New Microsoft tablet: below the Surface

Notorious gadget-fiddlers iFixit say you’ll have to be pretty determined if you want to repair or upgrade the Microsoft Surface tablet yourself. But the limitations are as much about it being a tablet as the way Microsoft has put it together.

The Surface is already in weird territory as most early reviews conclude that the hardware design is excellent but the software limited: quite the opposite of many Microsoft products.

Now iFixit has done its customary teardown and awarded it a “repairability rating” of 4 out of 10. That compares with 7 for the Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7, and 2 for the iPad.

The company estimates that simply getting inside the Surface takes 10 minutes if you know what you are doing and 30 minutes if you don’t. Replacing the battery is doable: it’s glued in but can be removed if you take care; that might be the most viable repair option for people looking to save a few bucks. Most other parts are accessible, though you’ll need a heat gun if you want to replace a broken screen or the LCD itself.

The main manufacturing trivia from the teardown is that not only the screen comes from Samsung, but also the battery and the flash memory as well. That’ll be some comfort for Samsung as it continues its business split with Apple.

Realistically, the chances are that there’ll be a very low percentage of buyers who’d even think about repairing or upgrading the Surface, at least with the initial model. Even leaving aside the cultural factor of having less expectation of being able to tinker with a tablet than a notebook or desktop PC, the chances are the type of people who find it important to be able to get inside a casing aren’t going to bother with a Windows RT device that runs on an iPad like “walled garden” basis by not letting users install apps except through official store.