Teardown of Retina MacBook Pro finds soldered RAM, proprietary SSD

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Apple's new Retina display MacBook Pro has been taken apart and examined from the inside, revealing that the RAM is soldered onto the logic board and cannot be upgraded, and that the proprietary solid-state drive memory was supplied by Samsung.

The details come from iFixit's extensive teardown of the next-generation MacBook Pro, which the site published on Wednesday, just two days after the new notebook was announced. The solutions provider took particular issue with the design of the new MacBook Pro with respect to repairability, giving it a lowest possible score of 1 out of 10.

"Even though it packs lots of gee-whiz bells and whistles, we were thoroughly disappointed when we ventured inside," they said. "This is, to date, the least repairable laptop we've taken apart. Apple has packed all of the things we hate into one beautiful little package."

Among the issues iFixit has with the Retina display MacBook Pro is the fact that the battery is no longer screwed into the machine, and has instead been glued into place. This increases the chances that it will break during disassembly, and makes it particularly hard to fix the trackpad, as its cable goes under the battery.

In addition, the display assembly is completely fused, and there is no glass protecting it. Any failure with the new Retina display would likely need a full replacement.

Teardown


And the exterior of the MacBook Pro is sealed with proprietary pentalobe screws that will prevent users from cracking it open.

As with the MacBook Air, the RAM on the new MacBook Pro is soldered onto the logic board, which means that it cannot be upgraded after it is purchased. The next-generation MacBook Pro comes with up to 16 gigabytes of RAM.

Teardown


The model disassembled also featured 512 gigabytes of Samsung flash memory. The proprietary solid-state drive found in the new MacBook Pro was called "similar but not identical to the one in the air," featuring a separate daughter card that the site hopes will be upgradeable in the near future.

Teardown


Also discovered inside the new notebook was aBroadcom BCM4331 single-chip 802.11n dual-band wireless and a BCM20702 single-chip Bluetooth 4.0 HCI solution with Bluetooth Low Energy support.

An asymmetrical fan found inside the MacBook Pro spreads the noise produced over multiple frequencies, making it less noticeable. But iFixit said attention given to the fan by members of the press is "a testament to Apple's marketing department," more than anything else.

Teardown


The central processor and graphics processor heat sink feature an exhaust air vent assembly that pushes the air through a restriction before it gets to the outermost vents. This additional pressure drop accelerates air and pushes it out of the computer faster.
«13456710

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 194
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member


    When I predicted here that the next MacBook Pro would have RAM soldered directly onto the motherboard, no one believed me.  This means lower cost, higher reliability, better performance, and a more compact design.  All manufacturers will follow Apple's lead on this.

  • Reply 2 of 194


    Alas this is the price to pay to get something as svelte as the new Macbook Pro. In my mind it is well worth it. Just remember to get Apple Care!

  • Reply 3 of 194
    mauszmausz Posts: 243member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mcarling View Post


    When I predicted here that the next MacBook Pro would have RAM soldered directly onto the motherboard, no one believed me.  This means lower cost, higher reliability, better performance, and a more compact design.  All manufacturers will follow Apple's lead on this.



    Cost : Why would it be lower ? Support/replacement is more expensive


    Reliability : Maybe, because you won't have badly seated ram, but wat happens when at QC you find a bad memory chip....


    Performance : No difference between soldered/non-soldered


    Compact design : The only plausible reasong in my opinion.

  • Reply 4 of 194
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    mcarling wrote: »
    When I predicted here that the next MacBook Pro would have RAM soldered directly onto the motherboard, no one believed me.  This means lower cost, higher reliability, better performance, and a more compact design.  All manufacturers will follow Apple's lead on this.

    Ultimately, it comes down to how many people actually bother with upgrading their RAM. If the number is small enough, soldered RAM isn't a problem. If a significant number of people want to upgrade their RAM, there could be some backlash.

    However, given the modest price for the upgrade to 16 GB, I would simply get the higher RAM from the start and it should be sufficient for most people for the life of the computer. Heck, I'm currently still stuck at 3 GB and lots of people are using even less.
  • Reply 5 of 194
    nvidia2008nvidia2008 Posts: 9,262member


    I must say this is the most snarky teardown (pun unintended) of a Mac by iFixit. I sympathise with the repair providers but at the end of the day, if you're repairing Macs, I think your jobs are pretty safe. I understand it's a trade-off between the cash flow of repairing Macs and the high level of skill involved... But at the same time when the iPhone first came out repairers were going nuts, now even joe blow across the street has a little iPhone repair shop. Long-time Mac repairers are pretty amazing anyway, the guy in my previous company could lay an iBook (not MacBook, mind you, iBook is pretty crazy) on a chair and totally rip it apart and put it back in several minutes. Unfortunately in my previous company he had to do most of the work because the other technicians were pretty lost, especially if they were new to Mac.


     


    For an end-user, just get the AppleCare 3 year and be done with it. You want super-customisable stuff? Get a MacBook Pro and tweak to your heart's content. I'll take the Retina MBP anyday. If 8GB isn't enough in 3 years time for most tasks, I'll eat my shoe. In any case if all goes well in the next few years my next Mac will be a 13" MacBook Air or maybe 13" MacBook Pro Retina.

  • Reply 6 of 194


    Now our professional laptop is no longer user upgradable; definitely a smart move by Apple.  This is a bit disturbing, but as the previous commenter mentioned, it is well worth it to get the very thin profile accompanying the excellent specs.  Another excuse to just sell and buy a new one instead of upgrading I guess. 

     

  • Reply 7 of 194
    podlasekpodlasek Posts: 29member


    I was really disappointed in the Soldered Ram, until I realized it came with 8 GB and that the 16 upgrade was $200.


     


    Apple at least realized the need to be 'a little' more competitive on the Ram since they were locking it away.

  • Reply 8 of 194
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,215member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mcarling View Post


    When I predicted here that the next MacBook Pro would have RAM soldered directly onto the motherboard, no one believed me.  This means lower cost, higher reliability, better performance, and a more compact design.  All manufacturers will follow Apple's lead on this.



     


    Yep. The brackets and such add bulk. 


     


    The real issue for this kind of build is that folks can't just go in and mess around putting in their own ram, drives etc. And for many geeks (and sites that exist to tell users how to do things themselves) that's the most sinful move of all. If they can't jerk around inside then the computer its instantly crap. Pricing on this makes it basically a pro machine and those folks have little issue with whether the whole board with all the RAM etc gets replaced so long as the machine works. Pros even get Apple Care so that big ass part doesn't cost them $1000 to replace out of warranty after 2 years. 


     


    I'm more interested in a nice slim and light Retina iMac of at least 27 inches (if they had a 40 inch I'd go for it). But this laptop is a bit tempting. If I got it I'd want to max it out to the top of everything and keep it for like 4-5 years. If they turned around and released a new Retina Cinema Display that had a larger size, hdmi etc I would be very tempted. 

  • Reply 9 of 194
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,215member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by podlasek View Post


    Apple at least realized the need to be 'a little' more competitive on the Ram since they were locking it away.



     


    Or simply the price of RAM is such that they could drop the pricing. 

  • Reply 10 of 194
    wurm5150wurm5150 Posts: 763member
    It is how it is..no amount of complaints can change how Apple engineered this thing.

    Three words: BUY APPLE CARE
  • Reply 11 of 194
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mausz View Post


    Cost : Why would it be lower ? Support/replacement is more expensive


    Reliability : Maybe, because you won't have badly seated ram, but wat happens when at QC you find a bad memory chip....


    Performance : No difference between soldered/non-soldered


    Compact design : The only plausible reasong in my opinion.



    because instead of paying someone to stick RAM in there and having a supply line for RAM you let your motherboard maker take care of it


     


    unless you're one of the people who is going to keep this for years and years and treasure it, it's a non issue for most users

  • Reply 12 of 194
    neo42neo42 Posts: 287member


    Ouch, soldered ram.  I much prefer the 4 slots/32GB in my asus bricktop.

  • Reply 13 of 194
    eksodoseksodos Posts: 186member


    It's wonderful how much pride Apple takes in making the inside look as beautiful as the outside. Even though 99.9999% of people will never see what's under the hood, Apple still puts a lot of effort into the design. I know this is something Steve Jobs cared passionately about. I hope Apple honors him by continuing this tradition. I fear this will go away as it's one easy unnoticeable way to cut costs and improve margins. 

  • Reply 13 of 194
    neo42neo42 Posts: 287member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by charlituna View Post


     


    Or simply the price of RAM is such that they could drop the pricing. 



     


    I put 32GB of DDR3 in my laptop for less than the cost of the 16GB upgrade for the RMBP.  If you want to look at 8gb as a "gift from apple due to lower prices", well then, enjoy the blinders.

  • Reply 15 of 194


    Its certainly in line with the direction Apple wants to take all their products.  Control the OS experience and now the further control of the hardware experience.  It is certainly becoming more of an "appliance".  In no way is it a bad experience, but its definitely a little disappointing to some, like myself.  I own multiple Mac products and consider them great machines.  Without exception I have performed ram and hard drive upgrades around the 3rd year to give each box a speed bump and extend its life.  Too date this has been a pretty successful experience, especially with SSD's coming to market.  This appears to no longer be possible, though who knows what Apple may offer as a service down the road.  What it does do is sway most people, like me, to future proof my purchase upfront through Apple, instead of a third party 3 years down the road.  Smart business move by Apple I imagine...  Who knows what 3 years down the road will look like??  Obviously the market is changing, with Apple setting the direction and "tinkering" seems to be in the rear view mirror ;-).  Hopefully they leave the door open with the Mac Pro's...but I doubt it.

  • Reply 16 of 194
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 671member


    Clearly, pentalobe screws don't "prevent" users from getting inside the thing.  They can only deter.

     

  • Reply 17 of 194


    Hey everybody was complaining about being portable.  Well we got it.  Think of the new MacBook Pro like a iPad you really can't upgrade a iPad unless you buy another one.  The only question is how long does a solid state hard drive last until you have to replace it.  

  • Reply 18 of 194
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mcarling View Post


    When I predicted here that the next MacBook Pro would have RAM soldered directly onto the motherboard, no one believed me.  This means lower cost, higher reliability, better performance, and a more compact design.  All manufacturers will follow Apple's lead on this.



    Also, it might also impact the thickness of the device.  Just make sure you get AppleCare which is worth every penny.

  • Reply 19 of 194
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ultimato View Post


    Alas this is the price to pay to get something as svelte as the new Macbook Pro. In my mind it is well worth it. Just remember to get Apple Care!



    And to do a BTO build with maximum memory.   I mean 8G should be enough for MOST average users, but if you doing ANY content creation or possibly gaming (audio, video, graphics, gaming) 16G IS the way to go.  

  • Reply 20 of 194
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mausz View Post


    Cost : Why would it be lower ? Support/replacement is more expensive


    Reliability : Maybe, because you won't have badly seated ram, but wat happens when at QC you find a bad memory chip....


    Performance : No difference between soldered/non-soldered


    Compact design : The only plausible reasong in my opinion.



    Reliability also happens if people installed Third Party RAM after they buy the product since Third Party RAM can be flaky depending on the supplier.  For laptops, it's best to never have to dive in and replace things for users to do it.

Sign In or Register to comment.