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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Comments (43)

43 responses to “iFixit: New MacBook Pro Keyboard Isn’t So New”

  1. Avatar

    dontbeevil

    the best macbook evaaaaaaaaaaaaa, starting only from a kidney

  2. Avatar

    jdawgnoonan

    I needed a new computer not long ago, and the computer that I wanted to replace was my Macbook Pro. I could not bring myself to buy a new Macbook Pro though, even though I really like many things about Mac OS. I tried the keyboard on my wife's current generation 13 inch MBP and it felt like typing on a screen even if it did not have the known quality issues. Due to this I bought a Lenovo X1 Extreme Gen 2 and I do not regret my decision at all even with the new 16 inch Macbook Pro being released shortly thereafter.


    The keyboard on the Lenovo beats any keyboard that Apple has ever made, and my primary laptops have been MacBook Pros since 2004.


    It was quite refreshing to be able to easily open up the X1 Extreme to install a secondary SSD. Everything on this machine is easy to work on, and the machine is light.

  3. Avatar

    wocowboy

    Keyboard design went from one that did not work to one that works, accompanied by marketing hype. Net effect: a much better user experience. So where is the scandal here, in the marketing hype? If all marketing hype were considered to be a scandal, we would be completely inundated in constant angst and arguments. There is no scandal here, end of story.

  4. Avatar

    Greg Green

    I'm shocked, shocked to find that marketing is going on here! Round up the usual suspects.

  5. Avatar

    nbplopes

    Its new as when you build a new house or you buy a new car. It's not new has it if was never done.


    It feels like it is almost built to tick the boxes of reviewers. A solid and safe approach without innovative stuff in the mix, was the basis of this NEW laptop from Apple. That is all. Of course Marketing will pump it with glossy euphemisms, but the word “new” is not one of them.


    Such zeal over Apple marketing. If you had the same kind of zeal with MS marketing ,.. you probably have an Heart Attack. I mean, since when they apologised for any of their failed experiments ... heck they often even drop them with no apologies (we tried, we tried, hard science, we did our best $$$ so on and so forth). Let me guess ... its ok because it will be fixed in the next update ... whatever the word "update" might mean to the Establishement.


    PS: Because of the keyboard I have basically skipped the previous entire Macbook generation and sticked to my MacBook Pro 15" from 20015, a classic. Several times I almost pulled the trigger and surrender to my consumerism and bought one but ... I'm glad I did not. I'm a bit said that I will not have a taste of it as now I'm moving to combination of a Desktop (iMac) and a Tablet (iPad Pro), but I do think in my context may be the best bet as a software developer and manager.

  6. Avatar

    Winner

    You have to give their marketing some credit here.

    Only Apple can turn old stuff into amazing new stuff. Microsoft needs to take some lessons as they can't even explain the current offerings very clearly.

    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to Winner:


      In that respect Microsoft does it far better. That is one thing they do not bead a lesson from Apple. The number just show that.


      The keyword is “update”. If it does not work well it will be fixed in the best update. Even if the next update means buying a new laptop in the series. If it does not work well for long, they did their best updating and fixing things and ..

      and drop the product or service because ... welll the were misunderstood by the market ... and ... well they should learn from Apple ... those lies

  7. Avatar

    LT1 Z51

    How is this news? The WSJ reported this, and Apple seems pretty open about going back to a scissor design.

  8. Avatar

    red.radar

    I like apple products...and I am not even going to try and defend this


    Dumb... Very Dumb...


    Did they not know people were going to do teardowns? You got to imagine every lawyer in the world is going to use this as evidence in class action lawsuits to prove that apple knew the previous design was defective.


    I get changing...but going back to the original design and waiving your hands as if it is new?? It destroys credibility and it shows admission that you know you released a defective product.





  9. Avatar

    rosyna

    It’s likened to the Magic Keyboard because it is that thing. It’s “new” as it’s the first time the 2015 keyboard has been in a portable Mac.

  10. Avatar

    Daekar

    The sad thing is, they could milk this for some great PR without admitting anything.

    "Several years ago, we introduced the Apple butterfly keyboard. It was revolutionary in that it enabled slimmer machines while maintaining a great typing experience. But at Apple, great isn't good enough! and so we took the feedback we received from a small number of users who experienced minor reliability problems in adverse environments and sent our engineering teams back to the drawing board. With your input as inspiration, they revisited a classic Apple keyboard design cherished by Mac users everywhere and took things to the next level...."

  11. Avatar

    canamrotax

    Looking at replacement costs on ifixit.com parts site, 2014 macbook pro keyboard $19.99. 2016 Macbook pro keyboard $149.99.

    Think different!

  12. Avatar

    MikeGalos

    Well, let's be fair. Apple can't say, "We tried the new design and it was a bad idea. Rather than admit we screwed up, we said it was a problem that only affected a few users and absorbed the repair costs. Then, rather than admit we screwed up and go back to the design that worked we kept trying updates to it for several years and multiple versions of the design we knew was defective."


    Their problem is that the truth sure sounds like them making an allocution as part of pleading guilty in a massive class action lawsuit by everyone who bought one of the products sold after Apple knew their design was defective. And a court hearing that case would be likely to treat it that way.

  13. Avatar

    ncwalz

    Apple made a mistake with the new keyboards and went back to the old. They should refund those of us that bought into the new inferior keyboards.


    Just like Microsoft should refund those that bought into failed Nokia Lumias, Zunes, ...

    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to ncwalz:


      ... Windows RT, Groove, Silverlight , SP3/4/5 bogged firmwares .... haaaa for so many magical stuff.


      In this case the word "new" is not even badly applied. New as like you build a new house or buy a new car. I guess unless it is something never seen in context the use of the word new makes you a lier.

  14. Avatar

    wright_is

    The discussion is about the keycaps, not the mechanism itself. If the keyboard is a standard size, it isn't that surprising that they use existing keycaps to keep costs down, you don't need to run up new molds for a start, which probably saves you 6 figures.

    The more interesting bit would be if they had actually re-used the mechanism from the old switches. That isn't clear from iFixit's article.

  15. Avatar

    Skolvikings

    I think you're reaching on this one. Considering the physical size of a keyboard key, iFixit did say it has "deeper travel, softer sound, ... more robust design" than the old keyboard. Sounds different to me.

    • Avatar

      will

      In reply to Skolvikings:

      I agree. This is a new keyboard, but it takes its cues from the previous designs. In many ways it is the best of both worlds of a lower travel and firm press like the butterfly design, but the comfort, travel, and sound of the previous scissor design. Microsoft has done this with the Surface line, refine and improve the keyboards, and now Apple has done the same.

  16. Avatar

    djross95

    You just can't make this sh*t up. ASpple is, apparently, unembarrassable.

    • Avatar

      will

      In reply to djross95:


      I disagree in that Apple has done an about face with the design of the keyboard and the MBP in general. The value you get now in the 16" compared to the previous 15" or the current 13" is pretty good. They owned up that Pro's were wanting more from the device and even a change as simple as the physical esc key.

      • Avatar

        djross95

        In reply to will: I was referring only to the keyboard, the rest of the changes are positive. I never expected them to say "we f*cked up", but romancing this new keyboard (which still can't be repaired, BTW, without taking apart the whole laptop) as something 'new and improved' and giving it a new name is, well, very Apple-like.


      • Avatar

        jdawgnoonan

        In reply to will:

        I believe that they have done an about face on the keyboard. It is too bad that they did not introduce a model of the MBP 16 without the touch bar to do a total about face though. Part of the reason that I chose to go with a Lenovo was because I did not care to pay the premium for the Touch Bar as it is pointless to me and I do not care that it is cool looking.

        • Avatar

          will

          In reply to jdawgnoonan:

          For me I was in the camp of not using the TouchBar at all, then I started to use it with certain apps such as email to quickly send an email. I will admit that I do not use it very much, BUT I have noticed that I have started using it more and more for some functions. Each app is a little different, and there are some utilities you can get that give you full control, but for now I am using it a little more.

          That said the value on what you getting in the 16 vs the 15 is pretty big. Apple could have gone with the 3k price that most were expecting, but they kept the price the same and gave it some bigger spec bumps across the board.

  17. Avatar

    brduffy

    I don't care. As long as the keyboard is fixed and those fixes propagate down to the next 13inch Macbook Pro then I will have avoided the whole fiasco and can upgrade my mid-2014 without ever having experienced a keyboard problem. Lucky I guess.

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