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Following the release of the new 2018 MacBook Pro models, iFixit last week tore apart the 13-inch version and discovered the presence of a new silicone membrane underneath the keyboard's butterfly keys that Apple internal documents have since confirmed has been added to prevent dust and other small particulates from causing key failures.

To give us a better look at the new third-generation butterfly keyboard included in the new 2018 machines and how it works, iFixit has done a much deeper dive, exposing the keyboard to debris to test it out.

ifixitkeyboarddust.jpg

iFixit exposed the keyboard to a powdered paint additive that glows, allowing the site to track where and how dust accumulates. On the 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard, the dust settled at the edges of the membrane, leaving the butterfly mechanism of the keys protected. The same test was performed on the 2017 MacBook Pro keyboard, demonstrating less protection.
Lo and behold, the dust is safely sequestered at the edges of the membrane, leaving the mechanism fairly sheltered. The holes in the membrane allow the keycap clips to pass through, but are covered by the cap itself, blocking dust ingress. The previous-gen butterfly keys are far less protected, and are almost immediately flooded with our glowing granules.
With a combination of a lot of dust and aggressive typing, the dust did penetrate the membrane-covered key clips, hitting the top of the switch, suggesting that there's still a small potential for failure. iFixit was indeed able to cause the keyboard to fail by adding "a few poorly placed particles" of sand.

While the silicone membrane does not appear to be impenetrable, and there's no way to tell how the barrier will hold up over time as iFixit points out, it's still more protection than offered in earlier versions of the butterfly keyboard.

Following the dust test, iFixit did a more extensive teardown of the new keyboard, tearing it apart layer by layer. After a grueling experience pulling it apart, which explains why Apple has to replace the entire top case when installing a new keyboard, iFixit found that the silicone barrier is a single die-cut and molded sheet.

ifixitkeyboardteardown.jpg

The keycaps on the keyboard have also been slightly redesigned, measuring in at 1.25mm thickness compared to 1.5mm thickness in the 2017 MacBook Pro, which iFixit suggests is to give the keys room to travel with the addition of the membrane.

The spacebar has been redesigned, with a keycap that easily separates from the butterfly mechanism, a departure from earlier models where the spacebar was more difficult to remove. All of the keys, spacebar included, were easier to remove and harder to ruin, in iFixit's testing.

Apple has not publicly confirmed that the new third-generation butterfly keyboard was introduced to enhance reliability and to cut down on the the key failures that were seen in 2016 and 2017 machines, though the company has informed Apple Authorized Service Providers that this is the case.

Instead, in its 2018 MacBook Pro marketing materials, Apple claims the new silicone barrier was added to introduce a quieter typing experience, an issue that few people seem to have had with the original keyboards.

Article Link: iFixit Tests Silicone Membrane on 2018 MacBook Pro Keyboard With Dust Exposure
 
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dwsolberg

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Dec 17, 2003
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It's hard to tell what to make of that article. It seems that the new keyboard might be somewhat more protected than the prior keyboard. On the other hand, once something does get under there, it's also probably harder to get out. Hmmm.
 

redheeler

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Oct 17, 2014
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"we pushed the keyboard to failure with the higher-grit particulate we used last time: sand. And just like last time, a few poorly placed particles bring the mighty butterfly down to earth, never to click again." But this can happen with all of the keyboards, with 2012-2015 ones too...
I too would like to see how the 2018 keyboard compares to the 2015 and before. But it does look like Apple has at least improved reliability compared to the 2016 - 2017.
[doublepost=1532029774][/doublepost]
Does anyone think that they’re intentionally sabotaging their 'MacBook' product line so people move over to iOS?
"What's a computer?" says yes, common sense says no.

But seriously, I doubt Apple is purposefully sabotaging their products, except for maybe the Mac mini...
 
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DrJohnnyN

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Will a third party make this so those with the 16/17 Pros can install it on their machines?
 

vaugha

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Nov 3, 2011
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I too would like to see how the 2018 keyboard compares to the 2015 and before. But it does look like Apple has at least improved reliability compared to the 2016 - 2017.
[doublepost=1532029774][/doublepost]
"What's a computer?" says yes, common sense says no.

But seriously, I doubt Apple is purposefully sabotaging their products, except for maybe the Mac mini...

I second this.
 

fokmik

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I too would like to see how the 2018 keyboard compares to the 2015 and before. But it does look like Apple has at least improved reliability compared to the 2016 - 2017.
I bet this 2018 keyboard is more resistance to some spilled of water than any other
 
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Mac Fly (film)

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"we pushed the keyboard to failure with the higher-grit particulate we used last time: sand. And just like last time, a few poorly placed particles bring the mighty butterfly down to earth, never to click again." But this can happen with all of the keyboards, with 2012-2015 ones too...
A single grain of sand can bring down the old scissors mechanism? Are you sure about that? You must remember iFixit takes stuff apart for a living—literally. They may want to sell a screwdriver package in the process, but it seems they do know a thing or two about what they are talking about. I've dropped so many particles of food down into the gaps in my MBA keyboard by now I'd say there's a whole roll down there at this point, and yet it keeps on rolling. Apple keyboards should be IP67 certified. It's more reliable they are meant to be getting, not less. Heck, you can pour a large glass of wine over a thinkpad keyboard and it keeps working.
 

fokmik

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A single grain of sand can bring down the old scissors mechanism? Are you sure about that? You must remember iFixit takes stuff apart for a living—literally. They may want to sell a screwdriver package in the process, but it seems they do know a thing or two about what they are talking about. I've dropped so many particles of food down into the gaps in my MBA keyboard by now I'd say there's a whole roll down there at this point, and yet it keeps on rolling.
Since back than iFixit wasn't so focusing to test like they did it now the old keyboards...yea, i bet the same dust thing can stop any other Apple keyboard...even any other Dells keys. But hey, if you show me that ifixit test the old keyboard the same way they did it for this, than you are right
 

macpcf

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Jul 17, 2018
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So this means it is still vulnerable to dust and sand? What did they mean by this can happen to 2012-2015 model as well. My 2015 model thrives under dust
 
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