iFixit: New MacBook Pro Keyboard Isn’t So New

Posted on November 18, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Mac and macOS with 42 Comments

The teardown experts at iFixIt have exposed Apple’s marketing as nothing more than a lie. What’s old is new again.

“Your long butterfly keyboard nightmare is over,” the firm reports in its first look at Apple’s “new” MacBook Pro keyboard. “The new Magic Keyboard in the 16-inch MacBook Pro has an almost identical look and feel to much older Apple devices—so close, in fact, that you can swap in old Magic Keyboard keycaps. It feels like a do-over, a throwback, almost an apology.”

A real apology, of course, is something that is delivered by the perpetrator to the offended. In this case, however, there’s no apology: Apple sold millions of MacBooks, MacBook Airs, and MacBook Pros over the past four years with a broken butterfly keyboard that it had always promoted as being superior to the traditional scissor-switch keyboards of the past. Now, they’ve just quietly reversed course and returned to the older technology.

But it’s worse than that. Apple’s marketing claims that the old keyboard is “new,” so new, in fact, that they’ve named it the “Magic Keyboard,” a moniker they used previously on an external keyboard peripheral (that iFixIt references above). It’s so improved that it’s as magic as the old keyboard!

“The new Magic Keyboard features a refined scissor mechanism with 1 mm travel for a responsive, comfortable, and quiet typing experience,” Apple explains on its website. It “delivers the best typing experience ever in a Mac notebook.”

How else is the Magic keyboard new and different? It “delivers … a comfortable, satisfying and quiet typing experience,” Apple says, contrasting it implicitly with its loud and uncomfortable predecessor. “The new Magic Keyboard also features a physical Escape key and an inverted-‘T’ arrangement for the arrow keys, along with Touch Bar and Touch ID, for a keyboard that delivers the best typing experience ever on a Mac notebook.”

New, new, new. Best-ever. Magic. You know the drill.

But that iFixIt comment has got to bother even the biggest Apple shill. “You can swap in old keycaps” from an old external (and pre-Butterfly) keyboard? Really? I mean, how new can it be?

“These new keys … are essentially the old keys, [but] have deeper travel, softer sound, and a more robust design” iFixit says. “Replacing a broken switch mechanism still involves disassembling the whole device, and will likely be painful, but, still: this is a practical move.”

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