The MacBook Pro Is Highly Repairable...for a Mac

It's not perfect, but still better than before

Key Takeaways

  • The new 14-inch MacBook Pro is much more repairable than recent models. 
  • The battery, display, and ports are all easier to replace. 
  • The M1 design, however, makes RAM and storage impossible to upgrade.
Apple 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro and M1 Max chips

Apple

Apple’s super-popular new MacBook Pro is tearing it up on review sites, but there’s yet another reason to love it—it’s the most repairable MacBook in a long time. 

The M1 MacBook Pro gets a 3/10 repairability score from iFixit, but believe it or not, that’s an excellent score for a Mac notebook. For comparison, the Intel 16-inch MacBook Pro from 2019 scored a risible 1/10. However, this two-point gain—a 200% improvement, despite the still-low score—also shows a pretty radical change of direction from Apple. 

“It's mostly about the battery,” iFixit’s Olivia Webb told Lifewire via email. “Previous MacBook batteries (2016 onward) required removing the entire logic board to access the battery, and then using serious solvents, awkward maneuvering, and serious patience to pry it out. This battery is easy to access, and has stretch-release adhesive with pull tabs instead of hard glue.”

Repairability

Repairability isn’t just about taking your pentalobe screwdriver to the case of your computer. If a computer is designed to be more easily repaired, that’s good news for third-party repair shops, and also for Apple, itself. If you take your iPhone to the Apple Store to get a broken screen replaced, repairability can be the difference between a quick while-you-wait fix and an overnight disassembly.

Repairability is inherent in the design. Computers like the FairPhone smartphone are built from many discrete parts, any of which can be easily replaced. MacBooks and iPhones are the opposite. The amazing performance of Apple’s computers is largely down to integration. Many previously discrete components are now combined onto a single circuit board.

Internal view of the new 14-inch MacBook Pro

iFixit

Apple isn’t kidding when it calls the M1 a system-on-a-chip (SoC). The M1 design puts the chips, the RAM, and even the SSD storage into one package. The upside of this is speed, low power consumption, and size. The downside is you have to replace the whole unit if one part goes bad. 

This also means it’s impossible for the user to upgrade their own computer. If you need more storage or RAM down the line, then tough. You can’t add it—short of taping an external SSD to the computer’s lid. Compare this to older MacBooks, where you could open the case by flicking a single lever, and gain access to (and easily replace) the hard drive, RAM, and battery.

“The battery is the one thing that every laptop is going to need replaced, eventually. Prioritizing its removal shows some concern for both the customer, and for common sense,” says Webb. “Being able to replace the battery yourself (at home, at a reasonable price) makes a laptop last longer because the hassle isn't more than the price of a new laptop, for most people's math.”

Battery Power

The MacBook Pro now has pull tabs that release the battery for easy replacement. Display replacement is also easier, and the display cables have more slack to avoid breakage. Also, the Touch ID unit can be swapped out—although only Apple has the know-how to activate it. And finally, those new HDMI ports and SD card slots are modular, and can be replaced. 

“The most eco-friendly gadget is one that is long-lasting and repairable and made from as much recycled content as possible,” Julia L. F. Goldstein, author of Material Value, told Lifewire via email. “A modular model, where customers can replace a battery that no longer holds a charge or upgrade to expand memory storage, is one approach.”

Does this signal a change of heart at Apple? Are we entering a new golden age of repairability? Not really. It’s great that you can swap in your own battery, and that repair shops will have a much easier time getting inside. It’s also great that Apple will, itself, be able to perform repairs much quicker, and (hopefully) cheaper.

But with the new M1 design that fuses all the computer-y parts into one monolithic unit, we’re also taking a big step backwards. And that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

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