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.