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Dell Gets Top Grade on New Repairability Scorecard on Tablet Computers

February 28th, 2013
Opening the Microsoft Surface Pro

iFixit found that the Microsoft Surface Pro has so much glue holding the casing closed, they needed a heat gun to open it up. Photo by iFixit.

A new repairability scorecard from iFixit, the champions of  easy gadget repairs, rates the repairability of the top tablet computers on the market, with a score from zero to ten.

Dell’s XPS 10 got the highest grade, a 9 out of 10. The lowest score (1 out of 10) went to the Microsoft Surface Pro, although the iPad mini, and iPads 2, 3, and 4 were right behind with only two points. The iPad 1 scored 6 out of 10, but the later versions are glued shut.

What makes a tablet more repairable?

Higher grades went to tablets where it is:

  • Easy to remove the casing (without breaking it) to gain access to the parts
  • Easy access to the things that will need replacement the most, like batteries, cameras
  • Easy to separate the LCD panel from the glass
  • Using certain fasteners instead of soldering parts in place. (Fasteners make it easier to remove the part without causing damage, and to reattach it later)
  • Modular design
  • Fewer screws overall and fewer sizes of screws in one product (requiring the repairer to change tools less frequently) The Microsoft Surface pro has 90 screws in it, compared to Dell XPS’s 20 screws.

What features get in the way of easy repair? 

  • Gluing the case closed
  • Gluing the LCD panel to other parts – the glass and the bezel. If the screen gets cracked, you must replace all three parts.
  • Gluing the battery in place
  • Too many screws, hidden screws
  • Soldering parts in place, instead of using screws or other fasteners
  • Using proprietary screws, which require a special screwdriver

Gluing in parts is not “Design for the Environment”

Making these gadgets easy to repair (which equals cheaper to repair in most cases) means that the first owner is more likely to use it longer, plus it makes it more likely that it will get second lifetime.  The lifecycle impact of manufacturing electronics products is huge, when you consider the materials (including critical minerals) used, energy, and water used to manufacture the products (including extracting and refining metals, and semiconductor and other component manufacturing).  So designers should be doing everything possible to prolong the life of existing products by making them very easy (and cheap) to repair and refurbish.

Clearly Dell’s designers are paying attention to this aspect of Design for the Environment, as are Samsung and Motorola, according to this scorecard.  We hope to see other companies do better with their future products.