Microsoft Surface Book Teardown Shows DIY Repair Nightmare, Makes Case For Extended Warranty

It's hard to tell if today's increasingly thin and light laptops pose engineering challenges that cause them to be built in a way that diminish opportunities for do-it-yourself repair, or if the companies making these things purposely make it difficult. Either way, a teardown analysis of Microsoft's new Surface Book laptop shows why an extended warranty might be a good idea.

We'll come back to the topic of warranties, but first, let's discuss the Surface Book's teardown. As usual, it was the fearless folks at iFixIt who tore into the Surface Book like a kid on Christmas, only imagine one of those toys that come taped and wired to the box in such a way that it takes an inordinately long time to open.

Microsoft Surface Book Teardown

Like the Surface Pro 4, prying apart the display on the Surface Book is a "nerve-wracking" affair, one that "threatens to send glass shards flying at the slightest misstep." If you get that first step out of the way without destroying the Surface Book, congratulations, your journey has just begun.

Microsoft Surface Book Motherboard

Inside the Surface Book you'll discover a motherboard that sits upside down. It also takes up the entire chassis, "resembling some kind of nightmarish Tetris piece." Adding to the level of difficult in replacing or upgrading components is that connectors are hard to find.

One thing working in the Surface Book's favor, at least compared to the Surface Pro 4 (2 out of 10 Repairability Score) is that the battery is a little easier to remove. This is because it's smaller and therefore uses less adhesive.

Surface Book Keyboard Dock Opened

Getting inside the keyboard dock is also tricky business -- it takes some "intense heating and very arduous prying" to thwart the "hefty adhesive" that holds the lower panel in place. On the plus side, the battery comes right off with the lower panel similar to the way Apple's Retina MacBook is designed.

The "Apple vibe" continues as you dig deeper inside, which eventually leads to the Surface Book's GPU board assembly and its attached fan. It's there you'll find a "Mac-like heat sink mounted to the base's GPU."

Microsoft Surface Book Parts

As a whole, the Surface Book earned a miserable 1 out of 10 Repairability Score, where a 10 is easiest to repair. The only positives were that the SSD and glued in battery could be replaced, though it requires going through a "difficult opening procedure."

The list of negatives add up. There's the display assembly that consists of a fused glass panel and LCD (makes it difficult to remove and replace), the processor and RAM being soldered to the motherboard, strong adhesive holding "many components" in place, and the location of several components on the backs of their respective boards -- it means removing the motherboard to replace simple components.

Let's Talk Warranties

Microsoft Surface Book

Is the Surface Book intentionally (and unnecessarily) difficult to service, or is it the result of engineering challenges associated with answering the demand for increasingly thin and light gadgets? The unfortunate truth is it doesn't matter -- the market has spoken and what it's said is it's okay with disposable electronics.

That being the case, you might want to consider an extended warranty when buying a system like the Surface Book. It comes standard with a one-year limited warranty that covers your Surface Book for hardware defects and malfunctions, plus 90 days of technical support for pre-installed software.

The next (and only) tier up is Microsoft Complete, a $249 warranty upgrade that extends both the hardware/malfunction protection and technical support to two years, plus adds accidental damage protection from drops and spills with a $49 deductible (you can cash in on the claim twice).

At that price, we'd like to see the warranty extend to three years. Nevertheless, it beats having to replace the whole system if something minor goes wrong.