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Back to school for Microsoft as it prises apart the repairable Surface Laptop SE
Repairability – check. Upgrades? Must try harder
Microsoft took its Surface enthusiasts back in time this week with a video demonstrating how to take apart its Surface-for-Schools laptop: SE.
The Surface Laptop SE, aimed at the education sector, turned up late last year just after demand for Chromebooks fells off a cliff due to market saturation in the US.
The device was touted both for its low price (starting at $249) and its repairability. While the OS installed, Windows 11 SE, is supposedly locked down, Microsoft is keen for engineers to be able to take the devices apart in order to replace parts damaged or worn out by classroom life.
Cynics might point to the laptops of yesteryear as being at least as repairable but, compared to the glue-festooned nightmares of today, the Surface Laptop SE seems a step in the right direction.
In the video Branden Cole, a senior DFX engineer at Design for Repair, wielded tools familiar to many an iFixit aficionado. First, the torx screws on the base were removed (Cole noted that one didn't need to remove the rubber feet) before prizing off the keyboard and trackpad. A bit of tweezer action was need for some of the cable removals, but the strip-down process looked relatively straightforward.
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It did, however, highlight some elements that were very much not repairable. Sure, the screen came off, as did the battery and elements such as the speaker module. But users hoping to bump up the RAM or storage, or even swap out the CPU, would be out of luck – those are soldered to the motherboard and so beyond the reach of Cole's Torx driver and tweezers.
All in all, Microsoft has demonstrably taken a step in the right direction and (as we observed at the time), it would be good to see this repairable approach filter through the rest of the Surface line.
The video also shows that there is more to do – giving engineers the ability to double the RAM would extend the life of the computer and perhaps a later version could incorporate the SSD swapping shenanigans introduced on its bigger Surface brothers to offer an upgrade path from the existing eMMC storage.
Still, some of Microsoft's rivals in the sector could certainly take a lesson or two from this approach. ®