This article originally ran with Wired.
I’ve been writing about Apple and the value of repair for the better part of the last decade. Repair is our mission at iFixit — and it always has been. Even so, I didn’t expect the scale of the public response when I argued last week that consumers should choose the hackable, fixable non-Retina MacBook Pro over its sleeker-and-shinier-but-locked-down sibling.
While its sibling with the Retina display may have stolen all the press, today’s MacBook Pro is nothing to scoff at. It’s way more repairable, upgradeable, and hackable than its sleeker, 0.24″-thinner, one pound-lighter sibling. This isn’t much of a surprise to anyone, and neither is the very respectable 7/10 repairability score (compared to 1/10 for the MacBook Pro with Retina Display). Internally the machine is pretty much the same as the last year’s model.
Yet one question still bugs us: could Apple make a super-sleek laptop like the MacBook Pro with Retina Display and still preserve the repairability of the machine?
The answer—and we hope you agree—is yes.
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“The MacBook Pro with Retina display isn’t just harder for you to fix; it’s harder for anyone to fix, including independent specialists you may be used to using. Sure, you can always pop into an Apple Store… unless you can’t. Some people live hours and hours away from their nearest store; some people live in countries where there are no official stores at all, just a handful of authorized service centers.”
Today we took a closer look at the component that makes the new model MacBook Pro so groundbreaking: the Retina display. Apple claims that the Retina display in the MacBook Pro is the most stunning display to ever grace the lid of a notebook computer.
Honestly, we agree. The Retina display is an engineering marvel. Its LCD is essentially the entire display assembly. Rather than sandwich an LCD panel between a back case and a piece of glass in front, Apple used the aluminum case itself as the frame for the LCD panel and used the LCD as the front glass. They’ve managed to pack five times as many pixels as the last model in a display that’s actually a fraction of a millimeter thinner. And since there’s no front glass, glare is much less of an issue.
But at what cost? The kind that’s green and has dead presidents on it. There’s no way to replace just the LCD, since the entire thing is the LCD; so, users with unfortunate accidents will have to replace the complete assembly. The intricacies of opening the display also mean that if anything else should fail inside, that same assembly will still have to be replaced, or the user will have to make do without the component.
This article originally ran with Wired.
This week, Apple delivered the highly anticipated MacBook Pro with Retina Display—and the tech world is buzzing. I took one apart yesterday because I run iFixit, a team responsible for high-resolution teardowns of new products and DIY repair guides. We disassemble and analyze new electronic gizmos so you don’t have to—kind of like an internet version of Consumer Reports.
The Retina MacBook is the least repairable laptop we’ve ever taken apart: unlike the previous model, the display is fused to the glass—meaning replacing the LCD requires buying an expensive display assembly. The RAM is now soldered to the logic board—making future memory upgrades impossible. And the battery is glued to the case—requiring customers to mail their laptop to Apple every so often for a $200 replacement. The design may well be comprised of “highly recyclable aluminum and glass”—but my friends in the electronics recycling industry tell me they have no way of recycling aluminum that has glass glued to it like Apple did with both this machine and the recent iPad. The design pattern has serious consequences not only for consumers and the environment, but also for the tech industry as a whole.
The new MacBook Pro with Retina Display is stunning. 0.71″ thick, super-fast processor, and 95 watt hours of battery life. It crams 5.1 million pixels—that’s one pixel for every resident of Singapore—into a 15.4″ screen.
But even though it packs lots of gee-whiz bells and whistles, we were thoroughly disappointed when we ventured inside. This is, to date, the least repairable laptop we’ve taken apart. Apple has packed all the things we hate into one beautiful little package.