Surface is 'a quirky cat,' teardown shows

iFixit determines Microsoft's tablet is pretty tough to repair, coming in only slightly easier than the iPad.

Shara Tibken
Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
3 min read
iFixit had to remove 17 T5 Torx screws and a lone ribbon cable to take off the rear case and battery. iFixit
Surface is a little easier to repair than the third-generation iPad, iFixit says, but it's still pretty difficult to take apart.

The site rated Surface's "repairability" a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the easiest) following a teardown of the product. By comparison, the iPad has a rating of 2, and the Amazon Kindle Fire rates 8. According to iFixit:

The Microsoft Surface is a quirky cat. Microsoft engineers clearly took a different internal design direction than what we've seen in the iPad and the Nexus/Kindles. But sadly, its overall fixability is closer to the near-impossible-to-open iPad than it is to the spudger-friendly Android tablets.

iFixit notes Surface's design allows it to be opened without fear of shattering the display glass. Also, several components are modular and replaceable without requiring desoldering, and the battery can be removed pretty easily.

However, it's pretty difficult to remove the rear panel and gain access to the device, iFixit said, and it's impossible to remove the keyboard connector without first removing the display from its frame. To get to the LCD/glass, you have to dig through the whole tablet, and the two are fused together and strongly fixed to the case. iFixit notes a repairman will need a heat gun and "lots of patience to gain access to the glass and LCD."

The main components suppliers, meanwhile, included Nvidia for the application processor, Samsung for flash memory and the display, Micron for dynamic random access memory, and Texas Instruments for power management. Marvell, Wolfson, Atmel, and Cypress Semiconductor also provided certain chips.

The teardown shows "some speaker-looking thing" next to the display in the front case. iFixit believes it's either a microphone or a secondary speaker. But with no direct path to the exterior of the Surface, its primary purpose is unclear. iFixit
Here are some highlights from iFixit's teardown:

• iFixit encounters a tamper-evident label as soon as it starts digging into the Surface. Unfortunately, it breaks apart upon removal.

• After removing a total of 17 T5 Torx screws -- 10 under the kickstand and 7 under the camera cover -- the rear case almost comes off. The only thing holding it back is a lone ribbon cable tethering the rear case and battery to a ZIF connector on the Surface's motherboard.

• The battery is glued in but it's "way easier to remove than on the iPad."

• The 31.5Wh battery is manufactured by Samsung and falls between the iPad 2's 25Wh battery and the third-generaiton iPad's 42.5Wh unit.

• Next to the display in the front case is some mystery component that looks like a speaker. iFixit determined it's probably a microphone or secondary speaker. "During our pre-teardown Surface shenanigans, we noticed the Touch Cover keyboard "clicked" when we were pressing the 'keys.' We guess those sounds are routed through this device, but we welcome any input on the functionality of this doohickey."

• The two 720p cameras -- one for the front, one for the back -- are almost identical in size and shape. "The exclusion of a multi-megapixel rear-facing camera either means cost was a big concern, or that Microsoft's designers don't expect you to use the Surface as your main camera."

• The device has four touch-screen controllers, which likely are what allow Surface to decode both the user inputs from pressing on the glass and the Touch Cover accessory.

Microsoft Surface and its keyboard get a day out (pictures)

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