iFixit Tests Silicone Membrane on 2018 MacBook Pro Keyboard With Dust Exposure

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.


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.


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.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
26 months ago

Does anyone think that they’re intentionally sabotaging their 'MacBook' product line so people move over to iOS?

No.
Score: 46 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
26 months ago

In sum, snorting coke while using MacBook Pro 2018 models won't ruin your keyboard.

Good to know since only drug dealers and the elite can afford the new MacBooks.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
26 months ago
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.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
26 months ago
So we have to choose between a working keyboard and throttled CPU performance, or a non-working keyboard with better CPU performance. OKAY.

⬅ But just look at how cute that Jony Ive emoji is to the left!

Sometimes Apple sucks. Often great, but when they suck they suck hard.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
26 months ago
Which means they will need a complete redesign of everything Mac. MacBook / MacBook Pro / iMac / Mac Pro and Mac mini.

All of them are either outdated, not providing enough value, or has severe design flaws.

it means nothing is perfect...you always can find a situation that puts your thing to the grave

You are correct, nothing is perfect. It just means the Pre 2016 Keyboard are so much more reliable, cheaper to manufacture, slightly easier to repair, less clicks noise, and much better depth of "feel" then what we have now.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
26 months ago
Does anyone think that they’re intentionally sabotaging their 'MacBook' product line so people move over to iOS?
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Warns Against Closing MacBooks With a Cover Over the Camera

Friday July 10, 2020 11:12 am PDT by
Apple this month published a support document that warns customers against closing their Mac notebooks with a cover over the camera as it can lead to display damage. Image via Reddit Apple says that the clearance between the display and the keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances, which can be problematic. Covering the camera can also cause issues with automatic brightness and True Tone....

iPhone Users Who Experienced 'Batterygate' Can Now File to Receive Around $25 Settlement From Apple

Monday July 13, 2020 6:50 am PDT by
Earlier this year, Apple agreed to settle a U.S. class action lawsuit that accused the company of "secretly throttling" older iPhone models. Now, eligible iPhone owners are beginning to be notified about their legal rights and options. Under the proposed settlement, Apple will provide a cash payment of approximately $25 to each eligible iPhone owner who submits a claim, with its total payout ...

Possible 'iPhone 12' Battery Certifications Suggest Lower Capacities Than iPhone 11 Series

Monday July 13, 2020 4:22 am PDT by
MySmartPrice has spotted certifications for three new Apple batteries that it believes could be for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup, despite them being less capacitive than the batteries in the current iPhone 11 series. The batteries are identified with the model numbers A2471, A2431, and A2466, and appear on Safety Korea, China's 3C, and the Danish agency UL Demko. Apple is expected to...

Google to 'Dramatically' Improve Chrome Impact on Mac Battery Life

Sunday July 12, 2020 1:56 pm PDT by
Google will address long-standing battery life issues, particularly on Mac devices, reports The Wall Street Journal. Chrome will improve "tab throttling" by better prioritizing active tabs and limiting resource drain from tabs open in the background. This is said to have a "dramatic impact on battery and performance." Google has reportedly been performing early tests on Mac laptops in...

Arm-Intel-PowerPC Universal Binaries Are Possible

Saturday July 11, 2020 1:42 pm PDT by
Casual MacRumors visitors may not realize that we have a very active PowerPC forum where users discuss issues related to PowerPC Macs that have not been produced since 2006. Threads range from hardware upgrades and software options to nostalgia: Photo by AphoticD Apple's recently announced transition to Apple Silicon (Arm) based Macs raised some interesting questions about future support...

Apple Pays Samsung an Estimated $950 Million for Missing OLED Panel Purchase Targets

Monday July 13, 2020 10:03 am PDT by
Apple in the second quarter of 2020 paid Samsung approximately $950 million for not meeting OLED panel purchase goals established in agreements between the two companies, according to display analysts at Display Supply Chain Consultants. Samsung last week shared guidance on revenue and operating profit for the second quarter of 2020, which included a one-time gain related to its display...

Apple Shares Humorous 'Working-From-Home Thing' Video

Monday July 13, 2020 9:31 am PDT by
Apple today shared a funny video focused on the problems that people working from home have to deal with, including noisy children, chaotic schedules, communication issues, and more. The video focuses on showing off Apple products and their capabilities that can be useful when working from home, such as the ability to scan a document with an iPhone, mark up a PDF, Siri Reminders, and more.The...

SoftBank Considering Possible Sale of Arm Holdings as Apple Gears Up for Arm-Based Macs

Monday July 13, 2020 2:00 pm PDT by
SoftBank, the company that owns chip designer Arm Holdings, is exploring options that include a full or partial sale or a public offering, reports The Wall Street Journal. SoftBank is working with Goldman Sachs Group as an advisor, and the explorations are at an early stage. The Wall Street Journal says that it's unknown how much interest there would be in Arm from financial or industry...

Rumor Suggests New Apple App for Windows Could Be Coming Soon

Tuesday July 14, 2020 1:54 am PDT by
Apple could be working towards the release of a new app for Windows 10, according to a report this week from an Italian website. The blog Aggiornamenti Lumia suggests that an app from Apple is "coming soon" to the Microsoft Store, but stops short of providing additional details. Apple still maintains a Windows version of the iTunes app, which has been discontinued on Mac and replaced by...

Deals: Amazon Taking $400 Off 16-Inch MacBook Pro, Starting at New Low Price of $1,999.99 for 512GB

Monday July 13, 2020 5:34 am PDT by
Amazon has introduced a new low price on Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro today, including both 512GB and 1TB models. Starting with the 512GB model (2.6GHz 6-Core, 16GB RAM), you can get this notebook for $1,999.99, down from $2,399.00. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running....