The difference between cosmetic and functional defects

I own a 2015 MacBook Pro, and I stand with the many owners of the previous generation MacBooks who have sworn off the 2016+ models because of the rampant defects, mostly having to do with the keyboard and Flexgate (where the display cable eventually breaks and effectively bricks the machine). Once this machine dies, I imagine I’ll be headed over to the greener pastures of Dell, but until then, the 2015’s a fine workhorse of a machine.

As is typical for Apple, however, some fanboys have taken up the duty of relentlessly defending the 2016+ MacBook Pros, saying that there’s nothing wrong, and that everyone is overblowing the issue and that we’re all just trying to watch Apple fall.

When even John Gruber is calling Apple’s keyboards the worst in their history, I beg to differ.

This post, however, isn’t intended to be a blow-by-blow recap of Apple Fanboys vs. Everyone Else.

There’s a very specific talking point that the Apple Fanboys use, and it bothers me enough to write about it: That this isn’t Apple’s first rodeo, they’ve shipped defective products before, so why are we bagging on them for the 2016+ MacBook Pros?

Simple: Because this is the first time that Apple has consistently shipped a defective product 4 years in a row and is essentially doubling down on it rather than going back to the drawing board.

The fanboys will gladly point out the GPU failures in the early 2008 and late 2011 15″ MacBook Pros, calling those defects far worse. And I agree with that notion. However, the 2008 GPU failures were fixable. You took your MacBook in, Apple gave you a new logic board with a revised GPU on it, and that handily fixed the issue for most people. The late 2008/early 2009 models didn’t have GPU failures at all, so it was fixed within a year.

Unfortunately, the 2011 MacBook Pros were worse: The GPUs on those models are almost guaranteed to fail; there’s nothing that can be done, and replacements can be issued, but it’s only a matter of time before the new GPU fails again and you’re right back at square one.

But again: The 2012s fixed it…kind of. The failure wasn’t in the actual GPU this time, and the problem is very much repairable, but Apple decided to botch the repair process by just putting shoe rubber on the bottom pan to keep pressure on the defective chip on the board instead of reflowing it properly. By late 2013, the problem was fixed completely.

This brings us around to the previous generation retina MacBook Pros: The late 2013 to the mid 2015 models. For the most part, these MacBooks work great, and many people as I’ve said before are clinging onto these MacBooks for dear life because they’re the last models you can get before Apple decided foregoing reliability for good looks was a good idea.

“The 2015 MacBook Pros aren’t perfect!” The sound of Butterfly keyswitches intensifying as they type their talking points. “They have…they have..STAINGATE!

The audience pauses. Our hero defeated, he walks into an Apple Store and immediately orders a 2018 MacBook Pro. Blasted Staingate! Foiled my plans again!

…or, no. The fanboys would like you to believe that Staingate is this bad, bad thing that makes your machine a pretty-looking brick and that this flaw justifies Apple shipping defective keyboards and display cables in their current notebooks.

Here’s the thing: Staingate sucks and boy I’d be right pissed if it ever happened to my machine. I mean, look at it. That’s disgusting.


Staingate is also a cosmetic defect. It looks ugly, but you can still see past it and use the display. It might be a major detriment to actually using the machine, but the machine still works as an actual laptop.

When the keyboard on your 2016+ MacBook goes, that machine’s functionality is severely hampered, as you either have to 1. Take it in to get the keyboard/upper case swapped (and be without the machine for a week), or 2. Live with it and lug along an external keyboard. As an actual, portable laptop? Your machine is essentially hosed.

As if that wasn’t enough, Flexgate is worse. Your whole display eventually goes out, and while the MacBook may still function, it won’t do so without being connected to an external display. As far as being a laptop is concerned, the thing’s a brick. You now have a more expensive Mac Mini. Apple will fix it…but only within warranty because Flexgate hasn’t been actually acknowledged as a defect as of this writing.

If I had to choose which of these defects I’d rather suffer, I’d probably choose the one that’d mean my MacBook would have to call in ugly for the day but overall still functions as a laptop. To say Staingate and the keyboard defects/flexgate are in any way comparable and one justifies the other is utter nonsense, for these are worlds apart in how they actually affect how the machine operates. This talking point is just as ridiculously outlandish as the Apple fanboys who continue to defend the travesty that the MacBook Pros have become.