iFixit finds silicone sheaths under new MacBook Pro keys

Apple's latest MacBook Pros boast, among other things, what Apple calls a third-generation design of the butterfly keyboard that made its debut aboard the MacBook in 2015. The company says this keyboard offers quieter operation than its past short-travel designs, but noise hasn't been the primary complaint owners have had about these notebooks. This short-travel keyboard has developed a reputation as a notoriously unreliable mechanism, and replacing it is an eye-poppingly expensive and difficult process.

The folks at iFixit have begun their teardown of the new MacBook Pros, and the updated keyboard was an area of specific interest for the site. Upon popping off a key cap, the teardown gurus found membranes—and not as part of the switch action, mind. These sheaths could serve either as silencers or as dust shields.

Image: iFixit

Despite Apple's claim that its new keyboard is primarily designed to be quieter, iFixit notes the company has a wide-ranging patent on dust-shielding mechanisms that look suspiciously similar to the silicone shield it found during its teardown. While quieter operation might be a benefit of this membrane, the site certainly offers enough evidence for skeptical minds to conclude that it isn't the only benefit.

iFixit says it'll be performing further testing on the newly-shielded keyboard this week to see how it handles the potentially crippling effects of dust and debris. We're curious to see if this new barrier can save these notebooks from the debilitating power of a single grain of sand.

Comments closed
    • tipoo
    • 1 year ago

    Eep. Looks like a fair bit of throttling on the i9, wonder how much it’s even worth it over the i7 at that point. From Dave2D

    [url<]https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DiPkFJ_VQAUL02O.jpg:large[/url<]

      • techguy
      • 1 year ago

      Not surprising, since Apple always favors noise over heat, but also completely unacceptable, if you ask me. I hope the much-hyped cooling system is up to the task and this is an isolated case (perhaps a loose screw or improper thermal paste application), but if not then they’re going to have to allow the fans to ramp up to deal with the massive amounts of heat these HEDT chips produce.

        • tipoo
        • 1 year ago

        I doubt it’s an isolated case, as you said it’s not really unexpected given history. I do wish they gave their cooling more headroom over the chips TDP, they don’t seem to want one gram extra over the minimum it would take to keep the chips at Tjunction max and throttle back to base.

        Good thermal paste also cools it another 7% from what they use…

        [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNoZNzOQpVw[/url<]

      • blastdoor
      • 1 year ago

      By “throttling” do you mean that maximum turbo isn’t being achieved? Or do you mean that not even the base clock is being maintained?

      Perhaps I’m misinterpreting the figure, and maybe this is semantics, but the word “throttling” implies (at least in my mind) that the frequency is being cut below the base clock. But it looks like what’s happening is that the frequency stays at or above base clock throughout.

      If the base clock is being maintained, then I would think 6 cores is definitely preferable to 4 cores for tasks than can use all cores.

      edit — well, maybe I should first ask, what is the base clock? If it’s 3 GHz, then obviously throttling is happening… If it’s 2.6, then it seems like that’s being more or less achieved on average.

        • tipoo
        • 1 year ago

        Base clock is 2.9GHz, those are continual cyclical dips past that. If it stayed at the 2.9GHz line that would be another matter, and you’re right, it should not be called throttling, rather just using up all its turbo overhead. However in this case it appears to be dipping past that. If this is the i9 that is.

        [url<]https://www.apple.com/ca/shop/buy-mac/macbook-pro?product=MR942LL/A&step=config#[/url<]

          • blastdoor
          • 1 year ago

          Ah, ok — gotcha.

          That would well an truly suck if it’s throttling.

          Of course… if this is the i9, then we can’t conclude that it’s better than the i7 unless we assume the i7 doesn’t throttle…. :-/

            • tipoo
            • 1 year ago

            Full video is out, it was the i9 he was talking about and those dips past even base clocks.

            [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx8J125s4cg[/url<]

    • DavidC1
    • 1 year ago

    Apple is an entirely design focused company. Everything else comes second to that primary goal. Many of their problems are easily explained if you see it from that perspective. Make it pretty, make it attractive. Unfortunately there are always tradeoffs to be made.

    • deruberhanyok
    • 1 year ago

    I honestly don’t know why they are bothering with this. The fixed-position trackpads in 2015, the 3d touch on the iphone and the addition of the OLED touch bar on the newer model Macbooks is a pretty clear sign that they want to just move away from a keyboard entirely in favor of a giant reconfigurable touch screen. I can’t blame them – less moving parts means less to fix. But in this case it seems like they’re just overcomplicating things to save a few mm of height until they get to that point.

    • Voldenuit
    • 1 year ago

    The logo on the option key looks like half of a shruggie. ¯\_(- -)_/¯

    • uni-mitation
    • 1 year ago

    Of course we should believe Apple. Why would they lie to us?

    Thanks Apple!

    uni-mitation

    • psuedonymous
    • 1 year ago

    Dang, next year Apple will once again revolutionise design of the keyboard by removing the last vestiges of the plastic hinge and moulding the [s<]dust-proofing[/s<] quietening membrane right into the contact-pad membrane to form a continuous sheet!

      • derFunkenstein
      • 1 year ago

      My guess is the keys on the next keyboards will be capacitive buttons like the track pad button or the home button on recent iPhones. There’s already minimal travel, let’s just eliminate it completely. Ugh.

        • Concupiscence
        • 1 year ago

        “This fixes the reliability problem!” Sure, guys.

          • Wirko
          • 1 year ago

          And it fixes the unbearable noise problem as well!

        • tipoo
        • 1 year ago

        Eww. Pls no.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 1 year ago

          Why not? that’ll bring us closer to our ultimate goal, notebook with an enclosure made entirely out of glass. LOL

        • psuedonymous
        • 1 year ago

        Don’t knock capacitive keyswitches, everyone loves the Model F!

          • just brew it!
          • 1 year ago

          There’d be a lot less love for it if your fingers were acting as one side of the capacitor.

    • ronch
    • 1 year ago

    Might as well get an Acer.

    • TREE
    • 1 year ago

    I wonder how long it’ll be before the silicon layer breaks down and makes an even worse mess than dust & dirt.

      • tipoo
      • 1 year ago

      That’s what I’m wondering about, once that gets grimed up and tattered, maybe even ripped, how the keyboard will be.

    • The Egg
    • 1 year ago

    Chicklet keys with gaps = garbage. Doesn’t matter what they put underneath.

    • Kretschmer
    • 1 year ago

    And the Thinness Wars continue…

    • chuckula
    • 1 year ago

    I’m reminded of the [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBRYsAfchkY<] well-known The Doors song[/url<]: Butterfly in the sky. I can fly twice as high. Take a look. It's in a book. A Reading Rainbow. Edit: Or if you prefer a cover band, there's [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkKRU1ajKFA<]this.[/url<]

    • sweatshopking
    • 1 year ago

    Gosh the patent system is so broken.

      • uni-mitation
      • 1 year ago

      And it is due to some bad precedents laid down by Black Robes who happen to be from the previous generation without much knowledge of technology. That is actually one of the things people don’t even care to ask when they nominate Black Robes for us.

      In my humble opinion, software & patents are like oil & water. Patents were designed so that an inventor would be motived to reveal its invention by receiving a de-facto monopoly on its use for a temporary time. The problem is that copyright is more than enough protection for software. There is no “invention” when you simply render a “shopping cart” in a web-page. Anyone is able to render that. There is no useful disclosure. Then you have all of these patent trolls shaking down honest businesses actually offering products and services for that settlement money. Just another barrier keeping the little guys from competing against the giants of industries that have the resources to pay off the trolls. This represents an artificial drag on the economy where these patents for the most part create no marketable use.

      And Congress is even more broken. We are stuck with it; our competitiveness will suffer because of it.

      uni-mitation

        • blastdoor
        • 1 year ago

        I used to think there was a place for software patents but I think I’m coming around to the point of view you’re expressing.

        Perhaps there is a way to do software patents that would make sense, but we clearly aren’t going to be finding that way anytime soon. Ditching them altogether is easier than trying to fix them and would most likely represent an improvement over the status quo. So, I support ditching software patents and seeing how it goes. If there is a noticeable slowdown in useful innovation, we can reconsider. But I suspect we’ll actually see the opposite — more useful innovation, not less.

          • uni-mitation
          • 1 year ago

          The problem with patents is that the patent holder is not legally obligated to license it. So we have this whole cottage industry of software patents that are bought and sold just for the simple purpose of keeping your competitors from using the patents. This is why you see Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, and all of these giants patenting software stuff just to protect themselves from being kicked out by their competitors.

          When we have a system where it is more useful for a patent holder to withhold the licensing of its patents then this is the market’s way of telling us that there is no real demand for such “inventions”. In the real world, the bona fide inventors patent their invention to MAKE MONEY of these patents! They are marketable; therefore, it represents a genuine benefit to the economy by motivating USEFUL inventions, not artificial barriers to entry.

          uni-mitation

            • techguy
            • 1 year ago

            So in your world, the solution to this government-created problem (the patent system) is more regulation (forcing business to license IP)? This leads to regulation of prices, and we all know how good the government is at that!

            /sarcasm

            If you want to fix the problem, correcting the root cause (broken patent system that makes it too easy to obtain patents) is clearly preferable to adding further layers of complexity and regulation.

            • uni-mitation
            • 1 year ago

            Quick clarification on my position on software patents:

            1- My statement regarding about the non-licensing of software patents does not imply that I support a “must-license” provision. I fail to understand how it is reasonable to assume that I support that when I have previously stated that copyright is enough protection for the current “software patents”.

            2- I am not being dragged into a discussion that does not deal with the abolishment of software patents. That is my most clear position, and the one I am willing to defend. I have not stated anything else about patent regulation, and etc that you reference in your statement. I will not respond to that for I have not made any statements in support or against in regards to other non-software patents. I will not opine on something that I have not enough knowledge and a persuasive argument to back it up.

            Thank you for the reply though.

            uni-mitation

            • Spunjji
            • 1 year ago

            +1 to you.

          • NovusBogus
          • 1 year ago

          Define “software patent.” In the embedded-systems world where I operate, the hardware, software, and process all tend to flow together. The problem with trying to use the egregious shopping-cart patent to define the IP world is that it’s not very representative of how that world operates. This is also what drives the tech sector’s cyclical but short-lived love affairs with changing the patent system: each tech company gets all fired up thinking about how great it’ll be to knock down one or two of their competitors’ dirty rotten patents, and then gets cold feet when the legal department points out that some of their own chaste and virtuous patents would go down in flames too.

            • blastdoor
            • 1 year ago

            Interesting point. And I suppose as we move further down the AI road, the line between hardware and software will become increasingly blurred. In the human brain, where does hardware end and software begin? I don’t know…

      • chuckula
      • 1 year ago

      ??? Seems like these patents would prevent competitors from trying to copy Apple’s flawed keyboards.

      Which I look at as a good thing since competitors tend to copy Apple because reasons far too often.

      So if patents prevent more badly broken keyboards from going out on laptops, I say THANKS [s<]AMD[/s<] I MEAN PATENTS!

        • Wirko
        • 1 year ago

        Too bad Apple didn’t patent flat top keys, too.

    • tipoo
    • 1 year ago

    Legalese is a bit comical. PR denied a dust fix the same day ifixit found the membrane. It just happens to cover exactly over the gap where dust gets in and blocks the mechanism, purely a noise fix, right.

    While it does appear to be built to address the dust issue as well, I’m curious how that silicone membrane will age as it too gets crummed up. The 2018 also isn’t mentioned in the 4 year extension.

      • GTVic
      • 1 year ago

      Muffin crumbs are not dust.

    • spiketheaardvark
    • 1 year ago

    Now Macs have a reliable but still crappy keyboard.

      • Chrispy_
      • 1 year ago

      I’m not sure you can polish a turd. The atrocious reliability of their awful butterfly keyboards had very little to do with dirt.

      In fact, Louis Rossmann (a vocal YouTuber who runs a Mac repair business) said that the overwhelming majority of Macs he saw with keyboard failures were in great, nearly-new, clean condition.

      It’s just a rubbish design, and Apple are doubling-down on their mistake for the sake of 0.8mm of macbook thickness :\

        • tipoo
        • 1 year ago

        I believe Rossmans point was that before, it would be liquid or a really dirty macbook that came in, but now, nearly pristine ones with a mote of dust that got in the keyboard come in. It’s still related to dust, but not user error.

          • Chrispy_
          • 1 year ago

          a mote? I don’t think an open silicone sleeve is going to keep all the dust out, it requires lots of holes in it by design, so the dust will get in regardless.

          If that means that they fail in 9 months instead of 3 months, then that’s just [i<]great[/i<]. [i<]edit - it's also worth noting that iFixit's video on this new membrane calls it a 'band-aid' and they aren't willing to say at this point if it's a reliability improvement - 'we'll have to wait and see', meaning that they're not convinced the membrane will do much if there are still holes for dust ingress[/i<]

            • tipoo
            • 1 year ago

            Indeed. I expect it’s not a 100% solution, but an 80% one would still be much improved, even if it’s not 100% reliable like a keyboard should be. Note that the silicone cover goes from the edges of the keycap to just passed the mechanism gap (solid grey vs transparent grey), so if it keeps most dust around the edges where it can be blown out it would improve reliability.

            • Chrispy_
            • 1 year ago

            The dust will gravitate towards the corners, naturally – and that’s where the holes in the sheath are.

            Worse still, if you blow around the edges, you will naturally force any dust and dirt towards the holes in the corner. I’d like to be wrong, but my guess is that the silicone sheath will actually make it harder for the inevitable dust that gets in to get out again.

            • tipoo
            • 1 year ago

            I don’t think the corner is the issue, the dust would just remain in the trough at worst. See towards the center, there’s the outer opaque plastic and the inner clear plastic, that gap is where dust goes in towards the button mechanism and prevents contact. See ifixits video for a demonstration of how it would at least help.

            [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tbVDV1xdQI[/url<]

        • GrimDanfango
        • 1 year ago

        [quote<]I'm not sure you can polish a turd.[/quote<] Of course you can 🙂 [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiJ9fy1qSFI[/url<]

          • Chrispy_
          • 1 year ago

          Ah, that’s how Apple are doing it; Their strategy makes sense now!

      • tay
      • 1 year ago

      I’m sorry it’s fun to lazily bash crApple haha, but putting reliability aside there are a lot of people that prefer the butterfly feel because they feel more tight than the previous scissors chiclets.

      The reliability issue was of course real, but now they will replace you top case for free. I hope the stickiness and double taps are gone too thanks to the new design. Will wait for reviews.

        • spiketheaardvark
        • 1 year ago

        I do know a few people that really like the newer Mac keyboards over anything else. I’m not really sure why other than familiarity. They are all young enough to have been raised almost exclusively on laptops, and Apple laptops at that. One actively complained about the mechanical switch keyboard their spouse uses.

        The rest of laptop is nice and I know a few people that could use increase in RAM. I think dropping type A ports is premature (When I have large amounts of data to move off a server, the ethernet port on my machine starts to look dang sexy). But they they’ve sacrificed to much travel in the name thin. I’m not sure you could tell if they made the machine 1 mm thicker, but you would definitely feel it in the keyboard.

      • ronch
      • 1 year ago

      It’s the Crapple™ keyboard.

        • uni-mitation
        • 1 year ago

        Mate, you got a license for that?

        uni-mitation

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This