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Your smartphone probably has better CPU cores than Starlink dishes

SpaceX Starlink user dishes are powered by quad-core CPU with ARM Cortex-A53 cores, the same chip inside entry-level smartphones.

Published Sat, Jul 24 2021 9:30 PM CDT   |   Updated Mon, Aug 23 2021 9:34 PM CDT

Inside of Starlink's user terminals is a quad-core CPU powered by ARM's Cortex-A53 cores, thanks to a new teardown by researchers working at Belgium's KU Leven University.

Your smartphone probably has better CPU cores than Starlink dishes 07 | TweakTown.com

It's not the first teardown of a Starlink terminal, but this teardown is different as we have greater detail on the firmware and software inside of the SpaceX tech. Inside, SpaceX is using a processor that packs 4GB of embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) memory that loads up the firmware after bootup.

The researchers accessed the eMMC independently from the processor, finding a chip called a "secure element" that is also inside of the Apple iPhone, and part of the security infrastructure for the iPhone that has code required for secure biometric validation.

Your smartphone probably has better CPU cores than Starlink dishes 06 | TweakTown.com

The managing of data and connecting with the Starlink satellites above your head, is a quad-core Cortex-A53 processor -- a low-power computing core that is based on the ARM architecture. ARM's Cortex-A53 is made to be on its own, or next to a higher-end Cortex-A57.

If you type in the word "falcon" during the boot-up process, the Starlink user terminal will stop its booting process... weird, but alright. The researchers also noticed that SpaceX made some modifications to the internals of the Starlink components.

Your smartphone probably has better CPU cores than Starlink dishes 07 | TweakTown.com

The researchers explained: "It appears that there a few hardware revisions of the UT out there by now, certain parts of the teardown process can differ depending on the revision, something we learned the hard way. One of the aforementioned teardown videos shows the Ethernet and motor control cables to be detached from the main board before the white plastic cover is removed. On our UT, a tug on the motor control cables pulled the entire connector from the PCB; luckily it appears we can repair the damage. In other words, do not pull on those cables but first remove the back plastic cover, for those of you in the same boat: JST BM05B-ZESS-TBT".

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Anthony joined the TweakTown team in 2010 and has since reviewed 100s of graphics cards. Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

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