Teardown reveals MacBook Pro keyboard is redesigned to prevent keys sticking

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The third-generation
The third-generation "butterfly" MacBook Pro keyboard has a membrane to keep out damaging grit.
Photo: iFixit

Apple made potential buyers of the new MacBook Pro models very nervous when it said no effort had been made to fix the problems plaguing the keyboards in earlier versions. Happily, it turns out the company was fibbing.

Taking apart this just-released Mac laptop shows that Apple definitely modified its butterfly keyboard mechanism to make it less likely to jam.

iFixit took a mid-2018 MacBook Pro keyboard apart and made a surprising discovery. “Apple has cocooned their butterfly switches in a thin, silicone barrier. This flexible enclosure is quite obviously an ingress-proofing measure to cover up the mechanism from the daily onslaught of microscopic dust,” wrote Sam Lionheart in a blog post.

iFixit MacBook Pro teardown

The DIY repair advocates describe their discovery in this video:

iFixit sells tools to repair Apple computers. It also releases guides to disassembling them, and ranks devices on how easy they are to service.

Fixing a MacBook Pro keyboard debacle

In MacBook Pros that debuted in 2016, the mechanism under each key can become fouled by even a tiny piece of grit. When this happens, “Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly, letters or characters do not appear, key(s) feel ‘sticky’ or do not respond in a consistent manner,” according to Apple. The result was lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit.

However, the company says that the keyboard in the just-released mid-2018 MacBook Pro models wasn’t designed to fix this problem. Instead, the changes made to the key mechanism simply make typing quieter, according to Apple. That’s also a worthy goal, as previous versions drew complaints for noise.

But iFixit isn’t buying Apple’s odd denial.

“The advertised boost in quietude is a side-effect of this rubbery membrane,”wrote Lionheart. “The quiet angle is, quite literally, a cover up.”

The real reason Apple chooses to keep quiet about removing a well-publicized flaw remains unknown. A popular theory is that the company doesn’t want this admission to be used in the numerous lawsuits resulting from the previous design.

The 2018 MacBook Pro models have some other tricks. They boast 8th-generation “Coffee Lake” Intel Core processors, And they have True Tone on their internal screens, as well as some external displays.