Some people are obsessed with cameras. Some can’t get enough of smartphones. Some have a lot of watches while others are fascinated by the good old pen. I’m obsessed with keyboards, and not the ones that are musical instruments.
My life with computer started in what’s known as cyber cafes that charged hourly for accessing the web. Those were some really bad computers with beat up keyboards. As I discovered my passion for blogging, the keyboard that I use became of paramount importance to me. I think that’s where my obsession with keyboard started.
I always loved MacBook Pro keyboards because they were the best I’ve ever tried. My editor at an online newspaper had a MacBook Pro and I loved typing on it.
Eventually, I got a MacBook Pro and I loved its chiclet keyboard (also known as island-style keyboard). Some people are enthusiastic about mechanical keyboards, and I’ve tried a few, but I always loved the chiclet-style keyboard. It gave my typing experience joy.
Sadly, Apple had other plans. With its 2015 12-inch MacBook and subsequently the MacBook Pros, they replaced the good old chiclet keyboard from its Macs in order to reduce the laptops’ thinness. It was met with a well-deserved backlash, but that didn’t change the fact that MacBook keyboards began to suck.
After I got my current 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, it took me days before I got used to with these weird-feeling butterfly switches. I eventually got faster on it. I thought it was a matter of time until I got used to the change.
Life was good. I was typing fast again.
But then I got an iMac with the Apple Magic Keyboard (which is the successor to Apple Wireless Keyboard). And my world turned upside down. In some strange ways, the Magic Keyboard felt so good to type on that I instantly, yes, instantly developed a distaste for the second-generation butterfly switches on the MacBook Pro.
This was also the time when people were growing tired of dust getting under the keys rendering them unusable. Like many people, I’ve experienced this about three or four times and I can tell you, it sucked.
As it happens, I had yet another keyboard made by Apple at my disposal. I thought, now would be a good time to compare all the keyboards Apple makes and put them in their place.
So, here we go.
A new third-gen is here
At the time of writing this, a new keyboard containing third-generation butterfly switches has just hit the shelves with the 2018 MacBook Pro. I’m yet to try it, and after I do, I’ll update this post. But from what reviewers have written so far, it seems like the new keyboard is quieter because there are some protections under each key to keep dust out.
I don’t think it provides much of an improvement in terms of actual typing experience. It’s just better at not dying, which is something it should have been in the first place.
So it’s my belief that this comparison holds true even with the third-generation butterfly switches around. But I’ll update this if I think otherwise after I’ve had the chance to try one.
The Best Apple Keyboard: Apple Magic Keyboard
This is a true successor to the Apple Wireless Keyboard. It wasn’t called Magic Keyboard before, that’s why the new Magic Mouse is called Magic Mouse 2 but the keyboard is only Magic Keyboard.
I’ve used the original Apple Wireless Keyboard and I loved typing on it. The new Apple Magic Keyboard provides a slightly better typing experience. Although there is less key travel in Magic Keyboard compared to the Wireless Keyboard, I still felt like the new one is a major improvement.
When typing side by side, Apple Wireless Keyboard gave a deep sounding key press while Apple Magic Keyboard was quick and nimble. Not only did the keys travel less, but also the entire keyboard weighed laughably lighter than the previous Wireless Keyboard. It was pretty surprising for me just how light the keyboard was.
Unlike the Apple Wireless Keyboard, the Magic Keyboard doesn’t have empty spaces underneath. It also packs a rechargeable battery meaning that you no longer have to find that coin to unscrew the battery door for the Wireless Keyboard every time the battery is close to death.
The Magic Keyboard uses a scissor mechanism keyboard under the keys. It’s great for typing long periods of time, lasts long on a single charge, and is easy to recharge with a lightning cable that you can connect to any USB port.
The only downside I’ve found so far on the Magic Keyboard is that it does not have a backlight. It’s a major letdown especially for a company whose every laptop has a backlit keyboard. It’s not a dealbreaker for me since I hardly work in dark environments, but if you do, it might be something worth noting, especially if you plan to use it with your MacBook Pro.
Overall, Apple Magic Keyboard wins my best Apple keyboard currently on the market award. I’d put Apple Wireless Keyboard in the second place, but I don’t think it’s worth it anymore given that you’d be getting a lot more bang for your buck with the new Magic Keyboard.
Fair warning though, once you use the Magic Keyboard, it’s extremely hard to go back to the newer MacBook Pro’s keyboard.
Second best Apple keyboard: Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro
Although you can’t use this keyboard with any of the MacBook Pros or iMacs, I’d still say that this is the second best keyboard Apple makes. It’s the one you can buy from Apple to use with your iPad Pro.
The iPad Pro is a powerful device made even greater thanks to its suite of accessories: The Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. These two make the iPad Pro experience complete. I can’t tell you enough just how good the Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro is. I wish Apple made this keyboard for all other iPads because that would be a gift to all iPad owners who do a lot of writing.
The Smart Keyboard has a comfortable texture that’s easy on the fingers for long hours of writing (yes, I did spend hours writing on the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard). It’s also capable of giving you a true keyboard feel with just enough key travel.
In fact, I type much faster on the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard than I do on the 2017 MacBook Pro. If you put a lot of thought into what type of physical keyboard you’re getting with your device that you plan to do a lot of typing on, I highly recommend you giving the Smart Keyboard a try. This might just make you want to get an iPad Pro!
The Smart Keyboard also doubles as a screen cover for the iPad Pro. It has a major design flaw, though. I’ll talk about it on the iPad Pro review which I will publish soon. But in terms of the keyboard itself, the only drawback, similar to the Magic Keyboard, is that it’s not backlit.
I don’t think that will be an issue though since the keyboard’s proximity to iPad screen is close enough that you won’t really need backlighting on this keyboard. But if you don’t touch type like I do, it might be a dealbreaker.
Third/Worst Apple Keyboard: The MacBook Pro
Isn’t it funny that the company that makes the great keyboards like the Magic Keyboard also makes horrible keyboards and goes on to put them on its Pro line of laptops? Yeah, I’m talking about the butterfly switches that are currently on all MacBook and MacBook Pros.
The first generation of butterfly switches that saw the light of day (I wish they didn’t) was the ones on 12-inch MacBook. Those were probably the worst keyboard ever put on a Mac. Those had no tactile feel to it at all. With the second generation, the keyboard got slightly better. I mean, I’m typing this part right now on the 2017 MacBook Pro’s second-generation butterfly keyboard. It doesn’t feel great, but at least, I can type on it.
But it annoyed many, many people by allowing even the tiniest of dust to get under the keycaps causing the keys to fail. If you didn’t know, this resulted in class action lawsuits and many, many angry posts from across the tech world.
Apple did not admit to its faulty second-gen butterfly keyboards, but it did two things: 1. It announced keyboard repair programs. 2. It announced a third-generation butterfly keyboard with latest Macs that has some sort of protection against dust from getting underneath the keyboard.
Going forward, it’s likely that the MacBook Pro’s keyboards won’t start dying randomly. And, despite the fact that I really don’t like typing on this keyboard, it’s also a fact that many people do.
Like I said, I myself began to love this keyboard a few months after getting it. Only after I got my hands on the Magic Keyboard did my love for it vanished overnight.
So, it’s still a keyboard that many people find pretty great. But from my experience of typing on all three keyboards from Apple that are currently on the market, it deserves to be the last.
There you go! To recap, Apple Magic Keyboard, iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard, and the current keyboards on MacBook Pro, in that order, are Apple’s best, great, and worst keyboards currently on the market.
I’ll try to keep this post updated as Apple introduces newer keyboards across its range of products. Got some thoughts that you want to add to the post? Feel free to let me know in the comments.