MacBook Air Repairable but Not Upgradeable: iFixit Teardown

iFixit disemboweled a new Apple MacBook Air. Not liking Apple's proprietary screws or how not upgradeable the laptop is, iFixit gave the new Mac a low repairability score of 4 out of 10.

Repair site iFixit performed a teardown on the new 13-inch MacBook Air that Apple introduced during its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote June 11. What the site€™s engineers found was not terribly surprising: The MacBook Air is no cinch to open or upgrade.

iFixit gave it a 4 out of 10, 10 being the easiest to repair.

Two observations the team offered from the onset€”which is to say, from the outside€”are that the new MacBook Air is no thinner than its predecessor, a surprise in these continually slimming-down times, though if Apple thinks it perfected the form factor the first time around, who's to say otherwise. The MacBook Air, closed, measures 0.68 inches at its thickest point.

Also notable is that Apple, ever fiddling, moved the icons beside the MagSafe connector, USB port and headphone jack from the left of each to the right. It was either a purely aesthetic decision or one motivated by the thinner and wider port on the MagSafe2.

The 13-inch MacBook Air comes in 128GB and 256GB flash storage options, with the latter configurable up to 512GB of flash storage. iFixit tore apart the more modest of these, and while the solid-state drive (SSD) appeared to be almost identical to last year's model, they ultimately found it to be different, and made by Toshiba.

When Jony Ive, Apple's lead director, showed off the thermal system in a video during the Apple WWDC presentation, he explained, "In most fans, the blades are positioned symmetrically. But we positioned ours asymmetrically, which makes it quieter."

iFixit, pulling out the fan€”which looks vaguely like a small, light version of a spooled-up measuring tape€”explained that the fan's "asymmetrical" design allows the fan's blades to "disperse sound across a wide range of frequencies, rather than just one, making the fan's noise 'hardly perceivable.'"

The new Air has stereo speakers, which popped out without issue. iFixit sniffed the 3.5mm headphone jack, however, calling it "quite plain and outdated." They added, "How long must we wait until Apple announces 'The New Jack'?" (Apple updated its jack on the iPad 2.)

Also reminiscent of earlier models was the thermal management system.

"It is truly a testament to modern processor efficiency to see such a small heat sink on a dual-core processor that can crank out up to 2.8GHz," the team marveled.

The team was happy to report that the trackpad is a relatively easy fix, should anyone's conk out.

Overall, iFixit reported, all the components, down to the RAM and SSD are proprietary, though once the bottom cover is off, all the parts are "pretty easily replaceable."

Still, there's the MacBook Air's low score. iFixit explains that it's hard for them to recommend this thin-and-light number, given how disinclined it is to being upgraded.

"The RAM and SSD are not currently upgradeable, although SSD options may become available in time," iFixit wrote. "While Apple's continued use of proprietary screws is helping our booming tool sales, it's a bad thing for consumers."

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