So much for Apple’s legendary build quality

Readers of this blog may recall that I bitched about the time it took for Apple to deliver my new MacBook recently. It was ordered on 5 February, finally arrived on 14 February – and broken on 31 March. What did I do to break it? I rested my hands on the palm rest. Is that a user error?

Seriously, I was in the pub last night with Alex and Simon (from ascomi, who are helping me work on a new version of this site) and there was a fair degree of Mac vs. PC banter going on when all of a sudden there was a crack under my right palm and I saw that part of the top cover/keyboard assembly was split at the edge. I had only had the computer in my possession for 6 weeks and have really looked after it – to say that I was not happy is a bit of an understatement. So much for Apple’s legendary build quality.

Split top cover on nearly-new MacBook after 6 weeks of light (and careful) use

As it happens, some people regard the MacBook as the ugly step child of the Apple family – I disagree (hence the reason I bought one) but I do think that it is a little pricey and for that premium pricing I do expect premium build quality. It may not be as bad as the last Dell notebook I used but it is nowhere near as good as my IBM ThinkPad T40 and I have never had a case crack through normal use (drops and inadequate protection in transit maybe).

It seems that the MacBook case crack is a common defect and, whilst Apple refuses to acknowledge it as a design fault (it seems to occur next to the small bevel that keeps the screen and keyboard apart when the MacBook is closed, suggesting that may be causing undue pressure on that part of the top case) but Brian Ford wrote about the same problem four days ago and although getting picked up by John Gruber (Daring Fireball) will have helped, last night had 144 comments on his post. On that basis, this does not appear to be an isolated issue.

Furthermore, the problem has been around for a while now and whilst some reports suggest that Apple has changed the affected component and it does not occur on new models, I see no evidence of that as my computer is less than two months old – I call that pretty new.

I phoned AppleCare as soon as they were open this morning and spoke to a really helpful guy. He asked me if I had taken out AppleCare protection (no, but I have a warranty) and then proceeded to make an appointment with an Apple “Genius” at the Apple Store (I don’t know what’s worse – Apple’s idea that their tech support guys are all geniuses or Microsoft’s idea that there are IT departments full of heroes all across the world) . When there were no slots available, I asked which store he had tried and he said “Oh, most people ask for Regent Street in London”. I said “I’d like an appointment at my local store please” and suddenly there were lots of slots free and I just needed to pick my time!

So, I set off to the Milton Keynes Apple Store, arrived a couple of minutes early, booked in, and saw my name top of the Mac queue at the Genius Bar. Then I waited, and waited, and pestered the sales staff until a (very helpful) genius called Simon came over to help. It seems that the iPod queue and the Mac queue are actually one, and that there was only one genius, who was very very busy with a lot of people to see this morning, meanwhile the shop was littered with trainers and sales staff apparently doing very little.

Thankfully, Simon the genius noted that my MacBook was in “mint” condition (although the Genius Bar Work Authorisation will only allow it to be recorded as “As New”) and there was no argument that it had been mistreated in any way. Apple will be replacing the top cover/keyboard assembly and say that it will take 5 to 7 days but why so long? It should be a 1 hour job (maximum), plus the time to obtain parts and schedule the work – so, 2 to 3 days would be more reasonable. Doubtless I will hear from support technicians who say “you try our job for a day – we work really hard” (to which I say “I’ve been there – and so do lots of people”). In the meantime, I’ll be without my MacBook for a week.

I’ve posted my picture of the issue to the Flickr group that has been set up to highlight this issue. In the meantime, if you are having similar problems, I urge you to do the same and to leave a comment on Brian Ford’s Newsvine article so that he can build enough evidence to (hopefully) get Apple to actually do something about this issue.

7 Comments

  • Tuesday 1 April 2008 - 18:57 | Permalink


    Quick update: I’ve just had a call from the Apple Store in Milton Keynes to say my MacBook has been repaired. Much better than the estimated 5-7 days!

  • Alex
    Tuesday 1 April 2008 - 22:10 | Permalink


    Nice. Goes to show their estimating ability is reliable as their build quality.

  • Wednesday 2 April 2008 - 18:04 | Permalink


    Yes, but sadly when I went to pick up my MacBook it had picked up a tiny scratch on the lid during it’s visit to the Apple Store. It was barely visible but nevertheless present (I had commented to the genius who booked the MacBook in for repair that he put it upside down on the table to remove the battery, whereas I always use something soft because MacBooks are notorius for scratching).

    Anyway, the Apple representative that I saw today did not argue when I told him that I would like the top case replaced (FOC) and they have made that a priority repair. It will take a couple of days to get the part so hopefully I’ll have my MacBook back by Saturday.

    Maybe I’ll use it for my presentations at Microsoft next week ;-)

  • Monday 7 April 2008 - 18:29 | Permalink


    So, I got my MacBook back tonight. The Apple Store called me half an hour before they closed, which meant a “spirited” drive across Milton Keynes to get there…

    They’re replaced the top case now – so much for the priority repair with 2 days to get the parts and 20 minutes to fit them – but my pristine screen is covered in fingerprints and they wouldn’t even let me have the anti-static bag to bring the machine home.

    When I trust my PC to Apple for repairs, I’d like to think that they look after it as well as I do. Clearly they don’t.

  • Simon
    Tuesday 8 April 2008 - 20:13 | Permalink


    I guess that when you’ve fixed the twentieth macbook that day with a splinter on the case, you tend to get a little careless with your greasy McDonalds fingers.

  • Simon
    Thursday 10 April 2008 - 12:39 | Permalink


    Of course, it could have been much worse…

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