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2015 MacBook earns lowest score for repairability

Apple's 12-inch Retina Display MacBook proves to be a challenge for the iFixit team in a new teardown.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Apple's new 12-inch MacBook is tough to repair. CNET

Apple's new MacBook is not the type of laptop you'd want to try to take apart and fix yourself.

In a new teardown treatment posted Wednesday by iFixit, Apple's latest MacBook earned a repairability grade of 1 out of 10 (1 being the lowest possible rating). Ooh, that's not good.

Of course, the average owner of the MacBook isn't likely to tear it apart just to explore what's inside. But that's the purpose of an iFixit teardown -- to take us inside the inner workings of the computer to see what makes it tick.

For the 2015 MacBook, Apple tried something a bit different than its traditional MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. As reviewed by CNET, the ""="" shortcode="link" asset-type="review" uuid="096f7a11-d5ae-495b-acec-9f3dbb4f1f5e" slug="apple-macbook-2015" link-text="MacBook's 12-inch screen is " section="products" title="A minimalist MacBook that proves less can be more" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"096f7a11-d5ae-495b-acec-9f3dbb4f1f5e","slug":"apple-macbook-2015","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"laptops"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":"In Depth","hubTopicPathString":"Computers^Laptops","reviewType":"In Depth"},"section":"reviews"}"> Powered by an Intel Core M processor, the new MacBook offers good battery life and performance. On the downside, the battery life and performance can't match those of the MacBook Air or Pro. The new keyboard takes some getting used to. And the machine's single USB-C port for all accessories, including the power cord, is "almost immediately frustrating."

Okay, so what did the iFixit team find on their journey through the new MacBook?

Opening the laptop proved challenging as Apple continues to use proprietary pentalobe screws, which are designed to be tamper resistant. Further, the internal cables are routed to make exploring inside the device even more difficult.

The processor, RAM, and flash memory are all soldered to the logic board, making them stubborn to take out. The entire battery assembly is glued into the lower case, so battery replacement is a challenge.

"Ugh! Even the center cell of the battery is glued down, and we had hoped the sticky cells we found in the new 13-inch MacBook Pro wouldn't be a trend," iFixit said. "To complicate the procedure, the battery sits down in a well; the only safe place to pry is over this aluminum wall."

The USB-C port is held in place by tri-wing screws, which as expected require a special tri-wing screwdriver to remove. The port is also hidden under the brackets for the display, making it hard to reach. Apple's decision to use just a single port could also be problematic.

"Being the only port, it will experience more use and wear than a typical single-purpose port," iFixit commented..."We can't help but wonder why Apple chose to only include a single USB-C port. This means that if you want to charge your MacBook and use a USB device at the same time, you'll need a $79 adapter. We're all for change Apple, but come on."

Finally, the Retina Display is still one single fused unit with no separate glass. So replacing the display would be an expensive prospect.

Apple typically offers a one-year limited warranty on its Mac lineup, with additional protection available at a price through AppleCare. So most owners are not going to tear apart their computer in the event of a problem. But iFixit's teardown at least gives us an inside look at Apple's latest MacBook.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.

And how did the new MacBook fare compared with prior MacBooks in iFixit's opinion? You can't do much worse than 1 out of 10, but older versions fared just as or almost as poorly on the repairability scale. For comparison, in 2012, the MacBook pro earned a score of 1 out of 10. The following year, both the 13-inch and 15-inch the MacBook Pro computers took home scores of 1 out of 10. Faring a bit better, the 2013 MacBook Air got a grade of 4 out of 10.