back to article Apple's iPad Pro on a stick, um, we mean M1 iMac scores 2 out of 10 for repairability

Having ripped into Apple's new M1 iMac, the iFixit gang turned its attention to the device's keyboard and the all-important Touch ID sensor. Sensitive eyes may, however, wish to look away from the final repairability score. With access gained to the innards of the new M1 iMac via the screen yesterday, the team today noted the …

  1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    "the internal storage cannot be altered; an odd path for Apple to pursue"

    It's not an odd path if they do what they do with phones (i.e. refusing to include a microSD card slot) and charge a bomb for including extra storage at the time of purchase. I'm surprised they didn't cut out the USB sockets lest you plug in any non-Apple drives!

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      (I just knew that had to get some downvotes...)

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        (They just can't stand to hear the flaws of their deity pointed out...)

    2. Dave559 Silver badge

      an odd path for Apple to pursue

      It may not be "odd" for Apple's current (mal)practices, but it certainly is very frustrating that storage and RAM are not upgradeable.

      Humanity produces far too much e-waste as it is: enabling useful upgrades that let people get a couple more years' use out of expensive (both financially and environmentally) devices is a Good Thing (we will all still need to replace them eventually, after all) and it really is shameful that Apple goes out of its way to make this impossible.

      We really need laws to require these sort of upgradeability options, as, sadly, it certainly seems like the manufacturers won't do it willingly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: an odd path for Apple to pursue

        "Humanity produces far too much e-waste as it is: enabling useful upgrades that let people get a couple more years' use out of expensive (both financially and environmentally) devices is a Good Thing"

        Indeed. I've been looking at work laptops, and as best as I can see Dell Latitudes have soldered RAM, and top out at 16GB. :( Precisions on the other hand, have user-replaceable RAM, but are probably too heavy, and too expensive. Doh. (we're limited to Dell because *reasons*)

    3. rcxb

      I'm surprised they didn't cut out the USB sockets lest you plug in any non-Apple drives!

      No point in that. Wi-Fi chipsets are cheap and low-power enough they can be included in USB drives. A bit like the old personal FM transmitters...

  2. wsm

    No keyboard replacement without losing a function?

    Doesn't that eliminate the possibility of purchase of this thing in multiples for larger organizations? Keyboards are usually the first thing that users damage and replacing them is commonplace. But pairing the ID device with only the original keyboard is Apple gone arrogant again. Right to repair not an issue for them, then.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: right to repair (?)

      It should be quite obvious to everyone by now that repairability is NOT an Apple concern during design. Just the opposite: Apple is obviously, quite apparently, and consciously, designing products that are preferred to be considered disposable, requiring a visit to an Apple store to purchase an entirely new device rather than simply upgrade a subsystem to handle new operational requirements.

      This optimizes their profit, the only thing companies have been told to care about. Allowing a memory upgrade with a DRAM slot means at best a modestly-priced module sale, at worst no sale at all as the owner goes third party and buys compatible DRAM at a [massive] discount versus OEM prices. By doing things like not building in an upgrade path, you guarantee a healthy sale of an expensive, full device in the future as the customer's needs grow. By not designing in ease of repair, you guarantee either a sale of an extended service plan, which statistically always makes money for the seller, or more expensive future 'repairs' which are actually full-out device swaps.

      Apple WANTS lock-in. There is, and has always been, huge profit in this. The problem is that Apple's customers are perfectly happy to purchase these devices with that limitation...so Apple has absolutely, positively, no incentive to change. Therefore they won't. And that's the flat honest truth.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: right to repair (?)

        Allowing a memory upgrade with a DRAM slot...

        In the case of Apple's M1 devices, the memory is said to be done like that purely to avoid a traditional, (comparatively) slow DRAM interface. Yes, they could have added a slot but apart from needing the control logic and physical space you would end up with an Amiga-like 'fast RAM' / 'slow RAM' system which might not do the reputation of the M1 any good.

        And, of course, less profit for Apple.

        M.

        1. Malcolm Weir

          Re: right to repair (?)

          This is great spin by whoever is making it, but it is suspect from an engineering perspective. What the M1 is doing is pooling the GPU and CPU RAM (all unexciting LP-DDR4 stuff) and pretending it's a feature by suggesting that there's something inefficient by having the GPU with its own specialist memory (e.g. GDDR6) and the CPU with it's memory.

          Compare with a low-end GPU like the embedded ones in an Intel processor: these GPUs manage to share the same pool of memory using "just" the DDR4 interface (so no bus to speak of), so what's the difference between this an an M1? Basically, nothing much.

          Now, compared to a high-end system with a discrete GPU, having separate pools of memory (each dedicated to the task) usually makes much more sense, as (for example) the video refresh can be optimized in the GDDR in a way that it can't in regular DDR.

          So what this boils down to is someone promoting the lack of a discrete GPU as some kind of benefit, rather than the reality of this being a reasonable cost-compromise.

          I'm not actually trying to knock the M1; there is no "one size fits all" chip, and the M1 seems a pretty capable part for what it was intended to do. But the risk is to look at optimizations specific to the niche any given chip is designed to serve and pretend that those optimizations are generally applicable.

          In this particular situation: there is no "fast RAM" / "slow RAM" in competing designs; there is only "system RAM" (low end) and "system RAM + graphics RAM" (high end). If you have a single pool, all that really means is balancing contention between the CPU and GPU vs putting the entire GPU subsystem on the other end of a PCIe interface and avoiding contention...

          Incidentally, the DDR4 interface (used in the M1) is only marginally faster than a PCIe4 x16...

          1. Malcolm Weir

            Re: right to repair (?)

            Just to follow up: I've looked into this a bit more, and what's really going on is that by putting the memory "on" the processor chip, Apple is saving assembly costs for a penalty of having more CPU SKUs. But as "they" make the M1, that's less of a burden that it would be for someone buying an Intel or Samsung CPU: Apple can decide how many M1's they'll make with each memory capacity, and go from there.

            So this is a production benefit (because they've eliminated the SO-DIMM PCB, the sockets, etc) not an architectural benefit. I'm sure the fact that it precludes memory upgrades is just gravy...

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: right to repair (?)

              Thanks for that - I don't really follow Apple too closely these days, though I have been very interested to see what they are doing with Arm on the desktop (still having a StrongARM machine in near daily use!). My impression from the early articles was yes, "unified" memory which eliminates copying (but this is something AMD have been touting for years) but also something clever to do with not having to send signals offchip and along dangerous PCB traces to the pitfalls of a socket which also contributed to some kind of speed benefit. Must have been wrong...

              ...and if the thing has a DDR4 interface anyway, surely they could have fitted just one socket for expansion? No? Well, I suppose it would take up a comparatively large amount of space.

              M.

      2. Gazman

        Re: right to repair (?)

        Well, you are wrong about at least one Apple user - I'm out once my Intel mac Mini goes turtle.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: right to repair (?)

        Not disagreeing with you, but I always thought that disposable usually meant cheap!

    2. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: No keyboard replacement without losing a function?

      You can replace a keyboard, you can't replace the touchID sensor *within* the keyboard.

      "the Touch ID sensor is paired with its original keyboard"

      not

      "the Touch ID sensor is paired with its original iMac"

  3. Ace2 Bronze badge

    Phones yes, computers huh?

    I totally get why phones need to be tiny, and removing connectors and screws helps there. All of the serial-number keying etc serves to kill the stolen phone/parts resale market, which I’m fine with.

    But I honestly have NO idea why they think anyone would care about how thick an all-in-one desktop is. I hated it when they took away the optical drive, and now even the rj45 is gone? (I’m waiting on someone to test the actual throughput on it, but haven’t seen anything anywhere.)

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      Thickness

      I can think of a few reasons why it is better to make them small / light:

      1) It reduces packaging costs;

      2) It reduces shipping costs* (volume and weight);

      3) The above reduce the environmental impact (but that may well be offset by repair-ability);

      4) Laptops, iPads, iPhones and desktops are all now made and designed in a similar way, so potential for a lot or reuse (even if that's just at the IP level).

      Oh - and "the cool kids" will love it ;-)

      Not convinced about removal of the RJ45, as that's likely to be needed in an office environment.

      * and they travel a long way

      1. Richard 111

        Re: Thickness

        I think the RJ45 plug is in the power supply and hence under the desk. That means there is only one cord running to the device so you keep a nice clean physical desktop. This is unlike the rats nest of cables for my PC with its 2 monitors and peripherals totaling 12 cables plus a bank of plugs and wall warts for power to monitors and other things.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Thickness

          My tower is under the desk and the the network cable is not far from the power plug too....

        2. JWLong

          Re: Thickness

          Yeah, but wall warts is what makes PC's. cool and all.

      2. jason_derp Silver badge

        Re: Thickness

        That all follows. Now we just need to compare it to the box it comes in and see if packaging is minimal. Aaaaaaannnnd it looks the same if google images is too be believed.

      3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: Thickness

        They only have to look achingly cool on the desks in hipster offices. Then the new owners can aspire to be the exiting, disruptive digital natives that inhabit such offices.

        Oh, and the reception desks of high-end architects offices, they need one too.

        1. David Woodhead

          Re: Thickness

          They only have to look achingly cool on the desks in hipster offices. Then the new owners can aspire to be the exiting, disruptive digital natives that inhabit such offices.

          If only they were 'exiting' rather than 'exciting'. Too much to hope.

          I just find this whole smaller / slimmer / cooler / throw it in the tip thing so depressing, from a personal and planetary viewpoint. I repair and enhance *old* technology for people in our village and surrounding area, trying to give them something which is faster, cheaper and more usable than anything they can buy in a shop or on the interwebs. They appreciate and thank me for it, for which I'm grateful, but there's only one of me around here and huge landfills of stuff that passes me by and which no-one cares about.

          Sorry about that. I need to go and shout at some clouds now.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Thickness

            "I just find this whole smaller / slimmer / cooler / throw it in the tip thing so depressing"

            I went to see my doctor a while back, and watched him enter some information into an impossibly tiny keyboard while looking at an impossibly HUGE display. I don't know what the setup was, only that the computer was this tiny little box with an Apple logo on it.

            I did wonder if he bought it, or if it was a "pharmaceutical donation" (if you see what I mean). Either way, it was comic. Keyboard suitable for a myopic, screen suitable for blockbuster movies.

          2. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Thickness

            "I need to go and shout at some clouds now."

            My main computers are ARM based (these days, my phone does most of the heavy lifting). But once in a while I need Windows, or rather, some software that runs on Windows.

            My current PC is from the early XP era and it came from a boot sale. My previous (and the backup box) came from a pile of stuff destined for landfill.

            Sure, it's not epic fast, it's a 2.8GHz Pentium4 box that blatantly lies about how many cores it actually has ;) but stick in some more memory and give it a new harddisc and, well, it's been running for years. Generally speaking the machine spends most of its time waiting for the meatsack to do stuff. Think how much the idle process is used in between keypresses.

            Either way, it doesn't seem useful to buy something shiny and new when somebody else's reject will do the job. I get a whole machine for about ten euros (boot sale) or free (pre-landfill), spend about thirty euros on bits, recycle a keyboard, and a mouse and job done.

            Actually, thinking about it, the mouse came from work, cable damaged at the mouse end so they got a new one and chucked out the old. I recovered it, cut the cable a little shorter, soldered it together, cleaned the thing, twice (eeeewwwwww!), and it has functioned without problems for years.

            It's depressing how much working or easy to fix kit gets thrown away.

      4. manalive

        Re: Thickness

        Agreed - it’s akin to saying what’s the matter with a CRT Television.

        The iMac is becoming more like an appliance, this will last 10+ years I reckon for the average user, then most of it can be recycled. Half of the inside is just an acoustic chamber!

  4. vtcodger Silver badge

    You can never be too rich or too thin

    but did anyone really need a thinner all-in-one desktop?

    I could use a sturdier place-marking bookmark for the paperback I'm reading. Would an iPad Pro be suitable? Or is it too thick?

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: You can never be too rich or too thin

      Bookmarks? Give it another 2 or 3 generations and you'll be able to use the ipad pro to gap spark-plugs.

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: You can never be too rich or too thin

        By that time, there will be no spark-plugs. Sniff.

  5. 45RPM Silver badge

    As long as the Mac Pro is serviceable then, as long as the iMac et al are recycleable, they can sacrifice that maintainability in order for fashionable thinness. I hate typing those words - reuse is better than recycle, and for reuse maintainability is a key requirement. But, realistically, most people don’t care about maintainability - if it’s old, broken, or just a bit dowdy off it goes to the dump. So why bother making it maintainable if most people won’t maintain it?

    I went to the dump yesterday (a load of failed flourescent tubes and their mounting apparatus in case you’re wondering), and the electronics skips were full of laptops and desktop PCs - most of them either quite repairable, I’ll bet, or full of useful components which were fully functioning. Will they get repaired? Of course not. They were in a bloody skip, exposed to the elements. They’ll get shipped to Turkey and dumped in landfill. So why go to the effort of making them repairable in the first place?

    Sure, some people (most of us I’ll bet) do care about maintainability. But what are we going to buy? A pro spec computer (Mac Pro) or a home spec computer (iMac)? I bet most of us are going to go Pro - at least, if we can afford it. So then the argument becomes one of, sure, do what you will with the iMac - but for the love of Woz, make a Mac Pro that is affordable - at least in a base specification.

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Recycling is now criminal

      Seriously, should you fish one of these repairable devices out of the skip before it gets rained on, you can be prosecuted. I think for theft, as the recycling company is on a bonus to meet their WEEE targets.

      Our local tip has a sign warning of such.

      1. SuperGeek

        Re: Recycling is now criminal

        "Seriously, should you fish one of these repairable devices out of the skip before it gets rained on, you can be prosecuted. I think for theft, as the recycling company is on a bonus to meet their WEEE targets.

        Our local tip has a sign warning of such."

        Not always. I regularly salvage stuff from my local SUEZ owned tip, and as long as you ask permission from managers they will often allow you to take stuff, even buy it if you think it has value. Made a ton of money this way from washing machines, TV's, computers etc

      2. Mongrel

        Re: Recycling is now criminal

        Luckily our tip has a ReUse shop. If your stuff isn't in too bad a condition you leave it in a flagged spot and they chuck a cheap price tag on it an chuck it in the store.

        Also, thinking about it, they have a cargo container for PCs, Monitors & TV panels so they may get sent out for refurb or part picking

        I think Free Geek is the best example of how to recycle PCs & components.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "But what are we going to buy?" - Not a iDevice

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Yeah, I made the mistake of buying an Apple device once. Never again. And I consider my co-workers with iPhones to be not so bright.

        "Oh Joe is great. Awesome guy. Salt of the earth. Got an iPhone though..."

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Your view on iPhone users gives off vibes of insecurity.

          Many iPhone users are not Apple fans, nor do they like their iPhones much, but when the alternative is the heated dog turd that is Android, they are left with little choice.

          1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

            > Your view on iPhone users gives off vibes of insecurity.

            As does your view on Android phones?

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              As does your view on Android phones?

              No. I don’t get along with Android OS.

              But I don’t have petty prejudices against the people that do like it.

              World of difference.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Comparing Apple and Android is like comparing apples and oranges....

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          Really? Why? I get comparing Apple computers to others and not liking Apple's structure. Computers from others are usually more repairable and likely to last longer. Also they're sometimes less expensive. I don't view that as the only factor, but it definitely is one where Apple loses. But I don't see that factor applying to their phones. Android phones have much shorter software support lifetimes and are usually similarly unrepairable. There are only a few ones out there which are designed for users to repair them. For the vast majority of devices which weren't intended in that way, iPhones score in the middle whereas a lot of others score very low. So what argument do you have for disliking iPhones so much that you look down on those who use them?

      2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Quite. I've had the same desktop-of-Theseus for about 22 years. I think the oldest component in it now is probably the DVD drive, which may be about 13 years old. The PSU and case are around 10 years old, the motherboard, processor and RAM were replaced about 2 years ago (along with gaining a snazzy SSD for the OS), and the newest component is a 2TB SATA backup drive I slid in the front last week. Almost every single part I've ever removed from it has been sold on eBay or repurposed. I very rarely actually throw any of it away.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          PSU

          You might want to look again at the power supply, replacing an old one with a newer 80+ one almost halved the power consumption. But that was a while ago.

          1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

            Re: PSU

            I just looked it up – I bought it in July 2010, and apparently its efficiency is pretty good (it is an 80+ doodad). That's another thing – buying good-spec stuff to start with really pays off, it seems: it's never given me any trouble, in any case (pun intended).

            1. J. Cook Silver badge

              Re: PSU

              Another good reason/excuse is if you have bad power in your area like I do in mine, although a good UPS unit fixes most of those problems. :)

      3. Blank Reg Silver badge

        The last time I bought an Apple product it had ][ in the name.

    3. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Shipped to Turkey?

      More likely somewhere like Belarus, where repair skills include data recovery, and it's the passwords and contact lists that get recycled.

      I don't see what the big deal about physical repairs is about. I mean, Apple will find a way to make even a perfectly functional Mac into a paperweight via software "upgrades", so who cares of the back light works?

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: Shipped to Turkey?

        I have some seriously old perfectly working Macs, and none of them were rendered useless by Apples software updates. Perhaps you’re thinking of the other fellas. In fact, for a while, each release made the computer quicker (with the caveat that the original MacOS X was dogshit slow on my PowerMac G3, but was really very usable by the time Tiger rolled around)

        Certainly, my 2009 vintage Mac Pro is really rather snappy with Catalina (albeit that Catalina wouldn’t install without a spot of help), my 2013 MacBook runs Big Sur without breaking a sweat…

        It all renders your argument a little… well… pointless.

        Taking my iPhone - well, that’s a 2016 model - and still runs perfectly well now that I’ve changed the battery, and all patched up with the latest OS.

        Even the other fellas are fine. My HP z800 of ancient vintage runs the latest Windows 10 with no difficulty (although I suspect that if it had an i3 inside it might not be quite so happy)

        Here’s my theory, putting aside bullshit and prejudice. If you spend serious dough on your gear then it will last a long time and be supported for a long time, without tedious slow downs. If you buy budget then you get a budget lifetime. It doesn’t matter if it’s a car, a fridge, a computer, a toaster, a TV, a phone. You get what you pay for.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    What if...

    this iMac is the last computer I buy? What if it checks all the boxes for me? What if it is fast enough for my needs?

    Just playing the devil's advocate here... I would never invest personal cash in Apple directly, I have bought some second hand and even more donations, all machines that can be upgraded to some extent, 2gb of ram to 3! whoo hoo!

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: What if...

      Apple will make sure it isn't.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What if...

        The 2011 mac mini came with 2GB as a base model (definitely not enough, spinning beachball all the time) but you could replace that for 40 euro to 8GB. Don't remember what Apple asked for the update but it was way more, just as today.

  7. technocrat

    making sure you upgrade even earlier

    not only are Apple notorious for making you buy into their product, now they've gone a step further buy using the ssd for ram swapping, how long you reckon you'll REALLY get out of it? heavy users a year? normal users 2 years? I really like the m1 but Apple have gone too far on this one, you're going to see a lot of class action lawsuits on this one, a soldered cpu (normal for apple), soldered ram (normal for apple), soldered ssd (normal for apple), the new encryption and the constant writing to the ssd as ram is not normal, gl getting your data when the ssd dies, not only do apple want non replaceable parts, they now want whole machines to only last 1 to 2 years before you are forced to upgrade. If you buy an Apple device now you deserve what happens.....

  8. deadlockvictim

    Apple Jobs/Woz dynamic

    Jobs & Woz are the two poles of Apple.

    Jobs wanted appliances and those machines built with guidelines are hard to repair, hard to upgrade not intended for either. Think of the original Macintosh, PowerBooks, and every non-high-end Mac since the Second Coming™.

    Woz is a tinkerer and wanted expandability & customisation. Those machines built in his philosophy are the Apple IIs and most of the high-end Macs.

    That the iMac was designed to be all but impregnable is not at all surprise. It is actually to be expected and avoided unless you want to play Apple^s very expensive game.

    If you want an affordable, well-designed Mac that can easily upgraded, wait for the Mac Pros to go out of support, then they can be gotten on eBay for much less than £100.

    Some years ago, I bought a 2008 Mac Pro for £30. I rarely go online with it and I use it for Photoshop and light video-editing work. It supports 64GB RAM, has 8x 2.8GHz Xeon cores and runs very nicely on SATA III SSDs in a RAID-I configuration. It is true that it could be faster and have a faster bus & RAM but for what I am using it for, it is more than fast enough. There is also a lot of software available from that period on the Macintosh Garden. And there is a lot of software there.

    I have Ubuntu for Internet work (and to connect to the VM at work) and there is surely a version of Linux that'll run very nicely on that Mac Pro.

    I am not a fan of Apple but I do like Macs and I don't mind waiting 10 years. The Macs, the Mac OS and the software that ran on them weren't too bad 10 years' ago.

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