The teardown artists at iFixit have unscrewed, unglued, and reviewed plenty of tablets in recent years and this week, the site published a handy ranking of all of those devices by their repairability scores.
How easy is it to pop the battery out of the Google Nexus 7 if you want to replace it? How many tiny screws are you going to have to deal with if you're set on disassembling the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch? The site's repairablility rankings offer up a quick sketch of what you can expect from your tablet if you're the DIY type.
The most easily repairable tablet iFixit has reviewed is the Dell XPS 10 running Windows RT, a 10.1in tablet that Stuart Andrews described as "well-built, feels good in the hand". The iFixit team gave the XPS 10 a score of "9" on its repairability scale, one better than four "8's" the site has reviewed - the Amazon Kindle Fire (7in), Dell Streak, Motorola Xoom, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0.
What's so great about the Dell XPS 10? According to iFixit's detailed repairability analysis, it employs a "[v]ery modular, clean design throughout" and "makes use of ZIF connectors and cables," some conveniently labeled, instead of soldered connections.
The battery is "very easy to remove," according to the site, because unlike some tablet manufacturers, Dell doesn't glue it in and only uses six screws to fasten the power supply to the XPS 10's case. In fact, there are only 20 standard Phillips #0 screws in the entire slate, a far cry from several other tablets on the list with double or even triple that amount, some of which use proprietary screws that require a special tool to unfasten.
Alas, even iFixit's top-rated tablet doesn't make everything easy for you - the XPS 10's LCD display is fused to its front glass panel, which is itself glued to a plastic display bezel. According to iFixit, that means "[f]ixing a cracked screen will most likely require replacing all three components as a single assembly."
Meanwhile, several Apple tablets are bunched at the bottom of the site's repairability rankings. The iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, and iPad mini all received dismal repairability scores of "2" from iFixit, and only Apple's first-generation iPad managed a respectable showing, earning a "6" from the teardown site.
As difficult as all those iPads are to prise apart, there's a tablet out there that scored even lower in iFixit's repairability rankings. That would be Microsoft's new Surface Pro with Windows 8, which rated the lowest possible score, a "1," from the site.
What makes the Surface Pro so very difficult to repair? Start with more than 90 (!) screws holding the tablet together, factor in fused glass and LCD display assembly that iFixit calls "extremely difficult to remove/replace," take into account the "[t]ons of adhesive hold[ing] everything in place, including the display and battery," and you begin to get the idea.
Oh, and as parting gift for you Surface Pro owners with any designs on cracking yours open, "[u]nless you perform the opening procedure 100 percent correctly, chances are you'll shear one of the four cables surrounding the display perimeter," iFixit warned.
Have you had any successes or misfortune in trying to repair your own tablet? Let us know the details in comments.