Both the 13-inch (pictured above) and 15-inch MacBook Pros with Retina Display received scores of 1 out of 10 for repairability. That’s one point lower than last year’s 13-inch model, and the same dismal score as last year’s 15-inch version. Though most users will likely turn to Apple’s Genius Bar for help anyway, difficult repairs and replacements could be a problem for some enterprise users who might look to service and upgrade their own machines.
The new MacBooks don’t seem quite as tough to crack as Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 2, using proprietary pentalobe screws rather than a giant mess of glue to keep the frame together. With a special screwdriver, you can at least have a look at the MacBook Pro’s innards.
A tightly woven PC
But it’s all downhill from there as iFixit tried to remove internal components. The battery assembly is firmly glued to the case on both the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros, and it covers the cable for the trackpad. You can’t replace the trackpad without removing the battery, and prying the battery assembly apart risks shearing the trackpad cable.
iFixit also warns to stock up on RAM at the time of purchase, because the memory units are soldered to the motherboard. Users have “no chance” of upgrading the RAM on the 2013 MacBook Pro, iFixit says.
“(Even) the headphone jack is now soldered onto the logic board,” iFixit warns on the teardown of the 15-inch model. “Break yours (easily doable through normal wear and tear) and you’re looking at a thousand dollar repair.”
There’s a little more hope for replacing the storage in the future, because Apple has switched to a PCIe format for both MacBooks. However, it’s not a standard 2.5-inch drive, so replacements can’t happen until another company designs a compatible drive.
Repairs aside, the one other noteworthy finding from iFixit is the impact of Intel’s 4th-generation Core processors on the new MacBooks. The 13-inch model drops from two cooling fans to one, and the CPU and GPU are closer together on both models, allowing for a consolidated heat sink with a single thermal pad. The upgrade to Haswell, along with improvements in OS X Mavericks, allow for 9 hours of battery in the smaller MacBook Pro, and 8 hours in the larger one.
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Jared Newman covers personal technology from his remote Cincinnati outpost. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for help with ditching cable or satellite TV.