Can We Trust The New 16″ MacBook Pro Keyboard?

Skipping an event, Apple launched a new 16″ MacBook Pro to replace the 15″ model via press-release and inviting some folks to look at the new laptop. The 16″ MacBook Pro was changed by thinning the bezel to slightly increase the size of the display, upgrading the speakers and microphone, and the keyboard is back to a scissor-mechanism instead of the dreaded butterfly-mechanism.

The new laptop looks like this:

This new 16″ laptop was rumored for a while, and part of the rumor was that the price would get a significant bump. That rumor was a little bit wrong, the starting price for this MacBook Pro hasn’t changed at all since Apple raised it a few generations prior. It’s still $2400 for the base 15″ MacBook Pro, before you add on an AppleCare insurance plan and upgrade any components before you order it. Fortunately it does start with an entirely reasonable 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM.

I thought it was interesting that Apple specifically called out Fortnite players as having a better experience in their press release with the meaningless non-statistic of “Gamers will enjoy smoother gameplay with up to 1.6 times faster performance in games like Fortnite.” 1.6 times faster what? Framerates, presumably.

Game developers are also purported to have improved performance with another call-out: “In Unity, developers will experience 1.4 times faster fly-through performance during game development.”

All of this improved performance is attributed to better Radeon Pro options, the 5300 and 5500 with either 4 or 8 gigs of video RAM with the pseudo-benchmarks attributed to the highest end Radeon Pro 5500 8GB.

The new speakers on the 16″ MacBook Pro are supposed to have less vibration, due to being paired back-to-back which Apple promises will cancel out the rumble. The new microphone array sounds better than any other laptop microphone I’ve heard, which should make video and audio calls better, unfortunately the built-in camera is still an old 720p module that hasn’t been upgraded in years.

The new keyboard has the inverted-t arrow keys that were replaced four years ago with what most people seem to think is a less useful shape that looked kind of bizarre with extremely tall left and right arrows that were hard to find by touch. There is now more space between the keys, and a physical escape key and a separate power/Touch ID button on the opposite sides of the Touch Bar panel. All those changes are welcome, but the most important change is the new scissor key switch mechanism that may be more reliable than the butterfly mechanism, and here is the real question: after three generations of awful, unreliable, butterfly keyboard mechanisms, should anyone trust Apple to get this right?

I don’t think so. I think most people would be better served to wait for longer-term reports. As long as there is still time left on the extended keyboard warranty if they have a butterfly-mechanism keyboard and if they don’t have daily issues with key switch unreliability. You’ll also have to wait if you want this new keyboard part on any other size or type of MacBook. It’s only on the 16″ Pro for now.

It stinks that Apple is the only company that can make laptops that run macOS, because it puts people in a bad situation where they have few choices if they want privacy, security, and enjoy the user experience of Apple’s products. I’m glad that Microsoft continues to work on their Surface line of devices to challenge Apple, and we may see ARM-based macOS devices before long that replace these Intel-based laptops.

Apple’s Anxiety-Inducing MacBook Pro Keyboard Situation Update

Remember how Apple released a MacBook Air last year that might have had a more reliable update to their butterfly keyboard mechanism? Joanna Stern wrote about how it wasn’t fixed for the Wall Street Journal and put the nail in that coffin.

Here’s one I missed, Casey Johnston also had an update on our long national keyboard nightmare and bought a 2018 MacBook Air. Surprise, her Air’s keyboard broke as well.

Today. May 22, 2019. Apple has a press release speed-bump for the MacBook Pro accompanied by this headline: Apple introduces first 8-core MacBook Pro, the fastest Mac notebook ever

Congratulations Apple, any updates on that keyboard business?

“Phrase not found” Uh-oh.
Ol’ Jack is starting to worry here that maybe Apple isn’t getting around to fixing this one properly

Here’s the “good news.” Apple has extended their keyboard warranty program for their laptops to include all MacBooks with this butterfly mechanism.

“But wait,” you’d say, “haven’t they done anything to possibly fix this issue in these models?” Apple has told it’s spokespersons to say, on-background (with conditions), that these updated MacBook Pro computers have:

…a new material for at least one of the components in these switches. The purpose of this change is specifically to increase the reliability of the keyboards.

That is John Gruber’s interpretation of the message. I also completely disagree with Gruber’s supposition that these keyboards “…can’t be worse and are likely better.” The new keyboards can definitely be worse, and it’s clear that Apple’s judgement on this issue is poor. Apple has shipped the same bad keyboard design for 4 years.

I’m glad that Apple is trying to fix this keyboard design, and is updating their Macs on a regular basis again. Supposedly if you bring in a 2018 model of MBP or Air for repair you’ll get the 2019 keyboard material. I’m disappointed that if my ancient MacBook Pro fails I would not choose an Apple laptop to replace it. This 4-year extended warranty program doesn’t inspire confidence when it is immediately applied to their latest iteration of this butterfly key switch design.

What happens if the keyboard dies on the first day of the fifth year you own one of these laptops? You’ve got to beg Apple to fix it, or pay them to fix it.

How long can you go without your laptop? If you don’t care, then maybe you should get an iPad Pro. Apple’s keyboard for that is more reliable.

Would you recommend, sell, or give, one of these laptops in good conscious to a friend or family member, knowing that the warranty won’t last and the keyboard is likely to fail before the rest of the computer? I wouldn’t!

After all of this. Even if, or when, Apple’s designers make a new laptop that has a new keyboard design, would you trust it? I wouldn’t.

iFixit Says The 2018 MacBook Pro Keyboard Might be Fixed

The ongoing saga of the unreliable MacBook Pro keyboard continues. According to Sam Lionheart for iFixIt the new 2018 MacBook Pro 13″ and 15″ keyboard has a new silicone barrier that:

…is quite obviously an ingress-proofing measure to cover up the mechanism from the daily onslaught of microscopic dust. Not—to our eyes—a silencing measure. In fact, Apple has a patent for this exact tech designed to “prevent and/or alleviate contaminant ingress.”

Apple Updated the Unreliable MacBook Pro

The Terrible Keyboard Got a Slight Update

Apple invited some journalists to see new MacBook Pro laptops, they have newer and faster chipsets and processors with more RAM as an option, but didn’t talk about reliability. Dieter Bohn:

…it’s just hard to trust a keyboard after so many reports that it can be rendered inoperable by a grain of sand and that is incredibly difficult and expensive to repair or replace. This new third-generation keyboard wasn’t designed to solve those issues, Apple says. In fact, company representatives strenuously insisted that the keyboard issues have only affected a tiny, tiny fraction of its user base. (There’s now a four-year repair program for the keyboard in case it fails.)

Casey Johnston wasn’t invited to the event.

Apple also stopped selling the only reliable laptop you could buy from them, the 2015 MacBook Pro that had the old keyboard.

Casey Johnston: Apple admits its computers are broken

The “winner?” of the ongoing Apple portable keyboard saga, Casey Johnston, writes about the new repair program for Macbook keyboards:

While the repair and replacement program covers costs and notes that Apple will repair both single keys as well as whole keyboards when necessary, it doesn’t note whether the replacements will be a different, improved design that will prevent the problem from happening again (and again, and again). Having become a one-woman clearinghouse for people complaining about these keyboards since I broke this story, I feel justified in saying that keyboard failures – dead keys, sticking keys, double-spacing spacebars – appear to happen early and often, and repairs do not permanently fix the issue. I also feel justified in saying that the design on offer as recently as February still presented the exact same issues as the design I purchased in the fall of 2016.

Of course, that means nobody should be buying Apple’s modern* laptops until there’s some kind of hardware revision to stop the problems with minuscule grains of nothing destroying these delicate keyboard keys. It’ll be better when I have a reason to stop pining for an iPad with XCode, gcc, an official Terminal.app, and a clamshell keyboard case from Apple.

*Apple will still sell you the 2015 MacBook Pro in various configurations online if you want more standard ports and a keyboard that won’t quit on you if a butterfly flaps its wings within the surrounding 200 miles.