13" retina MacBook Pro gets the customary teardown treatment

It didn't take long for the guys over at iFixIt to get their hands on the new 13" retina MacBook Pro and give it their typical teardown treatment. While it's slightly more recyclable and repairable than it's 15" counterpart, it still only achieved a 2 out of 10 repairability score from the folks over at iFixIt.

The 15" retina MacBook Pro managed to stir up some controversy when EPEAT certified it gold by significantly lowering their standards. This time around, it appears that Apple is trying to make some changes with the 13" to make it more compliant. While it does come apart easier than the 15" model, it's still not very upgradeable according to iFixIt.

The 13" MacBook Retina is slightly more recyclable than the 15" Retina. Once inside, it took us only 15 minutes of prying to remove the battery, and we didn't puncture the battery cells. It was definitely a doable feat (compared to nearly impossible for the 15" Retina), but still a far cry from the no-adhesive, non-Retina MacBook Pros.The 13" Retina's design is a step in the right direction, but it's a very small step: the RAM is still not upgradeable, the exterior screws are still proprietary, and replacing the display will still cost an arm and a leg. Accordingly, it earned a 2/10 repairability score, a meager one point higher than its 15" sibling.

Basically, while the battery isn't held down with as much adhesive as the 15" retina MacBook Pro's battery, it's still quite a feat to remove it. On the up side, the trackpad is only held in with screws and should be replaceable while the 15" trackpad is next to impossible to replace considering it's buried underneath the almost impossible to remove battery. The 13" SSD may also be replaceable according to iFixIt.

Our first thought was that a standard 2.5" laptop drive might fit in the SSD space, and it almost looks like the little nook was designed with that in mind. Yet, our 9.5mm Crucial SSD didn't allow the bottom cover to be closed, but only by a smidge. We'll see if a 7 mm or 5 mm super-slim hard drive could be incorporated into the space.

While these are steps made in the right direction by Apple, it's still a computer that a lot of DIY'ers and those looking to be able to upgrade over time will most likely want to steer away from. A screen replacement will still cost an arm and a leg as well as many other repairs.

It will be interesting to see what the case is with the newly announced iMacs when those are released and torn down. Given the new, slimmer profile, it could make upgrades and recycling a lot harder. And in a desktop computer, upgradeability is a huge deal.

Source: iFixIt

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

  • I think for quite a few people upgradeability is not a deal breaker. I would venture to say (although I have only anecdotal evidence to back this up) that a a pretty large majority of users never upgrade their computers. The real problem comes in with the cost of off warranty repairs especially, as noted, replacing the retina display. From the sound of it though, it seems like even replacing the SSD could be a real issue if it can only be obtained from Apple.
  • For the type of people who buy the MacBook Pro Retina models repairability won't be a problem. Those people will usually opt for the AppleCare that I'm sure the people at Apple suggest they get. For anyone else Apple is still offering the non-retina models that you can upgrade and repair yourself. The thinness and power that these machines are striving for have to come at the loss of something. Repairability is just that.