Apple Updates MacBook Pro Keyboard to Address Reliability Concerns

Nicholas De Leon

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Apple today introduced an updated line of MacBook Pro laptops featuring a new keyboard that the company says will address long-standing consumer complaints about keys that stick, fail to produce characters, or repeat characters after a single press.

The company has also extended its keyboard service program, allowing those who already own an eligible Apple laptop to get a repair at no cost—even if the laptop is outside the warranty window.

You can take your laptop to an Apple retail store or an authorized repair center for the repair. If you’ve already paid for a keyboard repair, you can request a refund. (Get more details on the keyboard service program.)

Apple did not share many details about the upgraded keyboard, which will arrive in stores on the new MacBook Pros this week, but says it uses new materials to mitigate the reliability problems.

The manufacturer has consistently maintained that only a small number of consumers have experienced the keyboard problems, but a recent Wall Street Journal article deftly summed up users’ frustration with keys that produce words like “thissss.”

While Consumer Reports technicians did not encounter such problems in the course of our test protocol, Richard Fisco, who oversees electronics testing for CR, says the “butterfly keyboard” on Apple’s MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro laptops has been divisive.

“From the day this shipped, people have been complaining about it,” he says. He also says the keys have very little travel, which refers to the distance they go when pressed. “It’s just not pleasant to use.”

Apple declined to comment on the record for this article.

But critics believe Apple’s pursuit of slimmer laptop designs—which required the creation of the new butterfly keyboard mechanism to fit the reduced space inside the computer—might have compromised the keyboard’s essential functionality.

“The issue is design anorexia,” says Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, a company that provides tools and guides to repair electronic devices. “Apple made the keyboard thinner and thinner and thinner, and those trade-offs are biting.”

Despite the keyboard, Apple’s laptops typically perform well in our testing, owing to their accurate, high-resolution displays; fast performance; and long battery life.

The previous-generation MacBook Pro is currently the top-scoring model in our ratings.

After the 2016 release of the first MacBook Pro with the butterfly-style keyboard, consumers complained that dust or debris that worked its way under a keycap could prevent the key from registering a press.

Early versions of the keyboard did not allow for the removal of an individual keycap, which meant consumers often had to replace an entire keyboard to repair problems. But that changed with last year’s MacBook Air models.

The New MacBook Pro

In addition to getting a new keyboard, the updated 15-inch MacBook Pro can now be configured with an octa-core (8-core) Intel processor, which Apple claims can deliver up to twice the performance of the previous-generation quad-core MacBook Pro—a claim we’ll test once we have the new laptop in our labs.

The 15-inch model is available on Apple.com and will be in retail stores by week’s end at a starting price of $2,400. A 13-inch model with an updated Intel processor starts at $1,800.



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