Orthogonal to the discussion about the MacBook and its single USB-C port last week, I got to thinking about the one Apple peripheral that I’d love to tweak. If I had my druthers, I’d love to produce a customized version of Apple’s new Magic Keyboard.
The Magic Keyboard made its debut in 2015 with the refreshed Skylake-equipped iMac that Apple offered late in the year, along with the Magic Mouse 2 and the Magic Trackpad 2.
Apple’s wireless keyboards were overdue for a change; they hadn’t been updated since 2009. The older keyboards used Bluetooth for wireless communication but depended on removable AA batteries (Apple sold an optional, expensive set of rechargeable batteries, though you could use others as well).
The Magic Keyboard looks different than before. Apple’s gone with a more wedge shape, and it’s integrated a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack inside. The keyboard charges using a Lightning cable, just like the iPhone and iPad. And the batteries last a good deal longer per charge than the old keyboard managed.
The shape isn’t the only thing that’s different in the Magic Keyboard. The keyfeel of the keyboard – the way the keys feel when you press them – is dramatically different than it was before. That’s thanks to some clever engineering inside the keyboard replacing the scissor mechanisms that rest under each key.
The keyboard feels much more stable than before, and keys travel less distance with each keypress. The net result, in my experience, is a more precise sensation of typing that enables me to type faster and more accurately with less hand fatigue.
After using it for a couple of months, I have to say that the Magic Keyboard is the best keyboard I’ve used from Apple since the legendary Extended Keyboard II. It’s a real pleasure to type on. In fact, I’d like to type on more of it.
In my fantasy, I’d create a 101 or 104-key layout based on the Magic Keyboard, complete with number pad, cursor and function keys. I’d also throw in backlighting, because I’m fantasizing anyway. I often keep the office lights dim but still want to be able to navigate the keyboard – I’m accustomed to backlighting on my MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and even have it on a Moshi Luna keyboard I use with a Mac mini.
I’m something of a traditionalist when it comes to keyboards. Almost without exception, my favorite keyboards rely on mechanical keyswitches. They produce a much stiffer, more tactile response (and often a louder audible “click”) than the membrane pads underneath most modern keyboards.
So the appeal of Apple’s new keyboard surprised me, because it’s not the sort of tactile response I’m accustomed to. If you haven’t gotten your hands on the Magic Keyboard yet, I heartily invite you to an Apple Store so you can check it out for yourself.
If all this sounds twee, here’s the thing: I spend my day on a computer keyboard. As a writer, stuff like the feel of the keys I’m pressing is incredibly important to me. So yeah, I spend a lot more time thinking about this stuff than I probably should.
Apple’s not going to make the product I’m looking for, and I’m fine with that. I’ll keep an eye out for suitable third-party replacements, but in the interim, I’ll be enjoying the Magic Keyboard.