It’s likely, when historians look back on the Kingdom of Apple, that the recent iterations of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air will go down as among Apple’s greatest nonsenses.
I’ve had my own keyboard issues with my MacBook Air, less than six months old.
However, a tale offered by photographer and developer Greg Benz might truly give you the bends as to how it reached the depths it did. Or, perhaps, the heights.
It seems that his 2018 MacBook Pro had a recurring problem. So much so that his Pro underwent four complete failures.
As he describes it: “The first two motherboard replacements seemed odd, but I was given a completely new laptop from Apple on the third failure. Just like before, the screen was pure black after clicking the power button and there was a slight fan sound. The only other indication that anything was alive was that the machine would still make an audible chime when plugging in power and the capslock key light could be toggled off and on.”
This clearly vexed Benz. I suspect it would drive most people demented. You’d think that someone at Apple might be driven demented by the amount of replacement money that seems to have been spent here:
“So after losing about two weeks of my time, >$10,000 in Apple warranty repairs (two logic boards, new cables, and a complete replacement of a >$7,000 computer), troubleshooting input from several Apple Geniuses, level 1 and 2 tech support from Apple Corporate, diagnostic tests at the Apple Store, and diagnostic tests twice at Apple’s repair facility in Texas; what was the root issue?” says Benz, knowing how to hang a cliff hanger.
He seems, you see, to be made of determined innards. He went to yet another Apple Genius and this one proved to be true to his moniker. Or, perhaps, he just stopped and thought a little longer than his fellow experts.
You see, he diagnosed there was nothing wrong with Benz’s MacBook Pro. The issue, if you want to call it that, was that the screen brightness was turned all the way off.
Explained Benz: “He used the flashlight function on his phone to shine on the laptop screen and could see a little circle where your login avatar would show (and this was incredible difficult to see). It turns out that the screen pixels are updated even when the backlight is off (at least if the clamshell is open). But even he spent a good 20+ minutes trying other things before he thought to do that.”
Benz understands his tale is funny. He does, though, beg for mitigating circumstances. It seems that when you boot up your Pro, it turns on in the state you last left it. So, if you turned the screen brightness off, that’s how it’ll wake up.
If you want to get it going, you have to log in. But how to log on when your screen is dark? And how would an Apple Genius know that this might be the issue?
There’s no point reaching for the brightness control on the touchbar. That, says Benz, doesn’t work until you log in either.
But wait, I hear you cry. Why was Benz turning off his screen brightness? Because he hooks his Pro up to an external monitor.
And, oh, had no one at Apple ever thought that something like this might occur?
As Benz painfully and painstakingly laid out, external monitors are disabled during boot and login. An external keyboard seems non-functional as well.
Naturally, Benz points something of a finger at Apple: “The Apple troubleshooting guides are out of date. They do not note that if you have a firmware password on a T2 Mac, you cannot reset PRAM as expected and therefore cannot resolve screen brightness issues this way. You also cannot run diagnostics due to the black screen. And lastly, they should probably ask users to try to log in blind knowing this list of shortcomings above. [Note that I use and recommend firmware passwords for security reasons, including to disable a thieve’s ability to turn off ‘Find my Mac’ by simply holding down a few keys during boot.]”
You’re wondering if there might be a solution, a workaround that’s slightly better than throwing your MacBook Pro against a wall.
Benz offers that you can log in blind: “Type the first letter of your login name, click <enter>, and type your password to successfully login.”
Well, I never. No, I really never, as I’d never think to turn my screen brightness off.
Naturally, I contacted Apple to see how it felt about this tale of merciless Benz pain. I’ll update, should I hear.
Never mind Benz’s blind login, however. Marvel at his blind loyalty to Apple.
His verdict: “I’m disappointed at the level of troubleshooting support here and felt let down/abandoned during some of the customer support interactions. But I stand by my original review that this is an excellent computer and once again feel confident in fully endorsing it for photographers.”