The Playdate Teardown: A Look Inside This Retro Gaming Handheld

This text is based on a shooting script for our Playdate teardown. It may not precisely match the dialogue in the full video. Check out our full web teardown for more details on what’s inside the Playdate.

This is the Playdate. It doesn’t 5G. It doesn’t have a 120 Hz screen, a custom chip, or any cameras at all. What the Playdate does have is a crank, an ultra-portable design, and a lot of charm.

Also, the Playdate is not out yet. If you preorder it now, you won’t get it until 2022. But Panic was nice enough to send us one of their early units, so we could tear it down.

The Playdate exists in its own category: old-school gaming with a modern-day design. Modern, that is, except that it’s far easier to open and disassemble then, say, a Nintendo Switch. But we’ll get into our step-by-step teardown in a moment.

The most important things to know about the Playdate are that:

  • First, it’s small. It’s a bit small in my larger hands, but it should fit comfortably in most.
  • Its screen is like an upgraded classic Game Boy: it’s black and white, it’s low-resolution, but really crisp and responsive (Note: not mentioned in video, but also: backlighting!)
  • The buttons are punchy, and the crank has an appealing smoothness to it.
  • Unfortunately, we can’t show that off yet, because our Playdate doesn’t have games (other than thrillers like “Input Test” and “Settings”).

But we can show you how it comes apart. Some flat-head screws, with a “donut” ring around them, hold the case together. 

The back pops off with the help of a pick …

… to reveal a kind of tiny bento box: one battery, one board, and some cable noodles in-between.

At first glance, it looks like there’s a warranty sticker in here. Normally we’d start getting all righteous and indignant, but the wording on this one is a bit different. It’s just a reminder that breaking anything inside voids the warranty. That’s pretty fair! Also, legal. Let’s go further.

Once you unplug the battery, it comes out with only soft prying.

The 740 mAh not a powerhouse. It’s about one quarter of the iPhone 12, less than even a single AA battery. But it’s very efficient – we’ve only charged our Playdate once, and it’s been running for days.

The Playdate’s internals rest in a little midframe tray, held in by Pozidriv screws.We can crank through that, though. Once un-screwed, the crank, buttons, and screen stay with the front case.

Next out is the motherboard, held in by a tiny ZIF cable at the bottom.

If you’re curious, check out our full teardown on iFixit to see all the chips we’ve ID’d.

Now the exciting part, the crank. Pull out a little staple bracket, and the crank releases from its hold.

The crank has a magnet in the shaft. That magnet works against a sensor on a nearby flex cable that detects the magnet’s rotation. This means it won’t wear out, or most importantly, drift.

The mono speaker is held down with adhesive. Easy to yank, but a little  tricky to re-adhere.

The front of the Playdate has button covers that press down on these contact pads. They’re on a flexible printed circuit, glued to the midframe—we don’t really recommend messing with it.

Finally, the screen is glued to the front, and doesn’t seem like you can separate it without damaging it.

The Playdate isn’t our typical teardown device – it’s a one of a kind object, and it’s nothing like most modern gadgets. With that in mind, we gave the Playdate a 6 out of 10 repairability score. 

  • The screws are standard and fairly easy to remove
  • The battery is only lightly adhered and quite accessible
  • And the crank and headphone jack come right out


  • The USB-C charging port is soldered to the main board
  • and the screen and controls pads are glued in and can’t be replaced individually

If you want to see a  device that’s even more modular and repairable, be sure to check out our teardown of the Framework Laptop, which scored a 10 out of 10.