iFixit Examines Apple’s 4th Try at Butterfly Keyboard

Posted on May 24, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Hardware, Mac and macOS with 30 Comments

The teardown experts at iFixit revealed today that Apple has made two minor changes to its 4th-generation butterfly keyboard in a bid to finally put the reliability issues behind it. But the changes are minor, and it’s unclear if Apple has solved the problems.

“Apple’s newest MacBook Pro features a mysterious new keyboard material,” iFixit notes. “Since it’s unlikely that Apple’s going to expound on this ‘material,’ and we’re never satisfied with an unsolved mystery, it’s time once again to take a closer look at the infamous butterfly keyboard.”

And the butterfly keyboard is infamous. The first version debuted with the 2015 Macbook, and subsequent versions appeared in various MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models released since then. In each case, users reported multiple problems with the keyboards, forcing Apple to quietly and then publicly expand its free service program for the laptops.

Earlier this week, Apple announced a new generation of more powerful MacBook Pros, and while Apple isn’t marketing the keyboard fixes—it only notes that the new keyboard offers a “quieter typing experience”—the firm had previously apologized for the issues and was known to be releasing an updated keyboard with its next MacBooks.

So, now that they’re here, iFixIt has torn one apart to see what Apple changed. And it ain’t much.

“The transparent switch cover material [which is designed to keep dust and debris out] changed this year,” iFixIt reports. “The cover in the 2018 model is semi-opaque, somewhat tacky, and feels like silicone. The new model is clearer and smooth to the touch.” Basically, Apple changed the cover material from Polyacetylene to nylon. But iFixit has no idea why.

Second, the metal dome switch in each key in the keyboard changed a bit, too. iFixit believes they are still made of ferritic stainless steel, but that Apple has changed the composition of the thin polymer coating on the bottom in order to make the switches more durable, hopefully eliminating some failures.

So. did Apple “fix” the butterfly keyboard?

No, iFixit says. “The fundamental problem with this laptop remains—if the slightest thing ever goes wrong, you’ll be replacing half the machine,” the firm notes. “Even if the keyboard is perfect this time, you’re taking a gamble on everything else.” And it has rated the new MacBook Pro a woeful 1/10—its worst-possible score for repairability.

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