Other World Computing: Teardown of Lower-Cost 2014 iMac Reveals Soldered Memory

Now that we’ve had time to teardown the new iMac, unlike the $1,299 iMac, we found this iMac has the memory is soldered to the motherboard removing any possibility of adding additional memory. Users will be permanently locked in to the 8GB of memory, as there is no Apple factory upgrade option.

Much has been made about Apple’s steady march toward making their devices more difficult to upgrade. The people that do tear downs are usually companies that have some sort of interest in selling upgrades, parts, or kits for do-it-yourself or do-it-for-me consumers. So, they are dependent upon Apple devices being upgradable, but on what does Apple depend?

Apple depends on a very well-know cycle. Consumers buy Apple hardware. Consumers enjoy Apple software, hardware, and (now) services. Consumers buy more Apple hardware. It is crucial that Apple make their hardware powerful enough to create a high quality user experience. If consumers do not like the experience they will not return for more Apple hardware. How do we interpret Apple’s decision to make it ever more difficult to upgrade their hardware?

I think you don’t need to look any further than the direction Apple software is taking. Look at the features that were introduced in OSX 10.9 Mavericks. Compressed memory was a much welcomed addition.1 This feature allows the operating system to compress the contents of RAM that are not in active use thus providing needed headroom for applications that need more RAM. I haven’t made it all the way through OSX 10.10 Yosemite documentation yet, but it seems to me like Swift fills in some of that role.

Apple is soldering the RAM in place because they believe eight gigabytes will be sufficient for most users over the life of the machine. They can forecast this because they control the software and they know the future product roadmap. Look for Apple to continue to find ways to squeeze out more performance, even from less than stellar hardware.

Interpreting soldered RAM

  1. It occurs to me that this link is likely to be broken once OSX 10.10 Yosemite is released. Maybe we should be complaining to Apple about having better permalinks?

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