iFixit: Retina Macbook is Apple's least repairable laptop everBy Rick Burgess 28 comments
Endowed with a display as impressive as it is pricey, the new "Retina" Macbook sports a number of definite improvements which Apple fans have eagerly awaited. However, as iFix it co-founder and CEO Kyle Wiens points out, there's one rather unsavory feature which could pose a unique challenge to industry professionals: the Retina MacBook is insanely hard to service.
Mr. Wiens describes the Macbook as "the least repairable laptop we've ever taken apart" and that definitely means something coming iFixit's co-founder, an organization that is definitely no stranger to disassembling Apple devices.
Wiens' discoveries during the teardown read like a list of abysmal horrors meant to strike fear in the hearts of terrorized service professionals: the non-upgradeable memory is soldered to the system board, the display panel is fused to the glass forming a singularly expensive display assembly while even the battery finds itself thoroughly glued to the case – a $200 operation to replace, according to Apple.
As someone who has serviced his share of Apple products over the past decade, I feel reasonably qualified to state that Apple isn't exactly known for their service-friendly designs. Powerbooks and iBooks are particularly good examples of Apple's "form over serviceability" mantra, a dreaded philosophy which has admittedly improved over the years sans the Macbook Air and anything that runs iOS. This though, the Retina Macbook, is a quantum leap backward in terms of serviceable innards.
Wiens theorizes we may have the Air to thank for the Retina Macbook's reprehensible interior. Since the iBook was left to deservedly rot in 2006, the Air was really Apple's first deviation from a streak of reasonably repairable laptops – the Macbook and Macbook Pro.
He reckons that the Air represented a social experiment whereby Apple publicly tested the idea of an expensive computer with zero user serviceability and pretty much no upgrade options (i.e. internal battery, soldered RAM and CPU). Consumers voted with their dollars though and Apple warmed up to the idea of rolling out a similarly non-upgradable, barely-serviceable Macbook in order to satisfy Apple's reimagined ideals of what thin and light ought to be.
Because of the new design, what may have been a simple $20 fix to replace a faulty RAM module ends up becoming a $1500 repair job. Well, about 13 months from now, anyway. If you're a Retina Macbook owner, that extended AppleCare warranty should be looking pretty good about now.