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The New MacBook Pro – Least Upgradable?

A couple weeks ago, an associate of mine posted a link to an article by iFixit guru Kyle Wiens. Now, this associate of mine and I love to get into the classic PC vs. Apple debate, and this time he seemingly had some great fodder. iFixit has recently declared the New MacBook Pro “the least repairable laptop ever”. Is this fair? Yes. To a point. Does it matter? Not as much as the geeks cry havoc that it is.

I do take issue with a number of things Kyle says. Although I love iFixit, and use their guides in my own repair business, this article was about as fair and balanced as a Fox News broadcast. Please read it here.

His first point about the display is valid. They have made it even harder to replace, but saying it’s impossible to replace this early in the game is simply silly. Apple has only provided the entire clamshell display assembly as a single part ever since the original MacBook Air and Unibody MacBooks. But specialists like myself know how to shuck it like a salty sea captain and make it yield its components. Even though the latest version has some new challenges, there is no doubt that parts will slowly come to market. After all, check out PowerBook Medic —you will in fact see sub components for these “unrepairable” displays

He then goes on to lament the fact that the RAM is soldered to the logic board, in a day and age where RAM is so inexpensive that the average user is gonna buy as much as they want at the time of purchase. RAM used to be a huge expense, so it was a great idea to have upgradability so a user could invest later on. This is no longer the case. Once again, RAM has been soldered in since the very first MacBook Air, so this isn’t a new issue.

What about the battery? It’s glued in? LYNCH THEM!! Manufacturers have been gluing batteries into their devices for years, shiv it, it’s out. But Apple has trapped it under tri-lobe screws! You mean the same ones that Nintendo and Sony have been using for years? The ones that you can get a driver for off the net for under $4? But $200 for a battery? Yes, Lithium is actually really expensive. And just like there will be cheaper display components, there will surely be cheaper battery replacement services.

Aluminum for recyclingHis final point about the new MacBook Pro being responsible for the death of the Polar bears is laughable. His friends in the electronics industry? Material recyclers have nothing to do with the electronics industry. This is like saying a car isn’t recyclable because the steel body has paint on it. Anyone that has watched more then an hour of Discovery knows that recycling is a multistage process where mixed materials are broken down into their components parts, then those are further refined by other companies. Perhaps that is where he got his statement. Yes indeed it’s highly unlikely an aluminum recycler can handle glass being fused to it, but that’s because they only deal with aluminum that has been prepared by a first stage recycler!

The rest of the article berates the general population for buying non upgradeable, unserviceable, all in one death clocks with slightly over the top phrases such as fused. It’s not fused at the molecular level. It’s taped with strong two-sided tape … hardly an impregnable material.

However, Apple is guilty of one thing for sure—using the word Pro. In the computer world, when we geeks hear Pro, we begin to drool. It means gobs of power, insane clock cycles, breathtaking specs in general, and also one very important thing, OPTIONS. Options to add RAM, storage, cards, etc. And that’s the great betrayal. Don’t label it Pro when we can’t even upgrade the RAM!

But, don’t bitch about Apple bringing about the apocalypse by instigating a new era of disposable computers, because that’s hardly the case. Computers are becoming less serviceable in general, and yes, at some point, they are going to become so small and compact (and as it turns out, they are already!), it will be necessary to consolidate components, shed bulky mechanical bits and trade serviceability for design. Yes, a large majority of computers, even laptops are easy to service, but they are also 5 centimetres (2”) thick and look like something Apple rejected 12 years ago. And you know what? Back in the day, the ENIAC was so serviceable you could WALK inside of it! In the 70’s and 80’s the cry must surely have been, “What do you mean I can’t go buy a component at Radio Shack and solder it myself? WHAT? You want me to replace the ENTIRE board because that one resistor failed? Are you kidding me? Bloody money grubbing bastards!”

Apple is not the only one protecting their devices with the dreaded tri-lobe screws, breakable clips, glued in batteries, impossible to replace LCDs, and I’m sure FUSED glass will be common with the coming Ultrabooks and their super thin displays. As the popularity of ultra mobile devices increases, the serviceability of these devices will decline. The future is rarely larger! It’s always thinner, lighter, faster!

And finally, his last few paragraphs, its call to arms, it’s “let’s hold hands and brace against the oppressors” is correct only in its very last sentence, we will only have ourselves to blame! Actually, we can blame ourselves for it all in the first place. Remember when computers actually lasted 10 years? My 2002 iMac only just packed it in 6 months ago! But damn did we spend a mint on those machines! Remember? Now we have the temerity to bitch about Apple charging $1000 for a laptop and then turn around a bitch again when it fails two years later? And then many of you complain that we can find computers for half that price. Why the hell do you think manufacturers are building throw away devices? Because we bloody told them we don’t wanna spend a dime more then we have to! You honestly think they can build a computer to the same quality for $300 that they did when they were $3,000? THAT’s why it lasted for 10 years, and that’s why they figure we are okay with a limited lifespan, because we are too damn cheap to spend money on quality!

And THAT is why I’m perfectly fine spending $1,500 on a glorious new, thin, powerful MacBook Pro… even though I can’t upgrade the RAM..:-)

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Ryszard (Rick) Gold, From Calgary, Alberta, Canada has over 20 years of experience working with Apple products in a technical capacity. Passionate about technology in general, his natural troubleshooting abilities, curiosity and appreciation of good design lead him into working exclusively with Apple Computer products.
Ryszard Gold
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