21.5-inch iMac 2012 Teardown By iFixit: What You Need To Know

By Alexandra Burlacu | Dec 04, 2012 10:05 AM EST

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Repair firm iFixit conducted its customary teardown of new Apple products, and gave the 21.5-inch iMac a "repairability score" of three out of ten.

Apple started shipping its new 21.5-inch iMac on Friday, Nov. 30. The notorious repair firm quickly jumped the gun to tear down the new device, only to have its greatest fears confirmed when it comes to the new iMac's "super-thin bezel." The display's glass and LCD are "now glued to the iMac's frame with incredibly strong adhesive," making the new iMac an "exercise in disappointment."

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"To our dismay, we're forced to break out our heat gun and guitar picks to get past the adhesive holding down the glass and LCD," iFixit wrote in an emailed statement.

With legacy models, the display was attached by screws and covered by removable magnetic front glass, which made it easier to repair or replace. The screen of the new iMac is identical to the one used last year, but this time Apple used a lamination process to bond the front glass to the display. This strategy results in less reflection and deeper color saturation, but only allows for the use of glue to attach it to the device's thin body.

While the glued display was first on iFixit's list of complaints, the lack of upgradability ranks second. Users can change or replace the hard drive, RAM, and CPU, but all integral components are located on the back side of the board, making them hard to reach. This means that users will have to remove the screen and logic board to replace those components.

"Hackers, tinkerers, and repairers be forewarned: get last year's model if you'd like to alter your machine in any way," wrote iFixit.

Meanwhile, CNET reviewed the 27-inch model and found that the larger-screen device features an access port for RAM replacement. Why doesn't the 21.5-inch iMac sport the same accessibility?

The redesigned iMac now uses dual-microphone technology for better FaceTime call audio, in addition to a stronger ribbon cable for the built-in camera. The large central heat sink, which uses only a single fan to keep internal temperatures within limits, is now attached to a spring-loaded Intel socket carrying the CPU. This, in turn, makes the processor is somewhat easier to replace.

Lastly, iFixit found it "nerve-wracking" to remove the new iMac's speakers. While last year's iMacs got a repairability score of 7 out of 10, the new design lowered that score to 3.

For more juicy details regarding the new 21.5-inch iMac's repairability score, head down to iFixit's Web site and check out the entire teardown.

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