iFixit’s 16-inch MacBook Pro teardown reveals the old keyboard we know and love

By Samuel Axon

iFixit's teardown of the 16-inch MacBook Pro uncovered a laptop that is a sort of hybrid between the 2015 MacBook Pro and its butterfly keyboard-equipped successors. iFixit performs and publishes these teardowns both to advocate for repairable devices and to drive its own revenue by selling fix kits to readers.

The team found that the new scissor-switch keyboard has deep similarities to Apple's time-tested, standalone Magic Keyboard, as well as to the keyboards found in Mac laptops before the introduction of the butterfly mechanism. In fact, you can even swap in some of the old Magic Keyboard keycaps. The teardown writeup notes that there is no dust-proofing membrane on the keyboard switches, suggesting that Apple does not expect the same problems caused by particulate matter that users repeatedly ran into with the butterfly switches.

However, the keyboard assembly is still riveted in place, and repairing damaged switches is likely to be no more convenient or cost-effective than has been the case with the butterfly keyboards. Given the positive track record of the Magic Keyboard, you're much less likely to see failures in this keyboard—but if you do, you'll still be dependent on either your warranty or AppleCare to save you from big costs. Even most savvy users likely won't be able to perform the repairs themselves. For this reason and others, iFixit gave the new MacBook Pro a 1 out of 10 repairability rating.

The teardown also found notably larger batteries (totaling 99.8 Wh, barely under the FAA maximum) and a display hinge. Besides the keyboard, the other big story is an improved thermal system. iFixit discovered larger exhaust holes and bigger impeller blades, enabling up to 28% more airflow. This will likely help the MacBook Pro sustain performance on its highest-end CPU configurations under heavy loads better than its predecessors have.

Some of the ensuing conversation in comments and on Twitter has revealed one of the many weaknesses of Apple's "Pro" branding, with many users lamenting "almost no repair choices even though it's a 'Pro' device." Part of the problem with Apple's naming scheme is that "Pro" means radically different things to professionals in different fields. Some professionals might be entirely unconcerned with user-serviceability even as it's a chief concern for others.

Whatever kind of pro you are, though, it looks like the new MacBook Pro is designed to address two of the key criticisms of its immediate predecessor: unreliable keyboards, and inadequate heat management for sustained high-end performance.

We're testing the 16-inch MacBook Pro now, and we'll publish our final review later this week.

Listing image by iFixit