Retina MacBook Pro 'least-repairable' notebook ever, says iFixit

Because of glue, and impossibility of upgrading RAM and storage, DIY repair company gives new notebook worst-possible fix-it score

iFixit, a popular electronics do-it-yourself website, today gave the new MacBook Pro with the Retina display its worst-possible repair score of just 1 out of a possible 10.

"This is, to date, the least-repairable laptop we've taken apart," said Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, in an email today. "Apple has packed all the things we hate into one beautiful little package."

Apple on Monday introduced the new MacBook Pro, whose distinguishing feature is the high-resolution display that the company labeled "Retina" -- its marketing name for the pixel-packed screens also found in its iPhone and iPad lines.

The MacBook Pro was the first Apple laptop to feature the Retina display.

Although the notebook is in extremely short supply, iFixit managed to grab one, then disassembled the system to determine whether it could be repaired or upgraded by owners.

"Laptops are expensive. It's critical that consumers have the option to repair things that go wrong, as well as upgrade their own hardware to keep it relevant as new technologies roll out," said Wiens.

But that's not feasible here.

"The new MacBook Pro is virtually non-upgradeable -- making it the first MacBook Pro that will be unable to adapt to future advances in memory and storage technology," said Wiens.

The teardown revealed that Apple used many of the same assembly techniques as it does with the self-contained and virtually un-upgradeable MacBook Air, including proprietary screws, copious amounts of glue, expensive parts -- the screen in particular -- that must be completely replaced even after the smallest failure, and fused components that will likely break when a neighboring part must be removed.

As Wiens noted, the new MacBook Pro really can't be upgraded after purchase.

As in the MacBook Air, the laptop's memory is soldered to the logic board, eliminating any later RAM upgrade. Customers must order the Pro with the exact amount of memory they desire, and pay Apple's high prices.

Although the MacBook Pro with Retina display comes equipped with 8GB of RAM standard, boosting that to 16GB at the time of purchase adds another $200 to the already=steep $2,199 sticker price of the base model.

At, a popular source for notebook memory upgrades, 8GB of additional RAM for a 15-in. MacBook Pro that doesn't feature the Retina display costs just $87.

Nor can the solid-state drive (SSD) be swapped out for something larger, at least not currently.

"The proprietary SSD isn't upgradeable either, yet, as it is similar but not identical to the one in the [MacBook] Air," said Wiens.

MacBook Pro internal
With the case out of the way, the new Retina MacBook Pro's innards are exposed. But what's still hidden are the traits that make this notebook virtually un-upgradeable. (Image: iFixIt.)

That means that current third-party replacements for the SSD in the MacBook Air won't work in the Pro. User will have to wait until suppliers offer Pro-compatible SSD alternatives.

The just-refreshed 13-in. MacBook Air scored a "3" out of a possible 10. iFixit attributed the higher score of the Air to its use of screws, rather than glue, to fix the battery in place.

By comparison, last year's MacBook Pro -- iFixit hasn't taken apart the non-Retina model Apple announced Monday -- rated a "7" on the repair meter.

iFixit's teardown and associated commentary is available on its website.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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