suspect I am the first person in Birmingham, AL to try one of these keyboards. I suspect that because when I went to the Apple Store to see if they had them (for the second time that day), the sales staff said they didn’t. It just so happened that I knew they had just received a large shipment of new product, and so, insisted the sales person go to the back to check. As it happened, they did have the new keyboards along with the other new products announced that morning. None of the products were priced in the system at that time. After all that was settled, I walked out with the first Magic Keyboard to be sold, likely in the state. Here’s what I found:

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

At first, one might be tempted to compare this keyboard to the most recent keyboard Apple made: the one on the 12” Macbook. While that it is definitely a common ancestor, the evolutionary path goes back much further. The similarities to the standard USB keyboard that shipped with new Macs years ago are undeniable.

The width of the new keyboard is exactly the same as the width of the alpha-numeric keys of the old. Although the photo does not do it justice, the hight of the keys from spacebar to function keys is also identical. However, a closer look will show that there is a slightly different arrangement of the keys. It is as if Apple has an idea of the exact size and shape of a keyboard. They take liberties within those outer dimensions, but never waver from the measurements of the x/y axis of the keyboard.

The key layout is more closely related to Apple’s laptop keyboards. In fact, the key layout is exactly the same as the one on the 12” Macbook. That said, the keys, themselves, are quite different. The top row of keys are full-sized rather than half-height as on the laptops. Also, there is a little more space between the keys. This is accomplished by making the keycaps the tiniest bit smaller than the ones on the Macbook. The difference is small enough that you might not even notice.

What you will notice is the feel of the keys as you type. The keys are a bit more raised, providing a bit more key travel. Key travel seems to split the difference between the wired, extended keyboard and the 12” Macbook keyboard. It is a good compromise. Though I prefer the low-travel of the Macbook. Between the old keyboard and the Macbook, if you love one and hate the other, you will probably like this new keyboard just fine.

There is quite a bit more give, forward and lateral movement on these new keys. The Macbook keys don’t move at all until you strike them. Again, the new keyboard strikes a balance between the old and the Macbook when it comes to non-keypress movement. For me, less is better. These keys also have a more satisfying snap than the old keyboard. The Macbook’s keyboard has even more snap although it has less travel. Again, a nice balance has been struck.

The original keyboard was not at all mushy. But this one is even less so. It also takes slightly less effort to activate the new keys, making for slightly faster typing, and presumably, fewer RSI complications. All of these differences are small, but noticeable. Taken together, the Magic Keyboard is a big upgrade.

Charging and Pairing

Apple calls it the Magic Keyboard. But that is more branding than an announcement that the keyboard operates in a new and interesting way. It doesn’t. At the end of the day, it’s a keyboard that looks nice, is built well, and might slightly improve your typing. But there is nothing about it that will make you think it is magical.

However, it is wireless. You don’t have to connect it to your computer to use it. You can pair it just like any other bluetooth keyboard you have ever used. But if you want to skip the typical pairing process, the Magic Keyboard does a nifty little trick. You can plug it into your computer using the supplied lightning to USB cable, turn on the keyboard, and it is instantly recognized and paired with that computer. Feel free to unplug it and use it wirelessly from that point.

You will never need to change the batteries. That is because the rechargeable batteries are built into the keyboard. Fully charged, it lasts for about a month according to Apple. To recherge it, just plug it into your computer with the supplied lightning cable. Two hours gives you a full charge, and about a month’s worth of use. Both the pairing and charging tricks also apply to the new Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse. I will take a look at those next month.

Buying Advice

This keyboard is $99. It is possible that in Apple’s over-engineered universe it might even be worth it. If you can live without a number pad, and find that the old keyboard is taking up too much desk real estate. This is a worthy upgrade. If you are using the battery-powered bluetooth keyboard and are tired of feeding it batteries. This is a worthy upgrade for you too.

I type a lot of words everyday. I’m not exactly a keyboard snob. But I know what I like and what I don’t. This keyboard has a lot more of what I like, and a lot less of what I don’t. Apple does not redesign their peripherals every year. It could be another five years before we see a major redesign. If I have to choose a desktop keyboard that I will be using for the next five years, this is definitely the one. You can order them at apple.com, or pick one up at your closest Apple Store. They are available now.

David M. Johnson

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