From 0/10 to 8/10: Microsoft Puts Repair Front and Center

From 0/10 to 8/10: Microsoft Puts Repair Front and Center

Microsoft’s team of hardware wizards have spent the last couple of years practicing their Reparo spell and it’s really starting to show. And we’ve noticed, it’s hard not to. It wasn’t that long ago that the Surface team surprised us with a tablet that went from 1/10 in 2013 to a stunning 7/10 in 2022. Needless to say, the new CoPilot+ devices definitely warranted a check in to see how repair was fairing over at Microsoft.

We weren’t disappointed.

This time around we decided to take a look at both Surface Pro and Surface Laptop devices. The first time we tore down a Surface Laptop it received an abysmal 0/10. Some claimed the score was too harsh, our Teardown Engineers thought it wasn’t harsh enough.

You’re asking for a 0/10 if we have to cut our way to the battery

Surface Laptop 7

The Surface Laptop 7 is an astonishingly repair friendly device, almost the antithesis of the original Surface Laptop. It’s no Framework 13, but it clearly draws inspiration from it.

One of the first things you’ll see when removing the magnetically secured bottom plate is a QR code taking you to the service manuals on Microsoft’s website. The manuals were made available the very day the device was released, something we rarely see in any product category.

The next things you’ll notice are tiny symbols (Microsoft calls them Wayfinders) indicating which component is being secured by the type and quantity of screws. You could easily disassemble this device without using the manual thanks to these Wayfinders.

The battery is secured by eight 5IP Torx screws.

A special mention should be made of how most components are accessible without the need to remove additional layers. Need to replace the battery? No problem, it’s just a few screws and a bracket. What if you need to clean the fan? Easy. Just peel back the Surflink cable and undo three screws.

This might seem small to some but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Take the MSI GS65, a laptop that had its fair share of fan failures. You have to remove the entire motherboard and thermal management system just to replace a wonky fan!

Surface Pro 11

Thankfully the Surface Pro 11 also contained many of the same repairability improvements. A tablet PC will inherently be more difficult to repair when compared to a laptop, purely because the screen removal process can feel a bit hairy.

But if we consider it as its own distinct category of device—comparing it relative to other tablet-like devices and not laptops, which we do in our scoring process—the Surface Pro holds up well for repairability.

As with past generation Surface Pro’s, we have access to the M.2 drive via a small magnetic cover underneath the kickstand. Access to anything else requires some disassembly. With the screen off, we find QR codes and Wayfinder markers to aid in the disassembly process.

There are more layers of components, which is to be expected when you have half the space to work with. The Surflink cable and the thermal management system need to be removed before we can remove the battery. But all in all, the process isn’t too onerous, especially with manuals to hand.

The battery isn’t too difficult to retrieve and is held in place by screws. Not a drop of glue in sight.

A note on that Surflink cable, the two screws holding the port in place are non-magnetic. It’s such a small detail but it will be appreciated by anyone who’s ever had to reassemble a magnetic component while dealing with the frustration of having to hold a screw in place with tweezers to prevent it from flying towards the magnet right next to it.

Overall, we were extremely pleased with Microsoft’s continued commitment to repairability. The Surface line of devices have performed such a stunning and swift U-turn from unrepairable to very repairable that we can’t help but be impressed, even if they don’t score a perfect 10/10.

Speaking of which, after careful consideration and much lively debating, we decided to award both the Surface Laptop 7 and Surface Pro 11 an 8/10 for repairability in their respective device categories.

Microsoft’s journey from the unrepairable Surface Laptop to the highly repairable devices on our teardown table should drive home the importance of designing for repair. The ability to create a repairable Surface was always there but the impetus to design for repairable was missing. I’ll take that as a sign that Right to Repair advocacy and legislation has begun to bear fruit. 

You can find chip ID information for the Surface Laptop 7 and Surface Pro 11 on their respective guide pages once they’re available.