Surface Laptop 3 teardown: iFixit lifts lid on Microsoft's 'easy to repair' claim

Surface Laptop 3's score of 5 out of 10 on repairability is five more points than its predecessor got from iFixit.

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Unveiling the new Surface Laptop 3 this month, Microsoft talked up the new 'serviceability' of the design. The new clamshell touchscreen laptop features a keyboard cover that can be unfastened with a tool, allowing repairers to remove the whole cover to access components like storage. 

That tool happens to be a screwdriver for the Torx Plus screws that are hidden under the feet of the laptop. Once the screws are removed, repair company iFixit says in a new report, that cover can be easily lifted off. 

In tests in 2017, the repair experts couldn't open or repair Microsoft's previous model, the Surface Laptop 2, without causing serious damage, while the CPU, RAM, and onboard storage were not upgradable as they were soldered to the motherboard. It got a score of 0 out of 10.

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So, the 5 out of 10 score that iFixit has just awarded the new Surface Laptop 3 isn't great but it is a significant improvement. The cover is also connected by a single flex cable "with plenty of slack" and the connector is fastened with a magnet rather than clip-on brackets. The cover is also secured with magnets. 

That's the serviceability improvement Microsoft chief product officer Panos Panay showed off on stage when he easily whipped off the cover to reveal the Surface Laptop 3's internals

Microsoft's Panos Panay showed the Surface Laptop 3's improved serviceability. Source: Microsoft/YouTube  

Microsoft's spec sheet lists the M.2 SSD as "removable". However, in fine print it explains that it should only be removed by a skilled technician following Microsoft's instructions. Nonetheless, iFixit gave the SSD design top marks because it was "fully modular" and easy to access.  

The display was also relatively easy to remove but the flex cables are not modular, so if they're broken the whole display needs replacing. 

iFixit found the battery is a 45.8Wh cell in both the 15-inch and 13.5-inch models, which is slightly bigger than the Surface Laptop but a lot less than 83.6Wh battery in the 15-inch MacBook Pro.    

"Based on its superficial similarity to past Surface Laptop designs, we would have expected something completely non-serviceable. Instead, the third-generation Surface Laptop has swerved confidently into a better, more repairable direction," iFixit concluded. 

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"Microsoft pulled this off without making the laptop one iota thicker or clunkier, defying all the naysayers who claim repairable designs can't be sleek and attractive."

However, one of the main drawbacks in the new design is that the battery was glued in place. 

Repair company iFixit has awarded the Surface Laptop 3 a 5 out of 0 repairability rating. Source: iFixit/YouTube