16" MacBook Pro Keyboard

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Ace
§

24 Nov 2019, 04:57

Hello all,

It's been a while since I've posted here. I wanted to get your opinion of the new 16" MacBook Pro's keyboard. I remember that thoughts on the Butterly keyboard were mixed, but a lot of you thought it was impressive for what was done with such little travel.

The entire world seems to love the new "Magic Keyboard" on the 16", but I think everyone's lost their collective minds. It lacks everything that made the Butterfly unique, and is a typical mushy rubber dome. It's made much worse by the fact that they've restricted mushy rubber dome to only 1mm of travel. If you want to make a low travel switch, you need high tactility like Butterfly.

I really think people are deluding themselves into thinking its good because they were so sick of Butterfly (although I liked it). Any thoughts would be appreciated. @Mirium I know tends to be good with Apple stuff.

Findecanor

24 Nov 2019, 07:09

The keys are supposedly the same keyboard as for their current desktops. The key travel and key size on that sucks. I wouldn't call it mushy though.

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Ace
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24 Nov 2019, 07:39

Findecanor wrote:
24 Nov 2019, 07:09
The keys are supposedly the same keyboard as for their current desktops. The key travel and key size on that sucks. I wouldn't call it mushy though.
I really thought it would be the same as the external Magic Keyboards, but those are indeed pretty clicky, not mushy. The laptop board was unexpectedly different from them though. I was surprised to see all the comparisons.

Findecanor

24 Nov 2019, 08:18

Ace wrote:
24 Nov 2019, 07:39
I really thought it would be the same as the external Magic Keyboards, but those are indeed pretty clicky, not mushy. The laptop board was unexpectedly different from them though. I was surprised to see all the comparisons.
You mean "tactile", not clicky ...
( Sorry but this is the one message board where you can't get away with confusing those two. ;) )
...
That's interesting. I'll read some comparisons.

BTW. A detail with the pre-2015 Apple keyboards (both desktop and laptop) is that the keys on the bottom row were larger on the vertical than the other keys. That meant that halving the left and right cursor keys made them slightly larger than 1/2 of a regular key.
On the desktop and laptop "Magic Keyboard" though, those keys are the same on the vertical as the others, and I suspect that the halved left and right cursor keys would be smaller on the laptop than previously.
Edit:
I found high-resolution perspective-corrected images of this and an old MacBook keyboard on iFixit. I cut out the left cursor keys and scaled them to the same resolution.
The wider key is the new one. I measure it as being precisely 10% smaller on the vertical than the old key.
MacBookLeftKeys2.jpg
MacBookLeftKeys2.jpg (31.96 KiB) Viewed 429 times
iFixit also compared it to the desktop keyboard. The mechanism is close but not exact: the laptop scissors are thinner. The keycaps on the laptop are also somewhat wider, but the desktop keyboard's keycaps do fit certain keys (with more gap around them)

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Muirium
µ

24 Nov 2019, 14:16

You called?

There’s a lot of sweaty palmed excitement around this laptop in the Mac world. The reason for the hype is the last several years of inescapably bad laptop design before this. I too liked the butterfly mechanism for what it was, but the failure rate was alarming and Apple’s refusal to take responsibility was driving people crazy. There’s nothing quite so disruptive to getting work done than for your keyboardtogoonthefritzandstartfailingatitsoneandonlyjob. It’s like Apple had learned some reliability tips from Matias! Only, you had to disassemble the whole Mac to fix the keyboard, which meant putting it in for days at at time at the Apple Store. Then the next one: bam! It’ll fail you all over again.

No improvement can excuse unreliability. And the improvements in butterfly were slim pickings indeed for all the trouble it caused.

So, what Apple’s now done (with Jony Ive safely out the building) is gone back to the last design. People are signing its praises like they’ve had an unplanned sleepover in Stockholm! But it’s nothing remarkable in truth. I’ve checked these Macs out in the store, and to me they feel much like my 2013 15 inch Retina: generally meh and unremarkable on the keyboard front. It’s truly their least standout feature.

But the way Apple’s been in recent years, that’s an immense relief to those who suffered the newer machines!

Amusing to me, the new 16 incher is clearly a direct descendant of my now surprisingly ancient, yet still entirely current 2013 model. The keyboard is just the start of it. The whole machine is very familiar. It would even fit in my laptop bag just as well as the old boy. And my battery is 95 watt hours vs. 100 in these!

Anyway, this Magic-lite keyboard design will spread across the whole Mac line, we all expect. So don’t feel compelled to rush towards the big boy, unless big is your thing, and you’ve the cash to spare. They’re also being framed as a refreshing bargain, which again is bollocks! Got to give it to Apple that they can manipulate expectations like no one else. I know what I paid for my 2013: these Macs are a whole lot more than that. But then again, they have more going on than just the keyboard.

Here’s an informative review of the whole computer:

https://sixcolors.com/post/2019/11/macbook-pro-16/

The sound system is dramatically improved. I was honestly shocked how loud it goes even in the noisy cavern of the Princes Street Apple Store! And the beefier cooling system in these back-to-chubby models means a higher sustained clock speed.

Speaking of which, Snell rightly points out something truly embarrassing: these new Macs have *exactly the same* processor as the ones they replace. What the actual fuck is wrong with Intel these days? Did the designers just retire? It’s smelling of Unicomp over there.

sypl

24 Nov 2019, 23:23

I tried it in a store too. In terms of just feel, not as good as the butterfly. And the keys wobble again, which is something the butterfly totally eliminated. It's not as big a wobble as the pre-2015 keyboards, but then you'd expect that as they're lower keys. Still, that's definitely a regression for me.

I still think other than reliability, the butterfly was a damn fine keyboard. I wish rather than throwing it out they'd had worked on making it more reliable and/or more repairable. Seriously, repairing the thing was the most ridiculous process I've ever heard of. The keyboard was glued to the chassis, and so generally if you brought it in to repair they would just swap the entire chassis with a new attached keyboard. Nuts. Or Apple.

Findecanor

25 Nov 2019, 03:59

The new keyboard is riveted to the chassis... Just as bad.

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Muirium
µ

25 Nov 2019, 10:35

Apple’s laptop keyboards have, much to my frustration to need to grumble so predictably here, gotten worse over the years. My first Mac was a 2003 PowerBook G4 12 inch. The keyboard was, and actually still is, quite lively and responsive. The travel is much deeper than modern laptops, the keys are sculpted in curves a little reminiscent of the Apple Extended keyboards of ancient times, and the whole thing is a discrete module which can be replaced.

In my view, things really went pear shaped when Apple went to chiclet keys with the original plastic MacBook in 2006. My immediate first impression of those has been right about all Mac laptops ever since: ugh! I don’t like the channels between the keys. I don’t like the caps. I don’t like the travel. And I really don’t like the hard landing and the tinkly plastic noise. Ho hum. That was that. They crossed that bridge long ago.

I’m no fan of any of these chiclet boards, is the truth. But I’m glad they (should!) work again now. Keyboard failure is not an option.

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Ace
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25 Nov 2019, 20:43

sypl wrote:
24 Nov 2019, 23:23
I tried it in a store too. In terms of just feel, not as good as the butterfly. And the keys wobble again, which is something the butterfly totally eliminated. It's not as big a wobble as the pre-2015 keyboards, but then you'd expect that as they're lower keys. Still, that's definitely a regression for me.

I still think other than reliability, the butterfly was a damn fine keyboard. I wish rather than throwing it out they'd had worked on making it more reliable and/or more repairable. Seriously, repairing the thing was the most ridiculous process I've ever heard of. The keyboard was glued to the chassis, and so generally if you brought it in to repair they would just swap the entire chassis with a new attached keyboard. Nuts. Or Apple.
Muirium’s post demands a longer response than what I can dish out right now due to being on mobile. That said, your message is just short enough for me to reply to.

I’m glad to see someone who agrees with me on this so clearly. I’m still likely going to consider a 16” since I’ve been waiting for an Apple machine that was both portable and had this sort of graphics power under the hood, but I’m sad to have to deal with a keyboard that feels just as boring as every other laptop. The Butterfly felt truly mechanical to me despite its rubber dome origins (though when you take a critical look at Topre, perhaps that’s not a bad thing), and I’d enjoy using it as much as any standalone mech I’ve tried.

I just thought I’d point out that Apple really did manage to address the durability issues with the earlier 2019 refresh. Whatever protective layer they tried moving to after last year’s (different) protective layer failed, worked. There are still some people who experienced issues with them, but for the most part, they’re reliable. That’s an option for anyone in love with Butterfly. Even I’m strongly considering a used 2019 Vega 20 model. The graphics aren’t quite there, but it’s only a tad weaker than the 16” and a few hundred cheaper.

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