Think About This Before Buying a New MacBook Pro

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This just in: Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) really, really doesn't want you tinkering with its beautiful hardware.

OK, maybe that's not a huge shock. Cupertino has a long history of locking down both hardware and software to protect the integrity of its iOS and Mac OS environments. But the company is going to extremes these days.

The hardware experts at iFixit ripped apart a brand-new MacBook Pro with a Retina display to see what's hiding inside. The site aims to help you, the end user, do simple repairs on the hardware we buy. This laptop got a rock-bottom fixability score of 1 out of 10.

The MacBook is held together with Apple's special five-cornered screws to prevent users from tinkering around with it, but these screws have been around for a while. You can buy special tools to deal with them nowadays. Worse, the memory chips are soldered to the motherboard and the solid-state drive is a totally unique model. In short, you'd better buy all the memory and storage you need right away, because these parts simply cannot be upgraded later.

Moreover, Apple glued the battery to the case, so you'd probably rip out cables for the trackpad if you tried to remove the battery. The iFixit guys actually gave up on doing it themselves, because the risk of ripping a hole in the battery was too great. And if anything ever breaks inside the display cabinet, such as the webcam sensor or the backlight, well, the whole thing is "completely fused" and you're on the hook for an entire display unit. Given the Retina display's high-tech pedigree, that's not going to be cheap.

If you want the option of upgrading your laptop piece by piece when it's getting stale, you'll be much happier with a Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) or Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) model. These guys assemble their computers from fairly off-the-shelf parts, and it's a simple matter to just drop in more memory or a larger drive. But the MacBook Pro is what it is, and you can't do a thing about it. Upgrading any part of the system means buying a new laptop; fixing even a pretty minor problem like a glitchy webcam is best done by Apple itself and hopefully under warranty.

For Apple's sake, I hope the build quality here is totally impeccable. Otherwise, the warranty repair bills could stack up really quickly, thanks to an architecture that's nigh-on impossible to service.

Apple is no stranger to high costs, of course. Despite the potential for rising costs of doing business in markets like China and India, Apple's been able to expand into and eventually dominate emerging markets. The Motley Fool highlights several other companies that are doing just that in a brand-new free report, "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World." You can get instant access to the names of these companies -- it's free.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies mentioned. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. The Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Read/Post Comments (13) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2012, at 11:43 PM, Weaverl wrote:

    Truly a foolish piece. You don't upgrade or fix Mac Books. It's not a Dell.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 12:01 AM, olsondavid wrote:

    This comment is so common from Windoze users. They seem to LIVE for being able to tinker around, and what do they get? Generally a piece of junk that has incompatiblities, viruses, a billion dll files just to make it work with any piece of junk somebody picks up at a surplus store, and then they wonder why everyone doesn't own that also. As the old saying goes, "it may not work very well, but it sure was cheap."

    Some of us want the seamless integration that Apple provides specifically by keeping the hobby hackers out of the system. If you want to play a souped up version of cosmic zombies, by all means, get a Windoze machine and spend a month climbing around in the bowels of the OS. That's a legitimate hobby. However, don't expect the Apple experience. Yes, I'll pay a bit more for that, and I always buy AppleCare to take care of the repair bills should they arise. Over probably 10 Macs, I've only had to use it once, but I'll buy an insurance policy and sleep well at night, knowing that in the morning, my computer will still work.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 12:04 AM, Rujikin wrote:

    Mac's are a high priced disposable computer nothing more.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 12:15 AM, pinks2000 wrote:

    My family has had 6 or 7 Mac's between us since 1999. All are still functioning perfectly. No tinkering. The only real problem is justifying the purchase of a shiny new computer (when you want one), because the old one is working just fine. If they broke down at least you could justify a new purchase, but they don't break down. Dang it.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 12:20 AM, IraLA wrote:

    "Apple is no stranger to high costs, of course. Despite the potential for rising costs of doing business in markets like China and India, Apple's been able to expand into and eventually dominate emerging markets."

    This is non sequiturial gibberish.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 2:23 AM, rjonesthree wrote:

    This article has nothing to do with investing.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 7:32 AM, yragsapo wrote:

    I've had Macs since the 80's and of the 7 or so Macs I owned, only 1 died while in my possession , and that was due to a major electrical problem in my house. I still have a working Quicksilver G4, G5 Dual core Power Mac and a new 27" iMac working without a hitch.

    Back in the old days, when I had a Mac 512K, we used a daughter card to upgrade the memory to 1 MB.

    You can't fault Apple for making some of their machines non-upgradable, though I wish it could be otherwise. The smaller the package you try to stuff components into, the more extreme measures you must take to do it. Think about your cars. When I had a 1971 Chevy Impala, I could probably have crawled into the engine bay and wrapped my body around the engine. You could reach any component. Now, engines are shoehorned into the engine bays and the parts are not as accessible or easily replaceable as they once were. I expect Macs, such as the new Mac Pro, due to come out next year, will have all of the swappable parts that the current one has. I only wish they would bring back the upgradable processors, as they had on the G4's! Be nice to pop in the latest and greatest processor that would fit into the slot, but they want to encourage users to buy new computers, so that's not happening (They definitely do have built-in obsolescence in mind, but I don't think that the non-upgradable memory has to do with that in the new MacBook Pro. I think it's a matter of saving space to make the unit as thin as it is and to cram in the guts of th computer into the beautiful new case.

    That's my 2¢. Don't spend it all in one place.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 8:33 AM, jdmeck wrote:

    The point everyone is missing is that with Apple products you don't Have TO buy a new computer every year or two because they are high quality. If you need the latest and greatest every year, BUY SOMETHING ELSE.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 11:46 AM, millsbob wrote:

    as noted above, fears greatly overblown.

    and Apple Care, unlike similar extended warranty plans, is a wonderful, wonderful thing: for a few hundred dollars, ANYTHING that goes wrong over a 3-year period will be fixed, no questions asked, even in many cases, from obvious abuse, and no matter How much of the machine Apple has to replace.

    plus you can wander into the Apple Store with a question about anything that could possibly even be plugged into the Mac in question and get help with that, as well.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 11:57 AM, DrKrizzle wrote:

    Heh, that's why I bought Apple stock, once you get in the "Happy Garden," you're stuck. It's happy as long as you ONLY use Apple products, but you have to pay a lot to get in and its guarded with high walls and lots of lawyers. Thanks for driving up the shares of AAPL for me!

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 12:06 PM, constructive wrote:

    jdmeck wrote:

    "The point everyone is missing is that with Apple products you don't Have TO buy a new computer every year or two because they are high quality."

    Apple has a history of pushing over the air upgrades to iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple TV, etc. to make them incompatible with contemporaneous Macs, forcing you to upgrade.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 12:08 PM, constructive wrote:

    Windows computers generally offer higher backward/forward compatibility and longer useful lives.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2012, at 2:32 PM, texgeekboy wrote:

    The guy that says Macs last forever must have it tucked away in a desk drawer and never brings it out unless Mom and Dad let him. About 5 years ago our company issued macbook pros, but changed to Dells about 3 years ago. Why? Because the macs were dying for our road warriors. Admittedly, mine is the last as far as I know, and I am typing on it now, but I'm not a road-warrior type.

    The (older) Mac I currently have could be upgraded, and the battery is replaceable, which is good since it committed suicide about a year and a half ago.

    The fact that you can't even replace a battery will make the eventual replacement of this one by a Dell a bit easier to take. I like the Mac well enough, but I'm not a Mac lover looney.

    Oh year, I run Windows on it exclusively.

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