This week, Apple delivered the highly anticipated MacBook Pro with Retina Display — and the tech world is buzzing. I took one apart yesterday because I run iFixit, a team responsible for high-resolution teardowns of new products and DIY repair guides. We disassemble and analyze new electronic gizmos so you don’t have to — kind of like an internet version of Consumer Reports.
The Retina MacBook is the least repairable laptop we’ve ever taken apart: Unlike the previous model, the display is fused to the glass, which means replacing the LCD requires buying an expensive display assembly. The RAM is now soldered to the logic board — making future memory upgrades impossible. And the battery is glued to the case, requiring customers to mail their laptop to Apple every so often for a $200 replacement. The design may well be comprised of “highly recyclable aluminum and glass” — but my friends in the electronics recycling industry tell me they have no way of recycling aluminum that has glass glued to it like Apple did with both this machine and the recent iPad.
The design pattern has serious consequences not only for consumers and the environment, but also for the tech industry as a whole.
Four years ago, Apple performed a market experiment. They released the super thin, but non-upgradeable, MacBook Air in addition to their two existing, easily upgradeable notebooks: the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. Apple’s laptops had evolved over two decades of experience into impressively robust, rugged, and long-lasting computers. Apple learned a lot from the failings of the past: the exploding batteries of the PowerBook 5300, the flaky hinges of the PowerBook G4 Titanium, the difficult-to-access hard drive in the iBook.