I just gave Apple $1,800. I hope I don't regret it

My struggles with the MacBook Air's decrepit keyboard have reached the point of UFC combat. With Apple suddenly releasing a new version of its worst hardware of the decade, will it be different?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on

Will it be a disaster too?


I've been tempted to throw it across the room. More than once.

At an airport, I was even tempted to have it arrested for being a threat to society.

My MacBook Air, around 18 months old, has regularly earned its place as Apple's worst hardware of the decade.

Please, I've used Mac laptops for 20 years. They've generally been fine and durable machines.

But the last Air's legendary butterfly keyboard made butterflies want to sue for defamation.

One thing you expect with keyboards is that they'll have functioning keys. In my case, the M-key went first. I landed and Heathrow and it simply didn't want to be there. This was somewhat annoying, as Apple Store salespeople had insisted this problem was very rare. It soon became clear it wasn't so rare at all.

By the middle of last year, I'd solved the M-key problem by bashing it so hard that it began to function again.

But then other keys turned to the defective. For example, I had problems with my P. (Please don't.)

I won that battle by bashing too. Could this really work for all the keys? And why should a few crumbs wreck the functioning of a $1,200 laptop?

Things got worse.

In the last few weeks, my Air's space bar has adjusted its status to Permanent Conniption.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it refuses. I type a few words and suddenly look to see that I typed afewwords.

What timing, then, that Apple last week released a new version of the Air, one that claims to have a magic -- rather than tragic -- keyboard.

I was left with a severe dilemma. We're subject to shelter-in-place regulations in the Bay Area. This will certainly last weeks, if not months.

Yes, I could put up with a malfunctioning space bar. But the whole machine is showing truly awful signs of decrepitude. The A- and S-keys merely have ugly smudges were the letters used to be. The rubber around the screen edges is coming away. The whole machine simply feels cheap and ready to expire.

So when I saw that the new MacBook Air starts at a mere $999 -- relatively mere, you understand -- I couldn't help going to Apple's website. Well, when you're stuck at home, it's easy to do.

And that's where the airline-like upsell began.

The $999 was for 256GB. The 512GB? Ah, that'll be $1,299. Oh, but then I'll need 16GB of memory, surely. That'll be another $200, sir. And storage? Well, I want this machine to actually last -- and this keyboard is based on the old, reliable scissor system -- so how about going beyond the GBs and getting a TB? Yes, that's another $200. Add some taxes and there we were at $1,800.

Suddenly, I was sitting by the window in United Airlines Economy Plus.

Please, I know this may have been an asinine thing to do. In my (pathetic) defense, I don't buy every single product that emerges. I went from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone XR. And it may be that being stuck at home made me veer to recklessness.

But a laptop is largely where I make my living and, well, Apple said my new MacBook Air would reach me between March 23 and March 25.

Until I checked out, that is.

Having allowed myself to be weakened -- on your behalf, dear reader, of course -- I stared at a sudden change in the delivery date. April 3 to April 10. What could I do?

This will be the first time I've ever bought a piece of hardware without seeing it first in the metal flesh.

But will it be the last time I buy an Apple laptop?

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