MacBook Pro 2016 Backlight Problems – Again

Crassula hottentot in a porcelain lady pot
Trying to keep calm

Repair website iFixit announced in 2019 that that the 2016 MacBook Pro had backlight issues caused by a design flaw. A delicate flex cable in a tight space tends to wear after the display is repeatedly opened and closed. Shortly after this, my display started playing up.

I was shocked, having experienced excellent reliability on my 2009 iMac, which still works, though very much in its own time, to see its replacement fail before it.

After hours of research and online chats, I was referred to an Apple Genius man who arranged for the screen and sticking keyboard to be replaced. From memory, the repair took ten days. He assured me that the replacement screen would not develop the same problem. Just coming up for two years later, it has.

The visual effect is not exactly the same – it’s worse. The first time round, the screen developed pale bars across the bottom. After a few days of trying to ignore these, the screen went black. A few horrified experiments later, I discovered the screen would work provided the lid was barely open, enough for a hasty last information grab/back up, etc.

This second time, I noticed a small amount of flickering at the bottom of the screen a couple of times. The effect was fleeting and faint enough to allow me to persuade myself I might have imagined it. But my heart sank.

MacBook Pro with flickering lines on the display
Display with flickering lines

A week or so later, the backlight issues are back with a vengeance. Patches of flickering purple and blue horizontal lines appear all the time across the screen in six columns. The left side is more lightly affected, and in green.

I am booked in to see an authorised Apple repair company and am hoping they will agree to repair it under the same 13” MacBook Pro backlight program, but will keep you posted.

My experience suggests that the affected MacBook Pro 2016 models would be a risky second-hand purchase, even if refurbished, especially once the backlight repair programme ends.

The Guardian reports that one UK-based fashion company advises buyers to work to quality standards that assume a dress will stay in its owner’s wardrobe for less than five weeks. For those of you who think that makes sense and that I am foolish to expect a 2016 model to be functioning in 2021, I am guilty as charged. Major purchases should be fit for purpose and should last, not be designed to be replaced. Older models will not have the most up-to-date features, or be the fastest, but I can live with that.

Meanwhile, forgive my apparent neglect. I will be back when I can read and write without the dreaded flickers which can not be good for the eyes.

Update: My MacBook was away more than two weeks having a second replacement screen fitted. I’m told all our repairs are done in the Czech Republic. I’d like to hope the new screen will last longer than the previous two. 

29 Replies to “MacBook Pro 2016 Backlight Problems – Again”

  1. A very similar problem to one of the better Olympus zoom lenses. A flex cable develops a fault and the lens becomes unusable. I did some research when my lens died and discovered lots of reports of repaired lenses dying again. So I decided to replace it with a different model.

    1. I’m sorry you’ve suffered something similar. I don’t know how we’ve ended up thinking it is OK for premium product to break after a few year’s normal, careful use and it is our responsibility to fix it or get another.

  2. I’ve missed you and am very glad indeed to know that it’s your computer that’s sick and not you. It’s easy to worry these days. I agree that your eyes would suffer badly from trying to look at that screen. This kind of frustration is absolutely NOT what we need right now! I don’t know who Cressula Hottentot is, but she certainly seems an emblem of the time, what with her brains turned to green macaroni and writhing out of her head. Keeping calm is more and more the challenge, especially when we’re expected to believe that things we pay actual money for should last as long as breath on a window. I hope everything will be fixed soon.

    1. I’m sorry to have worried you and thanks for your good wishes. Crassula hottentot is the name of the succulent in the pot. It’s also known as the Jade necklace vine. I am calm enough, having given up the ghost and sent it for repair, but am not a happy customer.

      1. Oh, I don’t doubt that! I wouldn’t be happy either. That’s a succulent? I love the name and the photo — it really is very representative of me, and probably of a few of my friends.

  3. I’m with you in believing that things should last longer than the length of time manufacturers think we should be happy with, so keep on pushing. Having said that, I have no faith in Apple as I’ve been having an argument with them for at least eight years now as they won’t allow me to change the email address I first registered with even though it is now obsolete. Oh, the reason I need to be in contact with them is that my IPad continually wants to open on a site I used only once in an emergency in France but it’s still there despite me having deleted it. As I can’t re-open on that site, I try to contact them but ….. my email address is not recognised! Grrrrrrrr! Good luck with your problem.

    1. How frustrating. Have you tried booking a Genius Bar appointment? You won’t be able to do it online if you can’t access your account but if there is a store nearby, you could call in at a quiet time and see if they can help.

  4. Consumerism is a huge problem for the planet and these marketing teams are appalling in their blatant lack of regard for the environment. I hate to sound some old and cranky Boomer, but I miss the days when one could expect quality from something that costs a lot.
    Hope your computer issues are resolved soon!

    1. Thanks, Eliza. I agree completely. I hope the cycle is starting to turn round again, but time will tell. If you can rely on customers to purchase again from your brand when the product fails, there is little incentive to build to last. We have just had some legislation that enshrines the right to repair. It is much more limited than the slogan implies and does not apply to much, but it is a step in the right direction.

  5. Oh, I’ve missed you too. But what a pain. I always buy second hand laptops, and have only just replaced my last one which was by the time it became cranky, some fifteen years old. I think this one is about five years old and it jolly well better give me ten years or so! You might guess it’s not a Mac.

    1. Thanks for missing me, Margaret. Do you have a favourite brand? I have brought down and reconnected my old 2009 iMac, updated a few things so far as I dare and, fingers crossed, it’s working. Not being portable is no doubt easier to engineer.

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