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The Keyboard Apple Should Have Made

As you may have gathered from reading, I’m a bit of a keyboard freak. My wife often comments on how many old keyboards I have stacked in my “IT supply closet”. Well, there’s a couple of reason for that. Firstly, I almost never use the cheap keyboards supplied by PC manufacturers by default. They are invariably total crap. Dell is the worst. I’m a big fan of Dell computers. I have an Optiplex running Linux right now. I use it as a file/media server. The keyboard that came with the box was a $10 throw away. Functional, but that’s about the best I can say. I used it for two days before switching to a full-sized Apple keyboard and putting the Dell clunker back in its box and into my closet. After 30 years in the IT business, this process has been repeated a dozen times at least. Next, I’m a sucker for the latest and greatest. I often replace perfectly good keyboards just to try something newer or prettier. Sometimes these newer, prettier keyboards don’t suit me. The action may not be to my liking or the layout doesn’t please me. Whatever. That probably adds another half-dozen to my pile. I’m also a bit nostalgic. I still have my old, original IBM mechanical keyboard that came with my first computer (a real-deal 8088 IBM PC). Besides Apple, IBM was the only PC company to supply a truly high-quality keyboard with their machines. I keep it even though it no longer works properly, thinking I’ll get around to repairing it someday. I’ve had it almost 37 years now. I just can’t bring myself to discard it. It brings back too many good memories.

When my “Matias Wireless Backlit Aluminum Keyboard” arrived the other day, I thought my wife was gonna slap me. Didn’t happen, but she doesn’t know I spent $150 on it. When that credit card bill comes, I got some splainin’ to do! Well, I’ll worry about that in a couple of weeks. For now, I’m just going to enjoy typing on this wonderful keyboard. That’s no exaggeration. This thing looks and feels like a million bucks. I’m gladly replacing the Magic Keyboard that came with my new iMac. This Matias model checks ALL my keyboard boxes… 

  • Bluetooth Wireless (no more dongles for me, EVER!)
  • Nice tactile feel
  • Full-size (I really miss a numpad when I don’t have one)
  • Aesthetically pleasing (and sturdy)
  • Backlit (my aging eyes really need the light)

First, this keyboard pairs with all my devices. There are four special keys above the numpad and pressing each will connect the keyboard to a different device. My only problem is remembering which button I assigned to what. #1 is easy. It’s the first machine I connected, my iMac. After that, things get a little fuzzy. #2 and #3 are for my iPhone and iPad, but I’m not sure which is which. Anyway, it’s a good problem to have. With the press of a single button, I can switch from one to the other. I have a Logitech K811 that sports the same functionality to three devices. My only knocks on the K811 is that it isn’t full-sized and doesn’t really look like a Mac keyboard.

Next, this Matias rig is a real pleasure to type on. The keys are well-spaced and have a nice “springy” feel. It supplies just enough tactile feedback so that there’s no mistaking when a key is pressed. One of my knocks with Apple’s Magic Keyboard is the short travel of the keys. I’d gotten used to it, but when I switched to this Matias it felt like I was home again.

The number pad is simply a matter of personal preference. Apple has obviously opted to forego a number pad on their Magic Keyboard for the ergonomics of a smaller footprint. I’m sure it’s what the vast majority of people want. Just not me.

This keyboard, like every Matias keyboard I’ve ever seen, is very well made and beautifully crafted. It’s about ¼” longer and ⅛” taller than Apple’s full-sized USB keyboard. The keys on the model I purchased are black and the face of the board is buffed aluminum. Matias also sells a space gray model for the same price that matches the looks of Apple’s space gray machines. Aside from the black keys, this keyboard looks almost identical to the Apple’s desktop offering and is the spitting image of my MacBook Pro’s keyboard. The aluminum face and plastic base are quite sturdy. It feels totally solid whether sitting on my desk or my lap. All-in-all, it’s a keyboard worthy of sitting in front of my beautiful 5K iMac.

Last (but by no means least), Matias saw fit to include backlighting. It’s the feature that won me over. Unlike many backlit offerings from other manufacturers, this keyboard’s backlight shines mostly through the letters on the keys with very little elsewhere. This requires a degree of manufacturing precision that’s woefully lacking in many of the backlit keyboards I’ve tried previously. Additionally, you can choose from ten levels of brightness by pressing a couple of keys. Plenty of adjustment to suit any room lighting level. The power for the backlighting is provided by a second rechargeable battery. This is the only backlit keyboard I know of that sports this feature. According to Matias, the regular keyboard battery should last about one year on a full charge and when the backlight battery dies it doesn’t affect the function of the keyboard.  I’ve only had this keyboard for about a week, so obviously I haven’t tested battery life, but having owned other Matias products I tend to believe their claims. The backlight does turn off automatically after 20 seconds of non-use to save the batt.

My only beef with this keyboard is it didn’t come charged and the instructions are very explicit that it needs to be fully charged before first use. According to the user manual, a full charge from dead takes 9 hours. I put mine on an Apple iPad (2A) charger when I first unboxed the keyboard and it took 7 hours for the amber charging indicator to turn off. Like all my toys, I wanna play with them as soon as I open the box. This time, however, I experienced keyboardus interruptus. Additionally, the keyboard doesn’t report battery charge level to Apple’s Bluetooth utility and Matias doesn’t provide any accompanying software, so battery levels are a guess. According to the docs, the backlight will automatically dim when the backlight battery gets low. In a week that hasn’t happened. The main keyboard battery will show a red indicator LED in the caps lock key when that battery needs charging. (The same LED that glows amber when the keyboard is charging.)

Aside from those two minor annoyances, I’m extremely pleased with this keyboard. It is a real pleasure to type on and I love being able to use it with my iPad and iPhone. Being full-sized, it really fits my lap well. I’ve had problems with other “portable” keyboards being too small to fit my (rather large) lap if my legs weren’t pressed together. That works for a couple of minutes, but it isn’t long before my junk wants some breathing room.

One caution. This keyboard doesn’t have adjustable legs. Like the Apple full-sized keyboard, there’s a rectangular “box” underneath at the top of the keyboard. (I’m assuming that’s where the batteries reside.) For me, it makes for the perfect typing angle, but for those of you who like more tilt, you’re gonna have to provide that yourself.

All-in-all, this is the perfect keyboard for me. It has the looks. It has the feel and functions you can’t normally find in one package. It certainly lives up to what I’ve come to expect from Matias. This is a quality product. If I didn’t know better, I could be tricked to believe it was made by Apple.


I wonder why they didn’t?

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