Oculus Go Teardown

The Oculus Go ushers in a new era of VR, one in which users can go virtually anywhere without needing their phone or PC to connect them. Although the headset doesn’t include revolutionary graphics, like the PC connected Oculus Rift, its claim to fame is that it’s the easiest way to experience VR.

Although Palmer Luckey, Oculus Founder, posted an image of the torn down headset, we had to tear into one ourselves and understand how the Oculus Go became a reality for such a relatively inexpensive price ($199 for a 32GB headset).

By doing so, we were able to see how the electronics systematically worked together, and the possibility for further expansion in the world of VR.

The Teardown

Gaining initial entry was difficult. Our goal was to keep the headset in working order and not damage it beyond repair.

After finally removing the front plate, we see that it is held together with a lot of 3M VHB adhesive (Very High Bond).

The back of the front plate revealed a copper heat sink used to redirect the heat emitting from the main processor. There are holes in the anodization on the plate, where it was masked during the anodization process. These were left open for the pogo pins on the inner frame to make electrical contact. The front plate is made of metal so this together lets it act as an effective heat sink.

We checked for low electrical resistance between the holes to see if they were electrically conductive, and it turns out they are! It looks like the front plate also serves as a ground and an electromagnetic interference (EMI) shield. No EMI is escaping out of this direction!

Removing the front frame from its housing proved to be difficult. It felt like there was a screw holding it in place that we couldn’t find. As a last resort, we dremeled down the bottom to try prying off the housing without stripping any hidden screws – this was not successful.

After manipulating a couple of parts, we noticed there were snap fits holding it together. With some coaxing from a flathead screwdriver and a spudger, the front plastic frame popped out exposing the motherboard!

They use a two-year-old Snapdragon 821 processor, which is commonly used in cell phones like the Google Pixel, HTC U Ultra, and several others. It’s not surprising that they choose this processor because this hardware has to, essentially, replace either a cell phone or computer.

Incorporating a faster, more powerful processor could increase the graphics and overall experience, but it might have driven up the price! It’s notable that the primary appeal of the Oculus Go is ease of use, not top performance. To that end, a lower price is a worthwhile tradeoff to focus on introducing more people to VR. This could be something they revisit in their next iteration, now that other standalone headsets have hit the market.

The POP stack up of Snapdragon processor SK Hynix SRAM was the biggest source of heat, so it was attached to the front plate heat sink. The small integrated circuit (IC) to the right has a little squishy thermal pad on it as well. There are lots of shielded components in here too, covered by the rectangular metal cans. They could be shielding them from each other and from the outside world.

Now let’s flip it over and attack it from the other side!

To remove the middle plate, we have to remove the inner plate.

Now you can see the speakers, a standard 18650 format 2600mAhbattery, and a small oval peg…. what could that be?

It looks like the peg was covering the ambient light or distance sensor, probably used to detect whether the headset is fixed on your face.

After removing several screws, we remove the middle plate from the housing. In order to do this, we disconnect microphone, speaker, battery, and antenna cables (there’s no turning back now!)

We came across two microphones. One of them is above your nose on the right, held in the plastic housing here. The other one microphone is one the main circuit board, also slightly towards the right. A small acoustic waveguide pipes sound from the top edge of the front faceplate down into that mic.

There is a top mic and a bottom mic, both slightly on the right side. Interesting.

There are two flex antennas attached to the inner walls of the gray casing. One for Wifi (for downloading content from the web) and one for Bluetooth (for initial setup via smartphone, then for pairing with the controller).

The exposed copper rectangles make contact with the double-ended pogo pins to ground the perimeter of the board to the front aluminum plate. There is a lot of shielding going on.

After removing the circuit board, we encounter another plastic framing piece.

Removing the plastic framing piece exposed the back of the LCD display. It is very shiny.

You can see the edge of the LCD crystal layer, in the corner. They have a translucent sheen.

The polyamide copper-colored flex cable provides power to a line of white LEDs along the inside edge of the display. The wide black-colored flex cable contains all the LCD display lines.

More about how an LCD display works from iFixit here.

These side hinges are more than just holders for the straps. They are acoustic channels. Speaker sound goes into the circle, and comes out of the back grille, right near your ears.

Acoustic waveguide design seems more flexible than RF waveguide design.

Bringing It All Together

With the Oculus Go, Facebook has essentially created a headset with an integrated phone. An interesting double-edged side effect of using phone hardware is that Oculus gains access to the continuous stream of advances in computing power and energy consumption. The second edge of that is the frequency at which those technologies change; the Go may only be a few months old but it’s SOC is already generations past release. It may be worth noting that Oculus already sells a headset which literally uses a phone, the Samsung Gear VR, which requires a recent Samsung phone to provide display and compute power.

A sealed, dedicated unit like the Go may be more convenient but it can’t be upgraded like the Gear VR can. Time will tell which strategy (or combination) prevails for standalone headsets attached to gaming PCs and consoles, the same but wireless, stand-alone headsets like the Go or Magic Leap ML1, or headsets which require a phone for use.