I’ve cracked on dozens of computers, smartphones, game systems, and tablets during my time with TechRepublic. And, I’ve always approached our teardown galleries not just a means to see the guts of the latest tech gadgets, but as a way to help IT pros understand more about the products they support. I try to learn how well built the device is, does it use high-quality components, and above all can it be repaired/upgraded by the average IT pro.

It was with this philosophy in mind, that I approached our Apple iPad 2 teardown. It took about an hour and a half to completely disassemble the device, and I learned a lot about the device along the away. Here are my specific observations about the iPad 2’s construction:

  1. Very difficult to open the case: Apple used metal clips to hold the original iPad and iPad 3G’s front panel in place. On the iPad 2, they use very strong adhesive. This fastening method makes it extremely difficult to remove the front panel without cracking the glass or reattach the panel when the repair is complete.
  2. Most cables glued to the metal frame: Many of the components (cameras, connectors, buttons, etc.) connect to the main printed circuit board (PCB) with thin ribbon cables. These ribbon cables are often glued to the iPad 2’s metal frame. If you peel the cables away from the frame, there is a good chance you will tear them.
  3. Battery cannot be easily removed: To remove the battery, you must open the case, remove the LCD, and remove the main PCB. And once you’ve done all that, you must still pry out the battery, which is glued to the metal iPad 2’s metal frame.
  4. Removable wireless card: The wireless card can be removed from the main PCB. I assume this allows Apple to use the same PCB for both the Wi-Fi only and 3G models.

Difficult to repair

With the iPad 2, Apple has moved the company’s tablet firmly into the “difficult to repair” category of Apple products–where most of the iPods live. At least with the first generation iPad and iPad 3G, you could replace the metal clips that hold the front panel in place. Such is not the case on the iPad 2.

I’m not surprised by Apple’s decision to make the iPad 2 less repair-friendly, but I am disappointed. I wish they had followed the path Motorola took with the XOOM tablet–a device that seems made to be opened, upgraded, and repaired.

Update 12/19/2011: This post originally appeared in our TR Dojo blog.