How is Your Butterfly Keyboard Holding up?

BY Evan Selleck

Published 21 May 2018


Finding a computer you want to use is a very personal search. You’re looking for certain elements, whether it’s specific specifications, features, pricing, or something else entirely, you navigate bullet points on spec sheets and feature lists until something you want to throw your money at. For me, personally, it really does come down to the keyboard experience.

Which shouldn’t be too surprising, all things considered. I spend the majority of my day in front of my computer typing on that keyboard, so it matters how well it works. But, at the same time, I’ve never been particularly picky, either. People have been expounding the virtues of mechanical keyboards to me for years, and yet I’ve never been a real fan. I’d certainly never want one for my daily writing routine.

I’ve typically stuck with what’s available on the laptop I’m using at the time (never been a real fan of desktops in years past, but that’s starting to change).

And while I’ve never stuck with a Windows laptop for very long in the last five years or so, it usually hasn’t been the keyboard that’s kept me at bay. That usually falls on the trackpad, which, up until very recently, hasn’t been anywhere close to the performance of the MacBook’s trackpad.

But I haven’t hated the keyboards at all. The Dell XPS 13, especially in the last three years or so, has been great. I’ve liked the Type Cover on the Surface Pro lineup. And there have been other options, too.

I can’t say that I was blown away by Apple’s butterfly keyboard setup with the 12-inch MacBook when it first launched. It felt . . . fine, for the most part, but it wasn’t good enough by any means to get me away from the 13-inch MacBook Air I had at the time. But then it came time for me to upgrade, and the second-generation butterfly keyboard in the recent MacBook didn’t feel like utter mush. When I tried it out a few times in stores it felt fine, and touch-typing on it was great. I felt like I could retain my typing speed, which is important.

I’ve had my 12-inch MacBook now for two years, and I’ve watched as this call for Apple to replace the butterfly keyboard for something else –practically anything else, depending on who you ask– has gotten louder and louder. People genuinely believe that Apple manufactured these keyboards to fail, or just otherwise be terrible. I don’t necessarily believe that, but I can also say that my experience with this keyboard has definitely gotten worse since the time of purchase.

There are moments where I’ll hit a key, especially the “L” or “H” or “E”, and I know I’ve hit it just fine, because I’ve been typing on this thing for two years, and just nothing happens. But the thing is, it happens randomly and it isn’t just those keys. Full disclosure: That last sentence? It missed the “S” and “O” more than once.

I do my best to keep this keyboard clean, to keep materials and dust from getting under the keys, but at this point I feel like it just doesn’t matter. And if this is a design decision that Apple wants to stick with, this type of issue has to go away. I had some random Dell laptop for years and I never had an issue with the keyboard. I never had an issue with my MacBook Air, either, which I had for quite some time.

But two years in with the 12-inch MacBook and I kind of hate this keyboard now.

I don’t know what Apple has to do to fix this, but the reason this annoys me so much is that, 1) Yeah, I’m using the keyboard for extended periods of time every day, and missing keys on a completely random basis is irritating, but 2) Because it doesn’t honestly feel like any of the keys are broken — just that they decide to not work sometimes.

As far as I can tell, following several passes with condensed air, there isn’t anything below the keys — and yet, it still misses from time-to-time.

So, I’m curious. If you have picked up one of Apple’s newer MacBooks, the ones equipped with the first- or second-generation butterfly keyboard design, how is your experience so far? Has yours dropped in quality over a stretch of time? Or is your keyboard still working as great as it was on day one? How would you like Apple to fix their keyboard situation?