Apple Bluetooth Keyboard- A Review

April 19th, 2008 | Posted in It's All Geek to Me!

One thing I never really thought much about as far as my computer equipment goes is my keyboard… and what would I? Keyboards are pretty much the same all over, and there’s been little innovation with them since computers became a big part of everyday life. What little innovation they’ve seen has been in the ergonomic department (remember those weird curved keyboards with the keys separated into two sections?) and in adding all sorts of remote function or macro buttons like “one touch” email, play controls for your DVD drive, etc. Despite the fact that keyboards are used everyday and for some all day every day, the basic QWERTY keyboard hasn’t changed much since day one.

One thing I got used to back when I had a PC was a wireless keyboard and mouse. They required a USB transmitter about the size of a playing card and then I could move my keyboard and mouse about with nothing getting tangled up or in my way. That seems simple but when you are trying to use a Wacom tablet or Cintiq and do illustration on the computer, and you have references and sketches all over the working surfaces of your desktop, the freedom from wires becomes well appreciated.

One of the first things I got when I switched to the Mac was a bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse. My Mac Pro had an added bluetooth module and using the keyboard and mouse with it was a snap. At that time the Mac keyboard was a clear and white plastic monstrosity and the wireless version much the same. Worked well.

Recently Apple redesigned their keyboards from the traditional spring key format to a slim, low profile design that was more like oversized buttons on a calculator than those of a keyboard. The new technology allowed Apple to make these ultra slim and narrow keyboard not just for their line of notebook computers, but also as the main keyboards for all their computers. They looked pretty odd and flimsy to me, and with my big, plastic wireless one working fine, I was in no hurry to replace it. Then The Lovely Anna got an iMac and she needed a wireless keyboard due to the drawer setup it resided in. She didn’t like the new type keyboard, so I gave her mine and I went out and got one of the new bluetooth ones from the Apple Store.

At first I didn’t like it much. I took it out of the box and was somewhat shocked by the size. It was tiny… I mean really small. Almost too flimsy and insubstantial. It was not just the thinness and low profile, but it seemed half the width of my old keyboard. The tactile response of the keys was much less than a normal keyboard. It had an odd feel… like I was trying to type on the surface of my desk. When I started testing it out, I realized why it seemed so weirdly narrow in width… it was missing a lot of keys. No number pad, no second “delete” key (the one that really deletes and is not the “backspace” key), no “Home”, “Page” or “End” keys.

I figured I must have gotten the wrong thing… this is some kind of portable keyboard to use with a laptop or for people who need something to travel with. After all the same style keyboard that you get with a cord has all those keys that this one is missing. There must be a full sized wireless version and I grabbed the wrong thing. I went back to the Apple Store and asked about it. Nope. This is it. Apparently Apple decided that if a customer wanted a wireless keyboard they for some reason wouldn’t need a full featured one, some they made a truncated version instead. I kept the keyboard but left shaking my head. For $79 (I’m pretty sure I paid $99 for it around the holidays) I would thing they could spring for a few more keys.

I’ve been using the new keyboard all winter, and can’t say I recommend it. I have gotten used to it, but still miss those AWOL keys… especially the “delete” button, which I used a lot doing spreadsheets and which the backspace key is no substitute. On the other hand, it is so small I can easily find room for it even when I’ve got a desktop full of reference pictures. One thing I did find somewhat useful was that it makes for a good remote control when I am at the drawing board and might be listening to iTunes on my Mac 10 feet away. It’s also smart enough to recognize when it’s not in use and goes into sleep mode to conserve battery life.

Apple is a company that puts a lot of time and thought into how their products look. All things Apple are pretty and most of the time they combine form and function well, but sometimes Apple puts aesthetics ahead of functionality, which is counterproductive. This keyboard is one of those misfires.

Comments

  1. SteveH says:

    And I thought I was the only one who had concerns over Apples equipment not matching their claims! I like the wireless keyboard as it saves space for me on my desk but it simply will not perform as well as a wired original. I find the keys still double letters while typing, even though last week Apple released an update for the wireless keyboard to ‘fix’ these issues. Today I am returning the Time Capsule as it simply will not work and after spending over an hour on the phone with AppleCare and no solution available, I am getting a refund and ditching the Time Capsule. I will be burning DVD’s to create backup’s for my iMac. Apple seem to be slipping and slowly failing in their apparent superior computers. I am still not convinced Apple are better. Sure the iMac and Leopard are good but my experience for the last 5 months since making the switch has been somewhat negative of Apple. And the wireless keyboard and mouse eat batteries like there’s no tomorrow! Yuk!

  2. kmcnutt says:

    I have the wired version of the new Apple keyboard, and after a couple months use, I’m wondering if I’ll ever get used to the flat keys. Something about the old cupped keys helped the lizard part of my brain navigate around sightless without hardly a problem or a misfire. Now, I’m missing a keystroke or committing typo’s much more often, as well as getting the shift, control, option, & command keys mixed up. When I need to go over to my old G4 with the traditional keyboard, I can type like the wind. I’m a literal blur of typing grace. One thing I do NOT miss from that old keyboard is the wake-the-neighbors “klacking” it made. I also really enjoy the iTunes controls at the top (I can skip a song without taking my eyes off what I’m working on) but I still need to find out how to temporarily disable them since I use the function keys for a lot of Photoshop actions. All in all, I think it’s a step in the right direction, but more than once I’ve seriously considered swapping out for my old keyboard – like I did with the Mighty Mouse in favor of my old 3-button Kensington.

  3. Foobly says:

    I love this keyboard, though I do wish they also had a full-size wireless alternative with all the keys as well. However, I like it precisely because of its size, and I like the keyfeel, and the whole thing feels nicely engineered and designed. With that said, these may help you:

    fn+delete = DEL (forward delete)
    fn+up/down arrows: PgUp/PgDn
    fn+left/right arrows: Home/End

  4. Looking at it, it looks just like my powerbook keyboard.

  5. Tom says:

    Foobly- Thanks for the keyboard tips! That fn+delete will come in handy! I really missed that one. I never really used the keypa so no loss there for me.

    Steve- You have had the worst luck with Apple stuff. I’ve read the horror stories on your blog. It just goes to show you that Apple makes products not friends, and they are susceptible to the same glitches and downfalls as any products. Apple’s standard support warranties are ridiculously short and poor compared to what companies like Dell provide. With what Apple charges for their hardware they should provide one year’s telephone support, but instead soak you for the AppleCare extended warranty.

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