Apple’s latest MacBook Pro has scored a lowly 2 out of 10 for repairability from iFixit. The repair experts took the knife to the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, and the results weren’t exactly pretty.
In particular, iFixit noted that the device’s solid-state drive and memory were both soldered in place, while the battery was fixed using glue. The soldered SSD seems to be a new development, although it may not change much — Apple has long used proprietary SSDs anyway, so this latest change just makes them even less replaceable than they already were.
Also, Apple uses its own pentalobe screws to hold the MacBook Pro’s case together. You’ll need a specialist screwdriver to unscrew them, which further affected iFixit’s final verdict.
On the plus side, iFixit praised the simplicity with which the speakers can be replaced, stating that “Replacement almost couldn’t be easier.” As well as that, the Thunderbolt ports are easily replaceable, as is the module containing the headphone jack, microphone, and Touch ID sensor. Finally, the large trackpad can be straightforwardly removed without disturbing the device’s battery.
Those positives couldn’t save Apple from that pitiful score, though. Still, that’s actually a better score than any of Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops have received from iFixit since 2016’s non-Touch Bar 13-inch MacBook Pro.
But even that’s not enough to top the dubious honor awarded to Microsoft’s Surface Laptop in 2017, which got a rock-bottom zero out of 10 for repairability. The iFixit experts called it a “glue-filled monstrosity,” adding that “There is nothing about it that is upgradable or long-lasting, and it literally can’t be opened without destroying it.”
Apple has long soldered and glued its components in place in order to make its devices ever thinner and lighter. iFixit’s founder Kyle Wiens brought this up in Wired in 2012:
“When Apple dropped the MacBook Air to $999 in 2010 to match the price point of the MacBook, they gave users a clear choice: The thin, light, and un-upgradeable MacBook Air or the heavier, longer-lasting, more rugged, and more powerful MacBook…
“Apple has presented the market with a choice. They have two professional laptops: One that is serviceable and upgradeable, and one that is not. Consumers overwhelmingly voted [for the latter], and the Air grew to take 40% of Apple’s notebook sales by the end of 2010.”
In the quest for ever thinner and lighter devices, space is at a true premium. Connectors and internal ports take up precious space — soldering components in place avoids that conundrum. It’s not Apple being deliberately anti-consumer (you could even argue it’s being pro-consumer, seeing as people clearly keep buying thin and light devices no matter how un-upgradeable they are), it’s Apple pushing on toward lightness no matter what.
The upshot of that is that devices are less repairable. And while the tech world may get in a spin about that, the fact is the public has voted with their wallets.
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