Cracking Open: Microsoft Surface Pro 3Bill Detwiler cracks open the Surface Pro 3 and shows you why Microsoft's laptop-like tablet is still extremely difficult to repair.
The Surface Pro 3 is thinner and lighter than last year's model. It has a beautiful 12 inch display, a new kickstand, and a handy digital pen. Unfortunately, it's still just as difficult to disassemble, if not more so. I'm Bill Detwiler, and this is Cracking Open. [MUSIC] Given its size, weight, and hardware specs, the Surface Pro 3 is more of a convertible or ultra-portable laptop than a real tablet. It has a 12-inch display, stereo speakers, a micro SD card slot, a full size USB 3 port, a mini display port, and two five megapixel cameras. Now it comes in a variety of CPU, RAM and storage combinations, and pricing starts at $799 U.S.. At just over one and three quarters pounds, it's heavier than your average tablet but again, about the same as an ultra thin or ultra portable laptop. And like last year's Pro, the Pro 3 is well built and feels sturdy in your hands. And unfortunately it's just as annoying to crack open. The first step in opening the case is removing the front panel and display assembly. So that means breaking out the heat gun, hair dryer or other warming device, and very carefully heating the edges around the actual display. Now, be very careful not to overheat the glass and warp the plastic cover behind it. As several ribbon cables run along the lower edge, we'll start at the panel's upper left corner and work our way around. Removing the front panel is a slow, tedious process. But if you rush, you risk damaging the front panel like I just did. Now after disconnecting all its cables, you can set the front panel and LCD assembly aside, and begin removing the Pro 3's other internal components. Although there are still lots of screws inside the Pro 3, Microsoft did use fewer than the nearly 100 found inside the old Pro. As before I recommend cataloging the location of each **** as you remove them. Now after disconnecting the battery, we can begin removing components, starting with the SSD card. Next comes a thin board that runs along the top of the Pro 3. This contains the front facing camera and the light sensor, microphone and a few antennas. After detaching all its cables and removing a few more screws, the motherboard and cooling assembly come out next. And then with the board out, we can remove the metal shielding and then separate the cooling assembly from the board. Now last to come out are the left and right speakers, charging port, micro SD card slot, and rear facing camera. At this point our teardown is pretty much complete. The LCD and front glass panel are basically fused together, and separating them isn't practical. The battery is held to the back cover with copious amounts of adhesive, and there's nothing under it. So I'm going to leave it in place. Likewise, I'm leaving the keyboard connector, power button, volume buttons, vibration motor, and headphone jack alone. They're clearly visible while still in place, and I don't want to risk damaging them unnecessarily. When I disassembled the Surface Pro last year, I officially dubbed it the worst device I've ever cracked open. And despite having fewer screws on the inside, the Pro 3 is still a real pain to service. It's extremely difficult to remove the front panel. There are still lots of different size screws inside the case. You can't really remove the battery, and the front panel glass is extremely fragile, as I found out. Now, given that a well-equipped Surface Pro 3 and keyboard, like Qi5 test model costs around $1,200, the same price as a laptop, it would make sense, that the device be as repairable as a laptop. But it's not. I mean, even on a Macbook Air, which Microsoft compares the Pro 3 to, in its marketing material, you can open the case without much fuss. I'm just disappointed that Microsoft couldn't find a way to make the Pro 3 both a solid device, and one that's easily serviceable. Now, for more information on the Pro 3, including real-world tests and pricing, check out the CNET review. To see more teardown photos and ready my full hardware analysis, go to techrepublic.com/crackingopen. I'm Bill Detwiler. Thanks for watching.