iFixit gives latest Apple MacBook Pro laptops lowest repairability score after teardown

iFixit gives latest Apple MacBook Pro laptops lowest repairability score after teardown

Summary: In a surprise to no one, Apple continues to make its notebooks difficult to fix and upgrade.


The website iFixit has made a cottage industry out of tearing apart the latest electronics and determining just how easy they are to put back together, whether to simulate repairing a device or upgrading it with new components. Anyone who's owned a recent Apple product knows how difficult it is to repair it when it's broke, and iFixit's teardown confirm this again and again (though not in every case).

So it should come as no surprise that the MacBook Pro laptops have not fared well in past iFixit teardowns. It probably also won't shock you that the latest models, 13-inch and 15-inch notebooks with Retina displays, fare even worse. On the site's 1-to-10 scale of ease of repairability, the new Mac Book Pro models receive a 1, meaning they are as difficult to fix as anything iFixit has gotten its hands on.

That's thanks to Apple's usual combination of proprietary parts and its decision to solder or glue components directly to the chassis or logic board. For example, the MacBook Pro's battery is now glued into the case, making it much, much harder for iFixit to extract. Worse, the trackpad cable is covered by the battery, which means it could be damaged if you attempt to remove the battery. The laptop's RAM is soldered to the motherboard, so it's not user-replaceable -- whatever memory comes with the system when you purchase it, that's what you're stuck with.

Apple has changed its solid-state drive technology, using new SSDs that are PCIe-based and offer up to 1TB of storage. However, iFixit points out that the drives are still not a standard 2.5-inch format, making swapping them out an unlikely option. The tinkerers were able to remove some cables easily, at least, such as the speaker wires and the MagSafe 2 cable.

Fanboys will be quick to point out that many Apple customers have no interest in ever opening up their Mac laptops, so the ability for a non-Apple "Genius" to repair or upgrade them is mostly a moot point. Detractors will point out that the inability for all but the hardiest (and handiest) computer geeks to get inside the new MacBook Pro machines has left people more dependent on Apple to repair their ailing systems.

You can read iFixit's full teardown analysis on the 13-inch MacBook Pro here and the 15-inch version here. Does the difficulty to repair and upgrade the new MacBook Pros make you less interested in buying one? Let us know in the Talkback section below. 

[Image: iFixit]

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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  • Who cares!

    If you buy a device that is not user serviceable/upgradeable then who cares about a serviceability rating. The one caveat of course is to make sure you carry insurance to cover the number of years that you expect to use the device, if you are concerned about repair cost.
    • People care because

      It takes away freedom. It makes everything closed and controlled. Exactly the reason I don't like the whole "App" surge... You can see this with Apple and recently MS as well... Take control away from the user. Cloudservices, always online and connected services, controlled apps.. limit functionality, expandibility, custimization... in the end it leads to products for the masses that threat those masses as dumb consumers. It's worse when you see so many people fall for it and buy into that threatment... The threatment where those companies keep telling you, "hey, your to dumb to manage your own settings, to dumb to replace your parts, to dumb to manage your own working environment or upgrade your device.."

      No, I'll stick with my PC where I can upgrade my components whenever I want to. Stick with the desktop version of Windows where I can install what the heck I want, where I want... I mean, can you even access the filesystem on a Ios device that is not jailbroken ? I own a Iphone 4S and never figured out how to get to my own files... The device thinks I am to dumb to manage my own files and directories...
      • Re: The device thinks I am to dumb

        No device "thinks". If someone thinks this, that is you.

        What you describe as freedom is called choice. You can always chose to do everything yourself, or let someone else do it for you. Your choice, and there are consequences both ways.
        • Question

          My question is then... why do so many people willingly give up freedom for convienience ? What's wrong about being able to upgrade your system, custimize your OS, access and manage your own file managment to do things your way... I really don't get so many people pay a premium price just to get shafted on all of that in favour of "this is our way or the highway"...

          I notice this dumbing down in a lot of areas... for example, there is a trend where more and more people seem to be forgetting what resolution (and choice) are for... they are like "Oh, if my game supports 1080p that's awesome".... but NO... 1080p is just 1920x1080... My minitor nativly supports higher resolutions than that... so 1080p is crap for me... but they consider it the "ultimate"... I even encountered some games that only supported 1080p and nothing beyond... This is a worrying trend.. and it's just because companies think... "ok customers don't know the difference between 1024x768 and 1600x1200.. so indead of giving them choice, we will dumb it down into a what we think "one size fits all" and label it "1080p". No more choice..

          720p, 1080p is fine for video, console games on TV or youtube... it's NOT fine for PC gaming.

          In the past (80's, 90's) knowing pc stuff was reserved for the hobbyist... during the 00's I noticed more and more people started getting more savy and were able to service their own pc's and do a format c, repartition and reinstall a OS... nowadays it's reversing again and I blame companies like Apple who sacrifice functionality for convenience... it makes sure people don't have to "learn" anything... and in the process make them dumber... ofc Apple (and other companies) don't care... just give the people bread and games and keep them stupid... worked for Ceasar, still works today...
          • I think your answer lies here

            h t t p://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p20-569.pdf

            Look at the first graph. What happened during the late nineties through 2008-ish? The internet and home PC's went from curiosity to household necessity. Yes, there was a "discovery phase" where users were eager and entertained by figuring out how these things worked. That is past. PC's are now home appliances, people expect to turn them on and have them work 100% of the time with no effort on their part, like their TV.
          • Re: why do so many people

            Thing is, every market passes trough several stages. The "PC market" has already passed the "early adopters" and the "uptake" stages and is already at maturity. While technologies do change, the basic concept of what an PC is and what it is used for have more or less "stabilized".
            Therefore, the PC has been turned into an appliance.

            Now, Apple was one of the few companies who saw this coming and the only so far to actively work in that direction. With appliances, you simply "use" the appliance, not thinker with it. Just as you don't want to service yourself your refrigerator, or your car -- there is no reason to insist on servicing your personal computer.

            It also has to do with the increasing complexity and tuning of these things. Here the car comparison is very appropriate: you can thinker and service an "old car" with very little electronics and simple schematics.. but you can hardly be successful in servicing any modern car, because you lack the skills, the documentation, the tools and the risk of your "fixes" resulting in serious malfunction and even someone's death is very high.

            With time, more and more manufacturers will figure out what Apple did years ago and you will see more and more personal computers becoming appliances.

            As always, if you have the knowledge and the inclination, you can do it all yourself. That is not going to change.
          • re:re: why do so many people...

            QUOTE: As always, if you have the knowledge and the inclination, you can do it all yourself. That is not going to change.

            And therein lies the problem. Even a user with knowledge can no longer do it themselves. ifixit more or less said so with a rep rating of 1. One has to throw it out and buy a new one whether one is capable or not.
    • Techies care

      But that's about it. Regular Joe, not so much. As general consumers goods people expect to buy these, use then for years with minimal fuss, then replace when done. Like the TV, the refrigerator and their cell phones. High user serviceability is a throwback to the old "hobby days" where computers actually needed lots and/or frequent add-ons and upgrades just to be useful like sound cards and such.
    • Yeah screw the environment!

      And screw the consumer too!

      Now I get that you are not interested in repairing your own computer any more than you are intested in repairing your own car but what this means is that NOBODY can repair your computer. We're very nearly at the point where only the apple store can repair these things, and they can only do that by replacing one of two parts: the top half or the bottom half. They won't even do that for any machines over 3 years old. You can imagine how much that costs and you can imagine the quantity of toxic electronic waste this generates.

      Up until recently the shop on the corner could repair most computer problems for under £100 (I know because I am a full time PC repair guy) which keeps the cost of insurance fairly reasonable. How much do you think your insurance premiums will be once the only fixes available cost half the price of the whole machine?

      All this stuff about a computer being obsolete in 3 years anyway is horsecrap too. A well built laptop can be useful for a decade, even taking into account moore's law (which is now failing BTW). Again this is stuff I know because I use a ten year old thinkpad every day which probably boots faster than your Mac as I was able to replace it's hard drive with an SSD and upgrade the memory in it.

      I can see why all this is happening but identifying the market forces at play does not excuse any of you from your moral obligation not to poison our planet even faster than we are already doing. And then there's the issues of freedom and cost. If people buy into this deliberate planned obsolecence crap (and they seem to be doing in droves) you WILL end up paying more money year on year for your computing and you will lose any shred of choice you once had.

      My opinion is that the wholesale use of glue and other things that make machines harder to repair is despicable. Manufacturers should be making domestic goods that can be repaired and upgraded again and again but economic realities prevent them from even considering this. This is wrong. This is clearly a market failure and the only solution is LAW. Governments whole raison d'etre is to solve collective action problems and market failures as the free market CANNOT do it so they ought to make it financially painful for these companies to produce this unsustainable, deliberately short lived crap.

      How about this for a start... Apple have to give anyone who brings them an unrepairable Macbook $250. Think that memory would still be soldered in after the next product refesh?
  • I have an i7 MacBook Pro

    I have upgraded the memory and then replaced the hard drive several times. Until now, I was not aware that the memory was soldered to the logic board in the new Retina MBPs. That won't change my purchase decision though as I already decided that this will probably be my last MBP.

    I need FireWire for several devices that I use. I can get an adapter, for extra costs, that uses a Thunderbolt port. Most importantly, I need a LAN connection that doesn't require a Thunderbolt port or USB port. Apple seems hellbent upon limiting connectivity to their products. That leaves me out of their market...
  • Technology, who cares..

    Apple products are designed for users that don't care about technology. They only care about it's ease of use. So what, the battery is glued.. Apple products are usually designed with obsolescence in mind i.e. not expected to last more than 2-3 years, so Apple can sell you the new version. Some of the Apple users would happily run their 7.1 sound systems in mono mode all the time as they probably couldn't tell the difference unless Apple told them!
    • Oh cry us a river full of lies.

      Arm A. Geddon
  • non-retina MacBook Pro. the most accessible....

    With a non-retina MacBook Pro. you can upgrade the RAM upgrade the Hard Drive and Replace the battery. Its all user accessible and Apple are moving away from this. Oh and I forgot to mention the built in Super Drive.

    A 2012 non-retina MacBook Pro. with a 512GB Crucial M4 SSD and 8GB Crucial RAM still represents being the Ultimate Laptop.
    • Better hope you have the anti-glare 1680x1050 option...

      Otherwise it's the ultimate laptop with the worst display.

      Even then, the 1680x1050 was only available on the 15 inch MBP or the 1920x1200 on the 17 inch. Both of which are ginormous pizza boxes no one enjoys carrying around.

      My 13 Retina is the best laptop I've ever owned and with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, it does everything I need it to do. More than anything, though, after having come from a MacBook Air, the still entirely acceptable portability makes it the number one Mac (or Windows machine, short of a Thinkpad X1 Carbon non-touch) out there. Heavy video or photo editors can choose the 15 inch Retina if they so desire.
      • Re: Otherwise it's the ultimate laptop with the worst display....

        Referring to the non-retina MacBook Pro. as the Ultimate Laptop is just my opinion perhaps I did not make that clear in my initial statement which by the way was the standard 2012 13" Model.

        I am not going to enter into the retina/non-retina debate but it is my opinion the retina display is too clinical. Additionally the non-retina screen is better for watching High Definition movies as the colors are warmer making for a more pleasurable viewing experience.

        So to quote the non-retina MacBook Pro. as having the worst display is grossly inaccurate.

        Most Windows Laptop displays don't even come close to the high quality of the non-retina MacBook Pro.
    • oh and lets not forget

      the glorious 17 inch screen. So it's not retina but it is 1920 x 1200 which is enough for all but the most demanding stuff. And you can add an external display. I have bought my last iMac desktop (the wonderful 2011 iMac i7 3.4 for $900 s/h, to which I added crucial SSD and 32GB RAM) and my last mac laptop (the ginormous 2011 i7, unfortunately pre thunderbolt) which came with an after market 512GB SSD and 8GB RAM, again second hand for $1500.
      Thanks for a great decade, Apple. Your $499 mac mini converted me, but my ride ends with the screws: No more screw in components, no more Apple.
  • You can swap the hard drives...

    ...I upgraded my Retina MBP from a 128 to a 512. The key is to just wait until used ones come up for sale on ebay (they will have to be PCIe of course) or Other World Computing starts shipping their own version. This is a minor issue.
  • Not A Helpful Suggestion - But

    Repairability may be becoming a quaint notion, is same manner as dialing the vinyl record store to ask the proprietor if there was a new Beatles recording available for the gramphone.

    Not to knock any one who wants it, and they'll get repairability if they want to pay the price.

    But, perhaps iFixit needs to recalibrate its scale, or not bother: Apple and the DIY Modders both understand neither are interested in the other.
    • "they'll get repairability if they want to pay the price.."

      The “price” being mainly larger size, greater weight, lower reliability and so on.

      If the SSD and RAM were user replaceable, with standard cables and sockets, it would increase the volume and weight while decreasing reliability. (Cables can shake free, especially in laptops.) Similarly with user-replacable batteries and logic boards.

      Ain’t it a shame we’re using these damned microprocessors? These days a blown NAND gate means you have to throw away the whole CPU. Now, in my day, when a NAND gate blew, you’d open up the logic cabinet, pop in a new 7400-series chip and repair the thing...
      • Da Wut?

        If the SSD and RAM were user replaceable, with standard cables and sockets, it would increase the volume and weight while decreasing reliability. (Cables can shake free, especially in laptops.) Similarly with user-replacable batteries and logic boards.

        Are you an apple employee or something?

        This is the way computer have been made for literally decades. I have rarely had a computer fail due to the connections. In every case, it's been a component failure. I ran a computer lab at university with 50 machines on 24/7. Hard drives failed, memory (very very rarely) failed, motherboards failed. But connections? Nope.
        Batteries in loaned laptops failed. displays failed... connections? Nope.
        Each and every device we bought was upgraded at least once before being given away to Oxfam towards the end of their primary life. Had this not been a university, perhaps they would have run for another 4 or 5 years.