Teardown of 21.5" iMac with 4K Retina display finds new LG LCD, no PCIe SSD slot, soldered-on CPU

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited October 2015
After repair experts at iFixit got their hands on Apple's new 21.5-inch 4K iMac on Friday they immediately tore it down to find a new high-resolution LG LCD panel and internal design tweaks that make aftermarket upgrades even more difficult.




According to iFixit, Apple is using a new ultra high-resolution panel from LG capable of reproducing a DCI P3 colorspace, meaning the 4K iMac screen technically covers a much wider color gamut than competitors.

As can be expected from a 21.5-inch screen packing in more than nine million pixels, pictures are reproduced with smooth edges, with individual pixels almost indistinguishable to the naked eye. Compared to last year's model, the 4K iMac crams in 4.5 times the number of pixels and the results are obvious. Powering the pixel-dense display is an array of Texas Instruments chips and a Parade Technologies LCD timing controller identical to the unit controlling the 27-inch iMac's 5K Retina display.

Moving on to the hard drive, iFixit found Apple removed the PCIe SSD slot meant to serve a factory ordered Fusion Drive found in 2014 iMac versions, a reversion to 2013's design that came with empty solder pads. This means users looking to upgrade from Apple's stock configuration, or buy cheaper modules to install on their own, are out of luck.

Apple also chose to solder Intel's Broadwell CPUs onto the logic board, barring users from replacing the processor on their own. Memory, too, is non-user-upgradeable as DIMMs come soldered on.

A quick tally of component makers finds Samsung supplying stock RAM, Broadcom responsible for Ethernet and Texas Instruments chipping in with an SMC Controller and DisplayPort switch. Other manufacturers include Cirrus Logic, Vimicro, Intersil, Winbond, Delta and more.

Overall repairability was rated at a dismal 1 out of 10 due to soldered-on RAM, soldered-on CPU, fused glass display and missing Fusion Drive connector.
«1345

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 96
    Did they find the IGZO in it? The IGZO is probably glued to the back of the screen! iFixit score: -6
  • Reply 2 of 96
    Doesn't mean the CPU isn't user-replaceable... Just means you need to know how to solder and have a decent set of CPU soldering equipment.

    Sigh
  • Reply 3 of 96
    Frankly I don't get why these guys persist in issuing ratings for stuff that they know isn't remotely repairable by the average consumer. Anyone who really cares about repairability ratings is building their own Linux system from off the shelf parts anyways.
  • Reply 4 of 96
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,843member
    I'm always wondering.... for such high-quality components as this new LG LCD screen producing amazing results, how much was Apple involved in the engineering? Is this 100% on LG to have done the work and Apple just sourced the panels, because there's no competitive advantage to that.
  • Reply 5 of 96
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,843member

    And didn't Apple say that they designed their own timing controller? Why is it called the "Parade Technologies LCD timing controller"? Did they design it, but Parade made it? Is it a modified Parade controller?

  • Reply 6 of 96
    Them giving it a 1 for repairability and citing a missing fusion drive connector is bogus. That would matter for the "upgradeability" and not repairability.
  • Reply 7 of 96
    darkgoob wrote: »
    Doesn't mean the CPU isn't user-replaceable... Just means you need to know how to solder and have a decent set of CPU soldering equipment.

    Sigh

    Sigh. Yes it does. It means unless you work for an OEM or a graduate student working on CPU designs and motherboards most likely even then the thought of destroying the CPU socket to attempt to upgrade it is a fool's errand.

    This entire design is a throw away. I wouldn't touch it with your money.
  • Reply 8 of 96
    Don't know if anybody has noticed, but desktop machines haven't had any significant spec changes in the last four years. CPU power has increased 30% at best in that time. Can't say that there's a compelling need for machines - especially in the market Apple is targeting with the 21" iMac - to be upgradable these days. As far as repairability... well, not much has changed since the Mac 128k. It's the Apple way. iFixIt is a broken record when it comes to Apple hardware.
  • Reply 9 of 96
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,627member

    Look on the bright side. If this iMac fails within the warranty period you probably get a brand new replacement machine instead of a repaired or refurbished one.

  • Reply 10 of 96
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by darkgoob View Post



    Doesn't mean the CPU isn't user-replaceable... Just means you need to know how to solder and have a decent set of CPU soldering equipment.



    Sigh

     

    It'd be less hassle to replace the whole motherboard... suppose that's how you can upgrade it.

  • Reply 11 of 96
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post





    Sigh. Yes it does. It means unless you work for an OEM or a graduate student working on CPU designs and motherboards most likely even then the thought of destroying the CPU socket to attempt to upgrade it is a fool's errand.



    This entire design is a throw away. I wouldn't touch it with your money.



    The iMac 21" is not meant to be user serviceable - other than the RAM.

    It is for all intents and purposes, a MacBook Pro that was reshaped into a desktop.

    The CPUs of Mac without PCI slots are never meant to be replaced anyway.  So no need to complain.

  • Reply 12 of 96
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MAJANI View Post

     

     

    It'd be less hassle to replace the whole motherboard... suppose that's how you can upgrade it.




    Exactly.

     

    When my Macbook Pro 2011 started having graphics problems, the whole motherboard was replaced.  Nice!

     

    The same with the iMac.

  • Reply 13 of 96
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,816member

    Now an issue is being made with the CPU not being upgradeable?  Really... how many "dozens" of iMac users have ever even upgraded the CPU?



    It's like someone is trying to start another (x)-gate story.

  • Reply 14 of 96
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jameskatt2 View Post

     



    The iMac 21" is not meant to be user serviceable - other than the RAM...


     

    Not even the RAM ... it's not removable.

  • Reply 15 of 96
    This entire design is a throw away. I wouldn't touch it with your money.

    Hogwash. Ive owned many many many Macs in my life... And ive never upgraded a single one of them, or had to have a repair that wasnt covered under warranty. And i feel quite confident in saying that i fall into the vast majority of their user base. Is irrelevant for most of us.
  • Reply 16 of 96
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,816member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post





    Sigh. Yes it does. It means unless you work for an OEM or a graduate student working on CPU designs and motherboards most likely even then the thought of destroying the CPU socket to attempt to upgrade it is a fool's errand.



    This entire design is a throw away. I wouldn't touch it with your money.



    How many times must it be said.  Most consumers will NEVER upgrade their machine after purchase.  That's just the way it is.  Why spend extra money on engineering and components that most will never use?  Honestly.  What's the issue here?

  • Reply 17 of 96
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jameskatt2 View Post

     

    It is for all intents and purposes, a MacBook Pro that was reshaped into a desktop.


     

    2011-era and before MBPs have replaceable Ram, HD and even motherboards depending how much you want to upgrade. Now even a desktop machine lacks it, for absolutely no conceivable benefit.

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

     



    How many times must it be said.  Most consumers will NEVER upgrade their machine after purchase.  That's just the way it is.  Why spend extra money on engineering and components that most will never use?  Honestly.  What's the issue here?


     

    Because they've purposefully made it sodlered on and not user replacable for no benifit whatsoever. It's basically identical inside. Rather than asking "why would they have it" ask "Why would they remove it?" Apple's answer seems to have been "Not many people upgrade their RAM, so lets make it far more expensive for them by forcing them to buy it through us for extravagant prices rather than buy cheaper, better RAM from amazon."

  • Reply 18 of 96
    As far as the soldered memory issue, I think as usual, Apple evaluated the tradeoffs between soldered and socketed memory.  The downside of soldered memory has been discussed here, i.e. the loss of upgradeability.  But I believe there are five small yet significant benefits that Apple apparently valued.  In comparison to socketed memory, soldered memory:


        -  takes up less physical space


       -   is cheaper to manufacture


        -  performs faster


        -  uses less power


        -  is more durable


    I’m not an expert on this stuff, but I’ve seen claims made about all five of these advantages.  Someone with more expertise may correct me.  All of these advantages are small, but they add up.  I don’t have to like Apple’s decision but it doesn’t look crazy.  If I really value upgradeability, I won't buy this machine!
  • Reply 19 of 96
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,355member
    These Macs are super easy to upgrade! I do it all the time. I will share my secret with you for free!

    1. Make sure you have a time machine backup
    2. Buy a new Mac in the configuration you need
    3. Restore from time machine
    4. Sell your previous Mac on eBay for a few hundred less than you bought it for since they retain their value.

    There. I can do that in an afternoon and don't even need a Torx screwdriver or pry bar. Plus I get a new warranty and the latest hardware.
  • Reply 20 of 96
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by delreyjones View Post

     

        -  takes up less physical space


       -   is cheaper to manufacture


        -  performs faster


        -  uses less power


        -  is more durable


     

    Apple uses LPDDR3 in its notebooks, which is for the lower voltage (1.2v vs 1.5v) and power consumption. It's soldered on to save space and, because of the way that it interfaces with the CPU has no predefined standard, this would require Apple going to the expense of creating a propitiatory one to provide upgradability and I don't see them going this far - not providing it gives them far more profit.

     

    Reliability? Sure, I'll take that reason. Most RAM issues I deal with require a simple re-seating and soldered on eliminates that problem. Though conversely, it introduces another single point of failure (and a common one), and replacing the RAM would require replacing the whole motherboard (as the RAM itself is integrated into the logic board and not really soldered on).

     

    Performance? None. No benefit at all. Cheaper to manufacture? More durable? Likewise. A RAM chip is a RAM chip, just integrated onto the motherboard rather than the standard stick.

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jkichline View Post



    These Macs are super easy to upgrade! I do it all the time. I will share my secret with you for free!



    1. Make sure you have a time machine backup

    2. Buy a new Mac in the configuration you need

    3. Restore from time machine

    4. Sell your previous Mac on eBay for a few hundred less than you bought it for since they retain their value.



    There. I can do that in an afternoon and don't even need a Torx screwdriver or pry bar. Plus I get a new warranty and the latest hardware.

     

    I agree with you on point #4. That's a good idea for any technology.

Sign In or Register to comment.