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Teardown: Retina MacBook Pro is 'least repairable laptop"

updated 10:59 am EDT, Wed June 13, 2012

Firm tears down 2012 MacBooks

Repair outfit iFixit has conducted teardowns of two of Apple's new MacBook models -- including, notably, the Retina version of the MacBook Pro, which it complains is the "least repairable laptop" it has ever taken apart. The system uses special pentalobe screws for instance, which like the iPhone 4, 4S, and MacBook Air, require a screwdriver most people won't have. The RAM is soldered to the logic board, as in the Air, preventing people from either upgrading or replacing memory.

The computer's SSD normally can't be upgraded either, although iFixit says it does hope to offer an upgrade for the part, which exists as a separate daughtercard. A more serious concern is the notebook's battery, since it is glued into the case rather than screwed, making it more prone to breaking during disassembly. The battery moreover covers the trackpad cable, which could potentially lead people to accidentally disable the trackpad during a repair.

The display assembly is "completely fused," according to iFixit, without any glass protecting it. The company warns that if anything goes wrong with the display, the entire assembly will need to be replaced at a very high pricetag. The notebook as a whole is described as "virtually non-upgradeable -- making it the first MacBook Pro that will be unable to adapt to future advances in memory and storage technology." iFixit is however enthusiastic about some other aspects of the computer's design, such as its new ports, asymmetrical fan, and a Samsung SSD.

With the new MacBook Air, Apple has reportedly switched the flash controller to a Toshiba-marked design based on a SandForce SATA III controller chip. People should, therefore, be able to upgrade the SSD once third-party parts hit the market.

Other changes in the Air are minimal, although Apple is said to have made some minor adjustments to keep power consumption stable despite faster processors, such as moving from 1.5V SDRAM to 1.35V memory from Hynix. The system is also given a 4/10 repairability score, which may be poor, but is still better than the MacBook Pro's 1/10.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969



    For those who like to fool around with such things, these "complaints" will not be a problem. To the rest be warned "you shouldn't be messing in the first place."
    Most "fixit" problems are caused by the clueless.

  1. aristotles

    Joined: Dec 1969


    iFixit are not unbiased.

    They are in the business of selling kits for upgrades.

  1. msuper69

    Joined: Dec 1969


    A solution looking for a problem..

    The vast majority of people who will buy the MacBook Pro with Retina Display aren't the least interested in fooling around inside their Mac in the first place.

  1. Arty50

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Non-upgradeable memory?

    That's just elfin' stupid. Really poor form Apple.

  1. UmarOMC

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The last time I had a Mac with soldered memory it was the 4MB in my Performa 630CD... but at least it came with a SIMM expansion slot which allowed me to max it out with a 32MB SIMM chip! Woohoo!

    Apple's usually had a different approach with desktop (PowerMac/MacPro) designs since they're geared for those whom want to add things in, unlike the iMac/MacBook series, although the latter would usually allow for at least RAM upgrades.

  1. prl99

    Joined: Dec 1969


    give iFixit a chance

    @aristotles, If you really knew anything about iFixit, you'd understand that their goal is to reduce the amount of discarded computers and other things to reduce the amount of toxic waste going into our landfills. Yes, they sell some tools but they also sell replacement parts and have great repair manuals. Their website includes repair manuals for all kinds of things, including lots of manuals/guides submitted by people not associated with iFixit.

    As for the new MBP not having any replacement parts, that's Apple's call to construct something that works, that shouldn't fall apart, and also shouldn't need to have anything replaced. The memory issue is tough but go ahead and buy 16GB if you feel it's needed. I am hoping fusing the display to the top cover protects it more than using a separate display. I saw Apple's video showing them twist the MBP and was wondering if it had the display in it. If so, that's not something I'd want to try with my current MBP.

  1. SierraDragon

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Non-retina June 2012 MBPs Unacceptable.

    It used to be one could just buy adequate slots for the life cycle then add RAM as prices fell. Now we need to buy all the RAM up front but

    a) we do not know what 2013+ RAM demands will be, just that RAM needs are now quickly growing;

    b) buying max RAM today means we lose the option to buy cheaper when we actually need it and

    c) Apple always way overcharges on RAM pricing.

    Retina display may be enough reason to waste $100+ on prematurely maxxing out Apple RAM but the other new MBPs are UNACCEPTABLE VALUE.

  1. prl99

    Joined: Dec 1969


    memory not necessarily overpriced

    check out OWC,, $90 for an 8GB DIMM. You can't buy a 16GB SO-DIMM. OWC only sells 16GB SDRAM for Mac Pro and these are $240. Yes, Apple charges $200 to upgrade to 16GB but you can't always use the difference between sizes when figuring out what the higher capacity memory should cost. Apple soldered the memory to the motherboard so 16GB would fit.

    The other thing to verify is how much memory the Core i7 can actually address and at what speed. What Apple is putting in might be all this CPU and memory architecture can handle. Everyone always wants more memory but unless you leave all your applications running at the same time, there are few applications that can actually make use of a 16GB computer. I'm running 8GB and I've never run out of memory although I'd like to have more CPUs with memory when running VMWare.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: iFixit are not unbiased.

    They are in the business of selling kits for upgrades.

    And neither are MacNN posters. But who ever said they were.

    iFixit is posting information because they are in the business of FIXING computers and devices, and supplying others who do the same. Thus it matters to these folks how much it costs to replace a screen or pop a processor or whether or not you can replace RAM and how you do it.

    The problem is that people (especially here) keep thinking all they want to do is tell you how cheap some mac computer's pieces are and blast apple for gouging customers. (Thus the requisite "But that doesn't count the R&D and blah blah blah" responses that these articles usually elicit).

    What they are doing is telling Bob's computer shop how much it's going to cost, or how easy it will be, to replace a component of some Mac (or other computer or device) when it comes into the shop.

    Now, and this is key, and I know this will be hard for many of you to understand, but not everyone lives near an Apple store, or an apple specialist, to get their work done. Or they might not go there because the work won't be covered (i.e. you drop your mac and the screen shatters). This is where the independent businesses come into play, and who iFixit is informing.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Give me a break

    It is 200 bucks extra.

    Yes, the phrase of the mac-elite. "If you have to ask, you can't afford it. Apple knows what's right! Go buy a PC!

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