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Easily upgradeable laptops are making a comeback and I'm here for it!

When repairs and upgrades can look so good and be so easy, why is no one else doing them?
By

Published onMarch 2, 2024

lenovo thinkpad ifixit repairable laptop 1
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

I still remember when my 2007 Macbook’s battery started bulging after a few years of use, and I could just order a replacement part, pop out the old one, pop in the new one, and my laptop was back to perfect condition.

This kind of repairability and upgradeability has dwindled down over the years. From Android phones to laptops to every other gadget, companies have been taking the easy — and most profitable — way out. Pack the specs you want, glue and solder everything together, making it almost impossible to repair without hitting an expensive service center. And dissuade everyone from upgrading on their own, lest they ruin the gear they just bought.

After all, if you can charge hundreds of dollars for a small RAM or storage spec bump, why would you let Average Joe buy it for much less and install it in a few minutes on his own?

Are easy repairs and upgrades important factors for your next laptop?

1284 votes
lenovo thinkpad ifixit repairable laptop swappable ram
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

But with right-to-repair laws popping up across the US and Europe, and with customers becoming more eco-conscious and more aware of the absolute rip-off that is preset RAM and storage configurations, upgradeable laptops are slowly making a comeback.

Every component in these Lenovo laptops has a barcode to link

Take the Lenovo ThinkPad T14 Gen 5 and T16 Gen 3, for example. Both have been built from the ground up with insights from iFixit, which has been championing everyone’s right to repair tech for years. And once I popped the bottom lid, the benefits of this collaboration all became very clear to me.

lenovo thinkpad ifixit repairable laptop replaceable wifi chip
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Every component I saw had a QR code and label sticker on top. You can scan that to see the exact part and number, with links to order a replacement plus iFixit instructions and videos on how to replace it. (Some in the images here have a generic link because this isn’t the final unit.)

There’s an arrow pointing to the exact screws that you need to open to remove any part, so you don’t mess things up by detaching something else. This reminded me of when I took apart the Fairphone 5; the arrows were a huge help in dismantling everything and putting it back together in less than 20 minutes.

lenovo thinkpad ifixit repairable laptop removable battery 1
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Many components, from the battery with its cable-free connector to the SSD, WWAN, RAM, trackpad, and more are easily replaceable or upgradeable. Just like that. And just like you would do with your home PC build. Want more RAM or more storage after a year or two of use? Just buy it and install it. No need to get a whole other laptop to upgrade those basic specs.

This earned the two Lenovo laptop series a 9.3 out of 10 repairability score from iFixit. Almost perfect.

lenovo thinkpad ifixit repairable laptop removable battery 2
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

The thing that most impressed me, though, was how easy it was to pop out the keyboard. Because yes, even that is replaceable. Flip the laptop, turn two screws on the bottom, flip it back, and pop out the keyboard. Ta-da!

Really, when it can all look so good and be so easy, why is no one else doing it?

I know the answer, you know the answer, everyone knows the answer. But I’m just glad to see this kind of user-friendly design make a comeback. It should not be a headline, it should not even be a notable feature, it should just be the norm. But we live in an age and time where upgrading and repairing the gear you already own has become so tough that it’s almost always easier to buy a new unit instead.

This should not be a headline or a notable feature, it should just be the norm.

More plastic and precious metals have gone to landfills around the world because of bad laptop and phone design over the past decade or so. We’re just setting things back on the right track now. And I bet you it’ll take years more to adopt these improvements than it did to go to a fully-sealed laptop. That was convenient, this is harmful to the bottom line.

So good on Lenovo for doing the right thing and building laptops that should, hopefully and rightfully, stand the test of time.