Cracking Open: Top Five Teardowns of 2012From the mediocre Lumia 900 to repair-friendly $7,000 PC, Bill Detwiler counts down the top five Cracking Open hardware teardowns of 2012.
From smartphones and tablets to a $7,000 desktop, 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 at a few of our favorites. I'm Bill Detwiler, and during this special episode of Cracking Open, I'm counting down my top five Teardowns of 2012. First on our list in the 5th spot is the Nokia Lumia 900. Now, released in the spring, this Windows phone device was Nokia's attempt to recapture some of the American smartphone market. Unfortunately, as we discovered during our Teardown, the phone's hardware just wasn't up to par with the competition. I went so far to call it mediocre. Now so, why did I include our 900 Teardown on this list? Because it's probably this year's best example of why knowing what's inside a device is an important factor and whether you buy one or not. Just two months after releasing the Lumia 900, we learned that it wouldn't be upgradable to Windows Phone 8. And despite huge marketing pushes from Nokia, Microsoft and AT&T, including a 50 percent price cut just three months after lunch, the phone never took off. Like the phone's hardware, sales or just mediocre. In the 4th spot is one of the most expensive items I've ever cracked open. A $7,000 plus HPZ1 workstation. The Z1 was unlike any other all-in-one on the market. It was packed with high-end hardware and designed to be both upgrade and repair friendly. Its unique stand let the machine lie flat for easy hardware access, and the case open more like the hood of a car than a computer. You can remove most of the internal components without using tools, and despite having six cooling fans, it was remarkably quite. This machine was definitely one of the most unique and enjoyable cracking opens of 2012. Third on our list is the highly anticipated Google Nexus 7, assembled by Asus. The first Google designed tablet had solid hardware, a good design and a great price $199 US. As I discovered, it was also a snap to crack open and had easily replaceable hardware. Now, even with the release of the Kindle Fire HD, iPad mini and Nook HD, CNET's Eric Franklin still believes that overall, the Nexus 7 is the best small tablet you can buy and I agree. The second spot on our list is held by another highly anticipated tablet, Microsoft Surface with Windows RT. Microsoft's first Windows 8 tablet came with a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, 2GB of RAM, and several nice features like a micro SD card slot, full sized USB port, and a handy kickstand. Unfortunately, it was also a pain to crack open and disassemble. As I wrote in my original review, hopefully, the surface with Windows Pro, which has aim that businesses will be more repair-friendly. Well, we've reached the end of my top Teardowns list. And sitting in the top spot is Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. Unfortunately, like the Lumia 900, this machine is on my list for all the wrong reasons. Now, like all MacBook Pros, the Retina version is well-built, has solid hardware, and its display really is gorgeous. But as I discovered during my Teardown, it's almost impossible to upgrade. Thanks to RAM that's soldered to the motherboard and it's a pain to work on. Thanks to tamper resistant Pentalobe screws and a battery that's glued to the upper half of the case. Now, this was another example of why knowing how a device is put together and what's inside it is critical when buying one. The last thing you want to do is find out a year after you bought your Retina MacBook Pro that you can't upgrade the memory. Well, that does it for my countdown of the top five cracking open Teardowns of 2012. To find links to Teardown on the list, go to techrepublic.com/crackingopen. Keep watching in 2013 'cause I'll be cracking open even more of the latest tech. I'm Bill Detwiler, thanks for watching.