iFixit says new Arm Surface hardware “puts repair front and center”

Enlarge / Microsoft’s 11th Edition Surface Pro, as exploited by iFixit. Despite the adhesive that attaches to the screen and the fact that the heatsink needs to be removed to access the battery, it’s still much more serviceable than previous Surfaces or competing tablets.

For a long time, Microsoft’s Surface hardware was difficult or impossible to open and repair, with devices as recent as 2019’s Surface Pro 7 still achieving a repairability score of just 1 out of 10 on the iFixit scale. The original 2017 Surface Laptop needed to be physically cut to access its internal parts, making it essentially impossible to attempt to repair the machine without destroying it.

But in recent years, partly due to pressure from shareholders and others, Microsoft has made a serious effort to improve the repairability of its devices. The company has published detailed repair videos and manuals and made changes to the designs of its hardware over the years to make it easier to open them without breaking them and replace parts once inside. Microsoft also sells some original parts for repairs, although not all parts for each Surface are available, and Microsoft and iFixit have partnered to offer other parts as well.

Now, iFixit has torn apart the latest Snapdragon Both devices score an 8 out of 10 on iFixit’s repairability scale, thanks to Microsoft’s own service manuals, the relative ease with which both devices can be opened, and clearly labeled internal components.

Beneath the surface

To open the Surface Laptop, iFixit says you only need to unscrew four screws, hidden under the laptop’s rubber feet; At that point, the bottom of the machine is only held in place by magnets, rather than breakable retaining clips. Opening the bottom of the laptop provides easy access to the battery and an M.2 2232 SSD. Labels inside the device indicate which screws need to be removed to replace which parts and what type of screwdriver you’ll need to do the job; Scannable barcodes also make it easy to find repair manuals and parts on the Microsoft site. Most of the other parts are easy to remove and replace once the bottom of the laptop is removed.

The Surface Pro’s best repairability feature remains its easy-access M.2 2232 SSD, present under a pop-up cover on the back of the tablet. From there, things get more difficult: Accessing the battery and other components requires removing the screen, which is still held in place with adhesive rather than screws or magnets. This adhesive needs to be removed: iFixit cuts it with a thin plastic tool, and to close the tablet securely, a new adhesive will probably need to be applied. Once inside, the parts and screws are still clearly labeled, but the entire heatsink needs to be removed before the battery can be replaced.

iFixit uses slightly different criteria to evaluate the repairability of laptops and tablets, since tablets are more tightly integrated devices. So despite identical repairability scores, the Surface Pro is still a little more difficult to open and repair than the laptop; iFixit is simply comparing it to devices like the iPad Air and Pro rather than other laptops, and the Surface Pro still looks better than other tablets in comparison despite the use of adhesive.

The teardown video doesn’t detail exactly why iFixit removed points from each device’s repairability score, although iFixit did take note of the soldered, non-upgradable RAM and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth modules. Both devices also use many more screws and clips than something like the Framework Laptop, which could also be a factor.

We’ve been using the new Snapdragon-powered Surface devices for a few days now and will have more insights to share about the hardware and its performance in the coming days.

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