Apple aluminium keyboard

Date: 2009-04-05 14:00:25 Created: 2009-04-05 09:30:45

Closeup of my aluminium keyboard.

I have for a long time been a big fan of proper clicky keyboards. I love the feel of the keys, how the way each press feels make me feel like I'm typing something important. But I also have a soft spot for well-made keyboards at the opposite end of the spectrum. I have always liked typing on Pomum, my now rather aged twelve-inch Powerbook. Still, when Apple came out with their ultra-thin aluminium keyboards I was hesitant. Too little key movement is never nice, even if it makes it more effortless to type it can also make it feel less controlled and precise.

In any case, my worries quickly evaporated once I got to try one for myself. The travel is indeed short, and the feel is a little bit stiff, but it feels very solid and I quickly started enjoying typing on it. I now think it's my third favourite keyboard, with the mighty Model M in first place and the Pomum-era Powerbook keyboard second. This one does have technical advantage over the Pomum board, like command keys on both sides and numeric keypad, but I still think Pomum feels a little bit better.

Another great thing when you compare to Apple's previous keyboars is that this one eliminates a lot of places where grime could easily end up and remain highly visible yet very difficult to remove.

Nits to pick

Something I immediately disliked, and have kept disliking, is how the aluminium keyboards messed around with the function keys and how they work. By default, ten of them are assigned to various shortcuts, and the shortcuts have both been altered and moved around compared to the older keyboards. Previously, the three possible invocations of Exposé were on F9 to F11. But now, the default assignment is that there's only one Exposé button, and that's F3. Just pressing it gives you all windows, CTRL + F3 gives you the windows of the current application and Command + F3 shows the desktop. I personally find this tideous and a worse solution than before, and it feels especially odd since there are actually two unused F keys nearby.

Fortunately, you can make the F keys behave as F keys by default by checking a box in the keyboard preferences. Then, you get Exposé back to F9 to F11 as before, but you have to hold the fn button to invoke the other shortcuts. That means adjusting volume or screen brightness suddenly got a little bit harder, but for me that feels like a worthy tradeoff.

Uexpected bonus

Apple keyboards usually have a pretty short cord, supposedly as most Macs are designed to be on the desk and close by in any case. But it turns out that when you purchase the keyboard separately like this, you get a nice white extension cord with it. So I can type this leaning back in my chair, far from the screen and with the keyboard resting in a great writing position on my lap.