I have been through an extraordinary number of keyboards over the years from bargain basement models with the bare minimum of features to expensive ergonomic models, the features of which I often found more of a hindrance than a help. That was back in the days when I owned, and primarily used, a windows PC. My one ‘keyboard consistency’ was the wired aluminium model attached to my 2007 Mac mini, a keyboard that proved supremely durable with an excellent typing feel and plenty of handy one-touch functions via its function keys. When I finally ditched the PC and with it the Windows OS in favour of an all Mac setup, a 2014 Retina MacBook Pro and its internal keyboard took over.
Fast forward to today when a couple of years down the line, a 2015 MacBook Pro sits at my desk, though with an external keyboard positioned to its side. I find this a much easier arrangement as the Mac is out of the way of the inevitable drink spillage, and the smaller keyboard can be easily pushed aside when the desk space is required, something that was virtually impossible with the Mac owing to the cables connected to either side. I’d been using the faithful wired keyboard until it randomly stopped working during a typing session a couple of weeks ago. I can only assume one of the aforementioned spillages finally got the better of it. A wash and thorough dry did nothing to bring it back from the dead and as excessive wear was causing keys to randomly fall off when typing, a replacement was in order.
I immediately knew I wanted an Apple keyboard. I am used to the typing feel and love the design, but most of all the integration of the keyboard function keys within MacOS is makes them a joy to use. Thankfully my need for a replacement keyboard coincided with Apple’s release of the Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, essentially a wireless version of my previous model though with the updated design and switches of the smaller Magic keyboard, the successor of the wireless keyboard introduced in 2007.
The magic keyboard isn’t dissimilar in design to previous models, with white keys on an angled silver aluminium slab, finished with a glossy plastic base and non slip robber feet. The typing angle is shallower than previous designs though still remarkably comfortable, and the keyboard is slightly though not significantly smaller than previous generations. The layout is much the same with six neat rows of keys spanning the keyboard’s length, though the distance between the keys has been reduced and the arrow and function keys enlarged.
Unlike previous wireless generations the Magic keyboard features an internal rechargeable battery, Apple claiming a months usage from a single charge which from my usage thus far I would say is more than accurate. I purchased mine on 20 June, it’s now 7 July and my battery is still at 71%, despite me forgetting to turn the keyboard off at night and using it heavily for at least 10 hours per day. Based on this result, I expect a further 4 weeks before I see the battery warning, and I could extend the battery life by some degree if I switched the keyboard off when not in use.
On the back is an antenna bar, a lightning port and a power switch. Connecting the keyboard to a Mac with the included lightning cable instantly pairs it, avoiding the need to mess with Bluetooth settings. Pairing it with an iOS device is relatively straight forward too. If no device is connected, the keyboard will quietly sit awaiting a pairing request. Sadly unlike other keyboard models the Magic keyboard supports only 1 simultaneous device, and cannot switch between a number of connected devices – a Mac, an iPhone and iPad, for example. Apple does not mention compatibility with iOS devices, the box stating only that the Magic Keyboard requires a Bluetooth-enabled Mac with OS X 10.11 El Capitan.
As you would expect, the Magic Keyboard integrates well with the Mac OS. Its battery status is shown under the Bluetooth icon in your Mac’s status bar, and the function keys operate just as they always have. There is no backlighting and the F5 and FF6 function keys do nothing to adjust the backlighting on the internal keyboard of my MacBook Pro, as they would when using the keyboard on the machine itself.
Typing feel is decent, though it does take some getting used to. The Magic Keyboard uses a traditional scissor switch mechanism though with significantly reduced key travel, somewhere between the keyboard of my MacBook Pro and that of Apple’s 12” MacBook ultrabook, which uses a different mechanism entirely. The keyboard is quiet particularly if you’re a light-handed touch typist, and while the lack of travel does take some getting used to, the keys are springy and responsive enough that extremely fast typing is possible with minimal error.
My biggest gripe with this keyboard has to do with its price. £130 Would be acceptable if it lived up to its name, but it’s safe to say that there is nothing at all Magic about the Magic keyboard. ‘Basic’ or ‘Standard’ would’ve been more appropriate adjectives, and it in no way justifies such a high price. The only thing Magic about this keyboard, unless you consider automatic pairing to be a particularly remarkable feature, is Apple’s ability to continually rip off customers with its accessory pricing.
There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of keyboards on the market, and the Magic Keyboard is facing some touch competition. For what it is it is astronomically expensive, and at this price you are entering the realms of feature-rich mechanical keyboards which offer a better typing experience with a noise penalty. Those looking for the best possible typing experience who don’t need the extra functions, the Apple design or the Mac labelling on the keys will look elsewhere. While it’s perfectly possible to use just about any keyboard with the Mac operating system, few offer the integration of Apple’s own. As an all-round keyboard for your Mac or iOS device offering a decent typing experience, a small form factor, useful yet uncluttered features and quiet operation, the Magic Keyboard is worth consideration and almost manages to justify its asking price.