The week in gadgets: Apple’s hard-to-fix MacBook Pros, Nexus 5 leaks and Nokia’s new Asha range

29 Oct 2013

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, torn apart by iFixit

A look at gadget happenings, as Nokia introduces three new low-cost smartphones to its Asha range, the Nexus 5 makes teaser appearances across the web and iFixit picks apart Apple’s latest products.

iFixit notes low repairability of new MacBook Pros

Apple had a busy week ahead of its Q4 financial results announcement, unveiling the iPad Air and its free-to-download software upgrade, OS X Mavericks.

Apple also revealed updates to its MacBook Pro with Retina display range. The 15-inch variant remains similar to the 2012 release but with new hardware to boost performance such as a PCIe-based SSD instead of an mSATA drive, Haswell Core i7 processor, Intel Iris Pro Graphics and Thunderbolt 2 support.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display has been completely reworked and also comes with Haswell processors and Iris Graphics.

While both computers come with covetable specifications, IT repairs website iFixit’s dissection of the devices shows that buyers should beware of the high cost of repairing either laptop. Both the 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pro update received a 1 out of 10 repairability score.

iFixit teardown of 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display

Inside the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (via iFixit)

The 15-inch computer has apparently become even harder to fix than its similarly low-scoring predecessor, with even a damaged headphone jack potentially costing US$1,000 to repair due to the layout of components.

Inside the 13-inch model, the RAM is soldered to the logic board, making an upgrade impossible. Replacing the battery or fixing the trackpad is also made incredibly difficult, all of which does not bode well for any mishaps that could befall this US$1,300 computer.

iFixit claims that MacBook Pros were more fixable and upgradeable before Retina displays were included but, as Apple leads with these devices, the non-Retina 15-inch is no more as of this year and iFixit has put its money on the 13-inch retiring next year. 

Apple’s new Mac Pro

Along with the iPad Air, OS X Mavericks and the new MacBook Pros, we also had the new Mac Pro unveiled last week, which, according to SVP of global marketing, is Apple’s “vision for the future of the pro desktop”.

The new Mac Pro features a unified thermal core and can come equipped with up to 12-core Xeon CPUs, dual FirePro GPUs, six Thunderbolt 2 ports, PCIe-based flash storage and ultra-fast ECC memory.

The structure is just one-eighth the size of the previous generation, so less materials are used in its construction, and the new Mac Pro uses up to 70pc less energy than its predecessor.

The new Mac Pro ships with OS X Mavericks and starts at €3,099. It will be available this December.

Nokia boosts its affordable smartphone range

Last week’s Nokia World event in Abu Dhabi brought two new top-of-the-range Lumia smartphones and Nokia’s first-ever tablet to the table, but there was also a treat for the low-cost smartphone market unveiled with three new Asha handsets joining the 501 and bolstering this affordable line-up.

These smartphones sport QVGA displays, Bluetooth connectivity and battery life of up to 12 hours talk time with the Asha 503. A new layered design approach encases a vibrantly coloured core in a strong, transparent outer cover.

The Asha 500 is the cheapest at the lot at US$69. For this you get a 2.8-inch screen, 2MP camera, 64MB RAM, support for up to 32GB micro-SD card and 2G telephony. Single and dual-SIM variants will be available.

Nokia Asha 503

Nokia’s new Asha 503

The US$89 502 comes with similar specs and a slightly larger 3-inch screen plus a 5MP camera with LED flash.

Finally, the 503 – the hero of the range – features the same RAM and storage support as the others plus 3G connectivity, a 3-inch Curved Gorilla Glass capacitive touchscreen and a 5MP camera with LED flash for US$99.

All three devices will become available in Q4 starting in Asia-Pacific markets.

Anticipation builds for Google’s Nexus 5

While Nokia and Apple took the spotlight last week, this week, all eyes are on Google in anticipation of a Nexus 5 reveal.

Canadian telco WIND Mobile started pre-registration of the yet-to-be-announced smartphone on its Facebook page, only to quickly remove it when the mistake was realised.

Specifications listed for the LG-made device include a near-5-inch display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution (445ppi) and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. A 1.3MP front-facing camera and 8MP rear camera were also cited for the Android 4.4 device, plus a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcommm Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB RAM and 16GB and 32GB storage options.

The Nexus 5 has also reportedly shown up on Carphone Warehouse’s inventory and another sneak peek came with a momentary appearance on the Play store priced at US$349.

It is thought that a reveal of the new Google smartphone will take place on Thursday 31 October for release on 1 November.

UPDATE, 8 November 2013, 11:41: An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to the Asha range as “Symbian smartphones”. In fact, the new Asha devices mentioned here run on Nokia’s Asha Platform.

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic