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Teardown: New 13-inch, 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro highly unrepairable

updated 07:21 am EDT, Fri October 25, 2013

Larger MacBook Pro less repairable than 2012 model

The latest versions of the MacBook Pro notebooks with Retina displays are both very difficult to repair, according to a new teardown by repair outfit iFixit. Though the internal design of the 15-inch model has received a few updates compared to last year's model, the 13-inch version is said to have a completely reworked interior.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is claimed to be slightly harder to fix when compared to the 2012 model of the same notebook, revealed at the time by the team to be the "least repairable laptop." Using a PCIe-based Samsung SSD instead of an mSATA drive, as well as a "sleekified heat sink" with one single thermal pad, which iFixit attributes to "Haswellification" and a more closely integrated GPU. A new Broadcom-based AirPort card for 5GHz Wi-Fi connections, a Bluetooth 4.0 processor, and two Skyworks dual-band WLAN front-end modules are also included.

The logic board is where things worsen for the MacBook Pro. Onboard, it has a Haswell Core i7 processor, Intel Iris Pro Graphics, SDRAM chips from Elpida, Intel's Thunderbolt 2 controller, and Cirrus providing audio. The headphone jack is now soldered onto the logic board itself, making it harder to replace without careful soldering work or replacing the entire logic board.

Turning to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, it features the same AirPort card, a PCIe SSD from SanDisk, similar heatsink consolidation, and a relatively similar list of components on the logic board. The fused display assembly with no protective glass, the heavily-glued lithium-polymer battery covering the trackpad's screws, and soldered RAM all count against it, along with Apple's use of proprietary pentalobe screws.

The 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina each receive a score of one out of ten for repairability, where ten out of ten is for a highly-repairable device.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. efithian

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-21-04

    Who cares? I still want one. Let Apple fix it under Applecare.

  1. Grendelmon

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Originally Posted by efithianView Post

    Who cares? I still want one. Let Apple fix it under Applecare.



    Who cares? Small businesses and techies. Who's gonna fix it when Applecare runs out? You gonna shell over more than half-the-cost-to-replace-it to Apple in order to repair a bad board?

    They're making ALL of their products disposable appliances now. The Mac Pro was the last to go.

    Why fix it when you can just purchase a new unit? $$$

  1. Inkling

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 07-25-06

    I've been considering getting a MacBook Pro next year instead of the MacBook Air for the greater upgradability. Given this dismal repair score, one out of ten, that seems unlikely. Soldered in RAM changes that to not possible at all.

    Why pay more just to get a laptop that sticks users with the same RAM they buy it with? If Apple had sane RAM prices, that might be excusable, but they don't. I'd have to pay slightly more to upgrade one of the new MacBook Pros from 4 to 8 gig than I paid for an entire 12 gig for my Mac mini earlier this year. That's roughly a 300% difference. I'm not that into being robbed.

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    "I'm not that into being robbed."

    It's not robbery when you willingly hand over the money. That word makes for some nice sensationalism, but is misleading.

  1. msuper69

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 01-16-00

    Things will have changed so much in 3 years that it's time for a new Mac anyways.

  1. azrich

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-19-10

    I agree with the 'sane RAM prices' comment.
    That aint right. Even is Mavericks make 4GB seem like 6GB.... It does feel like Mavericks handles RAM better than ML. That's no excuse for RAM price gouging.

  1. James Katt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-02-08

    When Applecare coverage runs out, Apple will still repair your MacBook Pro.

  1. James Katt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-02-08

    When the MacBook Pro one day becomes a single slab of metal, iFixit will throw an even bigger fit.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    It is in iFixit's own interests to bemoan "repairability," but as always they fail to mention that the latest Macs are *in less need of repair* than previous models during their typical useful lifespan (let's call that five years for argument's sake).

    Lemons and actual manufacturing issues are typically covered during the free year of AppleCare; if you want extra protection, buy the extended AppleCare and you're fully covered for 3/5ths of the machine's working life. If a manufacturing defect hasn't show up during that period, chances are remote that it will in the remaining two years.

    I'm not crazy about every aspect of the trend of "sealing" the machines (I think RAM should always be upgradable, for example), but it's only fair to note that Apple's reliability stats just keep going up, justifying the decision to make more of these machines "unrepairable."

    Also, just a PS for people new to life and capitalism generally: when an identified need comes along, the market generally has a way of responding.

  1. Roehlstation

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-23-01

    I don't understand their definition of Highly unrepairable.

  1. macmediausa

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-23-05

    Apple will still repair you Macbook BUT at what cost??? I had a 15" MBP Retina that had the battery fail. When bringing to an Apple store they said there was "evidence" of liquid damage. They showed (and emailed photos to me). First of all, there was no liquid damage (at least anything that was spilled onto the computer that I know of). The photos showed white dust on the main board. They quoted me $1600 to get it repaired and of course I balked at that as I could almost buy a new one. They said they would only change out the battery if they changed out the logic board. They would not sell me a battery either.

    I ended up bringing the MBPR home and found a new battery on Ebay. It took a while to figure out how to get the battery unglued from the cover but a hair dryer on the palm area made it easier. Now my computer is running fine and I did not get gouged by apple. It was totally unnecessary to change the logic board.

    In the time since then (late last year), there are many other reports of people experiencing the same treatment from Apple for similar issues. Yes, they would repair it but at an insane cost. The only thing that I can get from this experience is they want to completely control YOUR device. They want to control the profit stream and they don't want people to work on their computers. Of course there are people like myself who have the capability to fix things that should be very simple but it shouldn't be like this. What harm is it to have a customer work on his computer unless that company has a financial incentive to prevent that from happening?

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