Digital Crave

How easy is it to tinker with your tablet?

Surface ProSurface ProMost of us are happy when our tablets do what they’re supposed to do. But some of you reading this are the tinkering type. We’re talking about the kind of tech fanatic who wants to build the ultimate desktop one piece at a time. And then paint it with hot rod flames to show off to other nerds on the Internet.

That’s not too difficult with a desktop, or even a laptop. But what about all those tablets floating around out there? Can they be hacked? Improved? Ruined? Most importantly: Can you fix them yourself? The answer is “yes” to all of the above, depending on which tablet you own, according to iFixit. The folks at iFixit are the kind of nerds who like to hack a piece of hardware to see how easy it is to repair or upgrade. When they dismantle something, they’re kind enough to share their results with the rest of us.

iFixit’s recent list ranks the ease of stripping and rebuilding some of the most popular tablets on the market. The results are not arbitrary. iFixit states, “a device with a perfect score will be relatively inexpensive to repair because it is easy to disassemble and has a service manual available. Points are docked based on the difficulty of opening the device, the types of fasteners found inside, and the complexity involved in replacing major components. Points are awarded for upgradability, use of non-proprietary tools for servicing, and component modularity.”

iFixit engineers disassembled and analyzed 18 tablets, awarding a repairability score between zero and ten – ten being easiest to repair. No one got a ten. (Engineers can be a prickly bunch).

The Dell XPS 10 was the winner of the bunch with a score of 9. The engineers called it “refreshingly easy to work on, especially compared to the other tablets we’ve seen recently.” The guts of the XPS 10 are modular, designed well, and some cables are even labeled for easy reassembly. The screws on this model are color-coded and large enough to not require tweezers. The only negative is that the rear case is delicate and susceptible to deformation when prying. In layman’s terms: it will twist into a potato chip if you pull on it too hard.

Kindle FireKindle FireAmazon’s Kindle Fire also ranked high on the list with a score of 8 out of ten. The engineers found it easy to open with a simple design and standard Phillips screws.

On the bottom of the list is Apple’s iPad Mini and the Microsoft Surface Pro, receiving a 2 and 1 respectively. Both tablets contain an extreme amount of adhesive inside that makes any repair difficult – even for these engineers.

Why do you need to know this? It’s a matter of philosophy, really. The folks at iFixit believe repairing is better than recycling. Their manifesto – yes, they have a manifesto – states that you can’t truly own something unless you can fix it. It’s all very Ron Swanson-esque, and completely endearing.

“Repair connects people and devices, creating bonds that transcend consumption. Self-repair is sustainable,” reads part of their manifesto. To read the rest, or join their cause, go here.

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