Teardown shows 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard's revised mechanism

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 2020
An initial teardown of the 16-inch MacBook Pro offers a close examination of the new keyboard mechanism used in the model, with the scissor mechanism deemed to be a massive improvement over the prior butterfly mechanism.

The 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro's keyboard mechanism (via iFixit)
The 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro's keyboard mechanism (via iFixit)


Over the last few years, Apple has taken criticism for the butterfly mechanism it employed in its MacBook and MacBook Pro lineup, with repeated reports claiming the three generations of mechanism were not up to scratch. The ingress of debris, even with the added protection of a silicone membrane around the mechanism, was a common issue for complaints, prompting calls for Apple to change it for something else.

In the 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple made the switch from the butterfly for a scissor-switch style it uses in the Magic Keyboard. Initial analysis of the keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook Pro reveals it has a much larger key travel than in models released in recent years, while at the same time generally being quieter than the mid-2019 keyboard.

The first part of a customary teardown by iFixit gives a closer look at the mechanism under the keycaps, confirming a shift away from butterfly. The version used in the new Mac Pro is claimed by the repair outfit to be "almost identical" to the switches used in the desktop Magic Keyboard, as well as pre-butterfly MacBooks.

The similarity with the desktop Magic Keyboard extends to a point that keycaps from the desktop keyboard could be used on the switches in the MacBook Pro.

Made from two plastic pieces that are crossed with a central pivot, the mechanism is considered to be more robust than the butterfly equivalent, with 0.5mm more travel in the key to enable it to handle debris more gracefully. Unlike later butterfly keyboards, Apple has not included a membrane, suggesting Apple is confident about its durability.

There is further strength in the way the keycaps connect to the switches. While 0.2mm thicker than previous versions, the clips attaching the keycaps to the switches are seemingly reinforced, reducing the chance of damage in heavy-duty usage or for disassembly for repair.

Aside from improving the mechanism, Apple also updated the design to include a physical escape key, and altered the arrow keys to form an inverted-T, creating more space around the four keys.

The changes to the keyboard were part of a multi-year development process, Apple VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller revealed on Wednesday, with criticism from "Pro customers" prompting a rethink of the MacBook Pro keyboard. Schiller did not advise on whether the switch mechanism will spread to other models, stating "We are continuing both keyboard designs."

The iFixit team anticipates revealing its full teardown of the 16-inch MacBook Pro on Monday.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,714member
    Win - win - win.
    Having the ability to remove an individual key-cap to remove debris alone is a huge improvement over the butterfly keyboards. The increased key travel likely means that a piece of debris that would compromise a butterfly key will be much less likely to cause an issue with the new keyboard. For people who switch between keyboards (most of us?) the increased travel will lessen the difference between the keyboards.

    I'm sure there are people whose job it is to research stuff like this, but it seems to me that there is probably a minimum distance needed for comfortable typing. From the days of manual typewriters that had a travel of over an inch we've steadily progressed to shallower and shallower depths. In general, no one had problems with the Mac keyboards that had travel of ~2mm and then more recently just over a mm but many people didn't like the shallow, 0.5mm travel of the butterfly keyboards. Extrapolating from that it appears going much below 1 mm gets bothersome for people.
    caladaniansportyguy209netroxanantksundaramelijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 55
    arlorarlor Posts: 529member
    Looking forward to trying this out, alongside the long-awaited 16" screen. 
    sportyguy209anantksundaramwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 55
    I don’t understand why they would not roll this new improved design out over the whole product line. 

    Additionally I would love a Touch Bar (with separate escape and fingerprint) also on all(!) Apple keyboards including the external keyboards. Only if the Touch Bar is standard for all macs the developers can take it for granted everyone has access to it and will make use of it more often. 

    Perfect would be an all-OLED-keyboard for international use: one keyboard to fit them all. Switching between languages by software. :D (I speak and write several languages and switch keyboard layouts often, always searching for some special symbols which are hiding at different places).
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 55
    sreesree Posts: 147member
    Guess this is the nearest we will see apple kind of accepting that the butterfly was a flawed design. Going back to the old working design with very minor changes. They probably can't talk more about the reason for dumping butterfly and going back for fear of litigation.
    sportyguy209avon b7williamlondonhenrybay
  • Reply 5 of 55
    I don’t understand why they would not roll this new improved design out over the whole product line. 

    Additionally I would love a Touch Bar (with separate escape and fingerprint) also on all(!) Apple keyboards including the external keyboards. Only if the Touch Bar is standard for all macs the developers can take it for granted everyone has access to it and will make use of it more often. 

    Perfect would be an all-OLED-keyboard for international use: one keyboard to fit them all. Switching between languages by software. :D (I speak and write several languages and switch keyboard layouts often, always searching for some special symbols which are hiding at different places).
    I have 3 guesses:
    #1 They were waiting on how the new butterfly membrane design would be received
    #2 Tolerances
    #3 Price 

    We don’t have any user feedback on the new keyboard, maybe it will show up in future designs.  Or, Maybe Apple plans to kill of the 15” model and adding a new keyboard to the supply chain is more trouble than it’s worth.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 55
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,668member
    I'd wager this is the same keyboard that's in the 2019 iMacs. It's scissor, it has shorter travel than the 2015 MBP but more than the 2016+ ones, but feels really nice, I like it a lot. No doubt this will trickle down to the other MacBooks as they get updated. Apart from key travel, it seems this is pretty much the same as the older Macbooks, layout an' all.
    edited November 2019 watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 55
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,815member
    This 16" MBP magic keyboard design will spread to all Apple products that use mechanical keyboard. Now the magic is out, number of future buyers of 13" MBP/MBA will point to 16" MBP keyboard and tell Apple give us better butterfly or magic keyboard or will wait to buy/upgrade until you do.
    avon b7henrybay
  • Reply 8 of 55
    I don’t understand why they would not roll this new improved design out over the whole product line. 

    Additionally I would love a Touch Bar (with separate escape and fingerprint) also on all(!) Apple keyboards including the external keyboards. Only if the Touch Bar is standard for all macs the developers can take it for granted everyone has access to it and will make use of it more often. 

    Perfect would be an all-OLED-keyboard for international use: one keyboard to fit them all. Switching between languages by software. :D (I speak and write several languages and switch keyboard layouts often, always searching for some special symbols which are hiding at different places).
    I’m sure they will roll it out, but something has to be first. 

    I wouldn’t expect to see TouchID on a separate keyboard since the secure enclave is on the Mac and not the keyboard.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 55
    Nothing beat an old IBM click-click keyboard.

    if Apple able to recreate the click click feel in an optional keyboard. I will pay $500 for it.
    jdw
  • Reply 10 of 55
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,033member
    sree said:
    Guess this is the nearest we will see apple kind of accepting that the butterfly was a flawed design. Going back to the old working design with very minor changes. They probably can't talk more about the reason for dumping butterfly and going back for fear of litigation.
    philboogiepscooter63
  • Reply 11 of 55
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 1,265member
    MplsP said:
    Win - win - win.
    Having the ability to remove an individual key-cap to remove debris alone is a huge improvement over the butterfly keyboards. The increased key travel likely means that a piece of debris that would compromise a butterfly key will be much less likely to cause an issue with the new keyboard. For people who switch between keyboards (most of us?) the increased travel will lessen the difference between the keyboards.

    I'm sure there are people whose job it is to research stuff like this, but it seems to me that there is probably a minimum distance needed for comfortable typing. From the days of manual typewriters that had a travel of over an inch we've steadily progressed to shallower and shallower depths. In general, no one had problems with the Mac keyboards that had travel of ~2mm and then more recently just over a mm but many people didn't like the shallow, 0.5mm travel of the butterfly keyboards. Extrapolating from that it appears going much below 1 mm gets bothersome for people.
    nice to know, keyboard enthusiast analysists.
  • Reply 12 of 55
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 1,265member
    "Early reviews are full of Stockholm Syndrome swoon, with high praise for keys that don’t feel or sound bad."
    Yeah listen up you iSheeps, how dare you to like the butterfly.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 13 of 55
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 1,265member
    I don’t understand why they would not roll this new improved design out over the whole product line. 

    Additionally I would love a Touch Bar (with separate escape and fingerprint) also on all(!) Apple keyboards including the external keyboards. Only if the Touch Bar is standard for all macs the developers can take it for granted everyone has access to it and will make use of it more often. 

    Perfect would be an all-OLED-keyboard for international use: one keyboard to fit them all. Switching between languages by software. :D (I speak and write several languages and switch keyboard layouts often, always searching for some special symbols which are hiding at different places).
    I have 3 guesses:
    #1 They were waiting on how the new butterfly membrane design would be received
    #2 Tolerances
    #3 Price 

    We don’t have any user feedback on the new keyboard, maybe it will show up in future designs.  Or, Maybe Apple plans to kill of the 15” model and adding a new keyboard to the supply chain is more trouble than it’s worth.
    Look, the Magic Keyboard has been out for three years.  What extra feedback do you need?
  • Reply 14 of 55
    MplsP said:
    Win - win - win.
    Having the ability to remove an individual key-cap to remove debris alone is a huge improvement over the butterfly keyboards. The increased key travel likely means that a piece of debris that would compromise a butterfly key will be much less likely to cause an issue with the new keyboard. For people who switch between keyboards (most of us?) the increased travel will lessen the difference between the keyboards.

    I'm sure there are people whose job it is to research stuff like this, but it seems to me that there is probably a minimum distance needed for comfortable typing. From the days of manual typewriters that had a travel of over an inch we've steadily progressed to shallower and shallower depths. In general, no one had problems with the Mac keyboards that had travel of ~2mm and then more recently just over a mm but many people didn't like the shallow, 0.5mm travel of the butterfly keyboards. Extrapolating from that it appears going much below 1 mm gets bothersome for people.
    I agree with you. Good for majority of people. Not for me though. \ I love 💕 butterfly 🦋 keyboard, and especially its travel distance. I wish it had even a bit less force. I fly on this keyboard. It's such a great joy to type on it.
    philboogierandominternetperson
  • Reply 15 of 55
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,159member
    urahara said:
    MplsP said:
    Win - win - win.
    Having the ability to remove an individual key-cap to remove debris alone is a huge improvement over the butterfly keyboards. The increased key travel likely means that a piece of debris that would compromise a butterfly key will be much less likely to cause an issue with the new keyboard. For people who switch between keyboards (most of us?) the increased travel will lessen the difference between the keyboards.

    I'm sure there are people whose job it is to research stuff like this, but it seems to me that there is probably a minimum distance needed for comfortable typing. From the days of manual typewriters that had a travel of over an inch we've steadily progressed to shallower and shallower depths. In general, no one had problems with the Mac keyboards that had travel of ~2mm and then more recently just over a mm but many people didn't like the shallow, 0.5mm travel of the butterfly keyboards. Extrapolating from that it appears going much below 1 mm gets bothersome for people.
    I agree with you. Good for majority of people. Not for me though. \ I love 💕 butterfly 🦋 keyboard, and especially its travel distance. I wish it had even a bit less force. I fly on this keyboard. It's such a great joy to type on it.
    Boom!  There it is!

    I actually scrolled through this thread to see if there was actually one of you status quo defenders who would continue to defend the failed butterfly keyboard, and yes, there is one.  I applaud you, urahara, for sticking by your guns and not allowing your preference to float with the wind.  You like that butterfly keyboard and you are sticking by that sentiment, even when others who once lambasted me in this forum for daring to say "more key travel is better" now embrace the new keyboard with MORE key travel only because that's what Apple's pitching to us now.  

    I for one like that which is good (i.e., more key travel) and loath that which causes fingers to ache (i.e., almost no key travel, such as butterfly keyboards).  It's great to see Apple has PARTLY listened to those of us daring enough to speak our voice against their past low-travel foolishness, but that doesn't mean the new scissor keyboard is necessary "good."  It just means it is comparatively better.  I can say that because it seems the 16" MBP keyboard has the same key travel and stability as the space gray Magic Keyboard, one of which I purchased recently as a replacement for my failing Matias aluminum keyboard.  That Magic Keyboard is very low travel but much more travel than butterfly keyboards, which I have typed on before at Apple stores, which is a good thing.  But the Magic Keyboard is still a far cry from the glorious key travel of older wired Apple keyboards like the one I ordered with my 27" iMac in late 2009.  I still have one of those wired aluminum keyboards (with white keys and numeric keypad) at the office and love it to pieces.  Sure, it's not the key travel of an old mechanical, but it's good enough for my fingers which love to type.  The Magic Keyboard of today is only barely enough, in my opinion.

    I love key stability, and I think that is really what most butterfly keyboard lovers rave about.  But like I said, even the Magic Keyboard has that same key stability, and no doubt the 16" MBP does too.  The kicker is key TRAVEL.  How some people can like near-zero travel is beyond me.  It's no different than rapping your fingers on a wood desk.  That wood desk is as stable as can be, but stability is not everything.  Key stability is only part part of the typing experience, and although it is important, it isn't enough to replace key travel.  And that is why Apple made a good choice in restoring at least some key travel in the 16" MBP.

    By the way, I bought the Matias aluminum space gray keyboard in the first place because at that time Apple had not released their iMac Pro with its space gray magic keyboard.  The Matias captivated me because of its 1 year battery life, which even to this day makes me upset Apple doesn't do the same with their Magic Keyboard.  And while the key travel on the Matias was about the same as the keyboard on my 2015 15" MBP (which is very acceptable and good), the key stability was the most horrid I have ever experienced in my 35+ years of using computers.  The white silkscreen printing came off very quickly, and keys broke off too.  That ultimately led me to getting the Magic Keyboard, which again has what I consider to be a "barely acceptable" amount of key travel, and certainly much less than the 2015 15" MBP I own and love (which has the same key travel as the 2017 MacBook Air, two of which I bought for my children a year ago).

    All said, if you wouldn't accept any less key travel than the 2015 and earlier MacBook Pros, you probably won't like the Space Gray Magic Keyboard or the new 16" MBP.  But if you find the Magic Keyboard acceptable, then the 16" MBP should fall in line with that and be acceptable too.  But for me, that horrid butterfly keyboard lacks the key travel to make my fingers happy.  And the faster Apple can rid the world of that thing the better.

    Key TRAVEL.  It does fingers good.
    mwhitephilboogiewilliamlondonhenrybaychemengin1
  • Reply 16 of 55
    I still like the feel of the 2018 MBP keyboard just fine, but I’ve been experiencing some increase in double key presses which is mostly just a temporary annoyance (double “a” or double space which converts to a period) but potentially terribly dangerous as my delete key has been affected at times. I’ve watched carefully and noticed deleting two emails instead of one. Imagining deleting a client request without knowing it has given me the fear. 

    I went to Apple to get a phone fixed and while I was there I had them replace two key caps that had the black paint coming off in the middle of the key. One of those is losing its paint on the edge now. I’ve never, ever had this happen on any of my Mac laptops before. So weird. 

    To be clear, I have always been just fine with reduced travel and whatever, and overall believe this is my favorite Mac keyboard to date, but have been cautiously optimistic about reliability. Obviously the latter has reared its head. 

    I’m going to ride it out until I have a safe window to get it fixed as I know I will get the 2019 keyboard in replacement... and new top case and battery... so maybe that would be an optimal time to sell and upgrade to this monster. :)
    edited November 2019 philboogieavon b7chia
  • Reply 17 of 55
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 1,086member
    I don’t understand why they would not roll this new improved design out over the whole product line. 

    Additionally I would love a Touch Bar (with separate escape and fingerprint) also on all(!) Apple keyboards including the external keyboards. Only if the Touch Bar is standard for all macs the developers can take it for granted everyone has access to it and will make use of it more often. 

    Perfect would be an all-OLED-keyboard for international use: one keyboard to fit them all. Switching between languages by software. :D (I speak and write several languages and switch keyboard layouts often, always searching for some special symbols which are hiding at different places).
    I’m sure they will roll it out, but something has to be first. 

    I wouldn’t expect to see TouchID on a separate keyboard since the secure enclave is on the Mac and not the keyboard.
    Personally, I would love to see Apple put the power button back onto the external keyboards like they had in the ADB days. I don’t know enough about the USB bus to know if it’s feasible, but it sure was handy. I hate crawling under my desk to start my machine. 
  • Reply 18 of 55
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,714member
    jdw said:
    urahara said:
    MplsP said:
    Win - win - win.
    Having the ability to remove an individual key-cap to remove debris alone is a huge improvement over the butterfly keyboards. The increased key travel likely means that a piece of debris that would compromise a butterfly key will be much less likely to cause an issue with the new keyboard. For people who switch between keyboards (most of us?) the increased travel will lessen the difference between the keyboards.

    I'm sure there are people whose job it is to research stuff like this, but it seems to me that there is probably a minimum distance needed for comfortable typing. From the days of manual typewriters that had a travel of over an inch we've steadily progressed to shallower and shallower depths. In general, no one had problems with the Mac keyboards that had travel of ~2mm and then more recently just over a mm but many people didn't like the shallow, 0.5mm travel of the butterfly keyboards. Extrapolating from that it appears going much below 1 mm gets bothersome for people.
    I agree with you. Good for majority of people. Not for me though. \ I love 💕 butterfly 🦋 keyboard, and especially its travel distance. I wish it had even a bit less force. I fly on this keyboard. It's such a great joy to type on it.
    Boom!  There it is!

    I actually scrolled through this thread to see if there was actually one of you status quo defenders who would continue to defend the failed butterfly keyboard, and yes, there is one.  I applaud you, urahara, for sticking by your guns and not allowing your preference to float with the wind.  You like that butterfly keyboard and you are sticking by that sentiment, even when others who once lambasted me in this forum for daring to say "more key travel is better" now embrace the new keyboard with MORE key travel only because that's what Apple's pitching to us now.  

    I for one like that which is good (i.e., more key travel) and loath that which causes fingers to ache (i.e., almost no key travel, such as butterfly keyboards).  It's great to see Apple has PARTLY listened to those of us daring enough to speak our voice against their past low-travel foolishness, but that doesn't mean the new scissor keyboard is necessary "good."  It just means it is comparatively better.  I can say that because it seems the 16" MBP keyboard has the same key travel and stability as the space gray Magic Keyboard, one of which I purchased recently as a replacement for my failing Matias aluminum keyboard.  That Magic Keyboard is very low travel but much more travel than butterfly keyboards, which I have typed on before at Apple stores, which is a good thing.  But the Magic Keyboard is still a far cry from the glorious key travel of older wired Apple keyboards like the one I ordered with my 27" iMac in late 2009.  I still have one of those wired aluminum keyboards (with white keys and numeric keypad) at the office and love it to pieces.  Sure, it's not the key travel of an old mechanical, but it's good enough for my fingers which love to type.  The Magic Keyboard of today is only barely enough, in my opinion.

    I love key stability, and I think that is really what most butterfly keyboard lovers rave about.  But like I said, even the Magic Keyboard has that same key stability, and no doubt the 16" MBP does too.  The kicker is key TRAVEL.  How some people can like near-zero travel is beyond me.  It's no different than rapping your fingers on a wood desk.  That wood desk is as stable as can be, but stability is not everything.  Key stability is only part part of the typing experience, and although it is important, it isn't enough to replace key travel.  And that is why Apple made a good choice in restoring at least some key travel in the 16" MBP.

    By the way, I bought the Matias aluminum space gray keyboard in the first place because at that time Apple had not released their iMac Pro with its space gray magic keyboard.  The Matias captivated me because of its 1 year battery life, which even to this day makes me upset Apple doesn't do the same with their Magic Keyboard.  And while the key travel on the Matias was about the same as the keyboard on my 2015 15" MBP (which is very acceptable and good), the key stability was the most horrid I have ever experienced in my 35+ years of using computers.  The white silkscreen printing came off very quickly, and keys broke off too.  That ultimately led me to getting the Magic Keyboard, which again has what I consider to be a "barely acceptable" amount of key travel, and certainly much less than the 2015 15" MBP I own and love (which has the same key travel as the 2017 MacBook Air, two of which I bought for my children a year ago).

    All said, if you wouldn't accept any less key travel than the 2015 and earlier MacBook Pros, you probably won't like the Space Gray Magic Keyboard or the new 16" MBP.  But if you find the Magic Keyboard acceptable, then the 16" MBP should fall in line with that and be acceptable too.  But for me, that horrid butterfly keyboard lacks the key travel to make my fingers happy.  And the faster Apple can rid the world of that thing the better.

    Key TRAVEL.  It does fingers good.
    The butterfly keyboard has generated a lot of hate but ultimately its a preference. I'm sure a lot has to do with typing styles, too. I got used to the shallow key travel on my MBP and if that was the only issue I would be happy to live with it. Now if you ask my preference, I'd prefer a bit more, but clearly there are people who don't. 
  • Reply 19 of 55
    Soli said:
    sree said:
    Guess this is the nearest we will see apple kind of accepting that the butterfly was a flawed design. Going back to the old working design with very minor changes. They probably can't talk more about the reason for dumping butterfly and going back for fear of litigation.
    Not an example of post hoc fallacy. An example of logical deduction.
    randominternetpersonsree
  • Reply 20 of 55
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,033member
    jdw said:
    urahara said:
    MplsP said:
    Win - win - win.
    Having the ability to remove an individual key-cap to remove debris alone is a huge improvement over the butterfly keyboards. The increased key travel likely means that a piece of debris that would compromise a butterfly key will be much less likely to cause an issue with the new keyboard. For people who switch between keyboards (most of us?) the increased travel will lessen the difference between the keyboards.

    I'm sure there are people whose job it is to research stuff like this, but it seems to me that there is probably a minimum distance needed for comfortable typing. From the days of manual typewriters that had a travel of over an inch we've steadily progressed to shallower and shallower depths. In general, no one had problems with the Mac keyboards that had travel of ~2mm and then more recently just over a mm but many people didn't like the shallow, 0.5mm travel of the butterfly keyboards. Extrapolating from that it appears going much below 1 mm gets bothersome for people.
    I agree with you. Good for majority of people. Not for me though. \ I love 💕 butterfly 🦋 keyboard, and especially its travel distance. I wish it had even a bit less force. I fly on this keyboard. It's such a great joy to type on it.
    Boom!  There it is!

    I actually scrolled through this thread to see if there was actually one of you status quo defenders who would continue to defend the failed butterfly keyboard, and yes, there is one.
    You came here looking for someone who actually likes the previous keyboard so you can chide them for being full of shit? Seriously, man?

    philboogierandominternetpersonpscooter63chiafastasleep
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