MacBook Pro 14-inch teardown — Apple is finally appeasing the right-to-repair crowd

The MacBook Pro 2021 (14-inch)
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Apple's new MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch laptops are beginning to land in the hot little hands of fans around the world. Based on our own testing, they're the most exciting MacBook Pros Apple has released in quite a while. 

That's partly because they're some of the most powerful MacBooks ever released, thanks to Apple's new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. They also have beautiful Liquid Retina XDR displays, great speakers, no more Touch Bar and an expanded array of ports that pros might actually want. 

But now that they're out in the wild, we're learning these new MacBook Pros also have some notable under-the-hood improvements that will make replacing the battery yourself a little easier. That suggests Apple is finally listening to the concerns of DIYers and right-to-repair advocates.

We know all this thanks to the intrepid crew at iFixit, who have embarked on the process of tearing down the new MacBook Pros to show us what's inside. 

In their ongoing 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 teardown, the iFixit team have given us an X-ray view of the laptop's guts. The most exciting finding so far? The batteries have pull tabs.

This is a big deal because it's a step (albeit a small one) towards making the MacBook Pro easier to maintain on your own. 

You may not remember, but back before 2009 or so, a lot of MacBooks shipped with easily accessible battery compartments that made it relatively simple to swap in a new battery when yours started having trouble holding a charge. 

Around 2009, Apple started shipping MacBooks with batteries that were tightly nestled inside the unibody chassis, making them a potential nightmare to replace without trained assistance. 

As you can see in this image courtesy of iFixit, you need to remove the touchpad to access some of the battery pull tabs  in the 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro. (Image credit: iFixit)

Now that Apple has embedded pull tabs beneath all the batteries in the new Pros (though you need to remove the trackpad to get at some of them), it should be a little easier for owners to swap batteries out themselves. 

That's a small but significant victory for right-to-repair advocates, who have consistently criticized Apple and other tech companies for selling devices that seem intentionally designed to be difficult to repair.

However, Apple still has a long way to go before its MacBooks are anywhere near as accessible and DIY-friendly as the remarkable Framework Laptop, which is so repairable and customizable we branded it the anti-MacBook in our review. 

The team at iFixit were similarly enthusiastic about the Framework, awarding it a rare 10/10 on their reparability scale. We can't wait to see how they rate the new MacBook Pros after they finish pulling them apart, and what they discover along the way.

Read more: The MacBook Pro 2021 notch is already wreaking havoc

Alex Wawro
Senior Editor Computing

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.