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These 10 Electronic Devices Are Almost Impossible to Repair

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Last week, the repair commandos at iFixit.com shared with us their list of the 10 easiest-to-repair electronics. It's a useful list if you want to know which gadgets you can service on your own. But if it's controversy and indignation you want, this is the week you've been waiting for! Here are iFixit's top 10 hardest-to-repair electronics.

We have to wonder what the late Steve Jobs (who was so obsessive about making his gadgets user-friendly) would think to see a whopping six Apple products filling out iFixit's list of the least repairable objects. Not surprisingly, a few of the top slots are taken up by the line of environmentally unfriendly Macbook Pros with Retina Display, which iFixit boss Kyle Wiens once slammed as "designed to fail."

10. Apple iPod touch MP3 Player (5th Generation)
Category: MP3 Player
iFixit Verdict: "Clips and adhesive (and no external screws) make it difficult to open the case. Once inside, several components are soldered into two main assemblies, increasing cost of replacement for any individual part."
Fixability Score: 3

9. Nikon D600 24.3-Megapixel Digital SLR Camera
Category: DSLR
iFixit Verdict: "Similar to the D5100, components are very densely packed, and desoldering is required for disassembly. Additionally, the LCD is fused to the rear case and cannot be replaced without swapping the entire back of the body."
Fixability Score: 2

8. Apple iPad with Retina Display WiFi Tablet
Category: Tablet
iFixit Verdict: "Just like in second and third generation iPads, loads of adhesive secure the screen and battery to the case. This makes it difficult to open the device for repairs, and especially difficult to remove the battery to install a replacement."
Fixability Score: 2

7. Apple iPad mini WiFi Tablet
Category: Tablet
iFixit Verdict: "Components are held in place with either copious amounts of adhesive or tape, or incredibly tiny and easy-to-lose screws. Especially annoying, the Lightning connector is soldered to the logic board, so broken connector pins will mean replacing the entire assembly."
Fixability Score: 2

6. Nikon D5100 16.2-Megapixel Digital SLR Camera
Category: DSLR Camera
iFixit Verdict: "Disassembly requires desoldering several components and removing a ton of screws. Components are densely packed into the device, complicating repairs."
Fixability Score: 2

5. Apple MacBook Pro Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7 3GHz 13.3" Retina Display Laptop
Category: Laptop
iFixit Verdict: "Slightly better than its 15" predecessor, the MacBook Pro Retina 13" still features a glued-in battery, proprietary screws and SSD, and soldered-in RAM."
Fixability Score: 2

4.Apple iPod shuffle 2GB MP3 Player (4th Generation)
Category: MP3 Player
iFixit Verdict: "Because of the small scale and construction, it's impossible to open this device without destroying it. Additionally, the battery is soldered to the logic board, increasing repair difficulty."
Fixability Score: 2

3. Microsoft Surface Pro Ivy Core i5 1.7GHz 10.6" Windows 8 Tablet
Category: Laptop/Tablet Hybrid
iFixit Verdict: "The Surface Pro's display assembly is incredibly hard to remove, sealed in place with tons of adhesive. Once you have the cover removed, there are more than 90 screws inside to keep you from the rest of the components."
Fixability Score: 1

2. HTC One 4G Android Smartphone
Category: Smartphone
iFixit Verdict: "This phone is very difficult, if not impossible, to open without destroying the rear case. Even if you can get it open, the battery is buried beneath the motherboard and adhered to the midframe, and incredibly difficult to replace."
Fixability Score: 1

1. Apple MacBook Pro Ivy Bridge Core i7 2.3GHz 15" Laptop with Retina Display
Category: Laptop
iFixit Verdict: "Proprietary pentalobe screws, soldered and non-upgradeable RAM, a proprietary SSD, and a glued-in battery make the 15" Retina Pro the least repairable laptop we've ever seen."
Fixability Score: 1

So what are your gadget repair horror stories, and which items belong on this list (or don't) based on your experience? If nothing else, the presence of six Apple items here, we would hope, should serve as a wake up call to Apple CEO Tim Cook: Make your products more repairable, and thus less likely to wind up in landfills. In the meantime, learn all about the gizmos you can overhaul all by your self, complete with how-to guides and instructions, at iFixit.com.


Contributing Writer

Lou Carlozo is a DealNews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth. Prior to that he was the Managing Editor of WalletPop.com, and a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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14 comments
macsupportstore
Lou - Apple's strategy is likely to phase the Mac out over 7-10 years. When you build a Mac that's not upgradeable it sends a message to consumers that Apple wants to sell them another in 3 years. Moreever, the last round of iMacs were priced *higher* on the entry level and was standard with a slower (2.5" 5400RPM) hard drive to boot (no pun intended). Unless you want to pony up another 2-400 bucks for the "fusion" drive, the inflated cost of ownership is enough to turn people away from the Mac and to where Apple is making their money these days - MOBILE DEVICES.
dealnews-Lindsay
@dennisr314 That's an EXCELLENT suggestion!
dennisr314
You should also do an article on the price to fix some of these items. I bought a Lenovo 23" touchscreen and cracked it. It cost me 700 new and they wanted 2000 (yes 2 thousand) to fix it. Go figure.
gbxx69
I wonder if people will stop buying products because of this? Probably not since the cellphones on the list will just be upgraded in 1-2 years. Also, refurbishment of products generally means swapping out whole component boards and parts instead of a skilled labor tech de-soldering and soldering components to fix something. Due to all the patent fights, I doubt the MFG wants their schematics leaking so the skilled repair techs will be swap it men practicing limited skill work. BTW, for products under $200 I can understand sealing them with adhesive.. but most over $200 should be serviceable and any company going cheap on a $500 product should be criticized for not making it properly & easily refurbish able.
addicuss
Everyone complaining in this article makes no sense. Stop taking this article as an affront to your favorite company.
The article states 10 of the hardest to repair devices. Whether or not the device is hard to repair for a reason is besides the point. Whether or not 10% or 100% of people are going to repair the device is irrelevant. Whether or not the cost of repairing is more than the cost of the item is irrelevant. All of that falls outside of the scope of the article. If any of you want to contest that these items are easier to fix than stated, or that there are items that should have made the list then that makes sense. But taking implied offense from the article on behalf of these companies is kind of pointless and silly.
g1g3m
" For many consumer products, it just makes sense to replace a product than to attempt a repair. It's ironic that most of the products listed here are so expensive that I'd prefer the option to repair."

I HATE this excuse.My sister had a push lawnmower that was only used 3 times before winter. This spring she got it out - only to discover that it wouldn't start. She asked me to look at it, and I discovered that it was faulty carburetor seal. I didn't have time to deal with it right then, but ordered the part. Two weeks later I showed up to fix it, and she had bought a new lawnmower. Her excuse? "It was ONLY $200 for a new one!" Yes, the OLD - BRAND NEW mower ended up in a landfill.

Sure, the hassle of getting me to do this and the cost of the seal/carb kit WAS about $80, you just threw away a perfectly good piece of equipment, because "It wasn't worth it." What does that tell you about the waste in our lives. We don't even notice it anymore.
dmconcannon
Doesn't densely packed components go hand-in-hand with thinner and smaller devices? Seems like a bogus complaint.

Also, even IF a device was easily repairable by an end user, what percentage of users will actually attempt that repair themselves? I think 10% would be grossly overstating that.

I love DealNews, but this is a worthless article for a site targeted at consumers. It would be marginal at Engadget, even.
GrandPixel
With due respect, the attack on Apple is bogus.

I don't think Steve Jobs expected his end users to repair their own laptops and ipods. That's the whole point of being user-friendly; you don't have to be a techie to use it.

You cannot say "whopping six" and then list everything twice: ipod, ipad, ipad, macbook, ipod, macbook - and an ipad is basically an ipod, but bigger. All apple products use this "unibody" concept so of course they're going to be difficult to crack open and repair. Apple takes care of it, I don't see the problem.

Apple has their own recycling program, and they will pay you for items of value. Besides, even if you can repair something, in a few years it has no value anyway and even if it works perfectly fine, it gets trashed or recycled.

Regarding Nikon, most powerful and advanced electronics in a compact form are going to contain densely packed components and be difficult to repair. Again, where is the problem?
tleaf
I've extended the life of my computers since the early 2000s, powerbooks, ibooks, macbooks, replacing RAM, hard drives, etc. But now I have an iPad and a Macbook Air, with soldered RAM and expensive hard drives. However, the SSD drives on most machines have turned the tide of whether you need to replace the hard drive these days. A SSD has just extended the life of my 5 year old Macbook Pro, making it feel as fast as my 2011 iMac. SSDs also have a lot less chance of failure and needing replacement. RAM over 4GB has become redundant unless you are doing anything other than what 99% of people are using their computers for. All in all, the things I usually replaced in my computers have become obsolete. Even battery replacement in the macbook air and ipad are not even worth paying 3rd party prices for, as the prices are too close to justify buying the knockoff and risk it being a dud and voiding the warranty. Breaking and replacing the screen is a whole other issue.
montysups
I like how over 50% of the items are Apple products & you always hear the Apple faithful disregard the lack of repairability as no big deal. Yes, you take your car to a mechanic when there's a serious problem. But do you really take your car to the mechanic for a bad battery or a flat tire?

Why can't I repair the battery in my Apple product? Its a no brainer process in nearly every other device, but Apple thinks I'm incapable of doing this & I have to take my device to an Apple "Genius" who is a high school dropout with less tech savvy than my 5 year old.

This is one of the major reasons I no longer support Apple products.
Kyser_Soze
I had a nice point and shoot camera that my wife dropped. The lcd screen in the back quit working. It looked like it could probably be repaired because it had regular screws holding it together. But the camera was 3 years old and a replacement was only slightly more than the cost of a repair, it was smaller and had more features. For many consumer products, it just makes sense to replace a product than to attempt a repair. It's ironic that most of the products listed here are so expensive that I'd prefer the option to repair.
Greg the Gruesome
"...Apple CEO Tim Cook: Make your products more repairable, and thus less likely to wind up in landfills."

Don't Apple Stores accept Apple products for e-recycling at no charge?

@geng0610

At first I was going to respond to you by saying that if I bought a MacBook Pro with Retina Display and it were to kick the bucket a little more than three years later (i.e., after the Apple Care extended warranty had run out), I would be inscensed. But then I realized that you would respond that a MBP+RD would be far less likely to fail like that than a Windows laptop.

So in the case of a MBP+RD, you'd say the inability to repair it is more than outweighed by the industry-best low rate of problems that MacBooks and MacBooks Pro have traditionally exhibited. In the absence of a method to quantify this balance (with the high prices of MacBooks + Apple Care factored in as well), personally, I would choose a Windows laptop that is repairable.
Old Salty
I respectfully disagree. Apple and Nikon will quickly repair each of these items. I've never had a time where either company refused a repair. Considering the level of technology involved, I find the repair price reasonable. A hour of repair time for an iPad battery is less than a comparable hour of time for automobiles, appliances, or even plumbing.

The issue you (and iFixit which was the original source) appear to be addressing is self-repair. But then again, neither my car, my clothes washer, or even my garage door opener are self repairable either... so this article looks a little biased in comparison. Do you really expect an average Joe/Jane to be able to service internal camera parts? The market has spoken. Smaller, more durable and expert-repair over large, clunky, and self-repair.

Who tosses a iPad with a dead battery in a landfill?. If you don't want to maintain it, Gazelle or other places will buy it from you, working or not. Think a little deeper on the topic next time.
geng0610
Repairablity is less of a concern when 1. product quality is very high to begin with, 2. product cycle is no longer than an year or two, 3. margin is really high, 4. Great replacement policy. Apple can keep repair ability in mind when designing their products but I don't think that's where they need to spend the most time.
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