When it comes to buying a keyboard for your Mac, you’re likely to think of an Apple keyboard first. They look great, they have command, function, and option keys instead of control and alt keys, and they’re made by Apple—so they’re the best, right?
As it turns out, there are a lot of options out there. Let’s see if they stand up to the brushed aluminum heavy hitter that is the official Apple keyboard.
Apple’s Keyboard: The Aluminum All-Star
There are actually two keyboards that Apple makes for Macs: one wired, and one wireless. The wireless model is probably more popular, as it has a smaller footprint and is highly portable. But what makes it one of the best Mac keyboards out there?
In short, it’s just a really nice keyboard: it has a nice feel to it (for a membrane keyboard, anyway), it’s relatively quiet, and it holds up under a lot of very heavy use — I’ve been using my wired keyboard for several years of many-hours-a-day typing, and it’s showing almost no signs of wear. Bluetooth connectivity means it works with not only your Mac, but also with your iPad, which is nice, and the battery life is solid, making use of two AA batteries in the latest version. It’s also notably smaller than many other keyboards, adding portability without sacrificing key size.
The wired version is another great keyboard, and even includes a number pad. If you’re working with a lot of numbers, this could be a big bonus, and you never have to worry about running out of batteries. Both keyboards have all of the function keys you want with your Mac, including dedicated keys for Exposé, Mission Control, Launchpad, and media control. The wired keyboard has larger arrow keys and some extra navigation keys as well.
And, of course, the aluminum enclosure is fantastic. It feels solid, holds up well to wear, and matches the rest of your Apple products. The typing feel of the keyboards is decent; I much prefer the feel of either Apple keyboard to the built-in keyboards found on Apple’s laptops, which to me feel pretty “mushy,” something you’ll hear mechanical keyboard advocates say about membrane keyboards all the time. And I really do love the number pad.
Because these are official Apple products, they tend to just work with your Mac with relatively little fuss. You might have occasional problems, but for the most part, they’re very easy to configure and use with OS X.
I’m not alone in liking the Apple keyboard. Both the wireless and wired version of the Apple keyboard have great reviews on Amazon. The previous version of the wireless board has 4.6 out of 5 stars after 1,500 reviews, and the wired one has 4.5 after 1,000 reviews.
But what else is out there? And is it better?
Other Options: Performance and Ergonomics
Of course, there are plenty of options when it comes to Mac keyboards from a wide variety of manufacturers. We’ll take a look at some of the most popular here to see how they stand up to Apple’s own boards.
Logitech makes a number of Mac keyboards, but the Easy-Switch K811 ($95) might be the best; it offers rechargeable wireless connection (the micro USB cable lets you recharge while you type), a super-slim profile, and easy switching between three different Bluetooth devices, so you can switch between your Mac, iPad, iPhone, or Apple TV without having to re-pair all the time.
Backlit keys and Logitech’s “whisper quiet” operation make for effective typing, and built-in Apple TV controls round out the feature list for an extremely capable keyboard.
If you’re a serious typist and you’re looking for a wireless mechanical keyboard, the Matias Laptop Pro for Mac ($160) is the one for you. Great tactile feedback usually results in loud keys, but Matias uses Alps switches that are significantly quieter than the Cherry MX switches that are so popular in other boards (Matias says that these switches create about the same amount of noise as a membrane keyboard).
The Laptop Pro for Mac emulates classic Apple keyboards for fans of earlier designs, but include a huge rechargeable battery, USB ports, and better key labelling to bring the keyboard into the present.
Spending a lot of time on a keyboard can be hard on your wrists and forearms, so a lot of people use ergonomic keyboards that put your hands and wrists in a more natural position to reduce strain. If there’s one thing the Apple keyboards aren’t, it’s ergonomic. The Kinesis Freestyle2 ($98), however, is a highly regarded Bluetooth split keyboard that lets you get the right amount of space between your hands to reduce strain.
There’s even an accessory that lets you change the angle at which the keyboard sits on your desk. If you need something more ergonomic than an Apple keyboard, this is the way to go.
Another popular keyboard for Macs is the Das Keyboard ($133), a larger mechanical board that offers Cherry MX blue switches for solid tactile and audio feedback. This is a serious keyboard for serious typists. It even includes the number pad and expanded navigation keys that come standard on the Apple wired keyboard. Media controls, USB ports, and the ability to register up to five simultaneous key presses make for a serious workhorse of a keyboard. The keys are even laser-etched to prevent fading.
These are all great options for Mac keyboards, but you’ve probably noticed that they’re all quite a bit more expensive than the standard Apple boards. Is there anything at the same price range that outperforms an Apple keyboard?
If you’re looking to stay around the $60 price point, the Logitech Wireless Solar K750 for Mac ($60) is a great bet—with a Mac-friendly layout, super-slim profile, and solar charging. You’ll get everything you need to work with your Mac without the hassle of changing batteries at inconvenient times. It even comes in silver to match your Mac. And the Logitech unifying receiver will work with up to six different Logitech devices at once, so you can use your mouse, keyboard, and any other Logitech wireless devices from a single port.
Are Apple Keyboards Really the Best?
There’s no denying that Apple makes great keyboards. With their reasonable price and solid construction, they’re a lasting investment that will keep you typing away for a long time. But if you’re willing to spend a bit more money, you’ll get an increase in performance and comfort.
Is it worth the extra cost? That probably depends on how much you type. If you spend hours on your keyboard every day, you’ll probably be glad that you upgraded. If you’re a frequent or serious gamer, you’ll definitely want mechanical switches. But if you just write the occasional email and check Facebook most of the time, an Apple keyboard will be just fine.
Which keyboard do you use with your Mac? Have you noticed a difference between the Apple keyboard and any other one that you’ve used? Which would you recommend? Share your thoughts below!