iFixit’s biggest issue with the Playdate is that its screen is firmly glued onto the front half of the outer shell. Because of this, replacing the screen would likely mean replacing that whole part of the enclosure. “Probably not expensive, but not ideal,” iFixit wrote. The headphone jack is modular though. iFixit also writes that the battery is fairly easy to unplug with a pair of tweezers.

The Playdate doesn’t start shipping until late this year, but the entire initial batch of 20,000 units sold out in minutes when pre-orders went up last month. Panic promises more Playdates in 2022.

At $179, the system will have 24 games which will be rolled out weekly at no additional cost. Panic does plan to release an SDK at some point for free so potentially anyone can make a game for it. And yes, someone already got Doom running on it last year.