iFixit teardown: Apple makes new iMac as hard as ever to repair

iFixit teardown: Apple makes new iMac as hard as ever to repair

Summary: You'll need a heat gun to separate the LCD from the glass panel, and you'll need to dig deep in order to get to the replaceable components.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Apple, PCs
147
apple-imac-ifixt-teardown

Apple has extolled its new iMac for being slimmer and more stylish than ever. But if you like to tinker with your system's innards, or your iMac ever needs repairing, there's a definite downside to a more attractive Apple all-in-one desktop.

According to iFixit, the leading teardown artist of Apple products, the latest iMacs have nothing on the new Mac Mini models when it comes to being easy to repair. In the site's dismantling of a base configuration, the iMac was given a measly 3 out of 10 on the iFixit Repairability Score scale. In comparison, the Mac Mini earned an 8 out of 10.

By its very nature, an all-in-one is going to be a tougher nut to crack than a traditional tower desktop, given its space-saving mission. But the 2012 edition of the iMac takes it to a new level with its slimming innovations. Most notable is how Apple has fused the glass front panel and the LCD together (instead of attaching them with magnets), forcing iFixit to use not only a heat gun to remove the adhesive, but also low-tech guitar picks to pry the two pieces apart. The result is that the original tape is ruined, requiring replacement adhesive to reseal the machine.

It also appears that if you buy a lower-price model without the Fusion drive Apple is hyping, you won't be able to add another drive to the iMac without soldering on missing connectors to the logic board. Speaking of that board,  you'll need to remove it in order to access the parts of the iMac you can swap, such as the RAM, hard drive, and CPU.

Even if you don't plan on buying a new iMac, the iFixit teardown is interesting reading just to see how Apple makes certain design decisions. For instance, it decided to move to a 2.5-inch laptop-size hard drive this time out instead of a traditional 3.5-inch desktop hard drive, and it is sheathed in rubber housing in order to minimize its vibrations (since it's packed in closer than ever to other parts). Apple has also chosen to go with just a single fan, which iFixit says helps to reduce the system's footprint, and now includes two internal microphones to help reduce background noise for FaceTime chats.  

Time and again, Apple has told consumers in so many words that a tradeoff for the elegant design of its products is they are often exceedingly difficult to repair. While that angers some critics, it hasn't really stopped droves of people from purchasing those products, poor teardown scores or not.

Topics: Apple, PCs

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

147 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I don't get it.

    I don't know why anyone would buy several of these new models... $600 to max out the RAM when the cost of 3rd party ram is a fraction of that.
    slickjim
    • TRUE

      They're legal conartists
      reefshop
    • iMacs need repair?

      I bought an iMac 5 years ago to serve as a TV and media center in my living room. It has worked flawlessly for 5 years, no repairs or upgrades needed (I always buy max config so I don't have to bother upgrading). The machined cost about $3.800 (in Europe) - it was practically free. The new iMac I will soon order will cost $4.500 and it's stil free. I will pair my iMac with B&O A9 AirPlay speaker which is also practically free.

      I really can't understand why you yankees always whine about price. Are you poor or something?
      erann
      • Free?

        If 4000 bucks if free for you, can you lend me like 20.000? Yeah, I am poor, and worst yet, I live in Brazil, so we are a little bit poorer than americans.
        erick.mendes
        • Practically free!

          OK, Brazil is different, but I believe that most of the price whiners are from USA, the world's richest nation. I don't get it.

          I don't think my current iMac as a cost of $3.800, I think it is $1,8/day. People easily waste $1,8 every single day without blaming themselves. Or vice versa - with little bit of thinking/austerity people could easily save $1,8 every single day.
          erann
          • You missed his point...

            it's about the principle. SlickJim was stating (i believe) that the memory module put in the system only cost a fraction of that price. What is it, Apple is charging you a service charge to add more memory in the system as it's being built to save the headache and trouble of busting it apart yourself? For $600 to max it out, one could buy several mem modules to max out the system and have a few spare left. That's his point. People like you (erann) who have the money to throw away can do that and throw it away like its water but then again, you also could be BS'in and just saying that to get reaction out of people. Either way I can care less but just wanted to clarify what I thought slickjim meant. I wont ever purchase a overpriced apple product but currently have this new junk in front of me now supplied to me by my employer. So yeah, mine is Practically Free also. LOL!

            For u to say America is the worlds richest nation, yeah in debit maybe but with china owning 2/3's of America & other nations debit, I'd say China is the richest nation regardless of their dollar/yuan value. Thats a different subject for another time.
            Free Webapps
          • Because the price is exhorbitant!

            First of all, if you're just using your machine as a media center, it doesn't require $4000 machine. The Cheapest 2007 Core 2 processor (e4300) and any video card can handle that.

            I'm building a PC for a family member, and 32GB of ram was $100. That's what I paid. I could buy a Mac. I just can't justify paying more money for packaging that can't be fixed or upgraded.
            notsofast
      • Your Mac comment

        Actually let's not get into the Cival War nobody knows it like me. Use a mere thumb pick to pop it apart a thumbpick for those that dawdle is what you use on a stringed instrument like a guitat and if you can't figure out how to take apart this machine, then don't.
        Rich Barnes
  • the mantra

    Apple is not made for gadget/tech people. its made for the point and click crowd, who have trouble changing their flat tire, choosing the right color to paint their toenails and need mommy to do their laundry at age 35. apple is in it for the money, they are doing the same thing the car manufacturers did years ago, make the product un-fixable unless done a a trained mechanic facility at $150 per hour rate. simply elegant design for simpletons to buy
    Nancy Smith
    • Get a life

      No @Nancy Smith - Apple products are made for people who actually have a life and don't spend all day hunkered down in their parents basement!
      jamboy34
      • Nope

        Nancy Smith is correct. Apple products are solely for people who are nothing but point and click and don't mind paying super high prices for sub par products. They are correctly named Isheep.
        Geckotan
        • Back it up

          I'm not a fanboy of MS or Apple. I have both systems and like them equally. If you don't like Apple products for any reason, that's fine, but to make a broad statement that Apple products are sub-par when most of the tech world knows better is pretty silly and just illustrates your jealousy. Unless, of course, you can provide proof of the inferiority with some concrete examples.
          Jafu Bumbalini
          • Hard facts and cold cash

            I just went to the Apple store. The least expensive iMac is 1299.00. It has a 21.5 inch screen, 2.7GHz quad core i5, 8Gb of memory, 1TB of hard drive.

            I am using a PC that cost 1200.00 including shipping and has a 22 inch screen, 2.8 GHZ quad core i7, 12 Gb or memory, 1.5 TB of hard drive. Less money more hardware.

            Also while I don't often crack the case or adjust in the OS, if I need to add a hard drive or upgrade memory it's going to take about 10 minutes from the time I open the case til I close it.

            Apple makes a good machine. If you want to spend more money for less hardware, it's your money. Who am I to tell you how to spend it? When you need a repair or upgrade you will spend more money than I will at the repair shop. By the way I do all my own repairs, have the parts shipped to my door, so I don't have to spend time and money going somewhere to drop the machine off.

            I have worked with Macs before. They break down and give the same kind of problems a PC does. They come out of the box inoperable sometimes. They freeze up and require reboots. I really don't see any advantage. Modern PC's and Mac's are equal in the area of performance from my experience. But, it's like buying a car. There are different brands for different tastes. If you have a Mac enjoy it.
            cuulblu
          • Things that are often overlooked...

            There are meny things that we often overlook when comparing PCs and Macs.
            What is the brand and quality of:
            The fan(s)
            The heatsink(s)
            The motherboard
            The hard drives
            The RAM
            The Video Card (and how much memory does it have and what brand and quality is it's memory?
            How much do you have to spend on security software for each?
            How much do you have to spend on other software for each?
            Does the PC have a built-in webcam?
            Do they both come with comprable keyboards and mice or are you going to have to upgrade them on either system?

            I am not saying that one or the other is right for everyone, I am just saying that we need to make sure that all components are equal for price comparison.

            I also wouldn't pay that much for a Mac, I would go to MacMall or one of the other resellers that offer deals first.
            cmwade1977
          • The same!!

            The fan(s) - different only to accommodate Apple's tight packaging.
            The heatsink(s) - same
            The motherboard - variation of the same, probably made by the same factory with different layout.
            The hard drives - same, and they fail (Samsung anyone) like anybody else's
            The RAM - same, do you think anyone builds special RAM for Apple?
            The Video Card (and how much memory does it have and what brand and quality is it's memory? - same, in fact Apple only uses a subset of what's available for PC's. Same memory, again nobody makes Apple's memory from special gold and diamond dust.
            How much do you have to spend on security software for each? - same, Microsoft Security Essentials is free and Mac's are not invulnerable.
            How much do you have to spend on other software for each? - Office - same, Photoshop/Illustrator/Lightroom/Premiere - same, developer tools for associated mobile devices (Visual Studio Express vs. XCode) - same (free), Autocad - same. Mac may come with a few more things installed out of the box but there are many sources of Windows software and lots of them are free.
            Does the PC have a built-in webcam? Laptops - yes. All-in-ones (nearest equiv to iMac) - yes. Where's the Mac-mini webcam?
            Do they both come with comprable keyboards and mice or are you going to have to upgrade them on either system? Have you actually used that piece of garbage iMac keyboard? Couldn't Apple have sprung for a numeric keyboard by default on their wireless model. At least PC's offer a wide choice of qualityand function. And many included keyboards and mice work just fine.

            I am not saying that one or the other is right for everyone, I am just saying that we need to make sure that all components are equal for price comparison.

            At which point the Mac would disappear into last place. Take away the cost of the aluminium body (aesthetic value only) and compare the cost of what's under the hood and Mac's are still vastly overpriced. Even with the nice aluminium body they're expensive.

            I also wouldn't pay that much for a Mac, I would go to MacMall or one of the other resellers that offer deals first.

            And get 10% off your vastly overpriced showpiece.
            joneda1
          • Home RUN joneda1

            I'd call those facts and some form of proof.
            Free Webapps
          • cuulblu

            go back to your Geek Squad job where reality is not reality...
            TimeForAChangeToBetter
          • "More hardware"

            I bet your "more hardware" is in a $hitty plastic case and you're stucking running $hitty Windows or Linux.
            RationalGuy
          • Well put cuulblu

            different strokes for different folks. LOL!
            Free Webapps
        • Product quality and support

          If you want a non-biased evaluation, check Consumer Reports for both reliability and quality of tech support over the years.

          I've owned Apple products every since the Apple II. Yes, I used to always upgrade RAM and disc drives--but don't much anymore. I did recently upgrade the RAM in a 24" iMac (2007 model) and a 27". I got the RAM at a low price, read the instructions, and did it in about 5 min. I did use a screwdriver. Sad that the new iMacs are harder to access, but it may have been dictated by the thin design, which I love. Aesthetics count for me.

          As for service, I happen to live not far from an Apple store. When a none-greek friend of mine has serious problems with a 15" MPB, we visited the store. The manager replaced it with a newer model and transferred all the files--free. The older machine was out of warranty!
          mikezII