Mac Pro teardown finds easy disassembly, great potential for repairs & upgrades

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Another dissection of Apple's new cylindrical Mac Pro has once again discovered that despite its unique design, the parts inside the desktop can be easily accessed, repaired or upgraded if need be.

Mac Pro


iFixit took its traditional deep look at the latest Apple hardware on Tuesday, offering readers a peek inside the new Mac Pro. While the solutions experts are often critical of Apple hardware for being unrepairable, they came away with a favorable impression of the redesigned Mac Pro.

"For being so compact, the design is surprisingly modular and easy to disassemble," the said, giving the late-2013 machine a "repairability score" of 8 out of 10. "Non-proprietary Torx screws are used throughout, and several components can be replaced independently."

Among those components that can be easily accessed is the RAM, which can be quickly upgraded upon taking the exterior off the Mac Pro. The system's solid-state drive, meanwhile, can be taken from the desktop after removing just one screw.

Mac Pro


iFixit also found that the central fan on the Mac Pro, which is key to the device's cylindrical design for quiet cooling, is easy for users to access and replace.

Like a separate teardown that was published last week, iFixit also found that the new Mac pro has a socketed, removable Intel CPU. That means future upgrades of the processor could be possible, though the repair experts noted that it does require "a bit of digging" to access the CPU.

Mac Pro


The small design of the Mac Pro means there's no internal room for another hard drive, but Apple has addressed these concerns by including six high-speed Thunderbolt 2 ports on the rear of the machine.

Finally, the teardown also discovered that although the Mac Pro features dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics processors, one of the cards was made in China, while the other was manufactured in Taiwan. This is because the Taiwan-made GPU hosts the slot for the machine's solid-state drive.

Mac Pro


"This seems to us like a potential opportunity for expansion -- perhaps higher storage configurations make use of two of this variety, for doubling up on SSDs?" they speculated.

The teardown took a look at the entry-level $2,999 model, which features an Intel quad-core Xeon E5 chip running at speeds up to 3.9 gigahertz, 12 gigabytes of 1866-megahertz DDR3 ECC memory, dual AMD FirePro graphics with 2 gigabytes of GDDR5 VRAM, 256 gigabytes of PCIe-based flash storage, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 4.0.
«1345

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 81
    feynmanfeynman Posts: 1,087member
    It amazes how they can spend such money to tear down the computer. I understand they want to be able to have a hands on approach to their repairs and I applaud them. Just funny the contrast compared to those who will be buying the machine for professional reasons.
  • Reply 2 of 81
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    feynman wrote: »
    It amazes how they can spend such money to tear down the computer. I understand they want to be able to have a hands on approach to their repairs and I applaud them. Just funny the contrast compared to those who will be buying the machine for professional reasons.

    They also send an employee from Califronia, where they are located, to New Zealand (usually) to buy the newest iDevices to strip them down and take pictures in a hotel room the moment they go on sale. This means that employee isn't sleeping for about 24 hours straight between waiting in a line (usually first to arrive) for a store to open to completing the teardown which is uploaded to iFixit at each stage of the process.
  • Reply 3 of 81

    iFixit also claims that you can save $1,050 by upgrading the processors yourself ;)

  • Reply 4 of 81
    Looking at the two GPU logic boards I wonder if they are interchangeable. The connectors at least look the same. If they are, I wonder if one could use two of the same ones and have dual SSDs. I (peronsally) doubt this is the case but looking only at the connectors it doesn't look like Apple made a clear distinction in the HW connectors.
  • Reply 5 of 81
    I'm not seeing any wireless technologies in their teardown. I suspect the same as a commenter on their forum, that it's likely located in the same housing of the fan assembly along with an antenna, something they didn't break down.
  • Reply 6 of 81
    An iFixtt score of 8. That is impressive. It confirms my hunch that Apple has designers smart enough to design modular, easy to repair or upgrade hardware. All they need is an incentive. If they'd do the same for the MacBook Air, I might finally upgrade--and so would many others.

    It wouldn't be that hard to create a MBA whose back is held on by Torx screws. Remove them and everything likely to need repair or upgrading would be visible. Even the battery could be held in place by Velcro rather than glue. I hate glue.
  • Reply 7 of 81
    After a month of tech bloggers whining, whining, whining about how closed the Pro will be, it isn't. Surprise. Cue Leo Laporte.
  • Reply 8 of 81
    inkling wrote: »
    An iFixtt score of 8. That is impressive. It confirms my hunch that Apple has designers smart enough to design modular, easy to repair or upgrade hardware. All they need is an incentive. If they'd do the same for the MacBook Air, I might finally upgrade--and so would many others.

    It wouldn't be that hard to create a MBA whose back is held on by Torx screws. Remove them and everything likely to need repair or upgrading would be visible. Even the battery could be held in place by Velcro rather than glue. I hate glue.

    The Mac Pro can be made larger and heavier with this sort of design without affecting usability. I don't think it's possible with a notebook, especially not the MBA. On top of the customers are very different, which isn't to say that Mac Pro buyers don't use notebooks but that the reasons one would buy a Mac Pro is not the same as one would buy a notebook. I really doubt you're going to see Mac notebooks become module designs that will get anywhere near an 8/10 repair rating.
  • Reply 9 of 81
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,124member
    One look at the final pic of all the parts should show why this machine is truly a work of design and packaging magic. One truly is paying for style to cram all of these beautiful, custom-designed PCBs into a tiny package. How can anyone compare it to an ugly PC box?
  • Reply 10 of 81
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Inkling View Post



    An iFixtt score of 8. That is impressive. It confirms my hunch that Apple has designers smart enough to design modular, easy to repair or upgrade hardware. All they need is an incentive. If they'd do the same for the MacBook Air, I might finally upgrade--and so would many others.



    It wouldn't be that hard to create a MBA whose back is held on by Torx screws. Remove them and everything likely to need repair or upgrading would be visible. Even the battery could be held in place by Velcro rather than glue. I hate glue.

    Velcro would add quite a bit of thickness.  They couldn't make an easily upgradable laptop in the same form factor as the MacBook Air.  

  • Reply 11 of 81
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    The Mac Pro can be made larger and heavier with this sort of design without affecting usability. I don't think it's possible with a notebook, especially not the MBA. On top of the customers are very different, which isn't to say that Mac Pro buyers don't use notebooks but that the reasons one would buy a Mac Pro is not the same as one would buy a notebook. I really doubt you're going to see Mac notebooks become module designs that will get anywhere near an 8/10 repair rating.

    Yes, but Apple has made the Mac Pro much, much smaller  and lighter than its predecessor while also making it easy to work on. That demolishes the old argument that a high-end computer has to be large and noisy to be powerful. There's no reason the same can't be true for the feature set of the MBA. After all, I'm not advocating the removal of any features of the MBA. I'm simply saying that they could be arranged much better.

     

    For instance, my aging white MacBook isn't made any larger or heavier by the fact that I can pop out the battery and change both the hard drive and RAM in ten minutes. Clever design made that possible. Making it easy to remove the MacBook Air's back cover doesn't make it any thicker or heavier. And with that much open area, you don't need to be genius to make everything that matters easily accessible. And what is there that Apple is doing with all those awful gobs of glue that can't be done better with Velcro or some other more versatile fastener? Like the MacBook, a battery change, along with a RAM and SSD upgrade, should be doable in ten minutes..

     

    You might want to read Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War. Among John Boyd's many accomplishments was slipping the nimble F-15 and F-16 fighters through a Pentagon bureaucracy that believed that to be powerful and long-ranged, a fighter plane had to be large and expensive.

     

    In fact, everyone at Apple should read the book. He's a far better illustration of how being different can change the world than a cranky artist like Picasso. Here's what Booklist said about Boyd:

     

    Quote:


    The late Colonel John Boyd, United States Air Force, began his career as a supremely proficient fighter pilot in the Korean War, after which he went on to develop the concept of energy maneuvering that has been the basis for fighter tactics and designs for 30 years. He proceeded militantly to advocate simpler fighter designs and attracted a group of like-minded civilian and uniformed reformers, known as the Acolytes, who were mostly as unorthodox as he.


     

    Every human activity can benefit from taking the time and making the effort to think differently. In my case, it's what I learned working at one of the country's top children's hospital. Excellence simply requires effort. Apple needs to make that effort with its laptops.

     

    --Michael W. Perry, author of My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer

  • Reply 12 of 81
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,510member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    Looking at the two GPU logic boards I wonder if they are interchangeable. The connectors at least look the same. If they are, I wonder if one could use two of the same ones and have dual SSDs. I (peronsally) doubt this is the case but looking only at the connectors it doesn't look like Apple made a clear distinction in the HW connectors.

    Now we hope that Apple will provide different exchangeable cards. I wish they sold a card meant for gaming. I dream of a 2000€ Mac Pro!
    eriamjh wrote: »
    One look at the final pic of all the parts should show why this machine is truly a work of design and packaging magic. One truly is paying for style to cram all of these beautiful, custom-designed PCBs into a tiny package. How can anyone compare it to an ugly PC box?

    Totally agree, I thought the same. It's truly a beauty.
  • Reply 13 of 81
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post

     

    iFixit also claims that you can save $1,050 by upgrading the processors yourself ;)


     

    iFixit is quoting MacRumors on this, who, in turn, is hedging its bets ("if not blocked by firmware")

  • Reply 14 of 81
    inkling wrote: »
    Yes, but Apple has made the Mac Pro much, much smaller  and lighter than its predecessor while also making it easy to work on. That demolishes the old argument that a high-end computer has to be large and noisy to be powerful. There's no reason the same can't be true for the feature set of the MBA.

    I disagree. The Mac Pro was a beast that didn't shrink in size even when it was a Power Mac G5 in 2003. 2003! When they went to Intel they were able to add two more 3.5" HDDs and an ODD but it basically still had a lot of extra space for most of those years. I think what we're seeing isn't that Apple finding some amazing new way to build Macs but finally putting in the effort to build the Mac Pro with the same focus they have been building their notebooks for the last decade. There is also a lot less room to spare in their notebooks, especially their MBAs.

    It makes sense to me that a workstation starting at $3K be more repairable by the customer or their in-house techs than with notebooks. That said, I would like their notebooks to be smaller and lighter but I don't want that to come at the cost of reducing performance or battery life, or getting thicker and larger so that a socketed CPU can be used.

    Finally, remember this is assembled in the US, and it looks like it's done by hand. That makes sense given this breakdown and the number of units its expected to sell compared to all of Apple's notebooks but I can't see this carrying over to the MBA. Again, I hope I'm wrong.
  • Reply 15 of 81
    clemynx wrote: »
    Now we hope that Apple will provide different exchangeable cards. I wish they sold a card meant for gaming. I dream of a 2000€ Mac Pro!
    Totally agree, I thought the same. It's truly a beauty.

    Maybe that's their goal here. It's finally only hit the market and Apple is notorious for starting small with manageable chunks an then building into more options and features after they have a solid foundation. I don't think it's unreasonable to think they could expand their card options in 2014.
  • Reply 16 of 81
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by starxd View Post

     

    Velcro would add quite a bit of thickness.  They couldn't make an easily upgradable laptop in the same form factor as the MacBook Air.  


     

    Velcro badly place might add thickness. Velcro positioned perhaps to the sides rather than the bottom wouldn't. Remember this isn't Velcro used to attach a wing to a plane. It's used in an already heavily confined space just to prevent a tiny bit of movement. And I did note that other fasteners might be used. Almost anything but arc welding or reinforced concrete would be better than messy, difficult to remove glue.

     

    I studied electrical engineering at the same school, Auburn University, where Tim Cook majored in industrial engineering a few years later. The campus is only about a fifteen minute walk from where I live now. A part of IE is designing products so they can be quickly assembled in a factory. The downside of that is that if that easy-to-build design is done badly, it can make repair and replacement difficult. That's one of the problems with many modern cars. You have to remove ten things to replace a water pump. 

     

    It's brilliant design that makes a product easy to assembly and easy to repair. With its laptops and that ticky-tacky glue, in recent years Apple has been emphasizing the first at the expense of the latter. The Mac Pro shows that they have the smarts to do both. They simply need the will.

     

    --Michael W. Perry, Auburn, AL

  • Reply 17 of 81
    inkling wrote: »
    Velcro badly place might add thickness. Velcro positioned perhaps to the sides rather than the bottom wouldn't. Remember this isn't Velcro used to attach a wing to a plane. It's used in an already heavily confined space just to prevent a tiny bit of movement. And I did note that other fasteners might be used. Almost anything but arc welding or reinforced concrete would be better than messy, difficult to remove glue.

    I studied electrical engineering at the same school, Auburn University, where Tim Cook majored in industrial engineering a few years later. The campus is only about a fifteen minute walk from where I live now. A part of IE is designing products so they can be quickly assembled in a factory. The downside of that is that if that easy-to-build design is done badly, it can make repair and replacement difficult. That's one of the problems with many modern cars. You have to remove ten things to replace a water pump. 

    It's brilliant design that makes a product easy to assembly and easy to repair. With its laptops and that ticky-tacky glue, in recent years Apple has been emphasizing the first at the expense of the latter. The Mac Pro shows that they have the smarts to do both. They simply need the will.

    --Michael W. Perry, Auburn, AL

    I agree with your sentiment but how often are people needing to swap out batteries in Mac notebooks? Is the cost and effort of what you suggest worth it to Apple?
  • Reply 18 of 81
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





     I think what we're seeing isn't that Apple finding some amazing new way to build Macs but finally putting in the effort to build the Mac Pro with the same focus they have been building their notebooks for the last decade. There is also a lot less room to spare in their notebooks, especially their MBAs.

     

    Ah, but I'm not advocating that Apple add more stuff to a MBA. I'm simply pointing out that stuff could be more intelligently placed and attached. And I agree that Apple's has put a lot of effort into products like the MBA. They are beautifully designed. I'm merely suggesting that they add a new item to their overall checklist: improving the upgradability and repairability. Getting a 2 or a 3 on that from iFixit ought to be as unacceptable as having a 2 or 3 hour battery life.

     

    In fact, about three years ago I was suggesting (perhaps a bit too loudly) that, if Apple got their laptop battery life above about 10-12 hours, it'd essentially be a forever battery, since few people can work longer than that without enough sleep to recharge the battery. Then, there were critics who equated a long battery life with thick and clunky. Now they equate repairability with thick and clunky. 

     

    Not so, I say.

     

    --Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien

  • Reply 19 of 81

    Is that a circular board that I see?

     

    This Mac Pro looks so futuristic.

  • Reply 20 of 81
    lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member
    Regarding upgrading CPU/GPU - don't forget about firmware - not that I have any reason to think that the firmware is different between say 8 core and 12 core models - but I don't have any reason to think that it is all the same for all models. Just saying that the ability to swap one processor for another with the same pinout doesn't guarantee that everything will work.

    Back in the day I upgraded a G3 tower a couple of times and had to move jumpers and load new firmware - in the end that system didn't live nearly as long as I would have liked to justify the additional expense and I am not 100% sure that its death was related to the CPU upgrades - but anyway - it is nice to see at least the potential for easy upgrades - especially memory which Apple has historically charge at least twice what the open market sells the same parts for. Then again I am not sure I ever had an Apple labeled memory card fail - compared to two cards sitting on my desk waiting to be send back for warranty replacement (not Apple - but 1/4 the price of Apple parts at the time so perhaps worth the trouble).
Sign In or Register to comment.