Apple MacBook Air 15 Teardown Reveals It's A Pain In The Butt To Repair
Apple has taken its MacBook Air to the 15-inch category for the first time ever, having revealed the larger size option during its WWDC 2023 event earlier this month. That's great news for anyone who's ever wanted a MacBook Air but in a bigger form factor. If you're wondering how the new SKU fares in terms of DIY repairs, a fresh teardown analysis offers a detailed overview of what to expect.
To put it simply, it's more of the same. Or as the teardown experts at iFixit put it, "the Air in recent years has become a pain in the bum to repair" and the 15-inch model powered by Apple's home-brewed M2 silicon (not the M2 Ultra) is no exception.
In a video posted to YouTube, we see that the 15-inch MacBook Air utilizes the same four pentalobe screws and clips as the 13-inch model. Once the bottom cover is removed, we also see a familiar internal layout, save for a new six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers.
One of the main reasons you might be inclined to tear into a laptop's guts is to access the battery. In the days of old, it was common to see notebooks with easily replaceable battery packs that would pop out of a compartment in the back and/or bottom of the system. But as manufacturers shifted to increasingly thinner and lighter form factors, batteries have largely become components that are sealed inside, requiring at least some disassembly to access. Same with most smartphones.
That's the case with the MacBook Air, including the new 15-inch model, which iFixit says "takes after last year's miserable battery replacement experience."
The reason for the ire is because it takes some digging to gain access to the actual battery pack. It starts with disconnecting and lifting the trackpad cable. But that's just the beginning—you also have to unscrew and remove the force-cancelling woofers that otherwise trap the logic board, which themselves are trapped by the hinge cover, antenna assembly cover, and several tiny connector brackets (right speaker, left speaker, coax, and more).
"That's one heck of a maze," iFixit says. "The miserable experience continues to the logic board removal. Another scattering of connectors—display cables, ports, some more brackets, even more screws. Good luck keeping track of these."
After all that, you have to be careful to pry the heat shield up and away, and then detach a few more connectors underneath. Once you've completed those steps, you can finally access the 66.5 watt-hour battery pack, which is 25 percent larger than the one in the 13-inch model (though battery life is roughly the same).
The 15-inch MacBook Air ultimately earned a 3/10 score on iFixit's repairability scale. It actually could have scored two additional points for a more respectable 5/10 score for parts and manuals. However, iFixit didn't feel comfortable spotting Apple the extra points because of its "unreliable release schedule," noting that last year's MacBook Air is still unsupported.
Of course, none of these means the 15-inch MacBook Air is a bad laptop. It's just a bear to repair at home, as is the case with many (not all) laptops these days. If you're interested in the 15-inch MacBook Air, note that baseline model with 256GB of storage is on sale for $1,234 on Amazon (save $65), while the 512GB model is $1,437 on Amazon (save $62).
Images courtesy of iFixit