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Apple's new MacBook Air ripped apart twice for repairability

The teardown specialists at iFixit wasted no time ripping apart Apple's new 13in MacBook Air to see what makes it tick. Unfortunately for Apple, a pattern of poor repairability scores for its laptops continued with the latest model as iFixit only gave the new unit a four out of 10 on its index.

The iFixit team actually found the 2013 MacBook Air pretty easy to disassemble, but the teardown artists took points off for Apple's use of proprietary components like the new unit's solid state drive (SSD), the need for a special screwdriver to unscrew the proprietary pentalobe screws, and the fact that the RAM is soldered to the logic board — all things that iFixit felt made upgrading a new MacBook Air pretty difficult.

On the outside of the new 13in MacBook Air, iFixit found that little has changed from the 2012 edition of the laptop other than the addition of a pair of dual-microphone ports on the left side. On the right side, the new laptop has the same trio of ports — an SD card reader, a USB 3.0 slot, and a Thunderbolt port — as its predecessor.

Inside, the most notable upgrades were the new, smaller SSD; an improved 7.6 V, 7150 mAh battery; an updated, 802.11ac Wi-Fi-capable AirPort card; some minor rearrangements in the layout of the heat sink and cabling; and, of course, the big one — the addition of Intel's new fourth-generation Core processor, code named Haswell.

Along with the new battery, the power-stretching combo of Intel's 1.3-GHz Core i5 dual-core Haswell CPU and its next-gen HD 5000 integrated graphics is what helps the new MacBook Air get 12 hours of battery life, nearly double that provided by its predecessor.

Other important core specs include the base model's 128GB SSD, which can be expanded all the way up to 512GB for more scratch, 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM, which can be configured up to 8GB (but not upgraded after purchase due to it being soldered down, as iFixit noted), and the 13.3in, 1,440 x 900 display providing approximately 128 pixels-per-inch resolution.

Inside the new 13in MacBook Air, iFixit found the following chips and components of note:

  • A Samsung S4LN053X01-8030 (ARM) flash controller
  • Eight Samsung K9LDGY8SIC-XCK0 16 GB flash storage modules
  • 512 MB of Samsung K4P2G324ED RAM (iFixt pointed out that this is the memory stick used in the Raspberry Pi)
  • The new AirPort card featuring Broadcom's 5GHz band BCM4360 radio with Bluetooth 4.0 and Skyworks SE5516 dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WLAN front-end module
  • The same stereo speakers used in the 2012 MacBook Airs
  • A largely unchanged I/O board minus an iSight cable socket, featuring a Cirrus chip marked 4208-CRZ
  • A logic board and heat sink from Goodnight featuring on the front side: Intel's 1.3GHz , dual-core Core i5 with integrated Intel HD graphics 5000; an unmarked Intel platform controller hub and Intel's Z246TA38 Thunderbolt controller; a Linear Technology LT3957 inverting controller; and another chip marked GL3219
  • And on the back side: Elpida F8132A1MC LPDDR3 RAM (8 gigabits each for a total of 4GB); Broadcom BCM15700A2; Hynix H5TC4G63AFR 4-gigabit synchronous DRAM; MXIC MX25L6406E 64-megabit serial flash; Texas Instruments TPS51980A synchronous buck controller; and 980 YFC LM4FS1BH
  • The MacBook Air trackpad with an STMicroelectronics STM32F103VB microcontroller; MXIC MX25L2006E 2-megabit serial flash; and Broadcom's BCM5976A0KUB2G trackpad controller

For more, check out the new Apple MacBook Air: Hands-on preview.