Buying a new MacBook Pro 13-inch with retina display -- Don't bank on upgrading it!

Buying a new MacBook Pro 13-inch with retina display -- Don't bank on upgrading it!

Summary: While you can reasonably expect to be able to upgrade the RAM and storage in most notebooks, the design of Apple's MacBook Pro 13-inch with retina display makes even these basic upgrades impossible.

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware
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Earlier this week, Apple unveiled a new MacBook Pro 13-inch complete with retina display. If you're planning on buying one of these then you'd better load up your purchase up with all the RAM and storage you'll need, because it's not the sort of machine that makes upgrading easy.

Why? An iFixit teardown shows us why.

First, you have to get past the proprietary pentalobe screws holding the device together. Good luck defeating these unless you have the right tool.

Get past these and you can access the SSD, which is tucked underneath the trackpad assembly. Seems nice and accessible, but a 9.5mm thick 2.5-inch laptop drive won't fit the space. A 7mm or 5mm super-slim drive might fit, but even these will require special -- and as yet, non-existent -- cabling to hook them to the MacBook.

If you then carry on and pull the battery pack out of the new MacBook Pro 13-inch with retina display -- do it carefully, because that sucker is glued in and can be punctured -- you will eventually make your way to the logic board. On the logic board is the RAM, but unlike most notebooks, this RAM is soldered to the logic board.

Bottom line is that however much RAM your MacBook Pro 13-inch with retina display had leaving the assembly line is all it will ever have.

The iFixit team gave the MacBook Pro 13-inch with retina display a repairability score of 2 out of 10 (where 10 is the easiest to repair). This basically means that while it works, you are OK, but when it breaks, your MacBook Pro is going to need professional -- and expensive -- TLC.

Image source: iFixit.

Topics: Apple, Hardware

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15 comments
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  • Poor Apple fanbois lose a huge talking point

    "Sure Apple RAM is crazy expensive but I just buy it with the minimum amount of RAM and then buy far more reasonably priced RAM elsewhere."

    Oops.
    toddbottom3
    • poorfags

      Some people have disposable income. Others buy mac-clones. Enjoy your HP Envy.
      Kristin Johanssen
      • re

        Some people have brains. Others buy macs. Enjoy your wasted money.
        Jonny Smyth
    • Your strawman is calling

      he says you didn't stuff him properly he still looks too fake.

      The huge talking points of Apple fans has been quality of build and the computer being more than just a chipset. But thanks for playing.
      baggins_z
    • Upgrading a computer

      Ive only upgraded ram in a computer once and it was a mac (a Power Mac 6500, in 1998 i think). Ever since, ive been using PCs and pretty much dump them in a landfill/donate them to a school after a couple of years and simply buy a new one, as it's better than trying to upgrade/replace/fix any of the components.

      After many years of doing this (and foolishly thinking i was saving myself money) Ill be very happy to have a new iMac at christmas.
      Tangodine
  • whats new?

    not really any different than the macbook Air, or the 15" retina... you report it all like its some type of news. It would be news if the SSD was standard, or the RAM wasn't soldered.
    doh123
  • Hardly surprising.

    The 15" MacBook Pro Retina was the same way, anyone expecting a smaller case to be more accessible just hasn't been paying attention. As for least repairable/upgradable, meh. The vast majority of all computer users never upgrade a thing inside their computers, and I'm sure the it's even higher amongst Mac owners. Apple knows their market, and with 25 straight quarters of Mac sales growth the larger doesn't seem to mind too much either.
    matthew_maurice
  • Not possible to upgrade

    Everyone knows that Apple products are perfect when they leave the factory, so the entire concept of "upgrading" them is just silly
    john-whorfin
  • Apple didn't become the highest profit margin company

    by making their products easily upgradable. Would you expect anything less from apple? They want you buying an overpriced mac book every year or two years.
    SteveWojo
    • It isn't the 'highest profit margin company'...

      by a long shot.

      Upgradable:

      http://www.apple.com/macpro/design.html

      http://www.apple.com/mac-mini/features.html#memory
      msalzberg
  • Never upgraded a PC...

    because by the time I wanted to upgrade, the memory, video, disks and such had changed so much that it wasn't worth the effort. Even if I wanted to replace the motherboard, you need a new case with a bigger power supply, and the parts are more expensive then an off-the-shelf HP with all the bells and whistles. No reason to think anyone will upgrade a Mac either. The upgrade things is like the salesman selling a 5 year extended warranty on top of the 5 years the car company gives for free, since he knows full well most people move out of region every 5 years or so, so they never use it.
    Tony Burzio
  • Steve Jobs would not have accepted this

    Every Mac I've owned, I've upgraded. I got the ram locally and the CPU from OWC. If I have to order the highest ram Mac product because I can't upgrade after buying it. The unit better be cheaper than it's priced now. With Apple stopping support of it's older machines sooner, it means that you are forced to get a new unit or software will cease to function. Add the fact that the government will catch up with illegal downloading in the future, you end up with a monopoly and big brother. It was fun being able to cobble together a faster computer, find a movie that wasn't shown in local theatres, being able to brag about what you put together but now we will all have to be in lockstep if we want a phone or be able to surf the net. Maybe we will have to leave our desks and play outside again
    jamesweld@...
    • I am disappointed

      I have been a hardcore mac fan for the past 6-7 years. I currently own the last 17" macbook pro that apple came out with. The price is going up for macs and I too have upgraded my own. I have an originally $2500 macbook pro that I maxed out the ram to 16gb for $70 and setup a fusion drive for about $110. The new models only come in 15" as the largest size and force you to buy a retina display for a lot more if you even want the option to put 16gb of ram in and even more if you want plenty of storage space. I plan on keeping my macbook pro for a long time and after it craps out I dont know what ill do for my next computer. I miss steve....
      Kevin Boyles
  • Apple computers are either "throw away" or "last forever"

    The only part that can conceivably wear out is the battery with repeated deep charge and discharge cycles. Notwithstanding that, the computer will conceivably last "forever", as there is nothing else really to wear out. The SSD storage may have cells that wear down over time, but that is a calculated very long time and even long when you consider it would be over-provisioned with spare cells. The excellent durable build of the current generation of MacBooks ensures that it will be a lasting value to most end-users but obviously doesn't satisfy the uber-geeks who like to tinker with everything. I personally own a mid-2008 unibody MacBook that is still running strong 4 years later with no sign of ever going obsolete on me.
    anthonymaw
  • Last forever - until one day....

    The irony is that it's a catch-22 - the high quality machines just keep on working, so they do seem to last forever Almost. Eventually there is smoke, or they start to be severely limiting only when higher demands are placed on the them due to newer software and the higher resolution media... And at that point the end users complain they need more, and by then it is definitely not economical to start poking around inside. But the leap they then are required to make is much larger to the newest OS and hardware. Assuming, they've managed to contain the smoke!
    broozm@...