Compared to the fanfare that surrounds a new iPhone or iPad, iMac updates are pretty low key. And the other day Apple did just that, refreshing both the 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMac.
The new iMacs were quickly ushered from an Apple store into iFixit's teardown labs for analysis so we could see what makes these new Macs tick.
Along with faster processors, better graphics, PCIe flash storage, and an upgrade to the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, the iFixit team noticed something rather disturbing with relation to the 21-5-inch iMac – that the CPU has been soldered onto the logic board, making it impossible to repair or replace.
According to iFixit, this is "a silent, but clear, shift" by Apple towards "even poorer iMac upgradeability."
While I agree that it's a shift towards making devices harder to repair, I do wonder how many people will be affected by this. The PC repair and upgrading market has always been small, and the number of people upgrading Apple products being an even smaller subset still. I'm certain that over 99 percent of new 21.5-inch iMac owners will never know and never care about whether the CPU is replaceable.
Back in 2010 Apple released a MacBook Air which features RAM chips which were soldered to the logic board.
That said, I find it a worrying trend that makes PCs more like post-PC devices such as tablets and smartphones, where upgradability and repairability – and in the end, the lifespan – of a device is being artificially cut short. Whether this is a deliberate move to make devices obsolescent before their time, or a decision driven by design we don't know, but it's clear that Apple doesn't factor repairability into the design of new products.
iFixit gave the new 21-5-inch iMac a repairability score of 2 out of 10, where 10 is the easiest to repair. Not only is the CPU soldered to the logic board, but getting into the iMac is tricky, and once there, most of the replaceable components are buried behind the logic board, forcing you to take the system to bits.