New MacBook Pro Teardown Reveals A Few Unpleasant Surprises


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So, you're one of the lucky ones who has already managed to get their hands on Apple's shiny new retina display MacBook. What do you do now? Do you play around with the new retina display versions of iPhoto, Aperture, or Final Cut? Do you watch an HD movie? Do you sit around trying to hear the new super-quiet fan? Do you take it apart and see how it works?

If you're an average consumer, that last option is probably not one that's even going to occur to you. After all, who drops nearly $2200 on perhaps the most amazing laptop ever built, only to break it down into little bitty pieces? iFixit does, apparently. If you're not familiar with iFixit, it's like the Wikipedia of do-it-yourself repair manuals for all manner of technological goodies. Their user-edited repair manuals can help you fix all sorts of problems that might otherwise require you to send your gadget off for repair, or chuck it entirely. Their blog is a slightly different story. There the iFixit team regularly buys gadgets - like the new iPad - and takes them apart, posting pictures so the rest of us can watch in horrified fascination.

Unsurprisingly, the new MacBook Pro is not lucky enough to escape iFixit's vivisection chamber. Some of what they found may come as an unpleasant surprise. Every gadget that iFixit breaks down gets a reparability rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most easily-reparable. The new MacBook Pro scored a 1. Just as with the MacBook Air and their iOS devices, Apple has taken steps to make sure that you can't go mucking about inside their products.

Unfortunately, that makes it much harder to extend the computer's life. I have managed to squeeze a few extra years out of my last few notebooks (most recently a vintage 2008 13-inch MacBook) by doing simple things like upgrade the hard drive, increase the RAM, and buy a fresh battery. With the next generation MacBook Pro, that's not possible. The SSD is proprietary and difficult to access, the RAM is soldered onto the logic board, and the battery is glued - literally glued - to the aluminum frame. Check out some of iFixit's images for yourself below:

To start with, Apple has brought the same pentalobe screws they started putting on iOS devices a couple years ago to the MacBook Pro. The reason for this is simple: it's a little harder to find screwdrivers to fit these screws than your standard Philips or slotted variety. As such, these screws are Apple's first line of defense against the would-be tamperer/upgrader.

iFixit Tears Down New MacBook Pro

That, of course, was no obstacle to iFixit, whose implements of electronics torture include the compatible screwdriver in a number of sizes. Once the outer shell is removed, we see what the new MacBook Pro looks like on the inside (the series of flat blocks that takes up most of the space is the battery):

iFixit Tears Down New MacBook Pro

After a little work, they managed to extract the logic board. They've highlighted several internal components. The red box marks the RAM. As previously noted, the RAM is soldered to the logic board, which means there's no upgrading. If there's even the slightest chance you might ever want the full 16GB that Apple offers for the new MacBook Pro, go ahead and max it out when you order. Once you've got it, you're stuck with it.

iFixit Tears Down New MacBook Pro

You're also stuck - quite literally - with the battery. As noted above, Apple chose to glue the battery in place. Despite iFixit's best efforts to pry it free, it wouldn't come. On top of that, the cable for the trackpad runs beneath the battery, which means that if you try too hard to get the battery out, you might wind up cutting the cable for the trackpad.

iFixit Tears Down New MacBook Pro

And so, their gruesome task complete, they lay all the pieces of the new MacBook Pro out for one last photo:

iFixit Tears Down New MacBook Pro

For more photos and information, you can check out iFixit's post here.

Of course, after taking the thing apart, one major question remains: how many pieces were left over when they finished putting it together?