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 occasional tea 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. 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 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 makes them a joy to use. 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 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 smaller than previous generations; shorter in length than the full size wired model, and shallower in depth than the previous generation wireless model owing to removal of the battery compartment. 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. The keyboard has move than lived up to this claim despite heavy use and never switching the keyboard off.
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 to the machine, avoiding the need to do so manually. In the vent that the keyboard is unable to locate a previously paired device it will enter pairing mode, at which point it can be paired with an iOS device. 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 at least 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 don’t 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 scissor switch mechanism though with significantly reduced key travel, somewhere between the keyboard of a 2015 MacBook Pro and that of Apple’s 12” MacBook ultrabook. 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.
While it does offer a decent typing experience, handy function keys and fuss-free setup, the Magic Keyboard offers nothing out of the ordinary and little to set it apart from the competition. Magic by name, but ordinary by nature, the only magic here is Apple’s ability to sell such an average keyboard for £130 in a market where there are probably tens of thousands of competing models.
At this price, there are plenty of feature rich keyboards that offer better build quality, a better typing experience and a far more economical price tag. If you don’t need flawless MacOS integration, an Apple aesthetic or fancy packaging, look elsewhere. If you’re used to Apple’s function key layout and don’t adapt well to change, or you want a keyboard that just works and you can justify the extortionate pricing of Apple’s accessories, the Magic Keyboard may well be the right choice.