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Surface Line Remains Synonymous with Sucky Serviceability

Surface Line Remains Synonymous with Sucky Serviceability

We started our teardown week with a surprisingly upgradable iMac and ended it with a couple o’ unrepairable Surfaces. We want to like them, but they’re like a bad Tinder match—they lie about their true identity (not actually laptops), they look great on the outside but are trouble under the Surface (adhesives), and no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to fix or change them (unrepairable and non-upgradable).

First things first. The Surface Laptop is not a laptop. It’s a glue-filled monstrosity. There is nothing about it that is upgradable or long-lasting, and it literally can’t be opened without destroying it. (Show us the procedure, Microsoft, we’d love to be wrong.) As for the Surface Pro 5, it’s nearly identical to its predecessor—aside from ditching the last remaining upgradable component, the modular SSD.

So yeah, Microsoft impressed us—by being so much worse than we expected.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Teardown Highlights:

  • If we could give it a -1 out of 10, we would. It’s a Russian nesting doll from hell with everything hidden under adhesive and plastic spot welds. It is physically impossible to nondestructively open this device.
  • At first glance, the white dots on the speakers appear to be water damage indicators. Upon closer inspection, they’re actually port covers to contain damping foam, increasing the speakers’ bass response.
  • Alcantara, the synthetic wannabe suede product that Microsoft used on the keyboard, isn’t as stinky as rumors claim, but looks liable to get nasty once your hands start sweating all over it. (Seriously, have you looked at your mouse lately?)

Microsoft Surface Pro 5 Teardown Highlights:

Microsoft Surface Pro 5 teardown

  • Microsoft has traded away the removable blade SSD for a little more battery real estate in the new Pro, taking away the sole upgradable feature from last year’s model. Good luck if you need to recover your data from a bricked device.
  • We investigated Microsoft’s redesigned passive cooling, beefed up enough to allow the Core i5 to run fanless, and found an impressive four-armed beast of a heat sink.
  • The Pro’s battery got a boost from a two-cell 38.2 Wh battery to a four-cell job measuring in at 45 Wh. That’s a nearly 18% increase in battery capacity (and 100% increase in cell count) over the previous model.
    • But at what cost? 😞

But don’t take our word for it. Head on over to our full Microsoft Surface Laptop and Microsoft Surface Pro 5 teardowns, and see for yourself.

Teardown: 10.5” iPad Pro Brings Standardization

Teardown: 10.5” iPad Pro Brings Standardization

Apple’s iPad Pro team has been consistently pitching us curveballs. The internal layout of the 9.7″ Pro was strikingly similar to the standard iPad—while the 12.9″ Pro had a completely new internal layout. (Can we take a second to ask why there are so many iPad sizes? Like really, we’re up to four now.) But it looks like Apple has moved from iPad Pro experimentation to standardization. An open-faced 10.5″ iPad Pro is essentially a scaled-down, streamlined version of its 12.9″ predecessor.

Whether this is a good thing remains to be seen. One move we’re particularly happy with is the retention of the 12.9″ Pro’s danger-free display cable placement. No improvement on the battery front, though: it’s pinned under the logic board, firmly adhered in place, and doesn’t inherit the 12.9″ iPad Pro’s handy removal tabs. Maybe after standardization comes logic.

iPad Pro 10.5″ Teardown Highlights:

  • We’re giving Apple a little pat on the back for using Phillips screws to secure the display cable bracket. (A friendly turn, after the iPhone 7’s notorious tri-point screws in the same location).
  • In our Wi-Fi model, Apple left mysterious plastic blocks where antennas might live in an LTE model. We’re speculating that they add support to the display assembly, as opposed to the usual empty space seen in earlier iPads.
  • This iPad gets a 30.8 Wh battery—a slight downsize from the 38.8 Wh battery found in the 12.9″ Pro, but an upgrade from the 27.91 Wh battery in the 9.7″.
  • iPad Pro 10.5” earned itself a repairability score of 2 out of 10 on our scale.
We’ve Got 2017 21.5″ iMac RAM Upgrade Kits

We’ve Got 2017 21.5″ iMac RAM Upgrade Kits

Yesterday, our teardown revealed that the 21.5″ iMac 2017 has upgradable RAM—the first time Apple has included removable RAM in a 21.5″ iMac since 2013. We were so happy, we did a little dance. Of course, Apple says the iMac isn’t user-upgradable—but we’re not your average “user” and neither are you. With the right tools and parts, you can absolutely boost your RAM, expand the storage, and save money in the process.

Under Apple’s configurations, the 3.0 GHz 4K tops out at 16 GB of RAM. If you want 32 GB, you have to buy the more expensive 3.4 GHz version—a $200 minimum increase, plus $600 for 32 GB RAM.

With iFixit’s iMac Intel 21.5″ Max RAM Upgrade Kit, you can quadruple your RAM from 8 GB to 32 GB for $300. That’s just $100 more than what Apple wants to “max out” your RAM at 16 GB on the 3.0 GHz model.

Our kit includes:

  • 32 GB (2×16 GB) of DDR4-PC2400 2400MHz RAM
  • Replacement Display Adhesive Strips
  • iMac Opening Wheel
  • iMac Service Wedge
  • Plastic Cards
  • Spudger
  • Tweezers
  • Phillips #00, T5, T8, and T10 Bits
  • Driver Handle

The opening procedure is essentially the same as the 2015 4K iMac—and we’ve adapted the existing repair instructions to guide you through the installation process for your 2017 iMac.

We’re working on iMac SSD Upgrade Kits, and expect to have them in our store very soon. The iMac’s processor is also upgradable, but replacement CPUs aren’t cost effective right now—so we’re not offering them yet. They’ll likely be more affordable in the future, so unless you need the speed right away, we recommend buying an iMac with a slower processor upfront and upgrading it down the road.

Almost No New Hardware in the 2017 MacBook or MacBook Pro

Almost No New Hardware in the 2017 MacBook or MacBook Pro

We got our hands on the refreshed Retina MacBook 2017 and the MacBook Pro 13″ Touch Bar 2017, and—to be honest—not too much hardware has changed. After the wildly remodeled iMac 4K, we were hoping for a bit more than the expected spec bump. But the notebook hardware remains largely identical to last year’s models.

Retina MacBook 2017 Teardown

The only real change, beyond fan coloration, seems to address the lackluster keyboard action from last year’s MacBook. Users now inherit the more-responsive, second-gen butterfly key switches already found in last year’s MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

MacBook Pro 13″ Touch Bar 2017 Teardown

Retina MacBook 2017 and MacBook Pro 2017 Teardown Highlights:

  • The keyboard trigger looks like a more classic switch this go-around. The plastic butterfly mechanism appears to have thinned out to accommodate the new switch form factor. The keystroke and travel feel about the same to us, so perhaps the real change is reinforcement for repeated use.
  • While not really a mechanical change, the control and option keys got some new ink. They now mark keyboard shortcuts rather than translating for PC users.
  • The Touch Bar continues to add a second screen to damage, and we still haven’t figured out a way to remove it safely. We’ll keep trying, though.
  • Both Macs scored a 1 out of 10 on our repairability scale (10 is the easiest to repair). In both units, the processor, RAM, and flash memory are still soldered to the logic board. The battery assemblies are still entirely, and very solidly, glued into the case, thus complicating replacement.

Check out our full Retina MacBook 2017 and MacBook Pro 2017 Teardowns for more analysis.

Holy Mother of Mac, the 2017 iMac Is Upgradable

Holy Mother of Mac, the 2017 iMac Is Upgradable

Pigs have flown. Hell hath—indeed—frozen over. It’s Christmas in June! Our teardown confirms that the new 21.5″ iMac with 4K Display has both removable RAM and a modular CPU. Of course, Apple would say neither is user-replaceable. Accessing and replacing these components isn’t exactly easy, but we’re saying it’s possible. Maybe even probable. A tinker-happy user (armed with the right tools and guide) could at least double the base 8 GB of memory, turning their new iMac with Retina Display into an iMac Semi-Pro.

An upgradable iMac is a massive shift in direction from Apple. It’s the first time we’ve seen a 21.5″ iMac with expandable memory since 2013. And the first time we’ve seen one with a modular CPU since 2012. Kudos to Apple! At $1299, the 2017 iMac is decent chunk of change for many consumers—and upgradability means they’ll be able to get more use and more years out of their computer.

21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K Display Teardown Highlights:

  • It looks like Apple has anticipated us and stuck a “warranty void” sticker on the heat sink. (We ripped it off like a bandaid and it hurt so good.) Clearly, someone doesn’t want us to remove that modular CPU underneath.
  • Why the sudden return to CPU modularity? Maybe Apple reverted to a socketed CPU because that’s all Intel has at the moment (we haven’t seen any desktop-class Kaby Lake CPUs in a BGA package). But you’d think with Apple’s famously fierce negotiating skills, they could have gotten a soldered CPU from Intel if they really wanted it. Have you been hearing our pleas, Apple?
  • Despite the upgradable RAM and CPU, we’re still giving this iMac a 3/10 for repairability. Here’s why: the iMac remains distinctly un-fun to open. Everything is buried under a finicky glass panel. It requires a speciality pizza-cutter-like tool to breach the adhesive before any repair. Plus the glass and Retina Display are fused together, fabulously increasing the cost of replacement. But hey, a 3/10 is triple the score of the iMac’s 2015 predecessor.

Check out our complete 2017 iMac teardown for more analysis and disassembly photos.

New Jersey Just Introduced Right to Repair Legislation

New Jersey Just Introduced Right to Repair Legislation

New Jersey just became the latest state to introduce a Right to Repair bill—making it the twelfth US state to consider similar legislation this year.

State lawmakers spoke to the need for Right to Repair in a press release, saying “Companies have refused to sell necessary parts to independent repair shops, banned the publication of information regarding how to repair their products and even created mechanisms for remotely deactivating a device if an outside party attempts to make a repair in order to prevent customers from seeking services elsewhere.”

If passed, Right to Repair legislation would require manufacturers to publish repair information and sell parts and diagnostic tools to owners and independent repair technicians. Advocates, like Repair.org (and us!), hope these laws will encourage consumers to repair instead of replace products. And loosening manufacturer-imposed limitations around parts and information should make more repairs more accessible to both owners and local repair shops.

“Mom-and-pop repair shops in New Jersey have been crushed by major multi-billion dollar corporations whose practices make it impossible for Main Street to compete,” explained Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, who introduced the bill in New Jersey. “In addition to having a direct impact on consumers, this has a detrimental effect on an economy that is largely dependent upon the success of small businesses.”

New Jersey’s version of the bill (A4934, or the Fair Repair bill) would cover the repair of consumer electronics—like smartphones, cameras, and computers. Other states, such as Wyoming and Kansas, have introduced Right to Repair bills just for farm equipment. Ag companies often make it impossible to repair critical farm equipment outside of their expensive “authorized” network, which is bad for farmers and bad for crops.

Over the last few years, public sentiment has been turning against these kinds of tactics. And Right to Repair has increasingly become a national issue. Just this week, the Supreme Court even cast its vote in favor of right to repair, ruling that—under patent law—Lexmark can’t stop third-parties or owners from repairing, refurbishing and reselling printer cartridges.

Right to Repair legislation, like the bill pending in New Jersey, goes even farther than that. It would return competition to the marketplace, giving consumers more options about where and how to repair their products.

“Actively prohibiting access to other providers of repair service on the market is the very definition of a monopoly,” Assemblyman Moriarty said. “Consumers deserve the freedom to decide where to have their electronics repaired or to repair products—which they paid for and own—themselves.”

What’s in Your Toolbox? Mine Is Full of History

What’s in Your Toolbox? Mine Is Full of History

When I was a kid, I was always taking something apart, building something, or “working” on something. The backyard of my childhood home was an accumulation of my dad’s projects—and it was a great place for a kid to grow up. I remember trailing him around the yard as he checked tasks off his never-ending list. That yard was my workshop—his tools were my toys.

My dad was a fixer—and he passed on a lot of his skills and knowledge to me. But I also come from a long line of fixers: My grandparents were fixers, my great-grandparents were fixers. They tinkered with everything.

I guess you could say that fixing things is in my blood.

My mother’s family, hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been full of car folk for as long as cars have plied the roads. My grandparents—Robert and Maryellen Zarnosky—collected and restored a Lincoln Zephyr (above), a Woody Wagon, and ’55 and ’57 T-birds, among others. Before that, my mother’s grandfather, Milton Bower, worked in an autobody shop, pounding out dents and patching holes with lead. At the end of his career, Milt passed his tools on to his son-in-law, my Grandpa Z.

When I got my first car (a tired 80s Mercedes diesel, seen above in its natural habitat … behind a tow truck), Grandpa Z gave me a set of metric tools to go with it. (As a Ford man, he really had no use for them, anyways.) Included in that toolbox was one of Milt’s tools: a half-inch ratchet. I know it’s his—because he engraved his name in lanky block letters on the handle. Otherwise, it has no markings. I don’t know where it was made, but I know where it came from. I know that it’s four generations old, has probably worked on more cars than I can count, and that it was passed on to me. And that’s quite a provenance.

In the last decade or so, Milt’s rachet has been involved in nearly every car repair job I’ve undertaken. It’s seen the inside of three old Mercedes, a little Miata, and my dad’s old beat-up Ford pickup that I’ve claimed as my own to restore. (I guess I also inherited my family’s predilection for shade-tree car tinkering.) I never got to meet Great-Grandpa Milt, but I feel a connection with him and my grandfather every time I pick up this tool. And it will maintain its place of honor in my toolbox for decades to come.

Looking back on it, passing on useful things is part of my family’s legacy—literally. When my mother and her two siblings each graduated high school, my great-grandparents gave them classic cars as graduation presents. A ’58 Ford retractable for my Uncle Rob, a first-gen Mustang for Aunt Maggie, and a ’59 T-bird for my mom.

They all still have their cars, although my mom’s isn’t in the best shape after sitting idle for a couple decades. But now this bird is about to fly once again; mom decided it was time to restore the car and start driving it again. So, it looks like Great-grandpa Bower’s old ratchet is about to get another workout. This time fixing a car that he once gave to his grand-daughter … my mother. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Milt used his old ratchet to fix up that car decades ago. Seems only right to use it to fix up the T-bird one more time. Like a homecoming.

Tools are building blocks for the next generation of repair folk. The tools passed down to me enabled generations of fixers before me to repair and improve the things in their lives. Now, I use them too.

Tools—and knowledge of how to use them—are a legacy. So instead of thinking of those things as yours to own and get rid of, think about the tools you can pass on to the next person. Whether it’s within your family, or to another person in need. I can’t think of a better legacy than passing on the sturdy tools that keep the old things we love running smoothly.

Broke Your iPhone 7? Here’s How to Fix It Yourself

Broke Your iPhone 7? Here’s How to Fix It Yourself

Good news for the clumsy: We finished up our iPhone 7 repair manual. So, if you break your iPhone 7 and want to repair it yourself—you’re not going in blind. We’ve got step-by-step guides and videos tutorials to help you out.

After the iPhone 7 teardown, our techs quietly got to work writing repair guides. We started with iPhone 7 screen repair and battery replacement guides. Then, we slowly made our way through all the other hardware things that can go wrong with your iPhone 7—like dead charging ports, bad cameras, and permanently mashed power button.

Anyways, we have now finished guides for commonly broken components. So feel free to break your phone in creative ways. You should be covered. We’re also adding supplemental iPhone 7 repair video tutorials to our iPhone 7 guides, for those of your who like to see a repair in moving color (like the one below!).

By the way, if you’re browsing through the list of iPhone 7 repairs and noticed that the home button replacement guide is missing—do not adjust your computer monitors. This is not a glitch. The home button of the iPhone is, sadly, unreplaceable. (Womp, womp.) The original button needs to stay with the phone—or you lose both Touch ID and the click-function. If you break the button or rip the cable, you’ll have to go back to Apple for a solution.

As always, as you repair your iPhone 7—leave your tips, tricks, feedback, and suggestions in the comment section of guides. Those comments are life-savers for the DIYers who come after you. And if you see anything in the guide that can be improved, suggest an edit! The more everyone contributes their knowledge, the better these guides get.

PS: If your iPhone 7 is broken and you’re not sure what’s wrong with it, head over to our repair troubleshooting forum, Answers. Post about your problem—and let the whole repair community take a crack at solving the issue.

Check Out the Gadget Guts of the Amazon Echo Dot

I was born to be a teacher. I get this giddy feeling inside whenever I learn something cool—and I’ll stop at nothing to share my knowledge with anyone who will listen to me. Before I started working at iFixit, I studied mathematics for education and worked as a teaching assistant in public schools. All of my teacher friends ask if I miss being in the classroom. My answer? Nope! At iFixit, I get to teach the people around the world something new every single day.

If you’re familiar with iFixit, you already know that we tear down a lot of popular electronics—from Samsung and Apple gadgets, to Google products. But our teardown team can’t tackle every device. So what about all the other cool gadgets we love and use each day? Everything breaks, and tackling a repair can be daunting if you don’t know how the device goes together. Enter Gadget Guts. Each month, I’m going to open up household devices (roombas, speakers, toys, and tools)—just to show people how they tick. My hope is that when these things break, you’ll be confident enough to fix ‘em, and maybe you’ll learn something interesting about your gizmo in the process.

This month, we kicked off the Gadget Guts series with the Amazon Echo Dot—a voice-controlled, Alexa-powered home assistant. While it appears to be a talking hockey puck, the Echo Dot is actually a few layers of plastic and metal—held together by four screws and a ribbon cable. The Echo Dot is easy to open for access to internal components. But unless a component is visibly damaged, it’s hard to tell what needs fixing. That’s where I hope Gadget Guts will come in handy.

Imagine this: You’ve been keeping your Echo Dot in the bathroom for your shower karaoke routine—and one day Alexa refuses to connect to your bluetooth speakers and wifi. Maybe you’ve seen Gadget Guts. And maybe you remember there’s a chip on the motherboard responsible for bluetooth and wireless. Maybe watching Gadget Guts gives you the know-how to open up your Echo Dot. And just maybe you spot some corrosion on the board caused by steamy showers. Clean off the corrosion with isopropyl alcohol and, hopefully, you’re good to go!

Taking electronics apart is fun—but understanding what’s inside and how it works makes you better equipped to fix your stuff when it breaks. (PS, take your electronics out of the bathroom. That’s really not a good place for most of them.)

So now, the video studio is my new classroom: instead of teaching math to middle schoolers, I’m teaching the world about electronics. Hopefully, I can boost people’s technical chops and help save the planet from e-waste in the process. You can’t get that kind of reach in a traditional classroom.

If there’s a device out there you’d like to learn more about, check out the thousands of repair guides on iFixit.com. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, comment below! We might just feature it on our next video.

Happy Fixing!

Breaking News: Samsung Galaxy S8’s Glass Is Breakable

Breaking News: Samsung Galaxy S8’s Glass Is Breakable

Turns out, a phone wrapped in glass with curved edges and a small supporting frame might not be the best move for durability. According to emerging reports, the Galaxy S8 is surprisingly easy to break.

A month before the S8 made its global debut, The Verge’s Vjeran Pavic expressed skepticism that a phone with so much glass and so little structural support might not stand up to the rigors of everyday use. “In 2017, as smartphone makers keep putting glass on both the front and back of their devices, and as screen bezels shrink dramatically smaller, I think we’ll see the preeminence (and fragility) of glass in smartphones take on a new importance,” he wrote. After we tore down the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ in April, our teardown engineers also noted that glass on the back and front meant double the opportunity for shattering.

Those early assessments appear to be borne out in recent drop tests. In fact, Jason Koebler of Vice’s Motherboard called the Galaxy S8 “the most fragile phone ever made”—even with its updated Gorilla Glass. He cites the results of SquareTrade’s breakability tests, where the S8 emerged from every drop and tumble sorting a constellation of cracks on both the back and front glass. It’s the only phone to have suffered cracks on both the front and back after a 6-foot drop test, the company reports.

“A screen without limits,” SquareTrade quips, “except one: sidewalks.”

Of course, drop tests aren’t a perfect assessment of durability. And it’s worth noting that the S8 performed better in other durability tests. In CNET‘s and Everything Apple Pro‘s drop tests, the back glass cracked from a hip-height drop onto concrete—but the screen held up. The S8 also emerged from Jerry Rig Everything’s scratch tests, burn tests, and bend test without much damage. Nevertheless, we’ve also seen a handful reports of Galaxy S8 and S8+ breakages on iFixit’s repair forums (though it’s difficult to gauge whether there are higher instances than normal).

A few commenters claim they had the Galaxy S8 in a case when it broke. Others just hadn’t gotten around to buying a case for their new phone yet, and they paid the price:

“So [I] broke my rear glass panel on my 4 day old s8+. Turns out these phones are so slick that they slip right out of your pocket. Mine hit a tiled floor on the edge, and the lower right corner of my screen cracked. [A]ll this while my case is coming in the mail…” writes iFixit member Na Jo.

Another iFixit-er, flibbertig155, left a comment on our S8 teardown: “Had phone for a couple weeks. Never dropped and take great care of it. Already has a crack on the back around the center of the screen. Maybe from bumping into my keys that might have been in my pocket. How did Samsung think this would fly? Leaving on my desk untouched till I get a super case for this thing. Very frustrating.”

And another community member writes, “My S8+ broken just falling from bed to floor. Now Samsung technician said $350 to fix it. Or [the] warranty will be void if repaired from outside market.”

A quick digression about warranty voiding: Unless you’ve opted for insurance that covers accidental damage, a broken screen usually isn’t covered under a warranty. Secondly, in the US, under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, third-party repairs can’t void your warranty unless the repair or replacement part causes damage to the device. The same federal law stops a car manufacturer from voiding your warranty because you had your brakes replaced by an independent mechanic. On a more hopeful note, Apple recently told its Geniuses that replacing a broken screen with a third-party screen no longer voids a phone’s warranty—a major policy shift from how the company previously treated phones they suspected of having third-party or DIY repairs.

Of course, Apple’s updated repair policy is little help to Samsung S8 and S8+ owners who find themselves with a broken screen or shattered back panel. So what’s an unlucky owner to do? Well, on the whole, we scored the S8 and S8+ at a mediocre 4/10 for repair. The liberal use of adhesive and glass makes it difficult for a DIYer to undertake most of the repairs a phone might need in its lifetime. But that back glass (which seems particularly susceptible to cracking) while tedious to remove, is not overly difficult for a non-pro to replace. (Here’s a look at the S8 back panel repair guide.) If you don’t think you have the chops to undertake a Galaxy S8 repair, independent repair pros do have the expertise and the right tools to navigate past the nasty adhesive—especially on that screen.

Samsung S8 rear panel repair

The glue on the backside of a Samsung S8 rear panel is a little more approachable than the adhesive securing the screen to the chassis.

And, more good news: Galaxy S8 and S8+ parts are already available for purchase to repair shops and for consumers. (We’re currently out of stock on our units, but they should be back soon.) Wholesale prices for screens sourced from China also appear to be more reasonable than they have been for models past, reports Motherboard’s Koebler.

So, to recap: (1) The Galaxy S8 appears to be fragile, so don’t drop it. (2) If you do break your S8, repairing it solo will be tricky. But if you don’t want to go to the manufacturer for a repair—don’t lose hope, because (3) many independent repair pros will be able to replace a broken screen with a new part that’s relatively affordable. Oh, and (4) put a case on your S8 ASAP. Better safe than broken.