How Do I Use the Tristar Tester

How to Use Your Digital Tristar Tester from iPad Rehab Supply

What is so great about the tristar tester?

The tristar tester is a front counter tool for busy cell phone repair shops.  When a customer complains of poor battery life, charging problems, or even has a phone that wont boot at all it can be difficult to get them the right quote for service.  

We all know that batteries and charge ports can become damaged and fail, but "cheap charger damage" is quite rampant as well.  Until most consumers recognize importance of using MFI certified chargers, "gas station" chargers will continue to kill the tristar chip in thousands of devices.   It can be laborious to tell the difference between bad battery, bad charge port, and bad tristar/tigris chip on the logic board.

Before the tristar tester, devices would have to have their seals broken to open them to do diagnostics. First, try a new battery and charge port.  Then only if those didn't work would we consider tristar failure.   But what about the cases that have a tristar chip damaged in a way where they can charge a battery just fine---*as long as* it isn't stone dead?  Those are the most difficult diagnostically, because a new battery will *appear* to solve the problem.  However the disappointed customer will come back a few days later when that battery finally drops too low for the damaged tristar chip to initiate charging.   Wouldn't it be great for everyone if there was a way to identify these cases from the beginning.

The tristar tester tool solves this front counter dilemma.  It is an easy to use tool that plugs right into the iPhone/iPad charging port and can detect most cases of a damaged tristar chip.  It reports a digital PASS or FAIL result that you can show to a customer.

What devices are compatible with the Tristar Tester?

Any Apple device with a lightning charge port.  You can use the tristar tester on an unopened iPhone or iPad.  You can also use the tester on just a logic board connected to a charge port.  No battery required, and the phone doesn't have to boot.  The device will query the tristar chip as well as the new hydra chip in later models.

How do I use it?

Turn on the device and connect to any iPhone.   For tristar failures that actually create a short circuit within tristar, you'll see an instant caution symbol (triangle with an exclamation point).   That means this tristar is automatically toast--case closed!

For all other cases, you'll connect the tester then click "QUICKTEST"   We always use quicktest because it is fast, and skips the confusing "battery presence test" that is part of the regular test mode.  The battery presence test has no practical value--it can only tell you if a charged battery is present or not which really doesn't matter.

After pressing quicktest, the device will query the dock connector (charge port) lines in diode mode to make sure that it does not get back "OL" indicating an open line between the tester and tristar.   If the device does receive an OL then it will FAIL the dock test.   This is usually because the dock (charge port)  itself is bad in a native device with no prior logic board repair attempt.  However, keep in mind that dock test FAIL can also mean that there is an open line at tristar (for example, a prior repair attempt with the chip in the wrong orientation, or not soldered well, or if tristar is completely missing)  Dock FAIL can also occur if there is a problem at the dock connector (example, missing pin) or somewhere between dock and tristar (missing/water damaged filter).  One thing to keep in mind with dock FAIL is that the tristar tester only works in ONE DIRECTION.  That is, the tester can't be flipped around and plugged in upside down or it will report dock FAIL.   If you get a dock fail, then you'll need to correct that before the tester can actually have a path to measure tristar.  Get a known good dock (charge port) and troubleshoot until the tristar tester can pass the charge port/dock test.

Next, the tristar tester will automatically continue on to test the 8 lines that extend from the charge port to tristar.  If the results are all similar to the database of known good values, the tristar tester will report PASS.  If not, the device will say FAIL, you can click details to see exactly WHICH lines failed.  Then proceed directly to replacing tristar.  Or send your device out for Mail in Tristar Replacement.


Does a Tristar Tester PASS mean the device 100% guaranteed to not have a tristar problem?

No.  The premise of the tool is that when tristar is electrically damaged by faulty charging cables, that a "chunk" of the tristar chip will be damaged---including at least one of the 8 lines that go to tristar.  In our experience, this is almost always the case.  However, we have discovered a few oddball cases that have a tristar failure that was not detected by the tristar tester.   However, we have found the specificity to be 100%, meaning that when the tester does say FAIL, then tristar is always damaged in those cases.  No false positives!


What do "ambiguous test results" mean?

In most cases of tristar failure, the tester will detect a FAIL on two or more of the 8 testable lines, sometimes on all of them!  When the tester only detects ONE line as a Fail, it will report "ambiguous test results, repeat with known good dock"  If you continued to get a single failure, so be it.  Replace tristar.  In our experience we have found that the ambiguous test reading, aka 'only one line failed" has almost always been bona fide tristar failures.

What actual circuits  on the schematics are each of the tristar tester lines?

Each line corresponds to the named circuit as follows:


Is there anything special for advanced users?

Yes.  If you hold the right side button while turning the device on, it will boot into "Expert" mode.  In this mode, you can see the actual values reported as the tester queries the dock and tristar.   This means that you can tweak the threshold of what values are "PASS" vs "FAIL" and look for even more detailed failure patterns.

What do I do if I detect a tristar FAIL?

You change the tristar or hydra chip of course!  If you haven't yet set up your shop for microsoldering services, not to worry.   You can come learn how to microsolder at Practical Board Repair School, and until then you can always just take advantage of our fast and easy Mail-in Repair Service.

Wait, I still have questions!

You can always reach out to us at  


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