External keyboards

Thanks for the info, that’s good to know. I’ll pass it on.

I’ve used Matias keyboards for 10 or 15 years.

I’ve had great experiences with their mechanical key switch models-those are workhorses.

Their newer “Apple” style aluminum keyboards have been far less durable. I’ve had several of the wireless keyboards have battery issues-not charging or really short run-time, even after fully charging. I’ve had the keycaps pop off and and those aren’t able to be re-installed. With the wired units, the lettering on some of the keys has worn off, I’ve had issues with the keycaps as well, and one or two that have just stopped working for no apparent reason.

Perhaps it’s that I tend to buy keyboards in batches, then over time hand them out to people in the office who need a new keyboard, so many of them sit in a box for 6, 8 or even 12 months. With a wired keyboard, this isn’t an issue, but the wireless ones often have a dead, or close to dead, battery when I finally crack the box open.

To Matias’ credit, they have done replacements for me when I’ve had battery issues at or shortly after the warranty expiration on basically unused units. However, I feel that the overall build quality of the thin keyboards just doesn’t measure up to the full-size mechanical units.

And now that I’m down to my last two Apple wired keyboards (bought about 20 when they were discontinued), I’m hoping that the quality issues I’ve experienced previously have been addressed.

Does anyone have experience with recent purchases that they can share?

Thanks.

Cheers,
Jon

1 Like

I’m in the same boat. I want a numeric pad and I want USB.

Is there any other almost exact replacement for Apple’s, apart from Matias?

Back when the Apple Magic Keyboard was new, people discovered that it will work as a wired USB keyboard if you use a USB-lightening cable to connect it to a Mac. It worked even when the Mac’s Bluetooth interface was disabled.

It’s a bit expensive for a wired keyboard, but it is another option to choose from.

Unfortunately, if I remember correctly, this doesn’t work for the magic trackpad. It might theoretically work for the mouse, but with the lightening port on the bottom, it doesn’t really matter.

1 Like

Nice idea, @Shamino. Personally, I don’t care for a trackpad, but I do want a USB mouse, ideally attached to the KB. The lack of USB port for that on a Lightning-attached keyboard kind of rules out that idea for me.

Is it just me or has the key separation changed on the new MBPs compared to that of the old butterfly MBPs (like my old 2013 13")? On the new MBP I seem to be hitting neighboring keys more often. I wonder if my old Apple Extended KB (Al) has key separation that more closely resembles my old 2013 MBP rather than my 2020 MBP. And if so, I’m curious if I’ll see more trouble going back and forth between the two now than I used to. Of course that’s somewhat moot since that external KB is in my office and I most likely won’t be back on campus until Jan 2021 at the earliest. Sigh. :wink:

It works for the Magic Trackpad. I have both the Apple Magic Keyboard with the Number Pad and a Magic Trackpad running constantly with my iMac usually via Bluetooth. Every 2 to 3 weeks, the trackpad runs down to 9% Battery left and I plug it into the USB Lightning Cable that I have permanently attached to one of the iMac’s USB ports. When I do that, the Bluetooth connectivity ceases, but the Trackpad response is still perfectly fine. I also have a Magic Mouse, and, because the Lightning port is on the bottom, it becomes MIA when being recharged.

To my mind, trackpads and keyboards are much better candidates for cabled computer connections than mice. Since the devices are static when in use, you don’t need to worry about the cable interfering with your use, unlike mice. I’ve never seen a trackpad marketed with only a wired connection (with the obvious exception of a trackpad integrally part of a laptop).

1 Like

Boy do I have a lot to say about keyboards. But I’ll keep it brief. What a world keyboards have become. I’ve spent many years reading about keyboards and trying to find a satisfying one. I’ve put years of thought into this subject.

Currently I use a Ducky One 2 with Cherry Brown switches. Very clacky and loud. It’s a solid keyboard and one of the better ones I have used. Maybe the best. I recommend it. I bought it for $100 from mechanicalkeyboards.com, a great web site. Mechanical keyboards are good for people who do a lot of typing. They are much easier on the hands, wrists, and arms. They evoke the keyboards of the past. I expect to pay $150 for a solid, long lasting keyboard.

I tried Matias. I liked the feel of the switches, but I went through three Quiet Pros in less than one year because the keycaps kept breaking off. They’re not the kind you can pop back on again. I really wanted to like those keyboards, but the quality was v. poor. Lightweight plastic, the keyboard was always sliding around the table. Unresponsive keys. Many problems.

If you are interested in detailed but offbeat insights into keyboards, take at the look at the keyboard reviews by Thomas (aka Chyrosran22) at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD0y51PJfvkZNe3y3FR5riw. Truly an eccentric, he might know more about keyboard technology than anyone I’ve seen. Beware his salty language and ribald insults. His interest is mainly in vintage keyboards, but he has done so many reviews that recent models have been included. He’s an expert at key switch technology.

Another YouTuber I like, Dave Lee, made a recent review called “I Found the Perfect Keyboard” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADEh9F0Lidc). Lee has excellent judgment. He is a bright guy who tells you exactly what you need to know. No wasted time, no wasted words, no silly on-air shenanigans. He’s a real pro who is careful with his words and opinions.

1 Like

Ah, I just saw your post about the Macally keyboard. I had one too. I used it for so many years and was quite happy with it. I have fond memories of that reliable keyboard from a bygone era. Not as good as my Ducky, though.

I know it’s been awhile since I responded but I’ve read all the replies! I was hoping to get to Staples at some point to see if they have any out but it may not be possible until the world is a little more settled with Covid. Everything seems to say out of stock.

I’ve been using the Macally iKey since my wireless died enough that I can’t use it anymore. I’m getting back into the swing of it and especially love the numeric keypad - feels so much like my adding machine. But as much as I was trying to eliminate some of the wireless devices around me - boy do I hate having a wired keyboard!

I will update when I ever decide on something new - thanks!
Diane

Getting tired of Apple’s “let’s make these keys have even less vertical travel” approach, I bought a Keychron K2 a few months ago. It’s a great keyboard.

It works with Windows and Macs (including the respective “native” keycaps), supporting wired operation via USB-C or wireless via Bluetooth. For the latter, you can pair the keyboard with up to three machines, and switch between them with a simple key combination. It’s even backlit.

Most importantly, it’s a true mechanical keyboard with Gateron switches, that are comparable to Cherry’s. You can from three switch models: Red (quiet), Brown (tactile with a gentle click), and Blue (clicky as all heck :smiley: ).

The overall typing feel is absolutely phenomenal, and your fingers can easily find and find the desired keys due to the shape of the key caps. As a consequence, I make a lot fewer typing mistakes and my hands don’t get tired nearly as quickly as they do on current Apple keyboards. And, boy, does it sound nice, too: reminds me of what typing used to feel like a few decades ago.

The only drawback is that the designers placed dedicated Page Up/Page Down/Home/End keys in a vertical column directly to the right of the normal layout. As a result, it’s easy to hit Home instead of Return. If you’re a true touch typist, though, this shouldn’t be a big issue.

The company also offers a variant with a number block, dubbed the Keychron K4.

If you’re in the market for a new external keyboard, definitely have look at this company’s offerings.

1 Like

Wow those sound great! Looks like they have a 104 key option as well and it looks like they can all work wired?

I don’t think my 2015 MBPr is USB-C though - is that backwards compatible?

Thanks!
Diane

Since it is USB, not Thunderbolt, you should be able to use a basic adapter cable. A cheap USB 2.0 adapter should be fine, since keyboards are not high-bandwidth devices.

I didn’t look through all of the models, but the user’s manual for the K4 says:

  • The Keychron keyboard is compatible with all USB ports. Please use a 5V 2A adapter or USB 3.0 for the best performance.

This seems to agree with my assumption. The only downslide to a USB 1/2 port is that those ports provide less current (up to 500 mA) so it will take longer to charge the battery. But that shouldn’t matter if you prefer to use it as a wired keyboard.

Absolutely, because it requires just USB. So get one of these for $9 and you’re good to go.
https://www.amazon.com/Anker-Powerline-Pull-up-Resistor-Samsung/dp/B01A6F8IUM

Other deals:
https://www.amazon.com/Anker-2-Pack-Premium-Charging-Samsung/dp/B07DC5PPFV
https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Type-C-USB-Male-Cable/dp/B01GGKYLW0

1 Like

I have a Leopold FC200RT/AB that I purchased in March 2013 for $99. I am using it with my second Mac Mini, a 2018 model that replaced a 2012 Mini.

The Leopold uses cherry switches (the version escapes me at the moment. . .) which I have modified by adding tiny rubber o-rings that changes the travel distance and lowers the sound level. Never had an issue beyond needing to remap the Command key using the keyboard preference pane (I bought a blank keycap and trashed the Windows logo version that came with the keyboard LOL). The key cap legends are all there although some keycaps are a bit on the shiny side. Of course, being a mechanical keyboard all the keys can be easily replaced.

My Leopold is a “tenkeyless” i.e. it lacks a numerical keypad. One option you might find attractive is combining a tenkeyless keyboard with a separate numerical keypad. It has a number of possible uses besides saving space when not in use. . . For example, some lefties place the keypad to the left of the keyboard for use with their dominant hand.

There are a zillion keyboards these days and I am glad that I went with a mechanical keyboard for the reliability and pleasant typing experience. If you would like to see a lot of options Mechanical Keyboards has the largest variety that I’ve been able to find. Some of the lacquer painted keyboard frames are works of art.

The (Official) Mechanical Keyboard Guide is a great primer about mechanical keyboards. Mechanical Keyboards also has an informative educational section on its website.

3 Likes

New article at Wirecutter picked Ducky for its best compact mechanical keyboard. But I’ve never cared for backlighting. It’s a gimmick.

@countermoon sorry to disagree with you on the backlighting. I have very bad eyes and for me the backlighting is a gift - amazing how many times it has helped out and saved me from numerous goofs. The advantage of the backlighting in many of the keyboards I’ve used is that you can turn it off if you wish. Thanks for the link so we can check it out!

Of course, there’s functional backlighting like what Apple laptops have, where the letters light up in a dark room. That’s great and I love it. Variations where the entire keyboard (via translucent key caps) glows are also useful.

And then there’s eye candy. Like RGB animations that follow your fingers as you type. These are gimmicks. Gimmicks that some people like and are willing to pay for, but gimmicks nonetheless.

1 Like

@Shamino thank you for that clarification David. That makes all the sense in the world and is what I would call silly junk, useless to those of us who need real tech in the tools we work with! Let the buyer be-ware!!

I was wrong. I thought it was a MacAlly that I used many years go, but it was a MacSense. Very obscure.

One other thing. The exact spacing of the keys may be important for those of us who learned on electric typewriters. I tend to make a lot of typing errors on my Ducky. I fondly recall the Model M I used 20 years ago—a loud keyboard that made me type better and faster, but it did cause hand fatigue. That was a wide board and I suspect a closer approximation of a typewriter keyboard. Keyboards today are made narrower, I guess to accommodate having to reach for the mouse.

There may be a keyboard out there that will work better for you. . . Something between the Ducky and Model M. There are so many designs available with a wide assortment of key switches. The trick will be whether the keyboard specs will provide the info needed to select the size that suits you.