Fine Tuning Keyboards

That stupid thing I do where I compare computer electronics to cars, and everyone disagrees.

Since we finally have a new keyboard out from Apple, it is high time we look at what keyboard options there are. Since Keyboards map well to cars I think it is best to look at the in this vein. People tend to care a lot about their car, or not at all, and for the small group that resides somewhere in the middle: they tend to only know what cars they do not like. It is in that sense that I think keyboards fall into the same relationship with people, as do cars.

Most people probably don’t care about their keyboard.

And those that do care, typically care deeply.

There is the same small group as with cars, who just know what they do not like in their keyboard.

This is for people in the latter group, because if you don’t care I cannot help you, and if you do care about keyboards then you will disagree with everything I write here. But if you don’t “get” why people would care, but do know that there are certain keyboards you could never type on, then this is for you.

Since I have been using the Magic Keyboard recently, I thought I would look at some of my favorite keyboards over the years, and how they map to the car world in hopes of helping you along in the process of carrying deeply about the tool you likely use a lot in your life.

Apple Wireless Keyboard 2011

Yeah, that’s the official name from Apple, but it’s the wireless keyboard before the one they just released — and it is widely loved by a great many people. It is also the first keyboard I actually gave a crap about. With looks so lovely in comparison to any other bluetooth keyboard you could buy, it was hard not to lust after it for the desk beautification properties alone.

At the time it felt identical to the Mac laptops — which is to say it felt perfect for a great many people. It had a ton of accessories which came out for it over the years, and ultimately it became a staple of many Mac users. I personally owned 5 of them at one time or another.

In this light, the Apple Wireless Keyboard 2011 was basically your perfectly capable sedan, complete with stupid naming. It’s not an economy car, as it has to look better than other cars on the road, but it’s nothing special either. In almost every scenario, for almost every person, this was the best keyboard.

CODE Keyboard (and Mechanical Keyboards in General)

While I greatly prefer the CODE Keyboard, with Cherry MX Clear switches, this section really is for any mechanical keyboard. Because they are all the same rabbit hole. Which is why this is basically the easiest class of keyboard to categorize.

Mechanical keyboards are your ‘drivers car’. They are specialized keyboards which you buy, not because one is better than the other, but because one evokes more passion in your finger tips than any others.

This is really one of those statements that you either get, or that you don’t get and I won’t be able to explain to you.

For some people this type of car is a ’69 Camaro RS/SS, an E39 M5, a Ferrari F40, a classic 911 — and so on.

Just like with my E39 M5, and my CODE Keyboard, I fell in love with them because they both made me feel at home. They both took something that can be mundane, and made them a joy to do.

They both tire me out more than other options to use, but they also both add so much more joy and passion that they are worth the extra work.

Cherry MX Clear/Blue/Brown/Red, Topre, whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find the right one for you. When you find the right type for you, just like when you find the right car for you, a connection will be made with that tool that you wouldn’t otherwise get with other tools. It’s not that these tools are better, or even the best, it’s that they often are far more enjoyable than “the best”. Which, in a way, makes them the best for a great many people who spend more time than they care to admit at a keyboard.

Apple Magic Keyboard

This is Apple’s newest creation and the reason for this post. I have been using one for some time now, and have become quite partial to it. The Magic Keyboard marries what Apple had with the Wireless Keyboard and what they created with the MacBook (12” Retina) keyboard. Larger keys, less key travel, and a new layout.

But more than anything else, it’s a marvel to look at.

Where the Apple Wireless Keyboard 2011 was lovely, the Magic Keyboard is a work of art. And it makes your desk look amazing. It’s unreal how small and thin it really is.

It is also no longer the perfectly capable sedan. Instead it is a sport version of that same sedan. Almost nearly as good in every aspect, with improved speed and looks, but the sporty nature makes it lacking in some obvious areas.

Many will like this keyboard a lot better, as they find the larger keys, or the bold design, well worth any other trade off. Overall the shorter keystrokes will lead many to type faster, just like a sporty sedan will cause many people to drive faster as it is not so much the sedan, as it is the concept of being faster that causes one to speed up.

But, like with the firmer suspension on a sport sedan, the new arrow keys will mess a good many people up. Some will never be able to adjust, just as some will never be able to accept the key travel.

Whereas the Apple Wireless Keyboard 2011 was perfectly average, with almost no opinion outside of styling, the new Magic Keyboard has opinion and a fair amount of it.

The Magic Keyboard is gorgeous beyond any doubt.

It is solid and well made.

However it does ask you to be OK with certain things, and offers you no compromises if you are not OK with those things.

It is the sporty sedan. With better looks, a touch more speed, and a lot less comfortable suspension. Many will like this more, and enjoy the little quirks that make it the keyboard it is, but there will be a good amount of people that will just never understand why you would spend money on something like this. I think most people will find it to be a nice plus overall.

Apple MacBook 12” Retina Keyboard

And then Apple made this keyboard, and my god is it a divisive one — perhaps more than any other keyboard out there. Currently (to the relief of many) it only exists on the 12” Retina MacBook (hereinafter MacBook).

You either love this keyboard, or you hate it. There truly is no middle ground here with the MacBook keyboard. Because of this, I think this is, again, an easy keyboard to categorize. I’ll put it as a supercar.

I don’t mean it is a supercar because it is the best keyboard out there, because that’s not what a supercar is at all.

A supercar is simply a highly impractical car.

Usually, it is impractical due to body design, or for the sake of raw performance. This also isn’t a race car, those are different entirely from supercars.

Like a supercar the MacBook keyboard should not exist, because there are simply better options out there — like all those listed above.

And yet, many people want a supercar, just as many people actually like the MacBook keyboard (myself included). People desire supercars because there is a statement to be made when you own a supercar.

Supercars are unforgiving. They don’t take bumps well, or even go to the grocery store well. Supercars require you to learn them, instead of them being able to adapt to most drivers. It can be rather dangerous to drive a supercar fast.

And that is the MacBook keyboard in a nutshell.

It is unforgiving if your fingers are not adjusted and trained for it. You can’t just touch-type, you have to touch-type for the MacBook keyboard.

It is for this very reason that I love the MacBook keyboard.

It makes the machine feel more precise, and because of this precision you will either type faster, or type sloppier. I type faster. Not everyone does, but it is most certainly the super car of keyboards. It looks stunning and in many cases is impractical, but for those that want to take the time to adjust to it, it can be truly fantastic.

Those Ergonomic Split and Curved Jobbers

These are highly specialized keyboards which are akin to a Smart car, or a Fiat 500. In other words: like the people who buy those cars, I just don’t understand them.

Terrible cars. Terrible keyboards.


The one thing I know here is that nerds will never agree on keyboards. But the Magic Keyboard is a really solid upgrade for anyone using the Apple Wireless Keyboards.

The Magic Keyboard’s biggest hangup isn’t the key travel, but rather the arrow key layout. This is something quite a few people I know simply cannot get used to and for good reason — it lacks a good feel when you are feeling for an arrow with your pinky.

The MacBook keyboard though, that’s really just not for everyone as it requires time for the user to adjust to the keyboard. There is little forgiveness an therefore a lot of frustration from people trying out the keyboard for the first time.

If you take the time to find the right mechanical keyboard for yourself, then you are really going to feel at home when you type. It sounds weird to say that, but anyone who has found the right mechanical keyboard, will instantly know what I mean. Having said that, a mechanical keyboard will always look like a huge brick on your desk. No matter how you dress up a mechanical keyboard it will not fit with the sleek design of modern Macs.

Lastly, we have to pour one out for the Apple Wireless Keyboard 2011. It was a well loved keyboard who did its job perfectly well over the years. I am sure there are many out there stocking up on them, but its time has passed. I wouldn’t bother trying to keep hold of this keyboard, but I can certainly understand those who don’t want to let it go.

I can’t tell you which keyboard is the best for you, but I can say that mechanical keyboards are a very expensive adventure and the Magic Keyboard probably will be just fine for you.

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