Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Brief Reviews of (Nearly) Every Mac Keyboard

Griffin Jones (via John Gruber):

The Apple Desktop Bus Keyboard is first to include a power button, the Snow White design and the ADB port, three welcome additions. The lower key travel makes sustained typing a little easier. The mechanism has a very cleanly defined click, although it feels more brittle than premium. I rate it 4⁄5 stars.

This was a terrific keyboard that I first used with an Apple IIGS. It arguably feels better than the Apple Extended Keyboard II, but it’s missing the page navigation keys and function keys, and it had the arrow keys arranged in a line. So I ended up using the latter with my Macs, even into the USB era.

The AppleDesign Keyboard is a cheap cost-cutting imitation of the Extended Keyboard. It doesn’t even have an embedded Apple logo, just its silhouette punched into the mold of plastic. The symbolism that Apple was only a shadow of its former self in the mid-90s could not be any clearer. I rate it 2⁄5 stars.

This one just felt bad. The keys sprung up slowly like it was sticky inside, and they didn’t click enough when pressed down.

From 2007 to 2016, this [Aluminum Keyboard] keyboard design reigned supreme across all Macs. The flat black keycaps are more attractive and higher contrast, for sure, but at the expense of usability. I rate it 4⁄5 stars.

This is what I’ve been using since encountering Bluetooth flakiness with the wireless version and macOS 10.12, along with missed keystrokes when logging in even on later releases. (These problems seem to affect all Bluetooth keyboards, not just Apple’s.) I’m not sure why he says it has black keycaps. I still like this keyboard. The only flaw has been that the letters completely wear off.

For notebook keyboards, I still think the generation before the butterfly (e.g. on the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro) was better than the post-butterfly scissor design (e.g. on the 2019 MacBook Pro).


4 Comments RSS · Twitter

I remain very fond of the 2007 to 2016 Apple Aluminum Keyboard but it seems very difficult to find replacements nowadays. I have found Satechi's keyboards feel very similar. They both have a little bit more key travel than Apple's modern "Magic" keyboards, but still a lot less than ancient 20-30 year old Apple keyboards which I now find tiresome. Unfortunately the ones I have bought have an unusual layout for numpad math operators, and pretty-much useless FN keys. But at least regular typing feels good.

Tim Buchheim

I still have my IIGS keyboard. It did have one flaw (besides the missing keys and dumb arrow key layout): the way the ADB connectors are attached is not well designed and repeated stress on the connectors over time causes them to come loose from the PCB. It's easy to re-solder them, but it's a pain. I used my GS as my primary computer from 1989 through 1996 (when I upgraded to a PowerTower 180e from Power Computing) and the last few years of that I used an Apple Extended Keyboard II. I used that keyboard with my PowerTower too, as Power Computing's keyboard was as bad as the AppleDesign keyboard. I eventually got rid of it. I don't remember why; I think it broke in some way that I couldn't fix at the time. I wish I still had it.

Now when I fire up my GS I use a modern aluminum Apple keyboard (with the wonder Wombat USB-ADB adapter) although I still have the original GS keyboard. I mostly use the Wombat so I can use a decent mouse (every ADB mouse I've ever used is awful) and at that point I might as well use a modern keyboard, too, as I've become too accustomed to the modern layout to use anything else.

To me, the AppleDesign Keyboard is the perfect keyboard. I like it a little mushy.

I have 5 of them, with 2 untouched. I will likely be buried with one of them at this point.

Beatrix Willius

Did anyone at Apple use the butterfly keyboard at all? Why did the make users suffer so long with the crap keyboard? After 7 months I had to unstick the a. The r is also back to almost normal.

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