Apple

The best keyboards for Mac users aren't Apple's

Mac users spend countless hours typing. While a default Apple wireless keyboard shames its typical basic Windows counterpart, optional upgrades vastly improve the experience.

Matias

Keyboards receive little respect. They collect crumbs, dirt, dust, and other debris. They're frequently neglected, rarely cleaned, occasionally dropped, and the recipient of stray spills. Yet, most Mac users type millions of keystrokes on these devices. Why not invest in a keyboard that makes you a better typist and helps you work more efficiently?

Apple's default keyboards — whether the compact version that requires 24% less space or the wired version that includes a numeric keypad — both look good and enable accurate, crisp typing. At $69 and $49, respectively, they're also competitively priced. But were you to ever use one of two awe-inspiring alternatives, you would likely find yourself wondering how you ever managed without such an upgrade.

TechRepublic is responsible for my inadvertent education. Although I'd grown up using IBM's famed Modem F keyboards, prized for the solid tactile sensation and confirming corresponding audible click each keystroke generates, like most everyone else, I'd become content typing on the low cost, poor quality, mushy-feeling keyboards OEM manufacturers packaged with Windows workstations. Then I was assigned responsibility for testing a Das Keyboard, which (at the time) didn't even feature lettering on the keys. You became a better typist, because you were forced to memorize the keys — that was the mindset. While typing special characters for complex passwords occasionally proved problematic, the return to using a mechanical switch keyboard reminded me what I'd been missing. As soon as the company began producing a model with lettered keys, I jumped on the opportunity. There was no looking back. It's all I'll use now on my Windows machine.

This got me thinking recently, when I added a third display to my desk and was forced to begin using my MacBook Air in closed clamshell mode and needed a new Mac compact keyboard. Why wasn't I using a mechanical switch keyboard for my Mac? Quick research revealed that two models stand out. Both are exponential improvements over pretty much any other keyboard on the planet.

If you're a Mac user and spend more than a few hours typing each week, give yourself a gift. Scrape up $169 for Matias' compact and portable Laptop Pro Bluetooth keyboard or $133 for the Das Keyboard Professional S for Mac. Your typing, even for mundane tasks, becomes more crisp. The tactile feedback you receive encourages better and, I'm convinced, more accurate typing.

You can't go wrong with either model, but there are important differences, so take note. The Das Keyboard is a full-size keyboard and, as such, includes a full numeric keyboard. The Das Keyboard is also wired, meaning you're going to have to route a cable on your desk from the keyboard to the Mac. On my desk, which boasts a VoIP handset, an iPhone, a mouse, a Magic Trackpad, three displays, and two keyboards, there's little room to spare and cables are a problem. That's where the Matias proves advantageous. Although smaller, its size lends the wireless keyboard portability. You trade the numeric keypad for a smaller footprint. Oh, and the Matias keyboard includes, right on the keys, those special keystroke shortcut characters used in the Apple menu bar. Having those shortcut icons visible on the keys absolutely helps you begin entering data and navigating between active windows more quickly.

It's time to upgrade your frequently repeated typing experiences. These keyboards are capable of sustaining service through millions of keystrokes, so it's an investment you'll have to make, but you'll potentially only have to make it once. Ultimately, you deserve it.

What keyboard do you prefer on your Mac? Let us know in the discussion thread below.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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