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For those who own a spudger and aren't afraid to use it, the instinct to remove the outer shell of even the most sophisticated computer devices is as natural as a car owner checking under the hood or tinkering in the garage. In a recent teardown by the disassembly wizards of iFixit, the brand new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 was granted a repairability rating of 8 out of 10, with 10 being the easiest to fix. As far as DIY repairs go, this gives the Samsung tablet a huge advantage over the third-generation iPad, which received a score of 2, deeming it barely repairable, like its predecessor the iPad 2. But does easy home repair make for a better bargain tablet?
Based on its brand of products, Apple would say no. The iPad's über sleek monolithic design is clearly not meant to be tampered with. Access to the new iPad's precious innards involve an extremely delicate and surgical process of heating, prying, peeling, spudging, and meticulous pulling. Most noted among the obstacles are "gobs, gobs, and gobs of adhesive," sticky tape, connectors, and screws. Even the tools required — guitar picks, heat guns, and heavy-duty suction cups — cross the line between home repair and the opening scene to any Mission Impossible. Moreover, because of the way the front glass panel is adhered to the LCD screen and connected in place from beneath the LCD screen, even the most superficial fix, i.e. a cracked or shattered glass screen, requires complete disassembly.
Common sense suggests that because Apple is renowned for its tight control over its closed ecosystem of software and products, the company has a obvious aversion to providing consumers the freedom to so much as change a device's battery. iFixit's co-founder and CEO Kyle Wiens suggests that it is the consumer who has led Apple down this environmentally hazardous and unsustainable path of thinner, locked-down designs with short-term usability. Wiens points to a 2010 matchup between the MacBook Air and the MacBook as the pivotal moment in Apple's history of design vs. self-repair. With both products being offered for the same price, it was the consumer who decided what features were important. The thinner, lighter, un-upgradable MacBook Air beat out the thicker, heavier, and easy-to-repair MacBook in a landslide.
In a side-by-side comparison of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the new Apple iPad, the new iPad emerges victorious by way of its premium look, feel, and best-in-class features that exceed its $499 starting MSRP. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is less stellar in those categories, but is a comparable device with the added advantage of stereo sound. While the new iPad has a glitzy Retina display and performance advantages, the easy repairability of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is its biggest selling point. After all, beauty fades with battery life, but an upgradeable tablet can potentially last forever.
Is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 a better deal than the new iPad? How strongly do you value the freedom to tinker with and repair your gadgets? Concerns about landfills, anyone? Are tamper-proof products a deliberate act of tyranny on Apple's part, or the consequence of seamless, elegant design and advanced features? Sound off in the comments section below.