Flexgate: The design flaw behind MacBook Pro’s ‘stage light’

“The Touch Bar generation of MacBook Pro always had its quirks, but the thin-at-all-cost design may finally be proving more trouble than it was ever worth,” Taylor Dixon writes for iFixit. “The latest issue to crop up — dubbed ‘flexgate’ by one of our users, Alex — reveals that the compact design for the display’s flex cables is prone to fatigue and failure, leading to a host of display problems that can’t be easily (or cheaply) fixed.”

“The issue is fairly simple: the current generation of MacBook Pro laptops (2016–present) uses flexible ribbon cables to connect the display to a display controller board beneath the Touch Bar,” Dixon writes. “These cables wrap over the board, where they’re secured by a pair of spring-loaded covers—and they’re subjected to the stress of bending with every opening and closure of the laptop. Within a seemingly short time, those cables are starting to fatigue and tear. The backlight cable is generally the first to go, producing the infamous ‘stage light’ symptoms, and eventually giving out entirely when the laptop is opened more than about 40°.”

“Apple opted for thin, fragile flex cables as opposed to the beefier wire cables used in previous designs that could be routed through the hinge instead of wrapped around it, helping mitigate the stress of repeated openings and closings. But the bigger problem is that, in an apparent effort to make the display as thin as possible, Apple designed the cables as part of the display, so they cannot be replaced,” Dixon writes. “This means that when (not if) those cables start to fail, the entire display unit needs to be replaced, as opposed to one or two little cables — effectively turning a $6 problem into a $600 disaster.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: There’s likely to be more fallout from this to come and, depending on how widespread this is, result in an Apple MacBook Pro display repair program eventually.

20 Comments

    1. They’re not going to fire Jony Ive who is a living legend at Apple. I’m sure he’s the one to make these thinness design decisions. What’s odd is Apple doesn’t make the thinnest laptops, so why don’t other companies have these same problems (being smeared all over the internet). I hope Apple doesn’t decide to use any foldable display technology because I’m sure a lot of people are going to be upset with Apple if anything goes wrong with it.

      Apple is supposedly into the greening of the world but makes these wasteful and costly design decisions. I honestly don’t understand Apple’s reasoning, at all. It’s as though Apple is trying to deliberately ruin itself when it comes to product repairs.

      1. “Living legends” have to use a lot of cycle testing to prove the preproduction models DO NOT FAIL.

        Obviously the living legend was to busy playing with his cars or shotguns to attend to even verify that flex tests were actually run.

        Humbling for Goliath to be taken down by a puddly wire.

      1. Thankfully I have a 2015 MBP (work) and a 2012 (personal) MBP.

        Just the other day I was able to fend off an effort by higher-ups to replace my work MBP with a Windows laptop. If the work MBP goes though, they will almost certainly not authorize a Mac replacement.

  1. The new MBP design (since 2016) is the reason for the company I work in (around 500 people) to delay some of the hardware upgrades. It just asks for the overheating and a costly repairs. It makes you pay a few hundreds dollars for a worthless functionality (a TouchBar). The battery lasts a few hours less. The keyboard dust non resistant? We’re not buying it. Will there ever be a great Apple pro laptop again? I would hope if there was a reason to believe so.

  2. thinness shows Jony Ive’s design fatigue.

    Because he’s actually not a techy all his contributions are ‘shape and form’ so after creating a great basic shape for the Macbook series years ago he’s not sure what to do except make them thinner. He’s not much into CPUs, or GPUs etc as he doesn’t have an engineering degree (that’s left to the other SVPs).

    But because he has so much clout, they say No.2 to Cook, he leads product direction. Because he can’t contribute much to Macs anymore he doesn’t seem very interested in them (when is the last time did you hear him give an interview on the Mac vs endlessly talking about things like the Campus, Watchbands etc ?) hence so many issues like unnecessary bugs , certain non user friendly features, underpowered, slow updates of many Mac models.

    Another example of thin problems is the new Mini which could be bigger and have a GPU slot. Also the bigger Mini two generations ago had easy to remove RAM with a simple spring clip (takes one minute). Why does a desktop need to be so thin and loose so much functionality?

    Steve Jobs was interested in both art and engineering. His leadership is sorely missed. As others pointed out Jobs rejected the first few versions of the iPhone Ive came out with.

    1. And thinness in of of itself as a design objective is not necessarily best for the customer, or Apple. Time to stop designing devices for Munchkins Jony at the expense of functionality and upgradability. What in Sam Hill do you think you’re proving? No one is applauding you. No one, just mad as hell at you.

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