iFixit completed its teardown of Microsoft’s new Ryzen-powered 15″ Surface Laptop 3, and—to absolutely everyone’s surprise, very much including iFixit’s—the teardown didn’t permanently break anything.
When the folks at iFixit tore down the first Microsoft Surface Laptop, they didn’t get much further than removing the rubber feet before the device was irreparably damaged.
The entire thing turned out to be one giant wad of glue, fabric, spot-welds and hate that earned the original Surface a “perfect” 0/10 repairability score, right up there next to Apple’s AirPods (which it would never even occur to most people to to disassemble).
This year’s 15″ Surface Laptop 3 is an entirely different story. Well, not entirely different—but it’s definitely a big change of heart. There are still some nasty bits to the Surface Laptop 3’s construction—in particular, the battery is glued down and a bear to remove safely—but the iFixit crew managed to get the entire thing disassembled into its component parts with a minimum of blood and cursing. Better yet, iFixit left it in proper condition to be reassembled again.
The three images in our gallery above tell the most impressive part of the teardown’s story—although the 15″ Surface Laptop 3 is no thicker or less sleek than the original Surface, a spudger and a Torx driver is all it takes to get the back and front plates completely separated. What we really liked here is Microsoft’s use of magnets to keep the keyboard/backplate seam connected securely and rattle-free.
We’re no iFixit crew, but when we’ve needed to disassemble considerably thicker laptops for repair, more than a few nasty little plastic locking tabs have gotten broken along the way, leaving the laptop permanently a little bulgy and squishy on close inspection. Microsoft’s use of magnets for the same purpose not only means no more broken tabs—it also means no ugly, straining, adrenaline-filled moments when you’re wondering if a little more pressure on the spudger means the seams finally separate, or if it means you’re going to crack a panel and destroy it.
Removable after all
The Surface’s M.2 SSD is immediately visible once the keyboard is lifted away, which is an uncertain blessing. On the one hand, it’s a standard interface and standard part which can be easily removed after pulling one more Torx screw. On the other hand, Microsoft labeled it “non-removable,” so—actually, scratch that, because the company has quietly updated its description. It now reads “removable” after all. So users (or third-party repair shops) should be able to replace the OEM drive with a bigger and faster one as necessary.
The battery was the biggest real sticking-point in the teardown—pun not intended—as its connector is pinned under the board, and the whole thing is glued down. While iFixit was eventually able to get the battery removed relatively cleanly, your local PC repair shop’s success rate may vary. Apart from the battery, the keyboard assembly is riveted to the cover, which means front cover and keyboard would need to be replaced as a unit. Meanwhile, some non-modular cabling here and there can be easily damaged if your fingers are insufficiently deft.
All in all, the 15″ Surface Laptop 3 earned a 5/10 score from iFixit. This might seem to be faint praise on an absolute scale—but it’s a serious turnaround from the original Surface, which PC repair shops have long been advising people is “a fine laptop, while it works, but it’s literally garbage if anything breaks.”