Some of the best keyboards I ever used were the old IBM Model M keyboards. I used ’em on old IBM PC’s, PC clones and IBM terminals. They were great, mechanical beasts, weighing a few pounds, and having a very distinct “clicky” sound and feel when you typed. And they have a huge fanbase, despite it being so long since they were last produced by IBM. (Take a look at ClickyKeyboards for some real cool “keyboard porn” about this keyboard from the 1980’s.)
When I moved over to the Mac about a dozen years ago, I found the keyboards to be a little squishy, but they were the “right” keyboards for my new Apple existence. I’ve lived with those for a long time.
I got an email from Other World Computing (OWC). These guys are just about the best Mac aftermarket dealers out there, with all kinds of things to enhance the Mac life. I get their emails frequently, usually full of hard drive and memory deals. This week, however, they mentioned the Matias Tactile Pro 4.0 keyboard.
Intrigued by their advert, I started looking into this keyboard, and found a boatload of other folks who lamented losing the clicky, mechanical feel of the old IBM Model M keyboards and had switched to the Matias Tactile Pro. Folks talked about the sound, feel and speed of these keyboards, especially for folks that have a “heavy” typing style like I do.
I was so intrigued that I ordered one yesterday, and found it on the doorstep today.
This thing is awesome. It’s heavy — about three pounds, I’d guess — and utilizes ALPS keyboard switches for every key. They sound and feel so much like the old IBM keyboard, and man, can I fly on the keys. This is a keyboard I can fall in love with.
Now, there’s probably some downsides for some folks:
- It’s a cabled keyboard — not wireless — but the cable is a six-footer, which is crazy long, and harkens back to the old IBM keyboards.
- It is noisy — I like that, but it may not be for everyone.
- To me, the keys seem visually off-center as compared to the footprint of the keyboard. I’m slowly getting used to that, but it’s just a little weird.
- It’s a little spendy. Through OWC, it was about $130.
There’s also a some plusses:
- Each key has extra notation for some of the other characters that can be generated. For example. the “2” key has the “2” and “@” as expected, but also shows the “™” and “€” symbols, which are created by using the Option key. Pretty dang cool!
- Of course, one of the things you’d be concerned about is all that notation going away over time. I think this is less likely to happen than with a printed keyboard, because Matias laser etches the keycaps, which oughta give them a ton of life.
- There are three USB 2.0 ports, well-distributed around the keyboard — one on each side, and on on the back of the keyboard. You can’t charge an iPad with those, but an iPhone, memory stick or Garmin USB ANT stick should work just fine.
So, why a new keyboard? You buy a Mac, you get a keyboard, so what’s all the fuss?
Well, when you sit in front of a screen all day like I do, having a comfortable workspace is key. You want the chair to be comfy, the desk to be spacious and useful, and the lighting to be good. Why wouldn’t you want your fingers to have the same level of comfort and functionality as the rest of your home office experience? For me, it was an easy spend to give me a even better experience with my Mac, and so far, it’s been well worth it.
Well done, Matias!