Apple's War On Upgrades Continues With The New Touch Bar MacBook Pro

Apple's quest to make its laptops ultra slim and ultra light have led to the company increasingly soldering upgradable parts into the guts of its notebook computers.

Image: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

For instance, with the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar notebooks, you'll need to be sure to configure it with the SSD size you most desire out of the gate, because upgrading it yourself just isn't possible.

Case in point: Intrepid MacRumors forum member fs454 opened up his new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and found that the SSD chips are now soldered inside. This is a change from previous MacBook Pro models (and even the non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro), in that it is totally non user-replaceable.

Image: MacRumors user fs454

Image: MacRumors users fs454 You can see that the NAND controller is soldered inside.

If you have a Mac Mini, Mac Pro or an iMac, the installed RAM (and with enough elbow grease, the hard drive as well) is user-accessible, but Apple is increasingly making all of its other devices less and less upgrade or repair friendly.

Over the years, it's been harder and harder to upgrade or self-repair your Apple products. Starting with the MacBook Air back in 2010, Apple started soldering RAM directly into the device. This continued with the MacBook Pro with Retina a few years later. Moreover, user-replaceable batteries were also glued into the casing, and Apple even applied its anti-repair strategy on a more basic level. Custom screws on its iPhones and Macs to make it harder to get inside.

This isn't the first time Apple has soldered an SSD directly into its products, however. The latest MacBook, released in 2015, had its storage chips connected directly to the board, with no user intervention possible. Still, Apple has opted to use a replaceable (though proprietary) SSD memory chip with its non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro.

That's why it's interesting that the more expensive Touch Bar versions have soldered-on chips. Was this a design decision or is this just another way Apple wants to get more money out of its customers? We're not sure why Apple is doing this, but it feels like greed.

Most modern laptops are not very DIY-friendly anyway, but Apple is often criticised by the repair community for its use of proprietary parts and extensive measures to make user-upgrades all but impossible. The counter-argument is that Apple is selling its computers -- particularly its laptops -- as appliances. Nevertheless, it's a little disconcerting to know that the $2699+ you spend on a laptop can't even get an aftermarket SSD upgrade or a third-party repair.

We reached out to Apple for comment on the change but had not heard back at time of writing.



    *sigh* yet another reason why macs are no longer the choice for creatives..

    Soldered in SSD? So if the laptop is damaged it's now even harder to pull critical clients data off the drive. I once had a macbook die on me (water damage fried the motherboard) & being able to rip out the HDD & easily recover the data was what saved many of my clients.

    Seriously, how many people actually want to upgrade a macbook? It's aimed at a commercial consumer that just wants off the shelf specs, not a consumer that needs to or knows how to upgrade a laptop.

      That's not really the point, for a couple of reasons:

      a) For all the talk of MacBooks being for consumers who don't know how to upgrade laptops, there sure are a lot of people who've upgraded their older machines with SSDs and extra RAM over the years. They might not want to upgrade now, but in a few years time when newer faster components are available, it will likely become much more desirable.

      b) With soldered components, a single RAM module or dead SSD effectively renders the entire device useless. And outside warranty, that means it's a throw-away device, possibly with personal data lost. Considering the price of these devices, the prospect of simply discarding it once it breaks outside a relatively short warranty period is utterly ridiculous.

        Not to mention extremely bad for the environment.

        But hey, that's Apples business model. Make money at the environments expense.

        Last edited 16/11/16 1:46 pm

      Probably about the same amount of non-commercial consumers will by these. And issue is NOT just that home upgrades and repair are impossible, it also means that repair and upgrade through a non-apple service is made much harder forcing the user to pay more by going to Apple, or leaving them with no options if they are in an area or country with no access to this service from Apple- as happened to many users when Apple added their special security to the iphone home button.

    You can't call it a pro device with SFA ports, a horrid keyboard and gimped gpus, oh and they are more expensive than alienware laptops.... how can you manage that?

    For the record, the mac mini has its ram soldered to the mainboard since 2014. so no more upgrades for the mac mini either. Even worse when the base model comes with a very inadequate 4GB of ram.

    Shrug. It's their design choice - either integration or modularity. There wasn't really much benefit in making the SSD user replaceable anyway, with their proprietary interface. Compatible upgrades such as the OWC ones are pricey, and it's a half-arsed upgrade if the RAM is soldered in as well. I looked into upgrading the SSD on my 2012 MBP Retina and it was $550 for 1TB, and I'd still be stuck with the same RAM, mediocre GPU, and old tired battery.

    The educated consumer that values modularity would go with a Dell or Lenovo anyway. I suspect most people that buy MacBooks etc don't really care and will flip it for a new one when it wears out/breaks (which is probably Apple's market strategy).

    Last edited 16/11/16 3:02 pm

    I have seen this a lot
    "We reached out to Apple for comment on the change but had not heard back at time of writing."

    Do they actually reply?

    The only thing that I would like to buy mac book pro or iMac is due the continuity with my iPhone.

    But after seeing Surface Studio... Apple needs to innovate more on iMac or Mac Book Pro

    I think Apple do this on purpose and treat it like you are buying iPhone. either you get the max storage or you get the lower storage version, no mind changes in the future... kinda sad I know for a laptop.

    Where in iPhone for me it's a very straight forward decision. I just picked the max storage capacity as external storage is not possible unless it's specifically for that app.
    Not sure if I could do that with Mac Book... however external storage still ok with Mac Book.

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