Review: Apple's Magic Keyboard was made to hit the road

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited November 2015
With a compact, sleek design and Lightning-rechargeable internal battery, Apple's Magic Keyboard is a prime candidate to replace your current portable keyboard, though its utility for Mac owners is less clear.




The keyboard is for many users the main mode of inputting data into their computer and as such becomes the primary point of interaction between human and machine. It therefore needs to be comfortable, easy to use and robust in construction.

I have always preferred function over form. Most of my work is accomplished on a Mac mini hooked up to an old IBM Type 102 keyboard, a beast of a device with loud and solid mechanical switches. In fact, I've grown somewhat dependent on this "clicky" tactile feedback, it lends itself to fast, accurate typing.

With its quiet scissor switch keys , I expected the Magic Keyboard to fall into that ilk of accessory that provides underwhelming performance and mushy key feel, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that is not the case.

Design

My first thought when taking Magic Keyboard out of the box was that it's small, but looks can be deceiving. The keyboard's footprint is diminutive at 10.98-inches wide and 4.52-inches deep, but full size keys underpinned by sturdy mechanisms make it feel much larger in use.




As we have come to expect with Apple products, the build quality is top notch with stiff plastic keys set into a wedge-like aluminum body. A white plastic bottom cuts down on excess weight, while four rubber feet -- one on each corner -- prevent the 0.51-pound peripheral from slipping around. Also, thanks to a new internal battery design, the tallest point on Magic Keyboard's wedge shape tops out at 0.43 inches.

Keys include the usual assortment of function buttons for quick system access to media and volume control, screen brightness for a laptop, Mission Control and more, while a lone status LED sits under the Caps Lock key. Around back, Magic Keyboard has a physical power switch, a lightning port for recharging and a cutout in the aluminum case to allow for better Bluetooth transmission.

The Magic Keyboard can be turned off if you want to save power, but it also senses when you are not using it and go into a lower power standby mode. According to Apple, the keyboard can be charged to full in about two hours and should go about a month or more on a single charge with standard use.




Apple kept its other Magic accessories in mind, as the keyboard's lines perfectly match those of the Magic Trackpad 2. And with snow white exteriors, the peripherals are aesthetically consistent.

Setup and usage

When purchased separately, Magic Keyboard comes with a lightning cable for charging and pairing purposes. When the keyboard is connected via cable to a host Mac, OS X throws up a notification informing users that it's ready to use, no configuration required. If you are uncomfortable digging into the settings of your Mac to pair Bluetooth accessories and want things to "just work," this keyboard is for you.




As previously mentioned, Apple chose to implement an upgraded scissor mechanism under each key, which it claims is 33 percent more stable than past designs. Indeed, we found the key platform to be rock solid, though the design inherently limits key travel. I was somewhat unaccustomed to such a short downward stroke, but it became natural the longer I used the keyboard.

In general, keys are large enough to provide a comfortable typing experience that doesn't feel cramped or constrained. Importantly, I was able to type swiftly and accurately and there is a very subtle sound and solid tactile feedback when typing. The only keys I had trouble with were the up and down arrow keys, which carry over the half-key design from prior Apple keyboards but are now flanked by full size left and right arrow keys.

On Mac the Magic Keyboard is an incremental upgrade, but when paired with iPad, iPhone, or even Apple TV, its small size and lightning port make it a great keyboard to use while traveling. My iPhone 6s Plus has become a preferred method of typing and data entry when on the go, and while it won't replace a laptop, pairing the Magic Keyboard provides the next best thing.

The build quality of the keyboard lets you know it's going to last for years with normal use and can take the rigors of travel if you do decide to use it as a portable keyboard. Plus, with Lightning-enabled charging, you only need to take one extra device when traveling: the keyboard itself.


Conclusion

The Magic Keyboard, while a nice incremental upgrade, is not a must have purchase for desktop users, especially those already in possession of an older Apple wireless keyboard. For road warriors and iOS power users, however, the keyboard's portability and internal battery, not to mention aesthetics and build quality, make it well worth a look.

Personally, I'm too accustomed to my old time mechanical keyboard to change to Magic Keyboard full time. Away from the Mac, however, Apple's new peripheral is a welcome addition to my iOS hardware arsenal.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Pros:
  • Compact build with full sized keys
  • One month between charges
  • Great size for travel
Cons
  • Incremental hardware upgrades
  • Pricey at $99
  • Odd arrow key layout

Where to buy

The Magic Keyboard can be purchased for $99 from AppleInsider partner MacMall or Apple.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    dugbugdugbug Posts: 283member
    Wish it had a back light. Does it have multiple device pairing like the Logitech?
  • Reply 2 of 29

    If you're comparing to IBM, Thinkpads always had the smaller arrow keys, with the mirrored bevel on up/down. The new island style keyboard moves up/down even closer.

  • Reply 3 of 29
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,086member
    Can you line up the Apple keyboard and retake the photo? Should show the main part is the same size as IBM keyboard.
  • Reply 4 of 29
    gordygordy Posts: 978member
    Ditto on the backlight.
  • Reply 5 of 29
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,534member
    Not a fan of those left-and-right arrow keys. I quite often use the reverse-T layout of the arrow keys on my existing MacBook Air to get my hands in place without needing to look at the keyboard.
  • Reply 6 of 29
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post



    Can you line up the Apple keyboard and retake the photo? Should show the main part is the same size as IBM keyboard.

     

  • Reply 7 of 29
    ejieji Posts: 38member

    Can the keyboard be used while charging via the cable?

  • Reply 8 of 29
    qo_qo_ Posts: 37member

    eji: "Can the keyboard be used while charging via the cable?"

     

     

    Yep.  Indeed, it can be used with Macs that don't support Bluetooth 4.0 if connected using the Lightning cable i.e. it acts like a wired keyboard in this case.

    One thing to mention -- especially in the context of using this as an iOS peripheral -- is that it lacks dedicated keys for iOS gestures like  invoking the app switcher (or whatever one calls the mode when the home button is double clicked or Force Touch invoked from the left screen edge).  So, I'd add this to the "Cons" section in the article (again, especially since the reviewer is recommending it as a complement to iOS devices).  That said, I'm happy with this keyboard and use it with a 6s Plus.

  • Reply 9 of 29
    yuck9yuck9 Posts: 79member
    Nothing new here except the rechargeable battery and it's a killer keyboard ? lol

    Make a full size lighted cordless keyboard and then you have something new.
  • Reply 10 of 29
    jdwjdw Posts: 786member

    Summary:

     

    • Great as a portable keyboard for iOS devices.

    • Sucks if used as a primary keyboard on the desktop.

     

    I agreed with the above assessment even before reading this review, which is why I ordered the wired keyboard with numeric keypad along with my 5K iMac.  Make a FULL keyboard (with numeric keypad) that is WIRELESS, and I will be all over it.  The loss of tactile feedback isn't as big a loss to me as the numeric keypad.  I want a full keyboard, yet wireless, from Apple.  Whether Apple will even release such or not is irrelevant.  I still want one.

     

    But I am not too broken up about it.  As a consolation, the wired keyboards come with 2 USB boards on either side, giving yet another reason to forgo wireless keyboards.

  • Reply 11 of 29
    maxitmaxit Posts: 214member
    jdw wrote: »
    Summary:

    • Great as a portable keyboard for iOS devices.
    • Sucks if used as a primary keyboard on the desktop.

    I agreed with the above assessment even before reading this review, which is why I ordered the wired keyboard with numeric keypad along with my 5K iMac.  Make a FULL keyboard (with numeric keypad) that is WIRELESS, and I will be all over it.  The loss of tactile feedback isn't as big a loss to me as the numeric keypad.  I want a full keyboard, yet wireless, from Apple.  Whether Apple will even release such or not is irrelevant.  I still want one.

    But I am not too broken up about it.  As a consolation, the wired keyboards come with 2 USB boards on either side, giving yet another reason to forgo wireless keyboards.
    The article didn't say it sucks, by no means....
  • Reply 12 of 29
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,980member
    Great keyboard, mine magic keyboard is still good and no way I'm going to waste $99 to upgrade.
  • Reply 13 of 29
    jdwjdw Posts: 786member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MaxIT View Post



    The article didn't say it sucks, by no means....

     

    The article author said he personally wouldn't use it on the desktop because he loves his ancient keyboard instead.  Not using it implies "suck."  Indeed, on my iMac at the office, I still use a Macally ikey (semi-transparent) which was purchased around the time I acquired a G4 Cube.  Love the numeric keypad and the tactile feedback.  So when I purchased my 27" 5K iMac a few days ago, I said "no way!" to the magic keyboard because it truly would "suck" without a numeric keypad.  I purchased the 5K iMac with the wired extended keyboard.  And like I said, you also lose 2 USB ports when you go wireless too.  I might forgo the USB ports if a numeric keypad version of the Magic Keyboard ever came out, but until then, I'll stick with the wired Apple keyboard with keypad.  It does not suck, by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Reply 14 of 29
    *I LIKE YOUR KEYBOARD*

    Not the Apple one. The main battletank one.
  • Reply 15 of 29
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JDW View Post

     

    Summary:

     

    • Great as a portable keyboard for iOS devices.

    • Sucks if used as a primary keyboard on the desktop.

     

    I agreed with the above assessment even before reading this review, which is why I ordered the wired keyboard with numeric keypad along with my 5K iMac.  Make a FULL keyboard (with numeric keypad) that is WIRELESS, and I will be all over it.  The loss of tactile feedback isn't as big a loss to me as the numeric keypad.  I want a full keyboard, yet wireless, from Apple.  Whether Apple will even release such or not is irrelevant.  I still want one.

     

    But I am not too broken up about it.  As a consolation, the wired keyboards come with 2 USB boards on either side, giving yet another reason to forgo wireless keyboards.


    Anyway, wired is safer. I have had enough problems with wireless Apple keyboards (no clue about non Apple ones, never used that). When things go south, and they WILL, given enough computers and time, you want the safety of wired.

     

    Also, some software packages really want the numerical pad, among which Blender, which is the only affordable and good 3D software for indie studios, imho.

     

    Typed from an office where the only wireless keyboard is gathering dust ;)

  • Reply 16 of 29
    From jdw:
    Make a FULL keyboard (with numeric keypad) that is WIRELESS, and I will be all over it. The loss of tactile feedback isn't as big a loss to me as the numeric keypad. I want a full keyboard, yet wireless, from Apple. Whether Apple will even release such or not is irrelevant. I still want one.

    I have an Apple Wireless Keyboard that has a numeric keypad. A1016. Still works and uses 4 AA batteries.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=A1016 Apple Keyboard&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&imgil=ioTvHYG0eOidxM%253A%253BVRHbNMLZ_vuzBM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.itplus.us%25252Fstore%25252Findex.php%25253Fmain_page%2525253Dproducts_all%25252526disp_order%2525253D2%25252526page%2525253D11&source=iu&pf=m&fir=ioTvHYG0eOidxM%253A%252CVRHbNMLZ_vuzBM%252C_&usg=__ZgtMOs1njUF1GJCWi01WuKJteQU%3D
  • Reply 17 of 29
    zabazaba Posts: 226member
    That's really odd. I am sure a recent tear down on here said that the keys did not use the new butterfly method that Apple invented but instead used the old method, can anyone confirm which is true?
  • Reply 18 of 29
    mr omr o Posts: 1,046member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zaba View Post



    That's really odd. I am sure a recent tear down on here said that the keys did not use the new butterfly method that Apple invented but instead used the old method, can anyone confirm which is true?

     

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    ...

    As previously mentioned, Apple chose to implement an upgraded scissor mechanism under each key, which it claims is 33 percent more stable than past designs. Indeed, we found the key platform to be rock solid, though the design inherently limits key travel. I was somewhat unaccustomed to such a short downward stroke, but it became natural the longer I used the keyboard.

    ...

     

    Apple updated the scissor key mechanism instead of adopting the new butterfly keys.

  • Reply 19 of 29
    mr omr o Posts: 1,046member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    ...

    For road warriors and iOS power users, however, the keyboard's portability and internal battery, not to mention aesthetics and build quality, make it well worth a look.

    ...

     

    Some clever accessory maker should design an iPad cover with integrated sleeve for the Magic keyboard.

  • Reply 20 of 29
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,926member
    How is the arrow key layout odd???
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