Most annoying Cracking Open teardowns of 2013

Some gadgets are easy to fix. Others are real repair nightmares. Bill Detwiler counts down his top five most annoying teardowns of 2013.

From smartphones and tablets to our first wearable item, we've cracked open a lot of tech this year. And as we do at the end of each year, it's time to take a look back -- this time with a twist. During this special episode of Cracking Open, I'm counting down my top five most annoying teardowns of 2013.

5. Apple MacBook Air
The No. 5 spot on our list goes to Apple's 2013 MacBook Air. Don't get me wrong, it's a great laptop. I use one on a daily basis.

Removing the bottom cover of the 11-inch 2013 MacBook Air Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

But its special pentalobe screws make the case difficult to open, and even once you're inside there's really not much you can do. Most of the components are soldered to the motherboard.

View the full 2013 MacBook Air teardown video.

4. Apple iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C
At No. 4 is another Apple creation -- actually two of them. The iPhone 5S and 5C aren't much more difficult to crack open than their predecessors, but thanks to their external pentalobe screws, variety of internal screw sizes, and all the components that are glued to the case, these iPhones are still a pain to repair.

iPhone 5S teardown
Inside the iPhone 5S Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

View the full iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C teardown galleries at TechRepublic.

3. Apple iPad Air
Coming in at No. 3 is the last Apple device on our list -- the iPad Air. As with previous iPads, the front panel is glued to the tablet's metal body. And you'll need to heat the panel to open the case. Even after separating the panel and case, you can't remove it without first removing the display. Throw in that the battery and most other internal components are glued in place, and this tablet definitely isn't repair-friendly.

Inside the iPad Air Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

View the full iPad Air teardown gallery at TechRepublic.

2. Google Glass Explorer Edition
The second spot on our list goes to the first wearable device we've cracked open -- the Google Glass Explorer Edition. The camera and eyepiece assembly's cover came off relatively easily. But despite my prying, poking, even heating the main and rear modules, nothing worked. And since I didn't want to destroy the device, I had to give up only halfway into the teardown.

Inside the Google Glass Explorer Edition Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

View the full Google Glass teardown gallery at TechRepublic.

1. Microsoft Surface 2
Well, we've reached the end of our list. And standing above all the others is the king of annoying 2013 teardowns -- the Microsoft Surface 2. Now unlike the Google Glass, I was actually able to dissect the Surface 2. But it was a miserable 2-hour ordeal. Why?

Removing the Surface 2 front panel Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

For starters, the front-panel adhesive is incredibly strong. And heating the front panel is difficult as some of the tablet's internal components and external trim pieces are made from plastic, which will warp if overheated. I know. I did it.

There are also more than 60 screws inside the case, of all different sizes. The battery is glued in place. And most of the motherboard connectors are extremely fragile and easily broken.

The Surface 2 is definitely an improvement over last year's model when it comes to hardware specifications and performance. But it is the most difficult-to-crack-open tablet I've ever worked open.

View the full Microsoft Surface 2 teardown gallery at TechRepublic.

Read the full CNET Review

Google Glass

The frothing excitement around these prototype, titanium-framed wearable computers has the tech world tripping over itself, but big what, why, and how questions remain. CNET dives in to clear up the reality -- and the future possibilities -- of Google Glass. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Apple iPhone 5S

The Bottom Line: With an identical design to its predecessor, and the same software you can now get on most iPhones, the iPhone 5S doesn't really offer enough to justify upgrading from the iPhone 5. If you're on older iPhones though -- or you're looking to take your first steps into Apple's world -- its astonishing power, excellent camera and fingerprint scanner make it a great option to consider. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Apple iPhone 5C

The Bottom Line: The iPhone 5C is a great $99 phone that basically replicates the well-reviewed iPhone 5 in a more colorful case. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Apple MacBook Air (11-inch, June 2013)

The Bottom Line: Apple’s new 11-inch Air goes a conservative route in 2013, emphasizing longer battery life and more affordable pricing over any big design changes. The battery boost alone might be worth it. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Apple iPad Air

The Bottom Line: Functionally, the iPad Air is nearly identical to last year’s model, offering only faster performance and better video chatting. But factor in design and aesthetics, and the iPad Air is on another planet. It’s the best full-size consumer tablet on the market. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Microsoft Surface 2

The Bottom Line: The Microsoft Surface 2 is great for getting work done, but those looking for extensive app support (beyond Office) will find top Apple, Android, and Amazon tablets to be better options. / Read full review

About the author

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.



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