Apple's new retina MacBook has many users lusting after it because of its small size, reduced weight, new keyboard and Force Touch technology. But don't expect to repair or upgrade it yourself. Apple has gone out of its way to make it difficult or damn near impossible for users to fix or upgrade the 2015 MacBook without help from the company's technicians.
Here's the iFixit teardown summary for the retina MacBook:
The MacBook 2015 Repairability Score: 1 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair)
Proprietary pentalobe screws continue to make opening the device unnecessarily difficult, and new cable routing makes the procedure even trickier.
The USB-C port is secured by tri-wing screws, and buried under the display brackets, complicating replacement. Also, being the only port, it will experience more use and wear than a typical single-purpose port.
The battery assembly is entirely, and very solidly, glued into the lower case.
The Retina display is still a fused unit with no separate, protective glass. If the display needs replacing, it'll cost a pretty penny.
The processor, RAM, and flash memory are soldered to the logic board.
How many of Apple customers want to do their own repairs?
While Apple's decision to make it difficult for users to repair the new MacBook themselves might seem to be off-putting on the surface, I'm forced to wonder how many people will actually care about it. Most people seem to buy Apple's products for ease of use but also for the customer service (including repairs) that goes along with it.
So is the repairability factor really going to matter to most Apple customers? Somehow I doubt it, particularly in the case of the 2015 MacBook. The appeal of the new MacBook is not at all about users fixing it themselves. It's all about the size, weight and new technologies found in it.
But don't take my word for it, check out some of these comments in a discussion over on the Apple subreddit:
Woolio: ”I have never upgraded my MacBooks. I just buy a new one every four or five years.
My parents have never upgraded their MacBooks. Nor have my aunts and uncles. Nobody I know at my university has either.
There is a very, very large percentage of people who don't upgrade their MacBooks. It's significantly larger than the percentage of people that do.
A sealed, unfixable device makes perfect sense when most of your customers will never fix it. If you value repairability, buying a device engineered from the ground up to be as small and light and thin as possible probably isn't the best route.”
Flashing_lights: ”Apple likely knows the rough percentage of users who upgrade - I'd estimate it's below 1%. That 1% is a lot more likely to complain on Internet forums.”
DarkwingDuc: ”I'm OK with products like the MacBook Airs and new Macbook being non-upgradeable, though. It's a reasonable compromise to get that compact and light. I'm not so happy about the new iMacs and Mac Minis being non upgradeable. There's no excuse there, other than cost-cutting or planned obsolescence.“
Mathen: ”What you gain in portability you lose in... well, everything else.”
Eired: ”Did people even gain in portability? Where's the economies of scale for this? I mean there are other laptops out there that are perfectly portable, and allow for upgrades, or at least better specs and more ports, and all of that.“
As you can tell from the comments I included above, there is a split in perceptions of the new MacBook by some users on the Apple subreddit. Most users don't care about upgrading or repairing the new retina MacBook at all, but a vocal minority seems to be quite annoyed at Apple.
I’m inclined to at least partly agree with user Mathen that MacBook users gained a lot in portability, but at the cost of being able to upgrade or fix their MacBooks themselves. While this might annoy a small percentage of possible purchasers of the new MacBook, I doubt it will affect overall sales in any significant way.
Repairability is not Apple's priority with the retina MacBook
Let’s face it, folks. Apple is never going to stop pushing the development envelope with their laptops and other devices. If fixing or upgrading a computer yourself is important to you, then it’s probably best if you skip Apple’s offerings altogether and opt for another vendor.
And I say that to you as someone who is typing this blog post on a 13-inch MacBook Pro. I knew when I bought it that if it needed service I’d be taking it to an Apple store to be fixed. Upgrading it myself was also not something that I worried about when I bought it since I made sure it had enough RAM and storage space right out of the box for the next five years or so.
I'm not in the market for a new laptop, and I won't be for some time. But if I were, I would not have any reservations about buying the new 2015 MacBook. I think it's a great laptop, and it's almost perfect for anyone who needs the utmost in portability. But it's not the perfect mobile computing solution for all users.
If you're someone who is going to buy the retina MacBook, you'd best plan ahead and buy what you really need for the next five years. And if there's a problem, you'll most likely be taking a trip to the Apple store to get it fixed.
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