13” Retina MacBook Pro Teardown Reveals Notable Design Changes

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The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (rMBP), unveiled by Apple during its media event Tuesday, has been torn down by iFixit. While the newest Apple laptop shares much in common with its 15-inch “least repairable laptop ever” sibling, there are some interesting differences that indicate that the Cupertino company learned much from its first Retina laptop offering in June.

13 inch Retina MacBook Pro iFixit Teardown

Unlike the 15-inch rMBP, which has battery cells adhered to the entire length of the chassis, the 13-inch model leaves space under the trackpad for the SSD. This is both a “clever” (as the iFixit engineers describe it) and practical choice that allows a user relatively easy access to the machine’s SSD and trackpad for repair and replacement purposes.

Of note, the space for the 13-inch rMBP’s custom form factor SSD is large enough to accommodate some 2.5-inch HDDs or SSDs, even though Apple does not offer that option in the machine’s configuration. As described by iFixit:

The empty space next to the SSD is very un-Apple. It’s not like them to leave big air gaps in their newest, sleekest designs. Our first thought was that a standard 2.5" laptop drive might fit in this space, and it almost looks like this little nook was designed with that in mind. Our 9.5mm Crucial SSD didn’t allow the bottom cover to be closed, but just by a smidge. We’ll see if a 7 mm or 5 mm super-slim hard drive could be incorporated into the space.

It should be noted that even if an ultra slim traditional form factor drive could fit in the space, there are no standard power and data connections available for such a drive to use. It’s an interesting characteristic of the new machine’s design, and a hint that Apple at some point during the development of the product may have considered using a traditional drive, but it’s not something that users should expect adapters for in the future.

Another difference from the 15-inch model is that two of the battery cells are positioned in a removable metal tray, and not glued to the case. This makes removing the battery easier, but the remaining four cells should still be removed with extreme caution by experienced technicians only.

As for similarities, the 13-inch rMBP uses the same form factor SSD as its 15-inch sibling, meaning that users who were interested in products like OWC’s Aura Pro SSD will be able to enjoy an upgrade path in the future. Unfortunately, for those who love RAM upgrades, the 13-inch model also features soldered RAM.

Apple’s direction in all of its products is clear: tighter integration with better performance at the cost of upgradability and repairability. For the few items that remain user-repairable or upgradeable, however, iFixit will have you covered.

[via MacRumors]

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Can’t a user with a soldering gun upgrade the RAM themselves if someone sold RAM that had the right connections to solder (rather than packaged to be seated into a slot)? 

I’ve only done a tiny amount of soldering when I was a college student (for fun, not for class word), but I wouldn’t be adverse to trying this. 

My usual mantra with buying Apple hardware is get the best you can afford except get the minimal RAM because Apple over-charges for RAM and then I go buy RAM upgrades online a year or so later to keep the machine feeling fast.  I’d love to be able to still do that.

Paul Goodwin

Unfortunately, soldering by even a semi-skilled solderer on those type devices on those type boards is virtually impossible. It’s unfortunate that in such a nice machine, there’s no possible RAM expansion, especially when that’s always the cheapest and most productive upgrade we do with aging computers. And when you consider that they ended up with extra space in it, it’s even more disappointing. At least they put 8 GB of RAM in it as standard and not 4.

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