MBP keyboard....how prevalent it the problem?

262Runnr

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 21, 2008
224
11
NC
So, I've owned a 2012 MBP which I bought as used. It's upgraded to the max and other than a current battery/battery alert notification issue, is working great when plugged in.

I decided to take the plunge and get a 2016 MBP in what is described as almost new condition. How concerned should I be about the keyboard? I realize that my 2012 keyboard, which I've had no issues with, is a completely different design, but now I'm beginning to wonder if I made a mistake in buying the 2016 MBP....
 

cmaier

Suspended
Jul 25, 2007
18,029
16,031
California
So, I've owned a 2012 MBP which I bought as used. It's upgraded to the max and other than a current battery/battery alert notification issue, is working great when plugged in.

I decided to take the plunge and get a 2016 MBP in what is described as almost new condition. How concerned should I be about the keyboard? I realize that my 2012 keyboard, which I've had no issues with, is a completely different design, but now I'm beginning to wonder if I made a mistake in buying the 2016 MBP....
I‘d be concerned. I have a 2016 MBP. The first key failed after about 3 months, and I’ve had two more failures over the years. ANd contrary to what folks want to claim, it’s not just dust. The keys start skipping and double-entering characters, and you never know, when you’re typing, that the key you hit actually registered properly.

It’s pretty common, especially for the 2016’s. Each year after that they improved the problem a little bit.
 
  • Like
Reactions: throAU

Sanpete

macrumors 68030
Nov 17, 2016
2,596
1,054
Utah
My 2016 went until a couple months ago with practically no issues, but it's starting to act up now with a couple keys hard to register and often registering more than once when pressed harder to make them register. No doubt a lot depends on usage. I type a lot but with a fairly light touch.
 

ascender

macrumors 68040
Dec 8, 2005
3,212
1,146
Its a tough one because there's clearly an issue with those and it seems to be worse on the earlier machines - the 2018 and 2019 (in particular) revisions appear to have made them a lot more reliable.

We've had quite a few 2016 MBPs and not had a single issue with the keyboards - those machines have been used inside and outdoors, which should have increased the chances of a failure.

Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest the chances of failure may also be increased depending how you type and what you use the laptop for, so its all a bit of a gamble really.

The keyboard replacement program covers a device for four years, but I'm not sure how much a keyboard replacement (including top case) would be outside of that. Or if Apple would offer reduced-repairs on those - I think the MBP came out in Q4 2016 so nobody has had to test that yet.
 
  • Like
Reactions: matram

poorcody

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2013
845
684
We still don't know the rate of failure after all these years. I agree it's not something as simple as dust.

I bought a 2016 MBP on pre-order, and it was my daily keyboard up until the 16" came out. Never had a single problem with it.
 

262Runnr

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 21, 2008
224
11
NC
OK, update on my new (used) MBP 2016....

I ordered from BHPhoto, who I've used many times before and had very good luck with.

The unit that I received was in a sealed Apple box with all the original paperwork. It appeared brand new.
When I checked the battery count it was 1

I'm guessing that what I received was really a factory refurb unit from Apple despite the fact that it was rated only 9+....it is practically a new machine as far as I can tell. As far as the keyboard....I don't type a whole lot and use the trackpad a lot. Hoping that I don't have any issues with it in the future but if I do I'll just deal with it.
It's one of the most beautiful laptops that I've ever owned....I'm really happy with my decision to purchase.
 

262Runnr

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 21, 2008
224
11
NC
Thanks for the heads up but I'm not worried about it really. I actually enjoy typing on the keyboard FWIW. For me this machine is worth the risk. I really love it.... :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: BigMcGuire

chrfr

macrumors G3
Jul 11, 2009
9,591
3,486
OK, update on my new (used) MBP 2016....

I ordered from BHPhoto, who I've used many times before and had very good luck with.

The unit that I received was in a sealed Apple box with all the original paperwork. It appeared brand new.
When I checked the battery count it was 1

I'm guessing that what I received was really a factory refurb unit from Apple despite the fact that it was rated only 9+....it is practically a new machine as far as I can tell. As far as the keyboard....I don't type a whole lot and use the trackpad a lot. Hoping that I don't have any issues with it in the future but if I do I'll just deal with it.
It's one of the most beautiful laptops that I've ever owned....I'm really happy with my decision to purchase.
Apple refurbs don’t come in a regular box so this must just be one that was sitting on the shelf for nearly 4 years.
 

262Runnr

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 21, 2008
224
11
NC
Apple refurbs don’t come in a regular box so this must just be one that was sitting on the shelf for nearly 4 years.
Thanks....good to know. I've been pretty lucky with BHPHOTO... It's actually where I purchased my 2012 MBP as used also....
 

BigMcGuire

Contributor
Jan 10, 2012
5,451
6,819
California
My wife and I have been using our 2017 MBPs heavily. I think from 2016 - 2017 was a “generation” and then they changed it again for the 2018-2019? Hard to keep track of... I think 2016 was Butterfly 1, 2017 butterfly 2, and butterfly 3 was 2018/2019 - could be wrong tho. My wife uses hers pretty heavily and has had no problems. My sister has issues with her 2019 MBA after 1 year (Repeating keys).

I too like this keyboard - but it is my primary computer, so I’ve had to adapt to it. Can’t type on it like a normal keyboard.
 

throAU

macrumors 603
Feb 13, 2012
6,376
3,843
Perth, Western Australia
So, I've owned a 2012 MBP which I bought as used. It's upgraded to the max and other than a current battery/battery alert notification issue, is working great when plugged in.

I decided to take the plunge and get a 2016 MBP in what is described as almost new condition. How concerned should I be about the keyboard? I realize that my 2012 keyboard, which I've had no issues with, is a completely different design, but now I'm beginning to wonder if I made a mistake in buying the 2016 MBP....
Look at the number of threads on the internet about it vs. the number of threads regarding previous model Macs or other PC laptop keyboard issues.

I'd be concerned. It's the sole reason i haven't upgraded my 2015 13" yet.

The fact that apple have abandoned it and gone back to scissor switches after denying there is an issue for 4 years (and eventually issuing a repair program after "silent" running updates to the mechanism proved futile) should be confirmation enough that it is serious.

As above the 2016 will be out of the exended repair program soon. I wouldn't risk any money on one at all as the repair out of warranty is very expensive. At least if you buy a new butterfly machine you have the assurance of 3-4 years of either applecare or extended keyboard program cover and can spread the purchase cost over 3-4 years.

If you buy a 2016 model today, you've basically burned the purchase price entirely if it dies, and the failure rate is high enough that i personally would not run that risk. Unless you got it very, very cheap?

Anecdotal, but a colleague had an early butterfly model (retina macbook 12") and went through 3 machines in a couple of months before giving up and swapping it for a non-butterfly 13" model (which he is still using today, 4.5 years later, with zero issues). He loved the 12" Retina but he simply couldn't deal with constantly having to return the machines - he has work to do and it was costing him real consulting dollars to be without his primary work device.

He's a non-smoker, doesn't eat over his machines, etc. Any debris ingress would have been under "Reasonable use" (e.g., dust/fibres from carrying it in a protective sleeve, etc.).

If you plan on sitting it on a desk all day then maybe you'll be fine. But if you're going to lug it in a sleeve, etc. i'd consider that a risk.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: BigMcGuire

BigMcGuire

Contributor
Jan 10, 2012
5,451
6,819
California
Look at the number of threads on the internet about it vs. the number of threads regarding previous model Macs or other PC laptop keyboard issues.

I'd be concerned. It's the sole reason i haven't upgraded my 2015 13" yet.

The fact that apple have abandoned it and gone back to scissor switches after denying there is an issue for 4 years (and eventually issuing a repair program) should be confirmation enough that it is serious.

As above the 2016 will be out of the exended repair program soon. I wouldn't risk any money on one at all as the repair out of warranty is very expensive.
Agreed, though depending on how much of a discount the OP got it for... It would have to be a pretty hefty discount for me. A battery sitting on the shelf for 4 years is going to show age too.
 
  • Like
Reactions: throAU

throAU

macrumors 603
Feb 13, 2012
6,376
3,843
Perth, Western Australia
ANd contrary to what folks want to claim, it’s not just dust.
Concur with that. I really don't think it's dust - though that cops a lot of the blame. If it IS dust i think its more likely due to some quality control issue or blind luck.

Because.... another of my friends (with a butterfly machine) is a smoker, carries the device to and from mine sites with red dust, etc. If anyone exposes the machine to large amounts of dust and ash, it would be him. Yet his failure rate is so far is (only!) once every 2 years... He also had battery issues, display cable issues, etc. that were all fixed at the same time under applecare.

I do suspect he types a lot less than my consulting colleague (he uses it more for content consumption and point/click apps rather than data entry heavy stuff), he only had one failure after a couple of years (2016 13" Retina).
 
  • Like
Reactions: BigMcGuire

LV426

macrumors 6502a
Jan 22, 2013
955
438
I use my MBP 2016 in a very clean environment - my personal air conditioned office - and it really is the dust, or debris, whatever you want to call it. The tiniest speck of anything can stop a key from working. Unless you’re wearing gloves in a semiconductor clean room, dust is going to get in.

It‘s really easy to lift a key cover off with a thin plastic tool (looks like a guitar plectrum). Then give it a quick blast from a can of air. The cover snaps back on easily. I’ve done this about four times in the past couple of years when problem keys make typing insanely terrible.

My four years will be up later this year, but I will time things right to get the keyboard replaced. Lately, the Touchbar has gone on the blink - literally. When it goes to sleep, a flickering block of white light appears near the fingerprint sensor.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,455
6,753
OP:

Do you have a good printed receipt/invoice?
If so, PROTECT THIS AND KEEP IT SAFE, because it shows that you purchased the computer "as a new unit" in 2020.

I believe the Apple extended warranty covers the keyboard "from the date of initial purchase", and if it fails, you MUST be able to prove this date in order to get a free repair from Apple.

Otherwise, the repair (if the keyboard, even ONE key, fails) is going to cost you $700.
 

throAU

macrumors 603
Feb 13, 2012
6,376
3,843
Perth, Western Australia
Do you have a good printed receipt/invoice?
If so, PROTECT THIS AND KEEP IT SAFE, because it shows that you purchased the computer "as a new unit" in 2020.
Could be a silver lining here....

I'd check and double check that your cover is from initial PURCHASE date (i think it is).

If that's the case, i'd say it is unlikely that Apple will be supplying old parts for 2016 machines in say, 2022-2024 so if you manage to keep it working until that point and then have a keyboard issue you could end up with a newer machine :D
 
  • Like
Reactions: BigMcGuire

Acronyc

macrumors 6502a
Jan 24, 2011
740
241
There are lots of threads and articles documenting the problems with the butterfly keyboard and it definitely is a real issue. At the same time, there are surely many people who have never had a problem. I can only share my personal experience, but I've had a 2016 MBP since November 2016 that has been used almost every day since with lots of typing and I haven't had one problem with the keyboard. It still works perfectly fine.

Personally I think that the butterfly keyboard is more susceptible to failure depending on the type of usage, especially if you are a heavy touch typist. I type very quickly but also have a light touch and don't bang my keys and my 2016 MBP has survived over three years without any keyboard failures.

It is kind of ridiculous though how prone the butterfly keyboard is to failure (a keyboard should be able to handle any type of typist) so I would keep an eye out for any failures and if you have a problem get the keyboard replaced while the repair program is still valid for the 2016 models. Your machine might be like my 2016, though, and not have any keyboard problems at all.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.