My 1-day review: I don't hate the keyboard nearly as much as I expected

DDustiNN

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 27, 2011
1,989
807
I've been very against this new flat keyboard ever since it was introduced. I touched it when the MacBook was released and it was awful. I hated everything about it. It just felt like one of those cheap tablet covers. No real "feel" to it, no satisfying tactile response, etc. I just hated it. The new keyboard and lack of retina screen have been my reasons for holding onto my 2011 MacBook Air for so long without upgrading.

But I finally broke down and accepted the change. I got the new MacBook Air yesterday, with the intention of hating the keyboard and force touch trackpad.

Thankfully, the keys actually feel tactile and responsive. It's audible, clicky, and actually feels quite nice. Much better than the original I tried typing on in-store a couple years ago. I do still wish they were raised a slight bit more, but I'm already getting used to it.

The trackpad was another concern I had. I really liked the clicky springboard style, and never really liked the force touch pads when trying the out in stores. But, again, this one feels more tactile and responsive. I mean I almost feel like the stores had them set to the lowest setting, since I could barely feel it. But here, on medium, it feels just fine. I went up to the highest setting, but that makes it pretty difficult to initiate the peek touch. So I'm back to medium and it's great.

Screen brightness is no issue at all. I'm used to my 2011 MacBook Air and this is just so much better. Anything brighter than about 60% is too bright for my eyes (though I'm always using it indoors, with somewhat low-light). However when I looked at the ones in-store, they seemed very bright when maxed out and full store lights shining.

And the 16GB RAM is so much noticeably better than my previous 4GB. My old computer was getting to the point where it could barely handle my Xcode views and long code files. So far, the new computer is blazing through everything.

I am slightly concerned about storage, even though I shouldn't be. I got the 256GB, which is the same as my old one, but I still had well over 100GB free after 6-7 years of use. So I know I shouldn't be concerned, but I am always paranoid about "well what if I suddenly need a bunch of stuff". But with iCloud storage and my external 500GB HDD connected to my Mac mini (which I just easily access remotely via wifi), I think it'll be a non-issue. Not worth the extra $200.

I thought I'd miss the glowing Apple logo on the back, but I actually don't. The new finish actually does look nicer when comparing to my old MacBook Air.

My last two concerns are regarding the ports and charging. I'm kind of annoyed by the USB-C exclusivity, since I had to buy the $19 cable to connect my phone. Now I need to buy a dongle as well, if I ever want to put something on my thumb drives. As for charging, I really miss the MagSafe port. It was just so amazing, and really added to the premium feel. It was also annoying that they don't include the extension cable anymore. Sometimes it feels like like Apple keeps removing stuff and raising prices. Luckily the guy at the store said my old one should work perfectly fine. It certainly looked the same when he showed it to me, so I'll find out tonight when I sort everything out.

Lastly: Space Gray. It's hawt.

So those are my Day One thoughts. And after typing this entire message using this new keyboard (which is the most I've typed on it so far), I think I can safely say I'm perfectly okay with it. I'm glad I didn't listen to the complaints regarding the screen and keyboard, because this machine feels like a fantastic upgrade from my 2011 model. I was extremely skeptical about, well, everything being changed... But it turns out, I'm very satisfied with my purchase already. I expected to hate it, but I really do love it.

If you're on the fence: DO IT. You have until January 8th to return it, thanks to the extended holiday return policy.
 
Last edited:

Staindsoul

macrumors 6502
Apr 13, 2010
382
25
Texas
Awesome review! I am pretty much in the same boat as you but mid-2013 MBA.

I think I am going to go with the 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD option from BH Photo. It is on sale for $1,449 right now with no tax. In Texas from Apple store it is $1,731. Still thinking about it. Love the keyboard of this 2013 but the battery and screen is showing its age.
 

DDustiNN

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 27, 2011
1,989
807
Awesome review! I am pretty much in the same boat as you but mid-2013 MBA.

I think I am going to go with the 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD option from BH Photo. It is on sale for $1,449 right now with no tax. In Texas from Apple store it is $1,731. Still thinking about it. Love the keyboard of this 2013 but the battery and screen is showing its age.
Ah yeah that was another thing - my 2011 battery drains quite fast. Maybe 3-4 hours of decent usage at most.

You might try going to the Apple Store and see if they'll price match. I didn't have any luck with that yesterday, but I was close. She was ready to do it until she went to ask the manager regarding my pickup (it was a customized online order), whether she should cancel the original order, or do a return/rebuy, for how to refund my difference. Then the manager said only big local stores like Best Buy and Walmart, etc. But it seemed like she was ready to do it before asking the manager.

The biggest reason I suggest it is for the return policy. Apple accepts returns no questions asked, no restock fee. That's the reason I still bought it there, because I was still on the fence.
 
Last edited:

SandboxGeneral

Moderator emeritus
Sep 8, 2010
24,943
7,870
Detroit
Nice review.

I've had mine since launch day and have even used it for a few full days at work typing policies and draft directives among other things like emails and whatnot. I've been been doing some writing in my book as well.

This is my first experience with this butterfly keyboard and I quite love it. I feel like I type faster than on other keyboards. So far I haven't had any issues with it. I am wary of the reliability of it over the long run and am considering getting the Apple Care for it which is something I don't normally buy. But I'm still undecided on that and have a couple of months to figure that out.

But at the end of the day I'm very happy with it and have no regrets so far.
 

DDustiNN

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 27, 2011
1,989
807
Its the reliability of the keyboard that is my issue, i actually like the way they feel when typing.
I guess I'll just hope for the best in that regard. I'm generally extremely clean with my computers and video games - no food while using, always wash hands before using to avoid greasiness, etc. And I always keep my MacBook Air in a sleeve when not in use.

Speaking of sleeves - I just ordered my new one from Joli Originals. I've had their textured black/aqua sleeve for my old 2011 MBA for 6+ years and I love it. This time I went with the smooth grey/red.

https://jolioriginals.com/collections/smooth/products/smooth-macbook

 

newellj

macrumors 604
Oct 15, 2014
7,239
2,279
East of Eden
Nice.

I absolutely hated the Gen 1 keyboard. Bought a rMB twice and returned it twice. I thought it was unusable. But I bought a 2017 rMB this spring when BB had a $500 off sale and got to like the Gen 2 version so much that I now don't really like typing on my 2015 rMBP. YMMV. The Gen 3 feels about the same as the Gen 2, maybe a little less clicky. It works and I can type quickly and accurately on either, which wasn't true with Gen 1.

I had to get used to one USB-C port with the rMB and bought a compact dongle with 2x USB-A and HDMI. It's been a great solution for me and the rMBA has two USB-C ports, which feels almost luxurious. ;)

MagSafe, yeah, wazzup? It's mostly an issue in my head but when I'm working at one of those counters at the airports I worry about someone snagging the cable. When possible I arrange myself very defensively at those counters.

I don't do much heavy lifting on my laptops, so I'm surprised that temps on this seem to often be up around 170-185 degrees F with the fan turning 2700 revs. Doing the same things on the rMB produces temps in the 95-110 F range. Not sure what's up with that.

I think the Gen 2 (and maybe Gen 3) keyboards mostly need better hygiene. I have tended to get crumbs and crap into my keyboards. I'm more careful, and I use a small brush attachment on my household vac to clean out the keyboard a couple of times a month. I had one non-responsive key with the rMB and that was solved immediately with a vacuuming. If you do that, be careful, though, in the past I've sucked key tops off and they've sometimes been damaged. :eek: The keyboard is another reason to suck it up and pay for AC+.
 

SAdProZ

macrumors 6502a
Mar 19, 2005
561
276
Thankfully, the keys actually feel tactile and responsive. It's audible, clicky, and actually feels quite nice. Much better than the original I tried typing on in-store a couple years ago.
The first version, on the 2015 12” MacBook, was the worst. Which was acceptable for something so thin that it seemed to be designed for executives taking them on meeting runs. The real crime was putting that on 2016 MacBook Pros. That’s when the real complaints came from people expecting a better typing experience for the money. I mean, why put a sh$t keyboard on what’s supposed to be a “workhorse” laptop?

In 2017, having heard the feedback, Apple improved them for better response. Whatever the push-back mechanism a key has, whatever it’s called, Apple improved a tad.

In 2018, Apple improved the reliability and dampened the sound a tad. So all in all we seem to be inching towards a better butterfly keyboard. Give it 2-4 more years and I estimate it will have worked itself out. But I would never get a pre-2018 Keyboard.
 

jesChexin

macrumors member
Mar 8, 2018
37
24
Awesome review! I am pretty much in the same boat as you but mid-2013 MBA.

I think I am going to go with the 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD option from BH Photo. It is on sale for $1,449 right now with no tax. In Texas from Apple store it is $1,731. Still thinking about it. Love the keyboard of this 2013 but the battery and screen is showing its age.
It is actually the 16GB RAM/256GB SSD option that is on sale at BH Photo for $1,449 right now (the 8GB/256GB option is on sale at BH Photo for $1,299). Even better!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Staindsoul

DDustiNN

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 27, 2011
1,989
807
Do you think it’s advisable to spend the extra money and get the 16gb ram, especially if you would keep it for many years?
I guess it depends what you're doing, but that is exactly why I ordered the 16GB. I wanted to have at least a bit of "future-proofing" since my 2011 model lasted so long, but the 4GB of RAM was becoming quite a hinderance between Xcode, Photoshop, and Safari.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Yvan256

Jessica08

macrumors 6502
Nov 2, 2015
328
91
Roll Tide
I just web surf, update my iTunes/iPhone/iPad, the occasional schoolwork. I’m using my mini right now for that. Nothing like gaming or editing. I’ll have to check my 2009 mini to see what it has as I upgraded the ram and hard drive on it a few years ago.
 

DDustiNN

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 27, 2011
1,989
807
I just web surf, update my iTunes/iPhone/iPad, the occasional schoolwork. I’m using my mini right now for that. Nothing like gaming or editing. I’ll have to check my 2009 mini to see what it has as I upgraded the ram and hard drive on it a few years ago.
If that's all you're doing, I'm sure the 8GB would be fine for you. But if you have the extra $200 and it makes you feel more comfortable, go for it! Personally I just always hated going with the bare minimum when it comes to computers, since they get outdated so quickly. But Macs seem to hold strong for the long haul.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Jessica08

DDustiNN

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 27, 2011
1,989
807

This is hardly a ringing endorsement. Nor should one have to "get used" to a computer's primary input device, and most certainly not at these prices. The "butterfly" keyboard sucks, period.
But it is, because of how much I despised it originally. I'm one of those people who hates change, especially when I already loved the way something was (such as the old style keyboard). Now after using it all day, I am actually growing to like it quite a bit.

I do agree that the original one sucked. A lot. But now after actually using this new one, I can safely say it's quite nice. I might even type faster than I do my 2011 MBA chiclet style keyboard. It really does feel very refined compared to the old model.

Overall I'm very surprisingly impressed. My 2011 MBA was by far my favorite computer I've ever owned, so I've been hesitant to update. But after a day with the 2018, I'm completely sold on the upgrades.
 

Velin

macrumors 65816
Jul 23, 2008
1,469
907
Hearst Castle
It really does feel very refined compared to the old model.

Overall I'm very surprisingly impressed. My 2011 MBA was by far my favorite computer I've ever owned, so I've been hesitant to update. But after a day with the 2018, I'm completely sold on the upgrades.
The new Air does have some worthy upgrades. It's a shame they are wedded to this damn butterjoke keyboard. Also should institute a 400-nit minimum for Macbook panel displays. But I can understand concluding they got the rest of the Air package correct, such as touch id but no useless touchbar, good form factor, good battery life, reasonably priced for the RAM and SSD options.
 

lambertjohn

macrumors 65816
Jun 17, 2012
1,025
1,006
Awesome review! I am pretty much in the same boat as you but mid-2013 MBA.

I think I am going to go with the 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD option from BH Photo. It is on sale for $1,449 right now with no tax. In Texas from Apple store it is $1,731. Still thinking about it. Love the keyboard of this 2013 but the battery and screen is showing its age.
Are you sure you got the price right on that configuration? The 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD Air sells for $1399 from Apple, less than your stated $1449 price. And where'd you get that $1731 price? Are we talking about the 2018 Air? So confused. FYI, in Texas, Micro Center has the 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD Air on sale for $1199.
 

Big Apple

macrumors member
Jun 30, 2010
84
43

Actually, I prefer it to my 2014 MBP keyboard. I also prefer the noise it makes. Going back to the old keyboard after just a few days feels really odd.
I never thought I'd say this, but I agree. Between the keyboard and the wedge form factor, I'm really enjoying typing on this now. I went on my 2013 MBP the other day to get it ready to sell and it just felt so clunky and awkward in comparison. Hopefully the reliability won't be an issue but I am going to get AppleCare just in case.
 
  • Like
Reactions: HenryDJP

newellj

macrumors 604
Oct 15, 2014
7,239
2,279
East of Eden

Actually, I prefer it to my 2014 MBP keyboard. I also prefer the noise it makes. Going back to the old keyboard after just a few days feels really odd.
I never thought I'd say this, but I agree. Between the keyboard and the wedge form factor, I'm really enjoying typing on this now. I went on my 2013 MBP the other day to get it ready to sell and it just felt so clunky and awkward in comparison. Hopefully the reliability won't be an issue but I am going to get AppleCare just in case.
I'll join that sentiment. I truly hated the first gen butterfly keyboard - it was unusable as far as I'm concerned, but the second gen is far better and I've gotten to the point where I prefer typing on my 2017 rMB to my 2015 rMBP. The wedge front/palm rests are also a big factor, and the rMBA checks both of those boxes.
 

Mildredop

macrumors 68020
Oct 14, 2013
2,410
1,458
I'll join that sentiment. I truly hated the first gen butterfly keyboard - it was unusable as far as I'm concerned, but the second gen is far better and I've gotten to the point where I prefer typing on my 2017 rMB to my 2015 rMBP. The wedge front/palm rests are also a big factor, and the rMBA checks both of those boxes.
And I think I'm right in saying this is the 3rd gen? Might explain why it's finally getting some positive comments.
 

Staindsoul

macrumors 6502
Apr 13, 2010
382
25
Texas
Are you sure you got the price right on that configuration? The 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD Air sells for $1399 from Apple, less than your stated $1449 price. And where'd you get that $1731 price? Are we talking about the 2018 Air? So confused. FYI, in Texas, Micro Center has the 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD Air on sale for $1199.
I was wrong. I meant the 16GB for $1449.

The $1731 is from Apple Store if I was to purchase 16GB 256GB SSD and pay full price and tax.
 

newellj

macrumors 604
Oct 15, 2014
7,239
2,279
East of Eden
And I think I'm right in saying this is the 3rd gen? Might explain why it's finally getting some positive comments.
Could be. Personally, I don't find much difference between the gen 2 and gen 3 - in the sense that both are usable for me, very usable in fact. The gen 3 with the condom layer is a little less noisy and a little less clicks, but for me it's a toss-up. The shocker (for me) is that I came to prefer it to my old favorite rMBP from 2015.
 

DDustiNN

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jan 27, 2011
1,989
807
Could be. Personally, I don't find much difference between the gen 2 and gen 3 - in the sense that both are usable for me, very usable in fact. The gen 3 with the condom layer is a little less noisy and a little less clicks, but for me it's a toss-up. The shocker (for me) is that I came to prefer it to my old favorite rMBP from 2015.
I am equally as shocked. I was very adamant about wanting to keep my old chiclet keys. I refused to buy the MacBook after touching that keyboard for the first time, then I was furious when they updated the MacBook Pro and added the new keyboard, and I was even annoyed that they did it to the standalone keyboard. I clung to my 2011 MacBook Air like it was my last bastion of hope. I did not like this change.

But now I'm glad I waited until gen 3, and I'm glad I finally took the plunge. I really do like this 2018 MacBook Air. A lot.
 
  • Like
Reactions: newellj

newellj

macrumors 604
Oct 15, 2014
7,239
2,279
East of Eden
Gen 2 is very usable, too. It just demands careful hygiene, which is admittedly more than most of us expect to need to give a keyboard. My desktop keyboard at work could probably keep someone alive for a couple of days with all the dried food under and between the keys. :eek: That's what most of us have come to expect from keyboards, and Gen 1 and Gen 2 won't do that. Gen 3? - we'll see.