Retina MacBook’s ‘butterfly’ keyboard feels a bit buggy

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Some in the tech press marveled at the look of the new MacBook but said the keys and track pad felt awkward and would take getting used to. Photo: Apple

Today’s media presentation was billed as an Apple Watch event and even its name, “Spring Forward,” had the press preoccupied with time and wrist-based computing.

But journalists in attendance were just as excited to learn about a completely reinvented Retina MacBook. Reporters covering the Apple unveiling eagerly shared initial impressions once they got their hands on Apple’s thinnest, lightest computer yet.

The look impressed. The touch was another matter.

Apple says its new butterfly mechanism, which replaces traditional keyboards’ scissor mechanism, is an innovative design that “improves stability, uniformity and control.” Same goes for the new Force Touch trackpad, which utilizes Apple’s Taptic Engine and “provides a click sensation when you press anywhere on the surface.”

However, most of the tech bloggers who got some hands-on time with the new Retina MacBook at the Apple event walked away less than impressed.

“Although Apple says that it has created an all new butterfly mechanism to make typing feel great, the keys felt fairly stiff to me, with such little travel that I wasn’t sure if I was really typing,” wrote The Verge’s Dieter Bohn. “The new trackpad is accurate, but the Force Click action is very far from intuitive. You press down hard and keep pressing through the click, as though you were karate chopping with your finger and trying to hit a target behind the trackpad.”

David Pierce, of Wired, declared “good lord is it beautiful,” but hated the feeling of the keys.

“There’s basically no travel, no movement — it’s not that different from tapping on a touch screen,” Pierce said. “The keyboard … doesn’t give a great first impression. It’s hard to say for sure without using the laptop more … but for the moment, the new MacBook feels a bit like the Apple Watch: it’s beautiful, a status symbol I’d be desperate to show to everyone I know…. But it’s expensive, it’s a little underpowered for such an expensive laptop, and it feels a little like it might be a device without a market beyond the curious and the early adopter.”

Gizmodo’s Sean Hollister was set to give the new MacBook outright praise, with adjectives like “stunning” and “gorgeous,” until he starting running his fingers over the keys.

“The keyboard on this new MacBook makes me want to cry a little,” Hollister wrote. “Like the rest of the machine, it’s so thin…. But when it comes to keyboards, this is usually bad. And as hard as Apple tried to create a fancy new type of keyboard switch to make a thin keyboard work well, this one felt pretty off to my experienced laptop review fingers.”

Engadget’s Dana Wollman was a little more forgiving of the keyboard’s feeling, saying she could adjust with regular use.

“If this were another machine, I might unconsciously start mashing the buttons, just to make sure I don’t have to go back and re-type anything,” she said. “I was prepared to do that here, but quickly felt my hands relax once I realized they didn’t actually need to work that hard. Again, though, there could still be a learning curve for those of you upgrading from an older MacBook.”