Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New MacBook Pro makes DIY upgrades and repairs tough

A teardown of the new MacBook Pro reveals that it is difficult to repair or upgrade.
The new MacBook Pro is one absolutely amazing laptop. It's sleek, fast, and has an impressive Retina display.

But such a tight design meant locking out tinkerers and third-party repair people. Non-Apple personnel will find the laptop difficult to repair or upgrade.

The people at iFixit, who collaborate to draft repair manuals for all sorts of gadgets, emphasized this particular downside when they tore apart one of the new MacBook Pro laptops.

"This is, to date, the least repairable laptop we've taken apart," wrote iFixit's Kyle Wiens.

The device uses proprietary screws (which mean that you'll need a special screwdriver just to open the bottom cover), the RAM is soldered to the logic board, and there is no traditional hard-drive enclosure, just an array of proprietary flash storage.

What's more, the battery is glued — rather than screwed — into the case, and the display assembly is completely fused.

Good luck upgrading the new MacBook Pro laptop's proprietary SSD.
This means that anyone attempting to take apart their laptop may well damage it, and even Apple is recommending that new MacBook Pro buyers plan ahead when it comes to internal storage, as upgrading it is not currently an option. (You will be able to update RAM on the new model, according to an Apple Store specialist we spoke to.)

Let's not even think too much about what'll happen if the display needs repair. You'd have to "replace the entire (extremely expensive) assembly," writes Wiens.

Why is all of this such a big deal?

"Laptops are expensive," Wiens begins to explain. "It's critical that consumers have the option to repair things that go wrong, as well as upgrade their own hardware to keep it relevant as new technologies roll out. On top of being glued together, the new MacBook Pro is virtually non-upgradeable — making it the first MacBook Pro that will be unable to adapt to future advances in memory and storage technology."

No doubt Apple Stores will adapt to the needs of customers, but this is certainly yet another example of Apple hardware design requirements coming before the interests of do-it-yourselfers.


  1. Fact is DIY'ers are a tiny niche market. For most people this is will be a non-issue. Watch the new Macbook Pro Retina fly off the shelves while competitors scramble to clone it.

    If Apple's competitors follow Apple's footsteps (and they always do), I suspect their ultra thin portables will have similar issues.

  2. Believe me, the DIY'ers are a larger market than you think. There are plenty of people that simply want to add more ram, upgrade the size of the HD or replace a bad one. It's really easy to do these days, well on anything but a Mac. The only thing the new Macbook offers is a nice screen, which no one was looking for.

  3. I personally would like to be able to upgrade my computers with aftermarket components. Apple's build-to order upgrades ARE absurdly expensive. But I understand that reduced internal access is a tradeoff for achieving industry-leading miniaturization in a notebook enclosure.

    If people are put off by the lack of serviceability or feel the retina display is unnecessary, this product will fail to take off. I however, think that despite its compromises, Apple has a winner. It will sell well, and it will be copied.

    I have watched Apple's increasing success year after year as they repeatedly defy the wishes of DIYers and techno geeks. Complain and hate all you want. Apple does what it needs to in order to please the masses. It beats being "beleaguered".

  4. This will sell like hot cakes to people unaware it is virtually unrepairable.

  5. Heh heh. They better buy Applecare on top of the exorbitant price! Yay, more money for Apple from stupid people.

  6. The Retina Macbook Pro is not unrepairable by Apple -- only by DIY-ers.

    AppleCare is pricy for sure, but boy do you ever get first class service when you need it. Free telephone and in store support for three years (covering hardware, software and Apple-branded peripherals) In some cases, I've heard of people receiving entirely brand new replacement machines (sometimes even an upgraded model when the original was no longer available)

  7. I heard Final Cut Pro X is coming out and I was thinking of swigging to Mac. I am wondering whether to buy an Imac repairs or a 15' MacBook pro. What are the differences in terms of speed of editing? I can't stand when the playback lags or it is slow, so I'm wondering if I will be happy with a MacBook pro. How much faster is the iMac? What is the life compared to a leading pc in terms of speed and performance? Any information is greatly appreciated!

  8. I'm a technician for an IT company that happens to be an authorized Mac dealer and repair shop, so I have a lot of Mac experience.

    I've seen more DOA (dead on arrival) Macs than any other single computer come through the store.

    The typical Mac user is usually an adult child. I took pictures of a particular MBP covered in anti-capitalist and anarchist stickers, which was the single most ironic thing I've ever seen.

    I personally love when Apple rebrands a technology that's existed for years as a marketable "feature". Take air-drop for example; it's nothing more than an ad-hoc, but iDiots talk like it's something only their Mac can do. Not to mention Face-time; last week I heard a woman say "I can't have anything other than a Mac, I can't live without Face-Time". When I showed her Skype, she about pooped herself... When I told her it was free, she doubly pooped herself.