Here’s Apple’s Lousy Attempt At Fixing the Keyboard on New MacBook Pros

Posted on July 14, 2018 by Mehedi Hassan in Hardware, Mac and macOS with 61 Comments

Apple revealed a powerful refresh to its MacBook Pro devices earlier this week. The company updated the MacBook Pro with new True Tone displays, updated processors, more RAM on the higher-end variants, and third-generation butterfly keyboards.

Those new keyboards on the refreshed MacBook Pros provide a slightly quieter typing experience, but they retain the same short key travel from the previous generation. But Apple claimed the update doesn’t specifically fix the main problem with previous generation MacBook Pros, which is that the keys can get become inoperable because of dust. This issue was so serious that Apple got into legal trouble, and it later promised to replace the keyboards of the “small number of users” affected.

But as it turns out, Apple did, secretly, included somewhat of a fix for that keyboard issue on the new MacBook Pros.

According to iFixit, the new MacBook Pros come with a silicone cover over the butterfly switches that are supposed to stop dust from intervening with the key mechanism. The silicon cover also makes the keyboard quieter, but that clearly isn’t its entire purpose. The fix is still quite poor, though — there’s a good chance dust will still be able to get in, rendering your keys useless. Apple confirmed the new keyboard isn’t designed to fix the dust issue, so things are still up in the air for now.

As a long-time 2015 MacBook Pro user, I have been patiently waiting for a new MacBook Pro upgrade. This year’s updates look promising, but the keyboard continues to present a bit of a question. It’s quieter, but does it actually fix the main problem? There’s literally no way of telling right now. But here’s to hoping that the next generation of keyboards will completely fix the problem.

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Comments (61)

61 responses to “Here’s Apple’s Lousy Attempt At Fixing the Keyboard on New MacBook Pros”

  1. m_p_w_84

    I think many people have always considered the MacBook the perfect laptop (hardware wise), it’s a shame this one little issue has ruined that for Apple. Surprised they haven’t reacted to fix it more aggressively.


    My dream would be a Surface Book with some MacBook DNA

    • warren

      In reply to m_p_w_84:


      "Perfect laptop with one little issue"?


      Really?


      So you've already forgotten that:

      • RAM is not upgradeable -- and the fact that it's soldered makes repairs massively more complicated
      • Storage is not upgradeable -- again, challenging for repairs. In contrast, most laptops offer two M.2 slots or a combo of 2.5" + M.2 slots
      • The battery is not swappable, making the MBP unsuitable for long stretches away from a power source
      • The physical ESC key is gone, which really irks software developers
      • There is no 4K option on offer, making Apple (along with Microsoft) the only laptop manufacturer to not have this
      • Magsafe, one of the Apple's most well-loved features, is gone
      • There are no USB-A, HDMI, or DP ports, or an SD card slot, all of which are widely used in the real world... #donglelife
      • There is no docking station connector, making it less attractive for business users
      • Graphics power is extremely poor, making it less attractive for gamers, game development and rendering
      • CPU throttling is a major problem due to the low-quality thermal paste and sub-standard cooling solution
      • The power button is connected to the logic board through the same connector as the keyboard, so if you experience a failure with the keyboard controller or cable, you can't turn the computer on


      Remember, now, a lot of these drawbacks are a direct result of Apple's borderline pathological infatuation with anorexia, and the desire to make more money off you by building products that must be replaced in their entirety. There are no technological reasons for any of the above.... and how can a piece of technology be "perfect" if it makes an extraordinary number of sacrifices for non-technological reasons?


      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to warren:

        ... long list of potential “problems” ...


        Most people don’t care about upgrading parts.


        I’ve never in 20+ years of software development carried an extra battery with me and swapped it in. Even when laptops only got a few hours of battery power per charge.


        Also, a $50 USB-C battery pack can give additional charge if you really need it. Carrying around a couple of those should be cheaper than buying a spare battery.


        Real programmers use external keyboards anyway. Though when I’ve used the new keyboards I actually like them better than the old squishy keyboards.


        There are are plenty of docking stations for MacBooks. I’ve used several.


        I have driven multiple 4K monitors with a 2016 15” TouchBar MacBook. (Specs suggest up to 4 4K or 2 5K)


        The graphics power is fine unless you are trying to develop (or play) cutting edge games.


        I would like Apple to invest more in graphics. But they have never been the “go to” for gaming machines.


        :: shrug ::


        Oh, and as far as the “lousy” fix...seems like keeping out the dirt would be a pretty good fix.


        Whether it actually does keep out the dust remains to be seen.

        • Chris_Kez

          In reply to curtisspendlove:

          I don't know, for a "pro" device that I'm going to invest in for several years (or if I'm a company giving these to employees) I'd like the option to replace RAM or storage or battery. These things do sometimes run into issues or need upgrading. Are these deal-breakers? Maybe, maybe not- but I think the larger point is that Apple has sacrificed a lot of stuff in the name of making these devices marginally thinner and lighter than they would be otherwise.

          • curtisspendlove

            In reply to Chris_Kez:

            but I think the larger point is that Apple has sacrificed a lot of stuff in the name of making these devices marginally thinner and lighter than they would be otherwise.


            I agree there are use cases for being able to upgrade machines, but keeping old machines around for too long is actually detrimental for employee productivity.


            I would actually like to see the “Pro” lines offer a thicker case design for better battery life, etc.


            But I don’t think you are going to see that. The industry as a whole is trending away from that.

      • PincasX

        In reply to warren:

        And yet it is Apple's best selling portable. One can't help but get the impression that the people complaining about it aren't the one's that own it and likely wouldn't consider it even if it did address there litany of issues.


        • MikeGalos

          In reply to PincasX:

          Sales doesn't equate to quality nor does a lack of good design nor good engineering typically result in bad sales.

        • Andi

          In reply to PincasX:

          It's not that, it's just that over the years, due to the massive popularity of the iphone the macbook has become a status symbol, the perfect iphone companion and the prosumers that have criticized Apple's design choices have been exchanged with fickle consumers that buy the brand and not the product.

          • PincasX

            In reply to Andi:

            Do you have any actual evidence to back that claim up or is it just what you would like to believe?

            • Andi

              In reply to PincasX:

              As soon as the "new age" macbooks arrived plenty of users expressed their disdain about the keyboard, touchbar and also Apple's design decisions like the trashcan fail mac pro, the deliberate EOL-ining of the MBA and the mac mini.


              You can add to that the gradual soldering out of 3rd party upgrades, dropping nvidia due to petty politics(OpenCL), the Final Cut metamorphosis, dropping of OpenGL etc. Dropping nvidia means dropping CUDA professionals.


              Plenty have complained on fan forums, some long time macusers' critical posts have surfaced and yet it hasn't made that much of a dent in sales. So I assumed a reasonable switch in consumers that has been going for some time.


              The question is, do you have evidence to back your claims up that critics are in fact haters that never owned Apple gear?

              • PincasX

                In reply to Andi:

                Four paragraphs to say that you don't have data to back your claims is a lot of typing but thanks for clarifying.


                Now for the reading comprehension part. I didn't claim that critics are in fact haters that never owned Apple gear. I said that was the impression that I got. By definition an impression is an opinion and not a claim of fact.


                You see the difference there? You claimed something to be true based on no data and can provide no data to back your claim when challenged. What you did is repackage your initial claim as an opinion which is that it should have been stated as in the first place. I stated an opinion, an opinion based on the impression I get reading things like the comment I responded to. Had you stated what you said as an opinion you would have been solid but you have since walked back your claim and made it an opinion so all is good.


                Cheers

                • Andi

                  In reply to PincasX:

                  So you are the only one stating an opinion and must be responded to with facts?


                  I gave you my opinion as a plausible answer. And I justified my opinion. I believe that more average consumers are using macs due to the iphone wave and at the same time pros have steadily left mac hardware. Popularity has surpassed quality. People are actively unknowingly still buying obsolete airs and mac minis and maybe even some trashcan "pros".


                  With nvidia out you have 0 CUDA professionals, with mac pro fails you have less prosumers. Also with the horrid macbook hardware upgrades I can't imagine sensible rationals prosumers buying into the ergonomic nightmare that is the touchbar/flat keyboard combo - this last bit is not an opinion, this is fact.

                • PincasX

                  In reply to Andi:

                  Your initial post was In no way qualified as an opinion. You have since walked it back to being an opinion and you will notice I dropped the request for data.


                  I don’t even understand your second paragraph. If read literally you are saying that your imagination is fact.

                • Andi

                  In reply to PincasX:

                  Why can't I say what I said initially without "giving data"? Am I insulting people's feelings?


                  It's as if without actually polling people, the current mac lineup is selling because it's good and unless I bring "proof" then Apple is selling based on quality. I cannot say that pros are leaving mac hardware in groves because the hardware is crap? That's bull.


                  This just in. The recently released core i9(2800$) cannot keep up with the 2016 i7 MBP. It throttles like hell. Oh and notebookcheck found out that the 13" touchbar model quad core is slower than the i5-8250u(a supposedly slower part).

    • TEAMSWITCHER

      In reply to m_p_w_84:

      That have a quality assurance program to fix ANY keyboard ... even OUT OF WARRANTY. Apple is 10 times more aggressive at solving issues like this than ANY PC company.

  2. jchampeau

    In the second to last paragraph, you state "...there's a good chance dust will still be able to get in, rendering your keys useless." Then in the last paragraph, you mention there's "literally no way of telling" if the keyboard modifications will fix the issue. If you don't yet know whether the issue has been resolved, then how do you know there's a "good chance" dust will still get in and ruin the keyboard? Why did you call Apple's attempt at fixing the keyboard "Lousy" in the title when we don't know whether they've fixed it or not? I'm having trouble figuring out if this is a news piece or an opinion piece or a wild-ass-guess piece. I expect this kind of guessing/writing at other sites but not this one. It comes across and uninformed and amateur.

  3. wocowboy

    Has the author USED this new keyboard? Has the author had any experience with the new keyboard design? Has the author read or seen any test reports on the effects of this new keyboard design? I would imagine the answer to these and every other question that involves actual use of this new design would be no, since no one except a very few people have even touched it, and that was only for a very few minutes at a press event. Therefore, to call the design "lousy" is just a personal opinion with no basis in fact at all, and should have been labeled as such, or commentary. This is totally inappropriate from a tech site that does publish reviews based on actual use.

  4. briantlewis

    I have the 2017 version and have never had a problem with the keyboard.

  5. Yaggs

    Sucks having to "patiently wait" for one company to decided what features or improvements to give to it's users... if only there was a way you could decide what features were important to you in a computer and buy one that meets all your needs and expectations... :|

  6. GT Tecolotecreek

    Paul and Sam need to sit down with Mehedi and explain this kind of "reporting" destroys the remaining credibility of the web site's brand. Between Paul's occasional Apple rants and this kind of click bait, inaccurate and speculative writing it really lowers the value of the site.

  7. Waethorn

    In what perfect world does anybody here live in where a a new manufacturing design purposefully built to reduce cost ISN'T bungled the first few attempts out the door?

    • MikeGalos

      In reply to Waethorn:

      The one populated by people who after returning their MacBook for a bad hard drive and a bad case and a flakey motherboard still say, "I buy Apple products because They Just Work and are so reliable".


      (Literally what a non-techy employee of mine once told me while explaining why she couldn't reply to an email yet again)

      • pecosbob04

        In reply to MikeGalos: You did fire the miserable miscreant Apple addled non-techy I trust.
        "The one populated by people who after returning their MacBook for a bad hard drive and a bad case and a flakey motherboard "
        You know multiple people who experienced all three of those issues on a single MacBook? That boggles the mind. Why if I wasn't familiar with your posting history I might call bullshit on that story but since I am... Oh wait never mind.


      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to MikeGalos:

        (Literally what a non-techy employee of mine once told me while explaining why she couldn't reply to an email yet again)


        Interesting. The world in which I live features employers providing equipment for employees with which to work upon.


        Edit: bah...shouldn’t comment after taking cold medicine. ;)


        Translated: it seems like an employer should buy employees reliable equipment to avoid situations like the one quoted above.

      • Lukaku

        In reply to MikeGalos:

        Do not try your computer like garbage and expect it to work like a champ

  8. Hifihedgehog2

    Ah, there are so many snowflakes in our readership who can’t stomach this. The meltdown in this comment section is ravishingly delicious to digest.

  9. will

    Just picked up a 2018 MBP and sticking with it. They made some big changes overall, and they did work on the keyboard so that is good for me. The next version could have GPU issues, or screen issues, or who knows what. Nothing is perfect.


    Right now for me it starts with just using this and then will replace it in 3-4 years when its time for an upgrade.

  10. red.radar

    Not blindly defending Apple here but I am going to defer judgement on the effectiveness of the silicon membrane until some data comes in.


    Just goes to show the crappy cycle tech journalism is in. It’s a violent echo chamber and no one has added any value to the ifixit analysis. The title of this article is ridiculous considering there is no evidence or data to back up the statement “Lousy”..


    Next time don’t write anything just say go read ifixit’s piece ...



  11. Winner

    Just don't expect a decent keyboard fix for the astronomical prices they charge.

    • Lukaku

      In reply to Winner:

      One has to be an idiot to repeat the MS mantra that Apple computers are expansive. Just visit a local store and compare machines with the same capabilities. You will find macs to be cheaper.

    • dontbe evil

      In reply to Winner:

      no surprise, but apple fans like to be milked from their beloved company, so why apple should change business?

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to dontbe_evil:

        no surprise, but apple fans like to be milked from their beloved company, so why apple should change business?


        I know the “Macs are too expensive, iSheep lol” peeps probably don’t really understand this concept.


        But the majority of upgraded MacBook Pro machines are purchased by businesses or individuals who literally make money directly by using the computer to create goods and services.


        A $6,000 computer that generates $200,000 per year for 2-5 years is a pretty good deal, in my opinion.


        I would not spend six grand on a personal laptop.


        Apple has has plenty of reasonably priced devices for personal use cases.


        The base model 13” without Touch Bar is within a couple hundred dollars either way of comparatively spec’d Windows laptops...particularly the premium build brands.

    • Jeffsters

      In reply to Winner:

      Just tried to price an i9 32GB, 4TB, laptop from Dell and HP.

      For example; an HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 G5 Mobile Workstation With an i7 rather than an i9 and 2TB rather than 4TB is a $1100 more than the highest price MBP.


      Give it a try!

  12. PanamaVet

    Over a decade ago I bought a Toshiba laptop for my wife to do browsing and social media. Circuit City had them on sale.


    Circuit City died but this laptop is the Little Engine That Could.


    About 5 years later I spent $11, unscrewed the case and screwed in a replacement keyboard. Wife really likes the key travel and tactile feedback.


    There are a lot of great keyboards out there for people to use who are willing to pay a luxury price like $11.


    Later I replaced the hard drive with an SSD which really cooled it off and had it running faster in spite of the old motherboard.


    If it ever dies I will put the SSD in another machine that isn't designed to die just beyond the warranty.



  13. dontbe evil

    ROTFL … apple quality and customer care <3

  14. dstrauss

    Forget the dirt - why aren't users up in arms about a keyboard that is barely more responsive than typing on glass?

  15. Angusmatheson

    It totally bums me out that everyone inthe comments is critiquing the article, not talking about the article. This is a fascinating blunder for Apple. To go from the beloved MacBook Air and MacBook Pro - so the underpowered MacBook. And the new keyboards that at best are divisive - and at worst profoundly flawed. And the touchbar - does anyone really like it? What happened? How did it happen? Why do the macs have so many problems (Mac Pro, no Mac mini for years, MacBook keyboard etc) - and iPad and iPhone don’t. And why are the PC manufacturers who were in such a slump 5 years ago - making netbooks, and cheap plastic 17” monstrosities with no battery life - now making so many beautiful laptops to fill every need. Was it the MacBook Air that did it? The Surface? The failure of MacBook Pro is fascinating. We certainly have more to talk about in the comments than whether the title is click bait.

    • TEAMSWITCHER

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      It is completely lost in these comments that Apple has launched a quality assurance program to repair any and all keyboards that suffer from issues. Besides that, I have two of these Keyboards in my family for a couple of years now and have not had a single key failure. I will not .. EVER BUY A WINDOWS PC LAPTOP .. again because when you have problems out of warranty on them ... YOU ARE ALWAYS SCREWED...


      A L W A Y S !!!!

    • wocowboy

      In reply to Angusmatheson:
      The problem is that the author called something "lousy" that he has never seen or used or had any experience with at all. It is his personal opinion that it is lousy, not based on actual use or experience, that is the problem. And it is a very valid problem. We don't know that he has used an Apple laptop that did experience a problem with the keyboard either, so that he might have some actual experiential basis to make such a comment, which makes the lousy comment even more egregious.


    • PincasX

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      Because articles like this give the distinct impression that these issues are overblown by people looking for people to get clicks rather than tackling the issues. If self proclaimed "journalist" can't address the subject in a rational and coherent way how do expect people commenting on it to do so?

  16. PincasX

    Sweet Jesus. The start of this article says that Apple included a fix for the dust issue. The middle says that the solution to make the keyboard quieter will probably also fix the dust issue. And by the time we get to the end it doesn't fix the issue. Not only is the headline clickbait but the article itself is having an existential crisis.

  17. thalter

    I'm still clinging to my 2015 MBP. Real keyboard, real function keys, and an illuminated Apple logo, like all Apple laptops are supposed to have.

  18. djross95

    As they say down under, I wouldn't touch one of these things with a barge pole. Apple clearly sees no need to fix this--and in partial defense of their approach, probably can't without admitting guilt that they were faulty in the first place. Hubris (or "courage", lol) can be expensive.

  19. pecosbob04

    "Here’s Apple’s Lousy Attempt At Fixing the Keyboard on New MacBook Pros"


    Lousy attempt at writing a headline imho.


  20. Steven Lendowski

    COMPARE HEADLINE: "Here’s Apple’s Lousy Attempt At Fixing the Keyboard on New MacBook Pros"

    COMPARE TEXT: "It’s quieter, but does it actually fix the main problem? There’s literally no way of telling right now."


    Not a lousy attempt at writing a headline like pecosbob04 wrote, but pure and deliberate clickbait.


    I am reading Thrurrott.com and not WindowsCentral or any other of those MSFT fanboy / advertising blogs, because I dont want want that clickbait BS. That should be achieable even on a Macbook 2015 i guess.

    ;)

  21. pderosa

    Title is clickbait.

  22. Jeffsters

    We are a very large tech, cloud, and software development organization in a very large company and have maybe a 70/30 Mac/Win user profile. I know a few individuals who have received the last generation MBP with these keyboards. I’ve been on the fence with the stories out there but our support team reports few keyboard related issues while users do speak to getting used to the shorter travel. I guess that’s why we haven’t seen tens of thousands of reports? I’m considering one now as most of my time in work is connected to a mouse, two 4K monitors, and a mouse with travel my primary driver given size and weight.

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