iFixit Guts New MacBook Pro, Says it’s a Pain to Repair

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Apple's brand new Retina MacBook Pro, released on Tuesday, has already gone under the knife at iFixit. What they learned from the teardown is that the 2013 model looks a lot like the 2012 version, but is even more difficult to repair.

Apple packs the inside of the MacBook Pro tightApple packs the inside of the MacBook Pro tight

The new 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook were introduced during a special media event in San Francisco on Tuesday. Apple began selling the new models that day, and also released OS X Mavericks as a free upgrade.

The iFixit crew found Intel's Haswell Core i7 processor and Iris Pro graphics, along with Samsung branded PCIe SSD storage instead of the traditional mSATA-connected SSD inside the 15-inch model, all of which makes for better overall performance. As you would expect, the components are packed tightly inside the computers, and getting that much inside such a small case made for some creative engineering.

Parts that otherwise might have been screwed in place, like the headphone jack, are soldered to the main circuit board. Unless you're especially handy with a soldering iron, that means the standard repair process for many otherwise minor fixes will involve replacing the entire board. That's not new, but it does add to the expense of repairs.

The batteries are glued in well enough to make sure they don't move at all, which also means they're difficult to remove without puncturing. The display assembly is fused together so a crack in the outer layer will cost you a complete new display.

If you're hoping to get inside the new MacBook Pro models with off the shelf tools, think again because Apple's now familiar pentalobe screws hold the case together. Without the right screwdriver, you'll likely do more damage than good when trying to get inside your laptop.

Despite the poor repairability factor for the new MacBook Pro models -- iFixit it rated both with a 1 out of 10 -- the machines are still engineering marvels. They pack incredible computing power, high resolution displays, plus long battery life into cases that are less than .75-inches thick, and that means there has to be a trade off somewhere. Apple chose to sacrifice repairability.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is priced starting at US$1,999, and the 13-inch model starts at $1,299.

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The new Macs are beautiful on the outside and the inside. Just don't plan on fixing one yourself if something breaks.

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The only part I am worried about is the battery. I’ve had a series of PowerBooks/MacBooks going back prior to 2000 and the battery has been the only part I’ve regularly had to replace. Occasionally I’ve needed to replace (upgrade? wink ) hard drives, but pretty much every ‘book I’ve owned has needed at least one new battery. Three years of hard use is about it and when you keep a ‘book for 5 to 7, well…


I thought when the battery dies you just buy a new MacBook….


There is always a tradeoff between ease of repair vs reliability.  having less integration and more connectors makes it easier to repair/change things, but increases the number of potential fail points significantly.  Back when TV’s and Radios were powered by vacuum tubes it was easy (for someone who has at least a little knowledge) to locate a bad tube (single transistor) and replace it.  However, those devices were highly unreliable (especially when you considered how few tubes they contained).  Another prime example is using screws vs shims to set the valve clearances in an automobile engine.  Yes the screw adjustment makes it much easier to adjust the clearance, but with screw systems you had to check/adjust the valve clearance ever 30 to 60 thousand miles.  You almost never have to change clearance on an engine using precision shims.  Solder joints are far more reliable than connectors.  A single large chip is far more reliable than many chips soldered to a board.  Integration significantly reduces the probability of ever needing to repair a device, but it also drives up the cost to repair / modify the few units that need it.

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