New MacBook Pro brings back the magic

Apple keyboard
Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro has reinstated the keyboard design from some of its older models. Photo: Apple.

New MacBook Pro

Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro feels almost identical to older Apple laptops. In fact, it is so close to some of the older generation MacBook laptops, it is possible to swap in the old keyboard keycaps.

Fans of the MacBook series have often been critical of the keyboards included in more recent releases, and this decision by Apple almost feels like an apology to the MacBook community.

It isn’t all good news, though. Any broken keyboard mechanism will still require the disassembly of the entire device. But the new design is more robust than recent releases, and will no doubt find favor with Apple purists.

MacBook Magic keyboard
The flimsy nature of keys on previous MacBook releases often caused problems. Photo: iFixit.

Hefty cost

This does seem like a step in the right direction considering the cost of MacBook Pro laptops. While the critical reception for this laptop series is almost always exemplary, the price tags associated with the MacBook Pro in particular can seem excessive. Indeed, the top of the range, brand-new, 16-inch MacBook Pro, retails for as much as $5,000.

So it’s good that Apple has taken the concerns of users seriously, and produced a keyboard design that should ensure long-term usage.

The Butterfly keys that have been criticized in recent MacBook releases first appeared in March 2015. Such was the quality of the Retina MacBook released that year that the keyboard slipped under the radar for a while. But as machines were used over longer periods of time, problems with plastic hinge fatigue began to creep in.

This was followed by a second version of the Butterfly keyboard in October 2016, which was then slightly updated again for the Retina MacBook of June 2017. By now, users frequently complained that typing on devices could be excessively loud and crunchy, while keyboard malfunctioning also became increasingly common.

MacBook Pro Magic Keyboard
MacBook keys are notoriously difficult to replace once they are damaged. Photo: iFixit.

Direct response

Apple was indeed forced to respond directly to users in June 2017, offering a four-year warranty extension on MacBook keyboards. It was notable at this time that the ultra-light keys utilized in this MacBook generation could be easily paralysed by dust or other unwanted particles. Certainly a massive issue when the MacBook faces stiff competition from Microsoft and its Surface Pro range.

Indeed, a class-action lawsuit filed in May 2008 claimed that Apple was aware of the problems, but ignored them and continued to sell the design. Apple attempted various fixes to address the problem, but none quite had the desired effect.

With this in mind, this latest release returns the MacBook Pro to a keyboard design that predates the 2015 mistake, and the Apple laptop range should be all the better for this sensible decision. With keycaps that are approximately 0.2 mm thicker, it is clear that the keys should be far more durable, and this will be strongly welcomed by MacBook fans.

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