MacBooks, Chromebooks lead losers in laptop repairability analysis


A stack of broken Chromebook laptops
Enlarge / A stack of broken Chromebook laptops at Cell Mechanic Inc. electronics repair shop in Westbury, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

Chromebooks and MacBooks are among the least repairable laptops around, according to an analysis that consumer advocacy group US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) shared this week. Apple and Google have long been criticized for selling devices that are deemed harder to repair than others. Worse, PIRG believes that the two companies are failing to make laptops easier to take apart and fix.

The “Failing the Fix (2024)” report released this week [PDF] is largely based on the repairability index scores required of laptops and some other electronics sold in France. However, the PIRG’s report weighs disassembly scores more than the other categories in France’s index, like the availability and affordability of spare parts, “because we think this better reflects what consumers think a repairability score indicates and because the other categories can be country specific,” the report says.

PIRG’s scores, like France’s repair index, also factor in the availability of repair documents and product-specific criteria (the PIRG’s report also looks at phones). For laptops, that criteria includes providing updates and the ability to reset software and firmware.

PIRG also docked companies for participating in trade groups that fight against right-to-repair legislation and if OEMs failed to “easily provide full information on how they calculated their products.”

Chromebooks, MacBooks lag in repairability

PIRG examined 139 laptop models and concluded that Chromebooks, “while more affordable than other devices, continue to be less repairable than other laptops.” This was largely due to the laptops having a lower average disassembly score (14.9) than the other laptops (15.2).

The report looked at 10 Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, Dell, and HP and gave Chromebooks an average repair score of 6.3 compared to 7.0 for all other laptops. It said:

Both of these lower averages indicate that while often considered an affordable choice for individuals or schools, Chromebooks are on average less repairable than other laptops.

Google recently extended Chromebook support from eight years to 10 years. PIRG’s report doesn’t factor in software support timelines, but even if it did, Chromebooks’ repairability score wouldn’t increase notably since the move only brought them to “industry norms,” Lucas Gutterman, Designed to Last campaign director for the US PIRG Education Fund, told me.

The Chromebooks PIRG considered for its report.
Enlarge / The Chromebooks PIRG considered for its report.

He added, though, that the current “norm” should improve.

At the very least, if it’s no longer financially viable for manufacturers to maintain support, they should allow the community to continue to maintain the software or make it easy to install alternative operating systems so we can keep our laptops from getting junked.

Turning to its breakdown of non-ChromeOS laptops, PIRG ranked Apple laptops the lowest in terms of repairability with a score of D, putting it behind Asus, Acer, Dell, Microsoft, HP, and Lenovo. In this week’s report, Apple got the lowest average disassembly score out of the OEMs (4 out of 10 compared to the 7.3 average)


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