back to article Apple SOLDERS memory into new 'budget' iMac

Apple has soldered the memory into its new cheap-ish iMac in an apparent bid to make sure fanbois have no chance of souping up their new not-so-bargain-basement all-in-one computer, according to a teardown team. The fruity firm has always been interested in making sure the world's landfill sites are packed with out-of-date Macs …

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Unacceptable

Even for a consumer machine.

I quite like the iMac form factor as most if not all it's target market won't upgrade much at all, but memory and storage are the two most likely upgrades so it seemed logical and sensible to leave an upgrade path.

Disappointing...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unacceptable

I find it acceptable - if somebody's so desperate to have an apple, they buy into the apple "culture", part of which is predatory pricing. For other folks, the problem is irrelevant.

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: Unacceptable

The amount of RAM shipped in new PCs stopped increasing several years ago. New budget PCs have 4Gb and medium range ones have 8Gb - and it's been this way 5 years.

I think hard-disks have also plateaued. though more recently, at 1TB.

We're no longer in a world where in 2 years you can double the RAM because the price has dropped... buy the spec you need in the first place. The bigger problem with soldered RAM is you have to pay Apple for it, rather than buying 16Gb 3rd-party RAM and a 4Gb iMac.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unacceptable

In my eyes, I'm not sure why you would even need to upgrade the RAM from 8gb which seems like an ample amount considering the dual core CPU, and the onboard graphics. If this were a quad core machine with high end graphics running blender or something then yes I'd argue that a RAM upgrade would be possibly useful, but it's not. Dual core doesn't suit itself to applications that would devour that much RAM, neither do the graphics.

If anything soldering it on is saving people wasting money upgrading the RAM for a speed boost that doesn't really exist.

Additionally, we need an Earl Lemongrab icon for unacceptable.

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Trollface

Re: Unacceptable

"an ample amount considering the dual core CPU"

Whoa, Apple's up to two whole cores?!?!??!

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Re: Unacceptable

New budget PCs typically have 8GB of RAM now- though 500Gb rather than your suggested 1TB, would appear to be the norm.

My current laptop- which I bought in 2008- an Acer 8930G- has 8Gb of RAM and a pair of 500Gb hard-drives. Its far from unusual.........

RAM- is very probably the cheapest way to upgrade a PC. Even worse than soldering the memory to the motherboard (which can only be described as mealy mouthed meanness) is the low range CPU used in the IMAC.

I'd strongly endorse the Reg's advice on this one- spend a lot less- and get something of at least comparable power- or a little more, and keep your options open. The current specs/price ratio- is piss poor.

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Re: Unacceptable

Do you know what "predatory pricing" means, or did you simply think it would sound good. Predatory pricing is the practice of putting your price below your competitors', often in a very targeted way: think air fares on certain routes, hoping to drive a new entrant out of business, before putting prices back up again once that's been achieved. Do you think this describes Apple's pricing strategy? Most Apple users I know are buying into a "culture" of exceptionally well-engineered devices that are very pleasing and easy to use, including with each other. I agree that this particular iMac isn't one I'd recommend, though I'm willing to bet that the soldering has a lot more to do with lowering the cost of manufacture than some grand plan to force people to upgrade sooner.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unacceptable

How much could it possibly cost to pay someone to plug a memory module into a socket soldered onto the motherboard?

How many could one person do in an hour, and what are you paying that person per hour?

Easily over 100 per hour, and way less than $10 per hour, so maybe 10 cents?

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Re: Unacceptable

There's the cost of a few pennies for the socket, and then the cost of the circuit board the RAM chips sit on (also a few more pennies) before the labour cost needs to be factored in.

Also you can probably use robotic assembly of chips onto the motherboard as part of that process thus there is no labour cost (or extended production line/tooling cost) for soldered memory.

These few cents per unit add up on units that expect to be shipped in quantity (eg 10 pennies each for 10M shipped units is worth having). Indeed over the lifetime of popular product lines the engineering teams are always trying to streamline and simplify the production line and the number of elements in a product because these things do matter.

Now that saving may not get passed on to you the consumer, but, the increased margin should mean the company concerned is using that money to re-invest in better products for the future and a reasonable return for shareholders (this last bit ain't guaranteed of course).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unacceptable

I dunno. Predatory pricing is kinda an on point description of Apple's MO. By telling consumers that this is a competitively priced unit, they are preying on people who just don't know any better. I mean, pricing the parts that went into this unit versus if one built a PC of similar specs, the cost would be $400-$500 if purchasing a Windows OS to go with it. It falls around $350 (yes, including a micro-ATX case/PSU and a comparable sized monitor) without purchasing an OS for those who want to go the Linux route or have a copy of Windows already.

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GBE

Re: Unacceptable

"I dunno. Predatory pricing is kinda an on point description of Apple's MO."

No, it isn't. The phrase "predatory pricing" has a very specific meaning:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predatory_pricing

That is most definitly _not_ what Apple does.

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Silver badge

Re: Unacceptable

"How much could it possibly cost to pay someone to plug a memory module into a socket soldered onto the motherboard?"

Well you've got to solder twice - once to solder the chips on the mem module, once to solder the socket onto the motherboard, and *then* pay someone to plug the two together.

Or solder once, directly onto the mobo. Still ridiculous, but it is a shorter manufacturing process.

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Bronze badge
Unhappy

Re: Unacceptable

Apple have long hated the 3rd party aftermarket. If there's money in it, it has to go to Apple seems to be the philosophy, except for things a frivolous as phone cases.

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Silver badge

Re: Unacceptable

"For other folks, the problem is irrelevant."

Not quite. Dell has been known to solder third party parts and cards to their motherboards.

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Silver badge

Re: Unacceptable

> "an ample amount considering the dual core CPU"

^considering^given

Probably true. 1.4Ghz? I have a 2.6Ghz imac from 2009 which cost the same, but came with a 24" screen and an ipod touch. I've bumped the memory to 8Gig and I'll probably swap the 640Gig disk for an SSD at some point. As far as I can tell, the kit is getting worse.

I like (liked?) Apple kit, but I'm very disillusioned with their business practises. There isn't even an option for 16G on an MBA. If you're going to solder the stuff on, I want to future proof it. I have a couple of drivers for buying Apple - MS Office on a Unix box and time machine. The first of these might be moot with LibreOffice/vmware player and the second is looking like a $60 driver option if I move from Snow Leopard.

The only upside is that the system is so intractable, I rarely break it with fiddling. :p

My 3930k hex-core with 32G RAM is looking quite cheap at the moment. It's also sitting in a MacPro case :D

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Silver badge

Re: Unacceptable

> That is most definitly _not_ what Apple does.

Bait and switch on the other hand...

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Boffin

Re: Unacceptable

"...though I'm willing to bet that the soldering has a lot more to do with lowering the cost of manufacture than some grand plan to force people to upgrade sooner."

Or perhaps with lowering support costs as they won't have to deal with people screwing up adding RAM (Yes, it's not that hard, therefore you really don't want to have to expend support on the kind of folks who would screw it up).

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Joke

Re: Unacceptable

"Apple have long hated the 3rd party aftermarket. If there's money in it, it has to go to Apple..."

Who do they think they are, a TiVo-hating cable company or the pre-80s breakup AT&T?

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Re: Unacceptable

Is English your second language? Predatory has a meaning and Pricing has a meaning. What Apple is doing with their pricing "is" predatorial. Where you are mistaken is in assuming that there is only one kind of predatory pricing albeit the most common form.

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Re: Unacceptable

Unacceptable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, this post is unacceptable!!!!!! Aghhhhbbb

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Silver badge

Interesting - this used to happen quite a bit and the solution was to look at the circuit and piggy back some more RAM on top of the existing RAM chips with a couple of trace cuts and added wires. Done it myself several times with both discrete and SMT components.

But these days most of the users don't have a clue which end of the soldering iron to pick up.

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Silver badge

Your soldering iron won't do you much good with all

those multi-layer circuit boards these days...

And finding the data-sheets for some of these custom chips (cr)apple

uses is also a nightmare...

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You'll soon know if it's on, ask my son. (Hospital trip, plastic bag on hand etc.)

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Upgrading by simply plugging new cards into slots is one thing, but if I'd paid £899 for someone to build me a computer, call me Mr Luddite if you want but I'd expect that I didn't have to solder bits myself at that price.

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Silver badge

Multi-layer boards are not that big a deal - if the chips are on the board then the runs have to come out somewhere - it's usually the power runs that are internal, not the signals/data anyway. Custom chips can often be ignored because they drive regular chips so you can just treat them as black boxes. The chances are that the RAM is a mass-produced and documented chip.

I'm just saying that it's possible - being that company it's a marketing decision anyway, not a design decision.

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Bronze badge

Interesting - this used to happen quite a bit and the solution was to look at the circuit and piggy back some more RAM on top of the existing RAM chips with a couple of trace cuts and added wires. Done it myself several times with both discrete and SMT components.

You can forget it these days. Physical access to the connections is not an issue - what memory doesn't use TSSOP packages after all - rather it's the sheer speed of modern memory. Signals are now firmly into transmission line territory, timing is critical and you need to avoid any impedance humps along the way. Even back in the PC100 days this kind of manual hacking would be enough to push things out of spec although there was usually enough slack to accommodate anything that was not grossly wrong, but with the latest revisions of DDR3 etc you can dismiss any idea of attempting this straight away.

Look at the kind of things high speed board designers factor into consideration as a matter of course - track lengths and widths, characteristic impedances, thickness of the substrate and even the precise grade of fibreglass used for that substrate - they are not doing that kind of analysis to pass the time. What chance do you have of even approximating the same results with a manually hacked board with patch wires routed completely at random?

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Silver badge
Pint

Ah, back in the days when men were real men, women were real women and RAM Pack wobble made a frightened screaming girl out of the best men...

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Anonymous Coward

You haven't got a hope of soldering on some extra RAM chips and coming away with functioning RAM or, mostly likely, even a functioning computer.

Jeez, get a grip!

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Anonymous Coward

You sound like an engineer who never continued to learn... "we just use to trim a bit of wire off and it was all good"... yes, you can do exactly the same with these new LCD screens when the pixels die... just trim a bit off...

Many are not that naive.

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Bronze badge
Go

My old TI SR-51a had piggyback ram...

Soldered in ram is not a bad idea, that old calc had piggybackback ram n it worked just fine...

IMHO= Apple usually knows what it is doing... hope this iteration of a machine is for relialbility, not just to save money...or prevent owner upgrades...(mean-spirited offering??)...Apple is above that...RS.

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Silver badge
Angel

Spot the Sinclair owner...

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FAIL

Repairs

Well, pray you don't get a dodgy ram stick.

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Joke

Re: Repairs

well, that is exactly what Apple PR will say:

With the new and revolutionary soldered memory chips, we give our users guarantee that no bad memory modules can be installed in the machine, first time in the history of IT industry

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Re: Repairs

You'd take it back to the shop, just like you would with memory installed on sticks. The shop isn't going to give you a swap-out of the RAM; they'll just replace the machine.

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Re: Repairs

" they'll just replace the machine."

Oh *goodie* more landfill, *just* what we need!

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Silver badge

Re: Repairs

No, it'll be sent somewhere to be "refurbished" by combining it with another that had a bad screen or something and later resold at the discounted price of £879.

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Re: Repairs

I think the other reply was accurate - that's where refurbs come from - but what I'm saying is that every retailer would do this with every brand: how the RAM is attached to the motherboard isn't going to make any difference. If it's as simple as bad RAM, then the manufacturer will swap it out one way or another.

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WTF?

Re: Repairs

"....then the manufacturer will swap it out one way or another"

And after a year or two when the warranty has expired?

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: Repairs

Apple will repair phones outside of warranty, won't they - for a fee of course?

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Re: Repairs

I know of not one real case of RAM ever failing as a result of anything but a manufacturing defect such that it would immediate (and unlikely to have got through testing), or a heat-related failure will will manifest itself soon enough. I'm not saying it can't happen, but that it is very unlikely indeed and I have never come across this as a reason not to buy a laptop, for example. Even if it did, in the UK, you have fitness for purpose as an implied warranty. It just isn't an issue and this is Apple-hating FUD. (I'm still not saying I would buy one.)

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GBE

Re: Repairs

"Well, pray you don't get a dodgy ram stick."

Don't worry, you won't.

Because there is no ram stick (more technically called a DIMM module).

There are just some ram chips soldered to the motherboard instead. That's the whole point of the gripe: there are no ram sticks nor sockets to stick 'em in.

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Re: Repairs

I'm not sure how many computers you're dealing with on a daily basis but I've seen loads and loads of RAM go bad after a few years ("good" brand names and bad alike) - and seen several older Macs with soldered-on RAM binned because of the same fault.

I wouldn't touch one of these with a bargepole, and nor would anyone else with even half a clue...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Repairs

I'm not sure how many computers you're dealing with on a daily basis but I've seen loads and loads of RAM go bad after a few years ("good" brand names and bad alike) - and seen several older Macs with soldered-on RAM binned because of the same fault.

I spent many years doing hardware rework - it's really not that hard but it does require specialised equipment to ensure you do it right and don't create a bigger problem (and economics matter - engineering time cost vs. grabbing a new circuit board). On a volume basis, failing RAM is rare. If you have defective chips they tend to flake in the first year, which is covered under warranty.

Note that it is in the interest of any manufacturer to do it right. Low yield is costly and failing kit harms your reputation - even Apple has to bow when the volume of failure goes up, or have you forgotten the whole antenna gate? I'm OK with Apple solding things to the board, sockets have a higher failure rate through mechanical failure and "end user activity" than soldering in components that cannot be messed with.

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Trollface

Re: Repairs

> I wouldn't touch one of these with a bargepole, and nor would anyone else with even half a clue...

There you go again, just when we thought we'd solved the problem of people not buying new kit as often you have to go ahead and destroy the industry.

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Bronze badge
Coat

Re: Repairs

Then they'll invent time travel (with curved edges) and set the landsharks on Sinclair, Acorn, Dragon et al.

Mine's the one with the Campaign for Real Time leaflet in the pocket

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Windows

Imagined use case?

8Gb/Dual core/Integrated graphics sounds OK to me for three to five years for a machine used for Web surfing, music collection managing, photo editing and a bit of document processing. Nice bright biggish screen. Long term guarantee available. OS that *can be* more reliable and *might* require less maintenance.

Penelope in Marketing will still get a full spec iMac, as will Jaques the photoshop guy, and anyone doing high res video editing or software development (if only for the VMs).

What are you people all using?

The tramp: posting this on an old Thinkpad X60 with 1Gb ram with Debian Wheezy. Listening to Chopin and writing some worksheets for next year. 320Mb used according to 'free -m'. Processors bouncing around 6% each.

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Re: Imagined use case?

All this with 128MB of RAM? Impressive.

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Re: Imagined use case?

Did I mis-capitalise?

keith@moka:~$ free

total used free shared buffers cached

Mem: 1024832 740696 284136 0 11908 406124

-/+ buffers/cache: 322664 702168

Swap: 2097148 712 2096436

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