Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Apple’s New Magic Keyboard, Mouse, and Trackpad

Jason Snell:

If nothing else, the new $99 Magic Keyboard seems to suggest that the keyboard dystopia I fear won’t come to be. This is a second new keyboard design from Apple in a year, and this one’s a lot more mainstream: It eschews the butterfly mechanism on the MacBook keyboard for a more traditional scissor mechanism, albeit one that Apple says has been tweaked to provide one of the features of the MacBook keyboard: improved key stability.


The Magic Keyboard’s key travel is about 1mm, less than that on the old Apple keyboards. But typing on it feels much better than the MacBook’s keyboard did. It’s hard to explain typing feel in words, and people can have dramatically different tastes when it comes to keyboards. In general, I’d say I like it. It may well be better than the older model, but it’s definitely different. There’s less travel, but more key stability. The reduction in key travel didn’t bother me; in fact, when I went back to my Logitech keyboard, it felt really weird.

Jacob Kastrenakes:

The keys are made ever-so-slightly wider by reducing the air gap around them, but their actual placement remains identical. The function keys are also changing in size, from tiny rectangles to full square keys. The keys all make a very satisfying tap as you press them.

While the updated keys are essentially in the same place, they type a lot differently. For one, they’re a lot shallower than those on the old standalone keyboard (but not quite as shallow as those on the new MacBook). That’s not as big of a difference as you might think, but it’s compounded by the change in the keyboard’s slope. Each row of keys is now much closer to being level with the rows beside it, which means you have to move your fingers slightly deeper to reach certain rows.

Andrew Cunningham:

Key travel is somewhere in between the old wireless keyboard and the extremely shallow travel in the MacBook, but the feel is more MacBook-y than Apple Wireless Keyboard-y. If you’ve already gotten used to the travel in the MacBook, you’ll have no problem adjusting to this one. If you’re used to the travel in the Apple Wireless Keyboard or in the MacBook Pro or Air, you may hate the way the new one feels.

There is now an integrated battery that lasts a month and charges in an hour via the Lightning port. It automatically pairs via Bluetooth when you plug it in. You can also just use it as a USB keyboard, with Bluetooth off.

Jason Snell:

Also gone is the silver color scheme—the Magic Trackpad 2 is all white, color matched to the keycaps of the Magic Keyboard rather than its aluminum frame. The entire top of the Magic Trackpad 2 is a touch surface—measuring 4.5 inches tall by 6.3 inches wide (the old model was basically a five-by-five square)—and its surface area is 29 percent larger than the old model.

Oh, and did I mention that it does Force Touch?


As on the MacBook, it’s kind of hard to believe that the Magic Trackpad 2 isn’t actually clicking when you push down. The glass does flex with the pressure a little bit, but that clicking feeling is entirely artificial.

I still think that mice are much faster and more accurate than trackpads. The Magic Mouse 2 still looks really uncomfortable. It can’t be used wired because the port is on the bottom.

Update (2015-10-13): Steven Levy:

“When we did the previous mouse we spent so much time dialing those feet, the material, the geometry, everything, so that it sounds good and feels good when you move it on the table,” says Ternus, whose title is VP for Mac, iPad, Ecosystem and Audio Engineering. “But then you change the mass of the product and you change the resonant frequency of the product and all of a sudden the feet that we loved weren’t great anymore. They weren’t what we wanted.”


The original Magic Mouse maximized the surface contact from its runners. But that approach didn’t work with the new version. “It was a little bit sticky — not in an adhesive sense but it didn’t glide the perfect way we wanted it to glide across the table,” says Bergeron. That resulted in the not-right noise.

“The solution was to reshape the high density polyethylene (HDPE) feet. “By actually riding more on the edge this time it was a better experience,” says Bergeron.

Steven Levy:

Schiller, in fact, has a grand philosophical theory of the Apple product line that puts all products on a continuum. Ideally, you should be using the smallest possible gadget to do as much as possible before going to the next largest gizmo in line.

Update (2015-10-14): Kirk McElhearn:

The extra width means that I have to move my arm more to use the trackpad, and I’m hardly using any of that space anyway.


Also, I’m finding that when trying to click and drag one or more icons, I either end up selecting the text of a file, or opening the file(s). It seems like the Force Touch thing prevents me from clicking and dragging. I can turn off the Force Touch feature, but then there’s no real advantage to this trackpad over the previous model (other than not needing batteries).


The height of the trackpad matches the height of the keys on the keyboard, not its body, as is the case with the older devices. As such, it’s sometimes a bit weird to move from one to the other, and I find that in doing so, I hit some of the keys on the right side of the keyboard.

Update (2015-10-15): David Sparks:

Another improvement is the on/off switch. In the existing keyboard, whether or not the device is turned on is always a bit of a mystery. You need to long press on the power button (located on the opposite side of the battery access cover) and that either results in the device turning on or turning off. The trouble is you don’t know until you try. The new keyboard has a switch. The slider background shows green if it’s on and red if it’s off. That’s much better.

Typing on the new keyboard I couldn’t tell any difference from the existing keyboard. Apple explained they’ve done additional work to improve the scissor switches to have 33% more stability and I have no doubt that they have but it felt pretty similar to me. One nice improvement is that the function keys now are full-size instead of half size on the existing keyboard.

Update (2015-10-19): Rene Ritchie:

Right now the Magic Keyboard is somewhere between the MacBook Pro keyboard and the new MacBook Keyboard, which makes sense given the switch. But it does mean I notice whenever I change from one to the other. Context is important but all other things being equal, consistency is a user benefit.

For example, I still occasionally trip up on the arrow keys on both the Magic Keyboard and the new MacBook, and for the same reason—the new spacing eliminates tactile awareness. I think that’s partly because the MacBook Pro still has the older arrow key layout, so I never really unlearn it.

Brett Terpstra:

However, this new Magic Keyboard is killing me. I don’t own one of the new MacBooks yet, but this appears to be the same keyboard. I’m unsure how everyone else is finding it so usable.

The key profile is so low that my fingers have no reference when sensing edges of keys. The response has an odd lag anytime the CPU is pegged, which I do not understand at all. The setup process is very cool (plug in a lightning cable and it pairs instantly), but my first impressions using it have been bad and going downhill.

I’ll be able to get used to the key profile, eventually, but there’s one thing that’s absolutely killing me: the configuration of the arrow key cluster. The seemingly small change in the size of the left and right arrow keys to full height has made it nearly impossible for me to use.

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