The 2018 MacBook Pro Keyboard

Published July 10, 2019 · 569 words · 3 minute read

As an intern at IBM, I was assigned an incredibly high-quality machine: A 2018, 15-inch MacBook Pro with 16 Gigs of DDR4 and the infamous touchbar. To buy this thing new, for personal use, it’d cost me over $3500 of the near-worthless cash we Canadians call Dollars. Certainly a pricey machine, and it isn’t for naught: The screen is excellent. I’m sure that people have suffered for screens like this; surreal clarity, even lighting, vivid colors, a pixel density that’ll let you set the text so small you can read it with a microscope. The screen is fantastic. As art, the build quality and materials are undeniably excellent.

Everything else about the machine, from the engineering of the keyboard and the trackpad, to sacrificing battery life for a thin chassis, the gimmicky (though fun) touchbar, is detrimental to the user experience. It is undeniable that almost every aspect of this machine is a marvel of modern engineering, but without the vision of a competent developer machine behind each hardware iteration… It is easy to conclude that Apple no longer designs professional computers for professionals, but incompetent computers for Python programmers.

The keyboard and trackpad, which I made my best effort to begin using with the open-est of minds, and enjoyed for the first few months, is on the verge of giving me a serious case of carpal tunnel. The force-touch trackpad, which places more pressure on your wrist than a regular button during actuation, will hurt your wrists. With three months of usage under my belt, I can guarantee Apple’s hot new digs will be murder on your fingers and wrists. Even if the force-touch trackpad is designed with longevity in mind, it is very likely that the butterfly keyboard (or your wrists,) will give out long before the trackpad does due to the terrible ergonomics of this machine.

To add insult to literal injury, the keyboard paradoxically feels nice to type on at low speeds. The click of the butterfly switches is satisfying and easy for fingers to recognize. This is the only good thing I have to say about the keyboard. Relish it.

At high speeds, the keyboard is an inaccurate menace that gives such mixed tactile feedback that you’ll be left absolutely mashing the keys to type at a reasonable speed. Those in the room will notice you absolutely banging out that piece of code and, while you’ll be noticed (some people do buy the 15-inch model for this,) after about fifteen minutes your fingers will be so beaten up you’ll have to put them on ice!

All in all, my time with the MacBook Pro’s butterfly switches has been something of a disaster. While I was genuinely excited to use the computer at the beginning of my internship, I now have a deep and growing disdain for this catastrophe of a machine, and judging from the pain in my wrists and fingers, it hates me too.

I admire the careful engineering, but in order for Apple to produce a computer that will please developers who spend all day writing, they’ll need to make a machine that is powerful enough to compute, with battery to last, and a keyboard that is comfortable enough to type on all day. This is not that machine, and it does not have that keyboard. With the extraordinary engineering team at Apple, I have full confidence they’ll get it right someday.