MacBook Pro ‘stage light’ flaw could hit you with a $600 repair

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These cables can wear out and cause your MacBook Pro’s display to fail.
These cables can wear out and cause your MacBook Pro’s display to fail.
Photo: iFixit

Every MacBook Pro since 2016 harbors a hidden design flaw that inevitably will require an expensive repair, according to DIY repair website iFixit.

The problem supposedly lies in “delicate” ribbon cables that connect the screen with the display controller inside the main body of the laptop. Opening and closing the clamshell case eventually causes these to wear out and begin to tear, iFixit says.

Taylor Dixon from iFixit explains why the screens of all Apple’s recent professional-grade notebooks are in danger of failing:

“The current generation of MacBook Pro laptops (2016–present) uses flexible ribbon cables to connect the display to a display controller board beneath the Touch Bar. These cables wrap over the board, where they’re secured by a pair of spring-loaded covers — and they’re subjected to the stress of bending with every opening and closure of the laptop. Within a seemingly short time, those cables are starting to fatigue and tear.”

The first to fail is usually the backlight cable. That causes the “stage light” effect that gave this problem its name. (Many people are calling it “Flexgate.”)

If your MacBook Pro has this “stage light” effect it’s probably about to fail.
If your MacBook Pro has this “stage light” effect it’s probably about to fail.
Photo: Louis Rossmann

iFixit produces tools and guides for repairing MacBooks, iPhones, iPads and other Apple products. Its expertise in this area is widely acknowledged.

Flexgate goes from bad to worse

The thinness of the ribbon cables is only part of the problem. In fact, the thin ribbon cables are actually part of the MacBook’s screen. When they wear out, the only way to fix the problem is to replace the entire display, “effectively turning a $6 problem into a $600 disaster,” according to Dixon.

And this potential problem might extend beyond the MacBook Pro. The display in the MacBook Air released last fall uses the same basic design. This model is so new the ribbon cables haven’t had a chance to begin wearing out. However, iFixit warns that the same problem likely will happen eventually.

A petition on Change.org by Louis Rossmann asks Apple “to launch an extended warranty program addressed to this issue as soon as possible.” At present there are about 3,155 signatures.