Want a Laptop That's Easy to Repair? Look Beyond Apple and Microsoft

A new report issued by iFixit and Greenpeace shows just how user-hostile laptops from Apple and Microsoft are compared to competitors like HP and Samsung.

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Jun 27 2017, 4:01am

Image: Bart Naus/Flickr

If you're in the market for a laptop and want at least a fighting chance of being able to repair it on your own you might want to steer clear of models made by Apple and Microsoft.

That's one takeaway from the just-published iFixit + Greenpeace Consumer Electronics Guide, a compilation of repairability scores ranking some of the most popular gadgets, from smartphones to tablets to laptops, in terms how easy they are to repair by end users and independent repair shops. While laptop models from companies like Dell, HP, and Samsung earned high marks in the report, the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch Touch Bar 2017, Apple Retina MacBook 2017, and Microsoft Surface Book all earned a 1 out of 10. Hey, could be worse.

Why the low grades? iFixit and Greenpeace cite a number of concerns, including the use of proprietary screws in the MacBook Pro, and the soldering of critical components, including the processor and memory, to the motherboards of both Apple models and the Surface Book. That means you're unable to upgrade these components without shelling out for an entirely new device.

Compare this to laptop models like the Dell Latitude (10/10), HP EliteBook (10/10), and Samsung Series 9 (9/10), which are generally easier to get into and whose core components, like SSD and RAM, can be easily replaced. Even the LG Gram, hailed for its ultra-thin design, has user upgradeable components. Thin doesn't have to mean impossible to upgrade. Many of these models also have replacement parts that can be bought directly from the manufacturers, meaning repairability is something that's specifically considered during the design process.

To iFixit's Sam Lionheart, Lead Teardown Engineer at the repair specialists, creating this kind of comprehensive guide to repairability is important because it helps consumers understand that gadgets can in fact be designed in such a way that they don't have to be altogether replaced when, say, the battery dies.

"There are costs that are built into the lifetime of a device that people don't know about," Lionheart told Motherboard. "If it's more repairable, then those costs are going to be lowered. You won't be buying three cellphones in five years, you'll be buying one, that kind of thing."

For the Microsoft and Apple faithful who might read such a report and immediately dismiss it, Lionheart relates some sage wisdom: people aren't made of money.

"For them, OK, that's fine," she said. "You can vote with your dollars and I can vote with mine because, well, my mom can't afford a $3,000 laptop that will break in two years. That's just not a thing for her, so I'm going to fight for that."

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