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Review: Apple’s New Aluminum Keyboard

iLife ’08 and iWork ’08 from Steve’s recent keynote are already reviewed. Another new product I purchased as well is the new Aluminum Keyboard — I ordered the wired version which comes with a numeric keypad (unlike the wireless one). Though I try to have as little cables on my desk as possible, I went for the version with a full complement of keys — entering numbers is a lot easier with a numeric keypad and I like the document navigation controls as well, because they enable fast scrolling without having to switch to the mouse.

Both the productivity suite and iLife ’08 were delivered almost instantly. The keyboard took a little longer — five days ago, it finally arrived:

At first glance

Besides looking very nice, this keyboard seems to be relatively robust. Manufactured in a similar way to the new iMac, this keyboard is made out of one piece of aluminum with the bottom and keys made of white plastic. Though I’d not recommend to run it over with a car, I cannot imagine a situation in day-to-day office live that could destroy it other than kicking at it — which cannot possibly happen unintentionally, since it’s tied up to your desk thanks to its USB cable.

The letters are printed grey on the white keys which makes them easily distinguishable and it doesn’t demand eagle eyes to spot the one you may be searching for in case you’re not familiar with touch typing.

After closer investigation

I noticed before that I could type remarkably faster on the flat keyboards built into MacBooks and MacBook Pros and hated conventional keyboards for their loud tictac and keys that had to be pressed firmly until a letter appeared on the screen.

The new aluminum keyboards feel very much the same way the MacBook’s keyboard does — I love those low-profile keys with responsive feel. Since a gentle touch on a key is enough I can type for long hours on this keyboard without being exhausted afterwards — I have used too many keyboards that felt like you needed a sledge to type.

What seems strange is that there is no Apple logo on the command key anymore — as you can see in the video. Any thoughts on that? Feel free to leave a comment!

Apple's New Aluminum Keyboard - special keys

You may have noticed that there’s something special about the F-keys as well. Like the internal MacBook (Pro) keyboards they provide one-touch access to special Mac features — F1 and F2 control the brightness of any Apple display, F3 and F4 are the shortcuts to Exposé and the Dashboard. The latter do not work for me — I’d like to know why. I’m using this keyboard connected to a MacBook Pro via an Apple Cinema Display, I think this the cause — but why does it matter? The keyboard update provided by Apple via the software update is already installed. Thanks to Joe Mullins they both work now — try steps 3 and 4 of his tutorial first, they fixed the problem for me.

F7–F9 are new: They serve as shortcuts for rewind, play/pause and fast-forward while you use F10-F12 to adjust the volume. We know that this volume control operates system-wide — the other three function keys aren’t iTunes specific as well! You can also use them to control a Quicktime movie and the like — they do the same work the Apple Remote does: per default, they control iTunes. But when your active application is for example Quicktime or iPhoto, you can affect video playback or start a slideshow.

Then there is of course the Eject key and, since the keyboard is a little wider, there’s some more function keys.

Also worth mentioning: On both the left and the right side you’ve got USB 2.0 ports that provide instant connectivity for a digital camera and the like.

Apple's New Wired Aluminum Keyboard

Conclusion

This new keyboard is a well designed piece of hardware and feels great. Especially if you’re like me and enjoy typing on flat but responsive keyboards I recommend Apple’s wired aluminum keyboard. In case you don’t need a fully-fledged keyboard, get the wireless one to avoid another cable from cluttering up your desk and gain more freedom.

All in all it’s great and I’ll upgrade as soon as there is a wireless version of the full keyboard. But I’d like it even better if the Exposé and Dashboard keys worked without having to press fn.

Do you prefer flat keyboards or do you like conventional keyboards better? Do you usually type on a laptop or do you use a desktop PC? What is your experience with typing on different keyboards and how long does it take to accustom to one you’re not used to?


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. links for 2007-09-03 « gp pingbacked Posted September 3, 2007, 2:29 pm
  2. Saved from the deep – Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report pingbacked Posted June 8, 2012, 11:47 pm

Comments

  1. Quote

    I like the keyboard, but I really miss the apple. subscribe here if you do, too:
    http://apfeltaste.wordpress.com/save-the-%EF%A3%BF-apple-key/

    :)

    However, I’ll get me one or two of these things from the Apple Store this week, along with some games that should have shipped there by today.

  2. Quote

    I know a lot of people which do not understand Press Command-C to copy without further details.

    I just subscribed to the feed you provided — let’s keep the  key and keep things intuitive!

  3. Quote

    Hmm…?
    “”" the other three function keys aren’t iTunes specific as well! “”"
    Do I have to switch to iTunes to skip a bad song?

  4. Quote

    Nope, they control iTunes as well as other media applications — they work the same way the Apple Remote does: per default, they control iTunes. But when your active application is for example Quicktime or iPhoto, you can affect video playback or start a slideshow.

    Thanks for the comment, I updated the post to avoid further misapprehension!

  5. Quote

    Julian,

    The F3/F4 dashboard/Expose keys don’t work because somewhere along the line Dock.app isn’t getting updated properly. I’ve got a fix detailed on my blog here.

    http://joemullins.com/archive/2007/08/21/fix-for-apple-aluminum-keyboard-dashboard-and-expose-keys-not-working.php

    Try steps 3&4 first as they might fix your problem, if not, do the whole process.

    This will get the keys working.

  6. Quote

    Thank you very much for the great tip — steps 3 and 4 fixed the problem, everything works fine now!

    I included a link to your tutorial in the post and updated the respective paragraph.

  7. Quote

    Very nice and detailed review of the keyboard! :-)

    unfortunately i experienced the same issues with the f3 and f4 keys not working, but i used the installer a friend of mine put together, which contains the updated dock.

    he followed the steps described on joe mullins site, but packaged it, so not so techie users could use it too.

    anyone who’s interested can donwload it from his site: http://twsibtth.chrisandtheothergirls.com/blog/possible-apple-keyboard-function-fix-package

  8. Quote

    Hey, that’s great for the ordinary user who doesn’t like to mess around with Pacifist and the like — thanks for mentioning it!

  9. Quote

    Ich find die neuen Tastaturen von Apple wahsinnig schön. Sie errinnern mich irgendwie immer an leckere Schokolade. :-)

  10. Quote

    I’m pretty happy with my Kensington SlimType keyboard, but this new keyboard is very tempting….

  11. Quote

    “But I’d like it even better if the Exposé and Dashboard keys worked without having to press fn.”

    Can’t you reprogram these keys in the “Dashboard & Exposé” System Preferences?

  12. Quote

    @Pierre: Sure, but those keys are intended to control the Exposé and Dashboard functions, so there shouldn’t be a need for reprogramming.

    But with the hack mentioned above, everything works fine. And it should do so as well after the latest keyboard software update.

  13. Quote

    I couldn’t resist any longer and buyed one last week. I use it as external keyboard on my macbook pro and I really like it. Typing on it is much cooler than on my old logitech keyboard.

  14. Quote

    I just converted from the original keyboard on my PowerMac G5 (hard disk recording setup), and my fingers are still rejoicing two days later. The only thing that could possibly make this keyboard any better would be maybe a cupholder, or a GPS unit or something like that. (BTW, I brought the keyboard to work with me this morning, and it works flawlessly on tne DELL OptiPlex that I use there…)

  15. Quote
    Raul Lopez said May 30, 2010, 4:55 am:

    I bought the large aluminum wire keyboard and I have tried the numeric keypad. only the non-numeric keys work. the keyboard viewer does not blink when the numbers 0-9 or the period are typed. could this be a problem with the actual keyboard or has anybody else seen this?

    i am using os-x 10.6.3 which i just installed. the same problem happened with os 10.5.

    thanks.

  16. Quote

    That sounds really weird, I never had a problem like this.

    Did you already ask your local Mac geniuses for a solution? I can imagine they’ll want to replace your keyboard.

  17. Quote

    This is a great source, and I think you talked me into buying apples newish keyboard. Thanks for the information.

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