Glued Guts Make New Macbooks a Bear to Fix
The new MacBook Pro with Retina Display has Apple fans swooning, but iFixit isn't impressed. The company says Apple has built the computers in such a way that many parts that frequently end up needing repairs or service are barely accessible even to trained technicians. Even changing the battery could be an especially difficult procedure.
Jun 13, 2012 3:44 PM PT
If you've tuned in to Apple's WWDC announcements and have been turned on by the company's newly announced MacBook Pro with Retina Display, drop out and pick another MacBook instead, advises Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit.
"Right now, we're telling consumers to buy a mid-range MacBook Pro, which is repairable, and not the Retina MacBook Pro," Wiens told MacNewsWorld.
That's because the Retina MacBook Pro is just about unrepairable, iFixit concluded after tearing down the device.
"I think Apple's decided they're making appliances, and they see [the Retina MacBook Pro] as something they're making that's glued together, and you buy it and use it and, if it breaks, you replace it," Wiens suggested. "Their plan might be to have you replace it every year or so."
Response to iFixit's review, posted on Wednesday, brought the site down for several hours. "We tripled the number of servers we had running to deal with the traffic," Wiens said.
A Pain in the Retina
iFixit found that the computer's Retina Display is fixed to the bezel with Apple's proprietary pentalobe screws, unlike earlier models in the MacBook Pro family. The Retina display LCD is located in the display assembly, which also includes the iSight camera and WiFi and Bluetooth antennae. The display assembly is completely fused and is not protected by glass. iFixit surmised that if there are any problems with the display, users will have to replace it completely.
What's more Retina MacBook Pro's battery is glued into the computer. This increases the chances that it'll break during disassembly, iFixit said. Further, it covers the trackpad cable, which increases the chance that removing the battery will shear that cable.
In fact, the Retina MacBook Pro's battery has been glued into the case so strongly that it couldn't be freed, according to the company. "Normally, we're happy to unglue things, but this was different," iFixit's Wiens said. "We were pretty intimidated by the amount of glue we found on the battery."
Apple is using proprietary flash memory in the device. While Apple has used proprietary flash memory in other devices also, this is the first time it's employed the technology in the MacBook Pro family, iFixit said.
Other problems are that the RAM is soldered to the logic board, as it is in the MacBook Air, and can't be upgraded; and the proprietary solid state drive (SSD) isn't currently upgradeable. It's similar, but not identical to, the SSD in the MacBook Air.
Let Them Eat Cake
Fixing or repairing a broken Retina MacBook Pro may cost more than users expect.
"The screen is most of the value of it, and if Apple has to replace a broken screen, I'd imagine they're going to charge upwards of (US)$1,000 to do the repair," iFixit's Wiens remarked.
"Historically with the MacBook Pro, I use one for five to six years," Wiens continued. "I've swopped out the hard drive, and it's cost-effective to replace the display. This [Retina MacBook Pro] is a whole new ball game."
Don't Worry, Be Happy
On the other hand, "the one thing we've seen with Apple products is, people don't hold onto them until the battery dies," Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, told MacNewsWorld. "And remember the operating system, the applications, the memory and the storage -- some or all of them are likely to be obsolete before the battery fails anyway. Even if the battery dies, "you can still plug the computer into the wall."
Further, Apple fans tend to purchase a new device whether or not their current one is working. "People standing in line to buy Apple products are people who already have one," McGregor suggested. "[Apple's] loyalist customer base isn't waiting for these things to be obsolete before they buy a new one."
iFixit "will write more stories on the situation and will post them as soon as our servers are up," the company's Wiens said.
Apple did not respond to our request for comment on this story.