How reliable has your new MacBook or MacBook Pro keyboard been?

The new-style keyboards found on 12-inch MacBook and, more recently, 13-inch and 15-inch MacBooks Pro are divisive. Some people prefer them. Some don't care one way or another. Some hate their clicking guts.

The difference is that the new keyboards use new butterfly switches that provide more stability but also tremendously less travel.

Personally, I like the new keyboards and, when I go back to the old ones, I find them mushy and wobbly. But that's just me. Plenty of people whose opinions I hold in the highest of regard detest the new keyboards, and that's not good for a product that, due to its single supplier, has to have the widest possible appeal.

Regardless of how you feel about them, they also have to work and be resilient enough to keep working for years.

That's the part that's most recently come to attention following an article by Casey Johnston, writing for The Outline:

"Maybe it's a piece of dust," the Genius had offered. The previous times I'd been to the Apple Store for the same computer with the same problem — a misbehaving keyboard — Geniuses had said to me these exact same nonchalant words, and I had been stunned into silence, the first time because it seemed so improbable to blame such a core problem on such a small thing, and the second time because I couldn't believe the first time I was hearing this line that it was not a fluke. But this time, the third time, I was ready. "Hold on," I said. "If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don't you think that's kind of a problem?"

It also prompted this video by Jonathan Mann:

I've been using the butterfly-style keyboard since the 12-inch MacBook came out in March of 2015. I've since used it, counting review units, on 7 different MacBooks and MacBooks Pro. I've kept using them, full-time, through all manner of dust, dirt, and debris, and I've yet to have a single problem with any of them.

That's just my experience, though, and it has to be weighed against the many and varied experiences of others.

For now, if you have unresponsive or unusual feeling keys on your 12-inch MacBook or new MacBook Pro, Apple Support (opens in new tab) recommends cleaning them out with compressed air. That seems to have worked for some but not everyone.

If butterfly keys are more prone to dust ingress than previous keys or prove to have a higher failure rate, it'll have to be dealt with accordingly.

After all, they're the MacBooks everyone at Apple are using as well.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

54 Comments
  • I'm about to take mine in for repair. The X & C keys are sticky. They still work though. It's not only dust. It's heat as well. I have the popping noise when running Flash in Chrome and gaming. I notice it the most when I'm gaming that keys get sticky but it's random Kays every time.
  • About a month ago, my 'B' key was acting up, either not working or would give me multiple characters. After a few days of messing around with it, I took an air can around the key and it's been working fine ever since. My MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is used as a second screen 99%, so I'm not constantly using the keyboard.
  • “I've been using the butterfly-style keyboard since the 14-inch MacBook came out in March of 2015. I've since used it, counting review units, on 7 different MacBooks and MacBooks Pro. I've kept using them, full-time, through all manner of dust, dirt, and debris, and I've yet to have a single problem with any of them.” So... you've used 7 devices in two years... or roughly 4 months per device. That's a huge difference from the rest of us where a single device must last several years or more. So your usage is definitely not representative of the average user. Most computers (and keyboards) work fantastically the first year or so. It's after that, as the keys and hardware begin to wear with repeated long-term use, that customers see hard wear reliability issues.
  • I've used one full time and used the others for testing for periods of several months at a time. And, if as reports indicate, this issue is manifesting with 2017 MacBooks Pro, those have been on the market substantially less than a year. As tempting as it may be, let's try not to focus on the author but on the issues, cool?
  • I have had multiple colleagues with issues with the new MacBook Pro keyboard. So much so when I purchased mines I got a super thin keyboard cover. Fortunately I haven’t experienced the issue. I do want to mention one thing. Comments should about the article at hand not the author, thats valid. However if an author places their personal experiences in their article it simply opens those experiences up to commentary. Especially if those experiences relate to the story at hand.
  • You can present contrasting experiences without attacking the experience of others. :)
  • Honest anecdotal experience + accurate sharing of other sources with credit = responsible journalism Comments should be turned off, IMHO.
  • If comments were turned off, I wouldn't come here anymore. I enjoy the discussions, and seeing different people's point of view, and commenting on them.
  • I can respect that. I'm just sick of seeing the same ugly points of view smeared all over repeatedly.
  • Rene, you cannot legitimately believe that jeffro02's pointing out that your use case (presented as a defense for what many consider as a weak spot in a product) is not indicative of most consumers' use cases (which it isn't) is somehow an "attack".
  • "Ad hominem" is a logical fallacy.
  • You make it sound like every computer goes awry after a year/2 years of usage. Most computers I've used have been fine for at least 3 years. I can't comment on the new butterfly-style keyboards as I've not used them, but I can't see why they'd be any different. Just don't eat over your keyboard, don't smoke next to your computer, don't spill liquid on the keyboard, and following that it should easily last 3 years even with frequent usage. After 3 years, maybe a key will start to get a bit sticky, but that'll just be due to dust, which is easily fixed with a compressed air can
  • I have had the 2016 MacBook for one year. The space bar has had issues after the first months. I have also had issues with the paint coming off the keys. I brought it to Apple Store 4 months ago. They said they replaced the bottom piece of my computer but two months later I had the same problems (paint, space bar). I am bringing the MacBook in tomorrow for the same issues. I am sick of having to hit the spacebar several times. Sure, I clean the MacBook and spray the crap out of it with canned air but, this is crazy. I usually don't trust anything the apple store employees say because they don't have much experience. When someone tells me it is just dust and to get compressed air. I Iook at them like they are an *****. 2K for this MacBook and my productivity is lower cause of dust. BS!!! Love the portability of the MacBook but the keyboard, 1.3MHz M Processor and 8GB sucks!!!!! Have to flush my memory a dozen times a day with CleanMyMac. I am long-time Mac Guy from the first Apple II in 1979. COME ON APPLE.... my business suffers when you ship out this crap. UP YOUR GAME
  • Most "modern" laptop keyboards produced over the last five years or so have been mediocre in terms of reliability/longevity, in my experience. Some might start out all right, but get 'smushy' after less than half a year of medium-to-heavy typing. In contrast, the decade old ThinkPad R series I've been keeping around as a Linux distro-hopping/testing machine still has a keyboard that feels almost-new, which is pretty good considering how much vi-style work I still do on it. It wasn't even the most premium laptop available at the time I bought it. I personally think we lost something in the move to those chiclet/island stye keys. The new butterfly style keyboard on recent Mac laptops seems like a further regression.
  • I don't know, old and new keyboards have performed around the same for me. It's easy to look at things through nostalgia-goggles and see them as being better, when they were really around the same.
  • I have the early 2016 MacBook and not had any problems with the keyboard. It took a little time (and I mean very little time) to get used to it but it works for me. I also use an older Apple keyboard on an iMac and do not seem to have any trouble going back and forth. I guess my hands just adjust to whatever keyboard I am using.
  • i've had my 2016 macbook pro 13" for almost a year now. sometimes a key gets stuck and won't go down, but compressed air has fixed it every time. sometimes one half of the keyboard (either left or right, it changes) will feel mushy for a while, but then it goes away. don't know if that's due to temperature, humidity, or what but i haven't had any broken keys (yet? *knocks on wood*).
  • I recently picked up a new 2016 MacBook Pro with the butterfly keyboard. While not horrible, I'd like a bit more travel in the keys. I guess I'm just used to Dell and Logitech keyboards. No dust issue here but the case I bought also came with a clear keyboard cover and I'm using that, mainly because I hate the oil residue that your fingers leave on the keys.
  • This is what can happen when you make a product so asininely thin as to be nearly unuseable. More and more reports of wonky keyboards are cropping up these days sadly. Apple's obsession with thinness has once again come back to bite them in the ***.
  • I don't know, there are people reporting no problem with the keys, we don't know how widespread the issue is. There have been problems with the old-style keyboards, too
  • No issues with the 2nd gen keyboard on my 15" MacBook Pro. I did have an original 12" MacBook before, and on that machine the 1st gen keyboard's spacebar got a little funny - one side depressed more than the other side - but it continued to register key presses without issue.
  • I have had to take my 2016 MBP in to get the "3" key replaced, and I find myself using compressed air more often than I should to fix under-performing keys. And I don't even use the laptop that much. I had a 2010 MacBook Pro that I used ALL THE TIME and ask me how many times I had to use compressed air to fix a stuck key? ZERO. This really is terrible design. I love Apple, but this is just bad. Thank god I have AppleCare, but even for those who don't, there needs to be a five year coverage program for free as this is just absurd.
  • I really hope they fix these issues on the 2018. I'm still walking around with a 2014, and want to get the touch bar and touchID, but more & more problems with these keyboards, and I don't want to give up magsafe either. I'm still holding hope they bring back magsafe too!
  • Sure glad I bought a refurb 2015. I was looking at the Macbook Pro with toucher and decided I could not type on that keyboard. It actuallymade my fingers hurt. I am not a great typist and my accuracy went down with the new keyboard.
  • How long did you try it for? It will take time to acclimatise to the new keyboard, I'd give it at least a month of frequent usage before judging it
  • I have a MacBook and a Touch Bar MacBook Pro. The keyboards flat out SUCK!. I have never in my life made so many typos. The Touch Bar is a novel idea, but not practical at all. I only used it for the sake of trying it out when I bought it. But, now that I have it for about 9 months, I never use it at all other than for the volume and brightness.
    I constantly accidentally keep hitting the Siri button, which I have no use for. Also, the spotlight search keeps popping up, not sure specifically why, but I am pretty sure that it is related to me hitting the wrong keys. Sorry apple, these keyboards are not good. I had to bring my matchbook for repair, the enter button completely became unusable. I can see why Apple made these keyboards for the MacBook, in order to save space. But this is pointless on the pro. The previous pro had a normal keyboard and was the same size. Look at the survey results too. 25% of people have issues with the new keyboard. That is a TON.
  • I think the KB is awful, and it's the reason why I haven't bought a MacBook. I got the green light to order a new Notebook for myself, and even though I thought I was 100% set on getting a MacBook, after using the keyboard I am about 90% sure I will not be getting one. It feels awful, and while the design makes sense... I can see why it could be frustrating when issues crop up - especially when Apple Store employees tend to be clueless about causes and fixes for the issue. Lastly, the fact that the keyboard is so difficult to service is a major issue that exacerbates it. When I had issues on a Dell Laptop with the space bar not working half the time, they sent me a replacement keyboard and it took 5 minutes or less to swap them out. The problem never returned again, and the keyboard still feels as good as the original one did out of the box. This is never going to happen with these MacBook keyboard. The fact that you're at Apple's Mercy to fix the issue is a major issue. They will waste tons of your time with "Troubleshooting" and "Testing" and you have to get a huge part of your PC replaced just to replace the keyboard. None of this is self-serviceable, and it can be incredibly expensive (depending on age of PC, Warranty Status, etc.).
  • Apple really needs to prioritize self-servicable components over thinness. Regardless whether people prefer this new keyboard or not, it should be easily fixable without having to pay Apple to do it.
  • I got a MacBook Pro 2016 and I rarely type on the keyboard. I use an external mouse/keybord/monitor for work. All that said, I do find the “e” key to be sticky and it sounds like it’s crunching something when pressed. If I tap the key hard many times it stops but then later it comes back. It’s a work computer so it’s not like I bought it. However I am reluctant to buy my own until they fix these keys.
  • Maybe it's dust underneath that key? Get a compressed air can and try cleaning it
  • I'm really disappointed with the new MBPs. With the addition of TB3, this was supposed to be my dream-machine (i.e.: finally, the point at which I could ditch the desktop-laptop combo and go with just a single machine). I even sold my iMac, moving to a MacBook Air, in anticipation of buying a MBP, then selling the Air as well. But, IMO, this looks like a design and series to keep far, far away from. I doubt Apple is going to backtrack, so is this the end-of-the-road for my MacBook Pro days? (I've probably owned 5 or 6 of them over the years.) The problem is, unless one wants an iMac, Apple has little to offer in terms of desktops anymore either. The Mini is outdated and overpriced. The Mac Pro is outdated, and now at reduced pricing, a reasonably good design for me (just not the target market, necessarily). But, I don't think buying one would be the best move right now, unless the price goes yet lower. Who knows how far off the new Mini (while Tim lied about it being important to Apple, at least it seems to have a future!) is, or even the Mac Pro (assuming I can afford one). If I have to go desktop, I want to use my own monitor, as I don't want a single-purpose display... especially as my living space is likely to get smaller and I need to be compact as possible. It's like the first time for me, in 30 years, that I honestly don't know what to get, or even if I should continue with Apple. (And, I've recommend or influenced literally 10s of thousands of Macs to others in the past.) I feel a bit lost right now, and I'm rapidly losing my faith in the company I love. :(
  • I have a 2015 MB. No issues so far, but the keyboard is the worst part of this laptop. I find myself making many more errors with this keyboard. As it turns out, key travel is sort of important. Their obsession with thin is pretty annoying at this point.
  • I don't know how important key travel is, some people seem to prefer this keyboard. A large portion of Mac users are developers that need to be typing on the keyboard a lot, it seems odd that Apple would just flat-out alienate this audience
  • "After all, they're the MacBooks everyone at Apple are using as well." riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight...
  • What MacBooks are they using then?
  • Older models or no MacBooks at all I would say... This sentence to me sounds a bit like over 100'000 employees at apple using the latest MacBook/MacBook Pro.
  • I imagine they would be using Macs of some sort, but maybe not the latest ones. There will definitely be a fair amount using the latest ones, though
  • My guess is that most people, even ones that use laptops, have external keyboards connected. I have a Surface Book at work, and it's a great machine with a good keyboard, but 98% of the time it's docked and I'm typing on my WASD mechanical keyboard.
  • To begin with I was more than happy with the keyboard on my 2016 MacBook, but then I sorted to get quite bad strain in my hands and fingers. Then I used a work colleague's Surface Laptop. That few extra mm of travel in the keys is so much more satisfying and comfortable to use. In their quest for the thinnest laptop imaginable, Apple seem to be ignoring usability.
  • Some people prefer the new keyboard, hard to think that Apple just flat-out didn't consider this given how many people code on their Mac. Guess the keyboard is good for some, but not others
  • I had a sticky "E" seems to be resolved though. I like the keyboard, I like the sound and I like the feel. But when I switch back to my Surface Pro 4, I notice I have less finger fatigue if that is a thing. It seems as though I have to exert greater effort to type on the MacBook Pro.
  • Had my Touch Bar 13" MBP for 3 months. So far happy with keyboard.
  • I have a 2016 MacBook Pro - top of the line, $4000 model. So far, I've had to take it back for a screen backlight issue and a keyboard surface issue (the black plastic eroded around one of the lit letters, weird). Glad I got the Apple Care and I'll sure be selling this thing before 3 years is up. Too risky/expensive for repairs! I would say these are very good 'light use' computers. If you don't use your laptop for much, these should work well given battery life and reliability problems. I think the term "Pro" is a bit of a stretch. Fingers crossed Apple improves the design next time around to something more Professional, then maybe I can live without an iMac. (Who am I kidding, Apple wants you to buy one of every device!) Also going to look at the new SurfaceBook from Microsoft. Seems like an interesting device.
  • I really enjoy them. At work I support Macbooks old and new. I really enjoy using the new one but haven't fully acclimated to it because I bounce between models often. I can't really speak to how it's holding up but I can say that I prefer the feel and design of the butterfly keyboards more than the previous models.
  • I had 1 issue, which Apple promptly fixed. My enter key got a bit wonky, BUT the folks at the Apple store were able to pop it off clean it and then it was fine. :)
  • I've been banging this drum for some time now. I had the original 12" retina MacBook. After about a year the return key failed. I took it to Apple to get it fixed. First they tried the compressed air trick, but that didn't work. The price tag to fix it was $500, about half in parts and half labor. The technicians comment, "there's a lot of glue in there, it's not an easy fix." I decided to cut my losses and got a new computer. One without the new keyboard. I LOVED the 12" MacBook, but I don't trust that keyboard anymore.
  • Shame that it wasn't in the warranty, I wouldn't pay $500 for something that was a fault with the hardware and not user-error. Pretty bad service on Apple's part
  • How in the world was that not covered under warranty? I'd raise heck if this happened to me.