Hardware

Five most annoying Cracking Open teardowns of 2013

Some gadgets are easy to fix. Others are real repair nightmares. Bill Detwiler counts down his top five most annoying teardowns of 2013.
From smartphones and tablets to our first wearable, we've cracked open a lot of tech this year. And as we do at the end of each year, it's time to take a look back—this time with a twist. During this special episode of Cracking Open, I'm counting down my top five most annoying teardowns of 2013.

5. Apple MacBook Air

The number five spot on our list goes to Apple's 2013 MacBook Air. Don't get me wrong it's a great laptop. I use one on a daily basis. But its special pentalobe screws make the case difficult to open, and even once you're inside there's really not much you can. Most of the components are soldered to the motherboard.

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View the full 2013 MacBook Air teardown video.

4. Apple iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C

At number four is another Apple creation—actually two of them. The iPhone 5S and 5C aren't much more difficult to crack open than their predecessors, but thanks to their external pentalobe screws, variety of internal screw sizes, and all the components that are glue to the case, the iPhones are still a pain to repair. 

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 View the full iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C teardown galleries.

3. Apple iPad Air

Coming in at number three is the last Apple device on our list—the iPad Air. As with previous iPads, the front panel is glued to the tablet's metal body. And you'll need to heat the panel to open the case. Even after separating the panel and case, you can't remove it without first removing the display. Throw in that the battery and most other internal components are glued in place, and this tablet definitely isn't repair-friendly. 

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 View the full iPad Air teardown gallery.

2. Google Glass Explorer Edition

The second spot on our list goes to the first wearable device we've cracked open—the Google Glass Explorer Edition. The camera and eyepiece assembly's cover came off relatively easily. But despite prying, poking, even heating the main and rear modules, nothing worked. And since I didn't want to destroy the device, I had to give up only 1/2 way into the teardown. 

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 View the full Google Glass teardown gallery.

1. Microsoft Surface 2

Well, we've reached the end of our list. And standing above all the others is the king of annoying 2013 teardowns—the Microsoft Surface 2.Now unlike the Google Glass, I was actually able to dissect the Surface 2. But it was a miserable two-hour ordeal. Why?

For starters, the front panel adhesive is incredibly strong. And heating the front panel is difficult as some of the tablet's internal components and external trim pieces are made from plastic, which will warp if overheated. I know. I did it.

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There are also more than 60 screws inside the case, of all different sizes. The battery is glued in place. And most of the motherboard connectors are extremely fragile and easily broken.

The Surface 2 is definitely an improvement over last year's model when it comes to hardware specifications and performance. But it is the most difficult to crack open tablet I've ever worked open.

View the full Microsoft Surface 2 teardown gallery.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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