Once upon a time you could buy a laptop and be fairly certain that if you needed more RAM or storage in the future, you could just buy some new memory or a bigger (or faster) hard drive or solid state drive. It’s also often cheaper to buy your own than to pay for the higher-specced models.
These days, a lot of PC makers have opted to solder the memory and/or storage to the motherboard, ostensibly to save space in laptops that are getting thinner and thinner.
The latest example? Apple’s new MacBook Pro laptops.
Apple offers two versions of the 2016 MacBook Pro. There are high-end models with the Touch Bar above the number keys, and there are lower-priced models with Fn keys in that space.
Now that both models have started shipping, reviews are starting to come in… and so are teardowns.
Both models have RAM that’s soldered to the main board. So if you want more than 8GB of memory, you’d best pay for it up front. There’s no way to upgrade.
The MacBook Pro with Fn keys does have a removable solid state drive… but it’s a non-standard size, which means that right now there’s no place to buy a replacement or upgrade.
Still, it should make it relatively easy to repair a device with bad storage, and it does open the possibility of third-party upgrades in the future.
What if you opt for the more expensive MacBook Pro with Touch Bar though? No dice. the SSD is soldered to the motherboard.
Update: iFixit has posted a teardown of the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and confirms that the SSD is not removable… and that the touch bar is difficult to replace.
The 2016 MacBook Pro laptops are hardly the first Apple computers that are difficult to upgrade. The 2015 MacBook also has soldered RAM and storage, and the MacBook Air has had soldered RAM since it first launched in 2010.
But the inability to upgrade the latest MacBook Pro may be yet another reason some people will wonder whether the company really should have put the Pro name on its latest laptops, even if early reviews suggest they do offer strong performance.