Apple fixed the keyboards on the new MacBook Pro, but the smaller models still use a controversial design — here’s what you need to know before you buy one (AAPL)
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- Apple ditched the controversial “butterfly” keyboard for its latest 16-inch MacBook Pro and replaced it with a more reliable and traditional keyboard that uses a “scissor” mechanism.
- But Apple didn’t release updated models of the 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air — those laptops still come with the butterfly keyboard.
- So far, the 4th-generation keyboard included with the 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air have proven more reliable than previous butterfly keyboards.
- Even if the 4th-generation butterfly keyboard fails for some users, Apple has included it in its free keyboard repair program, which is reassuring, but also suggests that Apple itself isn’t confident that the keyboard is fully reliable.
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For its new 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple went back to using a traditional keyboard design that’s likely more reliable than the controversial “butterfly” keyboard design that’s plagued Apple’s premium line of laptops since 2016.
That’s great for Mac users who want Apple’s large MacBook Pro, but the current 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air still come with butterfly keyboards.
Ever since their introduction to the MacBook Pro line in 2016, the reliability of Apple’s butterfly keyboard has been questioned. Some users, including myself, have reported keys that double-register, keys that stick, or keys that don’t register at all. Not every MacBook Pro owner with a butterfly keyboard has experienced issues — Apple says only a “small number” of users have been affected.
Still, there was plenty of media coverage and enough complaints from users that Apple eventually set up a keyboard repair program. Apple also rolled out new versions of the butterfly keyboard with every new model year — in 2019, the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air have the 4th-generation butterfly keyboard.
The latest butterfly keyboard comes with some revisions over previous versions to address the issues, like membranes that cover the key switch made of different materials, and a refreshed dome switch design, according to tech teardown site iFixit.
So, is it ‘safe’ to get a 2019 MacBook with a butterfly keyboard?
So far, we haven’t seen any widespread complaints of defective 4th-generation butterfly keyboards — most of the issues still seem to lie with previous butterfly keyboard generations. That’s a good sign for 2019 13-inch MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs.
At the same time, confidence in the 4th-generation butterfly keyboard still isn’t high. Apple has included its 2019 13-inch MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs in its keyboard repair program, which is good buffer to have from a consumer point of view, and it’s good that Apple has done so. But it doesn’t suggest that the company is confident that the 4th-generation butterfly keyboard fully resolves the issues with previous generations.
But at the end of the day, the fact that this year’s 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air both have those keyboards shouldn’t put you off from buying one of them if you need one.
And if you’re wondering whether Apple will ditch the butterfly keyboard in its next generation of 13-inch MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller told CNET that the company doesn’t plan to abandon the butterfly keyboard, saying Apple is “continuing both keyboard designs.” There are a few murmurs from dubious sources that the next generation of smaller MacBook Pros may ditch the butterfly keyboard, but nothing concrete yet from historically reliable sources.