Microsoft Surface Book teardown reveals almost impossible-to-repair design

Microsoft has been making the first-party Surface Windows tablets for a few years, and they’ve actually won a lot of fans. Now the company is trying its hand at a more traditional laptop form factor with the Surface Book. Well, it’s not very traditional when you look at thatwacky flexing hinge, but it actually looks like a laptop, and it’s packed full of high-end hardware. In fact, it’s packed so tightly that it’s almost impossible to open and repair anything yourself. The teardown experts at iFixit have dug into the Surface Book and given it the lowest possible score for repairability.

Laptops, like smartphones, have moved to a slimmer profile and more compact design. That necessitates some changes to the design that are not as friendly to tinkerers. You’d be hard-pressed to find a laptop these days with a removable battery or RAM that isn’t soldered to the motherboard. However, some devices are still more friendly than others, and the Surface Book definitely isn’t. Right from the start, it’s a hassle to open it up.

Just like with the Surface Pro 4, the only way to open the tablet portion of the Surface Book is to apply some heat and very carefully pull the screen away from the metal frame. Too much force can break the glass, which sort of defeats the purpose of opening your computer to fix it. When the Surface Book is open, a new problem presents itself — the motherboard is upside-down. There’s probably a very good engineering reason for doing it this way, but for consumers, it means almost any repair will include actually removing the motherboard completely from the casing.

Getting the motherboard out to actually see any of the components requires removing myriad connectors, most of which are taped and glued down. There’s a theme here — almost no screws, making the process of opening the Surface Book much more frustrating. The motherboard itself is vaguely anvil-shaped and sprawls throughout the chassis, meaning everything else needs to be taken out to free it. One small mercy, the SSD is not soldered to the board — it’s just incredibly hard to reach. The CPU and RAM are soldered, though. The battery for the tablet portion is glued to the frame behind the motherboard, but it’s only 2,387mAh in capacity. Microsoft claims just 4 hours of battery life in tablet mode.

Unpacking the keyboard portion of the Surface Book is a comparative walk in the park. Again, you need heat to pop the cover off (no screws). Inside are a few small circuit boards for the ports, dock, and a custom Nvidia GeForce GPU. There’s also a huge 6,800mAh battery glued securely to the bottom.

The Surface Book got a 1 out of 10 from iFixit, indicating it’s very hard to repair. If anything goes wrong with the Surface Book, I’m not even sure how Microsoft could repair this thing. When you figure in the labor, it might be cheaper just to replace the entire device.

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One thought on “Microsoft Surface Book teardown reveals almost impossible-to-repair design

  1. It’s a real shame that companies like Microsoft are designing their products in such a way that individual consumers can’t fix them. In the end it shows once more that money rules everything. But I think we must also realize that there are brands that come with products that are easier to fix, such as laptops from Lenovo and Toshiba (which are relatively easy to repair compared to others). As consumers we have a choice: do we want to buy products that we can or can’t fix ourselves?

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