Teardown Reveals Mac Studio Storage Cannot Be Upgraded

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Why it matters: Apple has a reputation for building devices that aren’t user-upgradable or easy to repair, and the recently launched Mac Studio and Studio Display are no different. While it is possible to replace the storage space on the new Mac Studio, it will not be easy to find the necessary part. In the case of Studio Display, all it needs to be said is that replacing the power cord or stand requires a trip to the Apple Store.

While the dust has settled with Apple’s new Mac Studio and Studio Display, reviewers so far have loved the former’s power, compact design and connectivity, while praising the latter’s webcam, speakers and elegant design. However, they are both quite expensive and the Mac Studio has no upgrade options, while the Studio Display does not support HDR and high refresh rates.

The folks at iFixit took the two devices apart and learned a lot about them, including how easily you can fix them if something goes wrong. When it comes to the Mac Studio, the internal storage can be replaced or upgraded as there are two slots that are relatively easy to access and only one of which is occupied.

Another teardown earlier this month raised hopes that Apple’s storage on the Mac Studio may be user-upgradeable or at least user-replaceable. At the moment, however, only the latter option is really possible. One reason is that the Studio’s storage is managed through a NAND controller built into Apple’s latest M1 Max and M1 Ultra chipsets, rather than on the same board as the NAND storage chips.

In other words, Apple’s new mini desktop PC uses a different storage architecture that makes swapping out the storage modules a bit more complicated, since we’re not talking about standalone devices like Samsung’s 980 Pro SSD. It works if you swap the raw NAND module on a Mac Studio with another of the same size and do a DFU restore with Configurator. Swapping a module with a different size or trying to fill both slots with identical modules will not work.

For now, it seems you need to decide how much internal storage you need before buying a Mac Studio or relying on the many ports that allow you to expand capacity using external storage solutions. Otherwise, iFixit found that the Mac Studio uses several Torx screws, brackets, and connectors that require patience to remove. As a result, iFixit gave the device a repairability score of 6/10, which is on par with the Mac mini.

People who played with the Studio Display found that it essentially has iPad Air 5 internals, such as an A13 Bionic chipset and 64 gigabytes of storage. It also runs iOS 15.4, which allows you to get “Hey Siri” functionality on older Macs that don’t officially support the feature.

Techs at iFixit also took the Studio Display apart and found it very similar to an iMac—from the similar panel to how you break it open and what the inside looks like. The camera is essentially the same as the one in the iPhone 11, which is a blessing and a curse, as it sacrifices recoverability at the expense of quality. That said, iFixit is working on a more in-depth teardown that will be released soon.

Reviewers who have used the Studio Display say this product isn’t easy to recommend, even to people who don’t care much about repairability and live entirely within Apple’s ecosystem. That’s because upgrading to the height-adjustable stand costs $400 and requires a trip to the store, as will the power cord if you damage it at any point during the monitor’s life.

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