Butterfly keyboard vs Magic Keyboard: Why Apple Ditched The Old Mac Keyboard?

Apple used to develop 2 types of keyboards for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models, including butterfly switches and scissor switches. The butterfly keyboard used to be Apple’s top choice for its MacBook lineup, but it turned out to be a disaster and received many negative reviews. Apple decided to ditch this kind of keyboard and returned to its traditional scissor-switch mechanism. The scissor keyboard gets a new name called ” Magic Keyboard” and it’s now equipped on the latest MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. So what are the differences between the Butterfly keyboard and Magic Keyboard? Why did Apple Have to Ditched the butterfly keyboard design? Let’s find out in the section below.

How a Magic Keyboard Works

The Magic Keyboard uses a Scissors-switch mechanism. As the name suggests, the keys are attached to the keyboard using two plastic pieces that interlock together in an X shape like a pair of scissors. In addition, when you press a key down, the 2 pieces will also close together like scissors. 

This kind of keyboard mechanism is quite popular on laptop models recently. Scissor switch keys might not offer as much travel as some other kinds of keys, but they surely have more travel than a butterfly keyboard. . Additionally, the keys were designed with an Apple-crafted rubber dome that stores more potential energy, so they will provide more feedback when pressing each key. As a result, the Magic Keyboard provides a much more comfortable and satisfying typing experience compared with the older design. 

According to Apple, the new Magic Keyboard will offer the “best typing experience ever on a Mac notebook”. 

How a Butterfly Switch Keyboard Works

Butterfly keyboards use a butterfly-shaped mechanism that’s different from the scissor mechanism used for traditional keyboards. It features the components underneath the key that resemble a butterfly’s wings. Specifically, the mechanism includes a hinge in the center like a pair of scissors and the two sides compress down in more of a V or U shape.

Butterfly keys generally have less travel than scissor-switch keys and there’s less squish and less movement. They feel stiff and shallow in comparison, not to mention the keys are noticeably louder when typing compared to the Magic Keyboard.

The main benefit of a butterfly keyboard is that it is thinner, allowing Apple to use the extra space for more components while reducing the thickness of its Mac models.

Butterfly Keyboard Issues

There are plenty of issues with the Butterfly keyboard, which made it a disaster.

As mentioned, the butterfly-switch keys are simply unsatisfactory to type on compared to the scissor keyboard. But the main problem comes from its unreliable design. As the two halves of each keyboard switch attach to a middle hinge, they unintentionally create a lot of space. Dust, debris, and other particulates can easily accumulate in this space. When all these particulates stick up for a while, they will gunk up the mechanism and prevent it from working properly. 

Apple's MacBook Keyboard Issues - Which Models Are Affected? - Make Tech  Easier

This problem alone has led to several other issues that make users feel extremely frustrated when typing with Butterfly keyboards. Some reported that the keys did not respond when pressed down. Some said the keyboard typed multiple letters. Others claimed that the keyboard was heating up rapidly as the derbies prevented the heat circulation. Besides, the mechanism was so fragile that seemingly any little piece of debris or grit could break a key.

On top of that, there was no actual way for users to get rid of these particulates on their own. The best solution is to replace any affected keys. However, Apple’s unified laptop construction made replacing those keys a struggle. You need to take the laptop to an Apple repair center where the entire device will be disassembled. Not to mention that Apple’s repair program is undoubtedly expensive.

Which MacBook Had The Butterfly Keyboards?

The first MacBook that had a butterfly keyboard launched in 2015. Meanwhile, the last one was released in 2019.

Here is a full list of Mac models with the butterfly keyboards:

Why Apple Ditched Butterfly Keyboards?

In fact, Apple did acknowledge all the problems presented on the butterfly keyboards. The company has attempted to fix these keyboards for several years through various generations and improvements, including the additional membranes to block particulates. Unfortunately, none of these improvements actually worked.

More and more users were running into problems with the butterfly-switch keyboard.  Different tech journalists have called out Apple on these problems in a serious and sustained way. Some even take the idea that these keyboards are fundamentally flawed to the mainstream. For five years, Apple obstinately stuck with this keyboard design, which damaged its own image as well as led to unnecessary hassle and cost for its customers. The dissatisfaction rose up to a level that Apple had no choice but to ditch the butterfly keyboard and adopted the new Magic Keyboard design.

Apple finally addresses its butterfly keyboard problem

The Verdict

And that’s how Apple ditched the old butterfly keyboard for Magic Keyboard.

The butterfly keyboard is surely one of the most controversial and problematic hardware designs in Apple’s history. The decision to switch the entire product lineup over to a new keyboard is a wise move, given the fact that most of Apple’s stores and centers remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and no one wants to buy a laptop with a risk-prone keyboard design during this difficult time.

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