2019 Macbook Air 13" keyboards: More reliable than older butterfly keyboards?

AfternoonDelete

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I'm thinking of buying a 13" Air, but hope some people can weigh in on whether their experience of the newer butterfly keyboards (2019 version) are more reliable than previous versions. Not asking whether butterfly keyboards are good to work with — I worked with a MacBook and personally liked the shallow keys. Just wondering about the alleged improved reliability of the 2019 butterfly keys. Thanks in advance!
 

Falhófnir

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Purely anecdotally it seems they possibly are slightly less prone to failure, given fewer complaints on here from 2019 owners. We know the material was changed from the fixit teardown, so there is some credibility to the idea it's better than previously. It is still part ofter service programme, I suppose that is both reassuring (that you're covered for at least 4 years) and alarming (suggests Apple themselves don't have full confidence the design is fully fixed).
 

smirking

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I don't necessarily take that the service program covers a model of MacBook to mean that they believe it's not fixed. I get the feeling that the program covers more models than it needs to cover as a way to quell the concerns of people who won't buy an Apple laptop because they heard the keyboard might stop working.

If they specifically only covered the models that they believed were problematic, it might also have the unintended effect of driving people away from buying the covered models. It'd pretty much be like them admitting that you probably don't want to buy those models over there. Covering them all is like neither confirming nor denying an inquiry into a sensitive matter.
 
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jgorman

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I only had a 2019 version, so I cannot tell you whether they are more reliable than the previous versions. However, I did have a stuck key on the 2019 version (1.4GHz MBP).

If you can wait, rumors point to the entire product line switching away from the butterfly keyboard by mid-2020.
 

Bending Pixels

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I've never had any issues with Apple's keyboards - and I have the typing touch of Thor's hammer (learned how to type on a manual typewriter billions and billions and billions of years ago)
 

Mainsail

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I have owned a 2019 MBA for 4-5 months. Zero issues with the keyboard or anything else. I used to have a 2014 MBA, and that was the best device I ever owned. The 2019 MBA may just replace it on my all time favorite list.

BTW - I posted a similar request for input about overall satisfaction with the 2019 MBA, as we come to the 6 month anniversary since it was released. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive to my post. Not very scientific, but it seems like most MBA owners are pretty happy with their machines.
 
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AfternoonDelete

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Purely anecdotally it seems they possibly are slightly less prone to failure, given fewer complaints on here from 2019 owners. We know the material was changed from the fixit teardown, so there is some credibility to the idea it's better than previously. It is still part ofter service programme, I suppose that is both reassuring (that you're covered for at least 4 years) and alarming (suggests Apple themselves don't have full confidence the design is fully fixed).
- - Post merged: - -

thanks for your input!
- - Post merged: - -

thanks to everyone for their takes on this!
 

Ma2k5

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- - Post merged: - -

thanks for your input!
- - Post merged: - -

thanks to everyone for their takes on this!
I don't know how urgently you need a laptop now, but there are rumours of both 10th gen Y series CPU's being added to the MacBook Air (and even possibly the magic keyboard). I would predict this becoming a reality within Q1 2020.
 
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mj_

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More reliable? Yes, probably.
Reliable? Nope, still broken by design.

Stay away from all things Butterfly. They will break sooner or later and if they do once the keyboard replacement program has expired it basically totals the machine.
 

smirking

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Stay away from all things Butterfly. They will break sooner or later and if they do once the keyboard replacement program has expired it basically totals the machine.
4 years is a great warranty though. I would stay away from the butterfly keyboard if you've given it a good try and are absolutely sure you can't ever adapt to using it comfortably. I would avoid it because it might go back under warranty. I'm actually more likely to buy it because of that warranty because when you get a new keyboard, you will also get a new battery.

I may or may not wear out the keyboard, but I'm definitely going to wear out the battery by 4 years. I'd love to get a new battery on the house if I can show them that there are some keyboard issues at the 3.5 year mark.

And let's be realistic. A jammed keyboard won't total the machine. If you have some jammed MBP that you want to sell me at scrap parts pricing, I'll buy every one you have immediately. You could use an external keyboard and you could even pry off the keycaps and push the switches directly if you're desperate enough. The switches are fine even if the butterfly mechanism jams.
 

AfternoonDelete

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I don’t absolutely have to get an Air right now. If there is a decent chance that the next-released Air will revert to the scissors keyboard mechanism that is now featured on the 16” MBP, I could wait for that. Again, for me it’s not a personal preference thing — I like the butterfly shallow keyboard — but it is a reliability thing. Thanks again to everyone who weighed in.
 

revmacian

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I own the 2019 MacBook Air and I've had no problems with the keyboard. I also own a 2017 MacBook Pro (non Touch Bar) and have had no problems with it either. The keyboard on my MBA does feel different and is quieter than that of my MBP - different butterfly versions. I tried typing on the stand-alone Magic Keyboard recently and I really liked it. I have heard that Apple will likely put the Magic Keyboard into the 2020 MBP models, both sizes, and I look forward to trying one. If it's similar to the current stand-alone Magic Keyboard I'll be buying one even though I have a working MBA and MBP - will likely sell them.

I would say wait and see what happens next year.
 

mj_

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@smirking How exactly is being forced to use an external keyboard on a compact portable laptop or having to pry off the keycaps in order to continue using it not a totalled laptop? The former would be a major hassle, the latter would bring down your typing workflow to a screeching halt, would it not? A keyboard that isn't working and requires replacement of the entire top case including battery, touchpad, and speakers because of a single broken key is, excuse my language, a massive clusterf**k.

I agree that the four year warranty is a nice touch, and it will give you a worry-free experience for the first four years of ownership. However, once that expires fixing a single non-functional key will cost more than the device is worth in many cases. It effectively gives your laptop an expiration date because of the inherent design flaw acting like a time bomb.

I plan on dumping my 2017 MacBook as soon as it is out of the extended keyboard replacement program no later than early January of 2022 before it has the chance to break again (might I add, for the n-th time...). I use this MacBook for work every single day, and having to bring it in to get a free keyboard replacement is already a nightmare. Add several hundred dollars in repair costs on top because of stupid design decisions driven by Apple's strive for ever thinner laptops and it becomes utterly unacceptable.

But hey, maybe that's just me 🤷‍♂️
 

smirking

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@smirking How exactly is being forced to use an external keyboard on a compact portable laptop or having to pry off the keycaps in order to continue using it not a totalled laptop?
Total means total loss. If a few keys of your keyboard gets stuck it's not totaled. It'd be like the turn signal in your car going out. You can still drive it. It'll be inconvenient and you'll need to use hand signals, but you can do that indefinitely. The car's not totaled.

The least of my concerns is a keyboard because if that dies on me, I can at least plug in an external (which I often do anyway) and keep going. Yeah it's inconvenient, but if I'm running against a deadline, I'm not screwed. Even if I'm traveling and am away from my arsenal of mechanicals, I can run down to the local drug store and pick up a cheap bluetooth keyboard for about $20 and keep going.

If the logic board dies? Yes, then it definitely is totaled.
 
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revmacian

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Total means total loss. If a few keys of your keyboard gets stuck it's not totaled. It'd be like the turn signal in your car going out. You can still drive it. It'll be inconvenient and you'll need to use hand signals, but you can do that indefinately. The car's not totaled.

The least of my concerns is a keyboard because if that dies on me, I can at least plug in an external (which I often do anyway) and keep going. Yeah it's inconvenient, but if I'm running against a deadline, I'm not screwed. Even if I'm traveling and am away from my arsenal of mechanicals, I can run down to the local drug store and pick up a cheap bluetooth keyboard for about $20 and keep going.

If the logic board dies? Yes, then it definitely is totaled.
Agreed. We can just connect bluetooth keyboard and mouse, an HDMI monitor and use the notebook in clamshell mode with a larger screen - many people do that anyway. It is no longer a "portable" device, but nowhere near "totaled".. in fact it becomes a nice desktop machine that can be used until you buy another notebook. This is why I'm not really worried about the butterfly keyboards.
 
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jgorman

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This four-year warranty is a bit funny for people with 2019 models, right? If you need to use the warranty, they replace the keyboard with a keyboard just like the one that failed. You are not even back at square one because time is running on the warranty.
 

revmacian

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This four-year warranty is a bit funny for people with 2019 models, right? If you need to use the warranty, they replace the keyboard with a keyboard just like the one that failed. You are not even back at square one because time is running on the warranty.
There isn't really a guarantee that the keyboard will fail.. my 2017 MBP is still working as advertised and it has been my main desktop machine. For me, the warranty serves only as peace of mind.

Is the butterfly keyboard more likely to fail than the previous models? Yes. Can we guarantee that it will fail? No.
 
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Mainsail

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I think it is a bit silly to make a tech buying decision today based upon fear about something that probably won't even happen 4 years from now. Even if it does, it's not like the computer explodes. You can easily trade it in for a new one.

Let's take the worse case scenario; you buy a base MBA for $799 on sale during the holidays. Use it for 4 years. Then, the keys start to stick or repeat after year 4 and one day. Apple is unreasonable and won't honor the recently expired warranty. So, you trade it at a big box store for $200 and buy a new MacBook. That's 4 years of use for $600. Or, $150 per year. Or $12 per month. Or 40 cents per day. Or 1/5 the cost of the cheapest smallest Starbucks regular coffee. What is the big deal? BTW - all computers eventually need to be replaced. So, yeah, maybe you would rather replace at 5 or 6 years but it really is not a huge issue either way.

It just seems like the overblown hype of this issue drastically exceeds the real risk of a possible problem 4 years down the road. If you need a computer now, get one. If you don't, then wait. There is no guarantee that Apple is going to change KB mechanisms on the MBA soon. So, get what you need and dont worry about some imagined problem 4 years hence. It's ridiculous.
 
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revmacian

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Make the warranty 6 years and then queue cries of the, "OMG what if your keyboard breaks exactly one day after six years?!?!?"
Exactly. False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR)

Too many people are controlled by fear instead of common sense. What if there is nothing wrong with your MBP, no warranty program applies, and it gets stolen the day after you bought it? There are no guarantees in life.
 

Mainsail

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Exactly. False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR)

Too many people are controlled by fear instead of common sense. What if there is nothing wrong with your MBP, no warranty program applies, and it gets stolen the day after you bought it? There are no guarantees in life.
Agreed. It's like people are waiting for Apple to make the perfect notebook so there is zero risk of defects. That's just not going to ever happen. The warranty provides reasonable protection for a problem Apple has largely solve with the latest iteration of the BF KB.
 
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mj_

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It appears we have very different definitions of total loss. For me there are two types of total loss. If an object breaks to the point where it becomes unusable for its initial and main purpose then to me that constitutes a total loss. I buy a laptop because I need a device to work with when I am not at my desk. If its keyboard, display or any other crucial component fails and renders it unusable without additional peripherals, such as an external monitor or display, and fixing it is more expensive than the device itself is worth then that constitutes a total financial loss by my definition. But again, maybe that's just me. Maybe it's because I already went through five keyboard replacements on two different Apple laptops with two different generations of the Butterfly keyboard in the past two years. Maybe it's because the first three replacements occured before Apple acknowledged this design flaw and initiated the repair program, and I had to fight and argue with various Apple "geniuses" both in person and over the phone before they grudgingly agreed to replace the keyboard.

Anyway, I don't think we will ever agree on this. If y'all are fine with your ticking time bombs that will require an excessive amount of money to get repaired four years down the road then fine, I accept that. If y'all are fine with hooking up external keyboards to your laptops while out and about then by all means, be my guest. I, on the other hand, am not fine with that and will continue to warn others about this inherent design flaw and the effective expiration date on these laptops. Even Apple realized that and abandoned the Butterfly mechanism in favor of a tried and true scissor switch mechanism on their latest MacBook Pro. If that 2019 Butterfly iteration would have "largely solved" the issues, as some seem to think, then why bother backpedalling to an older design?

Because it's broken beyond repair, that's why.

PS: regarding the turn signal in my car: I would be able to drive it one year tops, then I'll have to go through state inspection here in Texas which I will fail due to that failed turn signal. Which in turn means I would legally not be allowed to drive that car on public roads anymore. And if fixing that turn signal means swapping out the entire front of the car, including the engine bay, the hood, both fenders, the windscreen, and the front axle - which would be the automotive equivalent of having to replace the entire topcase including battery, touchpad, and speakers for a single failed key - then that car would by all means be considered a total financial loss because of a broken turn signal. Just sayin' ;)
 
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Donnation

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My wife has had a 2019 MBA since they were launched and she is really rough with her laptops. She has yet to have an issue with the keyboard and its worked perfectly for her since day 1 if that's any help to your question.
 

Mainsail

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If that 2019 Butterfly iteration would have "largely solved" the issues, as some seem to think, then why bother backpedalling to an older design?
Because they developed the 2019 version of the BF KB at the same time the 16in MBP was under development. So, Apple might not have known if they had a fix when the 16in MBP was being designed (as much as 12 months ago).

Apple might view the BF KB as the better solution for the MBA and the scissor KB a better solution for the 16in MBP. The two things are not mutually exclusive. Some people seem to believe Apple has to select one and only one KB design for all MacBooks, regardless of the application.

You seem to be acknowledging that there are fewer failures with the 2019 BF KB. One or two examples of failures is nothing given the millions and millions in the wild. Given the fact that the BF KB is on everyone's radar, I would not be surprised if other KB have just as many failures.

If you want to continue to repeat warnings and old news about the BF KB, that's fine. Everyone needs a hobby. Given the 4 year warranty and the improved reliability, I just think the real risk to the consumer is being way overblown at this point.
 

revmacian

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It appears we have very different definitions of total loss. For me there are two types of total loss...
Just try to keep in mind that my definition of "total loss" is quite different from yours. The good thing is that your definition is correct for you, but wrong for others.. and my definition is correct for me.. and wrong for others. See how that works?

Anyway, I don't think we will ever agree on this.
And that is ok. There are no rules stating that we all have to agree on everything.

The person who is always right never really learns anything.
 
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