Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The quest for a new keyboard

New Keyboard

My Mac’s keyboard is dying.

Recently I found that I could no longer use most of the arrow keys (just the ‘Up’ key) and the bottom two rows of the numeric keypad are no longer functional. I followed Apple’s troubleshooting advice, and tried it on another computer, but both were to no avail – those keys were dead.

I’m using Apple’s standard USB keyboard, which was bought in 2010 at about the same time as my Mac Mini, so it’s five years old. Frankly, I’d expect a keyboard to last much longer than five-and-a-bit years, but it is what it is. I’m not sure if it’s a fixable problem, and I’m not confident enough to try to take it apart to try to find out – especially as I don’t have a spare keyboard to use when I inevitably damage it beyond repair.

I do like the design of Apple’s keyboards, so I’ve been contemplating whether to get a like-for-like replacement, or go for something a bit different. Ideally, I’d prefer a wireless keyboard as there’s no need to trail a wire from behind your computer, and I would definitely prefer a keyboard with a numeric keypad included.

This immediately discounts Apple’s own wireless keyboard. I like the design, and it uses Bluetooth, so no need for any extra dongles. But it lacks a numeric keypad, or even arrow keys. This would therefore make it even less useful than my current keyboard which at least has a functioning arrow key and half a numeric keypad.

I could get around this by buying Belkin’s numeric keypad, which is designed to match Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard. However, it doesn’t have arrow keys and costs almost as much as the keyboard itself – combined, the two cost over £100.

So I Googled ‘best mac keyboard’ and found Macworld UK‘s piece on the best 8 keyboards for Macs. Notably, Apple’s USB keyboard is in there, but its Bluetooth one isn’t. Some are way out of my price range but there are some interesting models that I hadn’t previously considered:

  • Microsoft Designer Keyboard and Mouse, which Amazon will sell from later this week. Connecting Microsoft peripherals to Apple hardware may seem like an odd thing to do, but Macworld recommends it. Normally £100, Amazon sells it for £70 and includes a mouse, although I only need a keyboard. Numeric keypad included.
  • Logitech Bluetooth Easy Switch Keyboard, for £80. Unlike most Bluetooth keyboards, this can be connected to three devices simultaneously, with buttons to switch between devices. Whilst expensive, this would mean having just one keyboard that I could share between my Mac, iPad and iPhone. No numeric keypad or arrow keys though.
  • Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard, for around £100. This manages to look like Apple’s own keyboards but incorporates a solar strip at the top, which should be enough to keep it charged all of the time. No need to plug it in or replace batteries, as long as it’s used in a relatively well-lit room. Includes both a numeric keypad and arrow keys, although it doesn’t use Bluetooth – it uses its own USB radio transmitter dongle instead.

One issue with being a Mac user is that you can’t just plug any old keyboard in – in the UK at least. British PC and Mac keyboards have a very different layout when it comes to symbols. For example, the @ symbol on a British PC keyboard is on the far-right side, with the ‘l’ and ‘;’ to the left and ‘#’ and enter to the right. On a British Mac keyboard, it’s shift+2, like on American keyboards. As someone who uses a PC at work and a Mac at home, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve used ” instead of @ and vice versa.

Of course, one way around that would be to just buy an American keyboard; the only difference being that I’d press ‘#’ to get the ‘£’ symbol. With that in mind, the Satechi Bluetooth Wireless Smart Keyboard becomes an option; it’s £42 on Amazon, has arrow keys and a numeric keypad, and can connect to 5 separate Bluetooth devices as well as via USB. The reviews on Amazon UK are quite positive, but less-so on Amazon.com where there are some negative comments about the build quality.

I haven’t yet decided which one of these to go for. I’m minded to buy the Satechi model as it’s the best balance of features and price, but I wonder whether it would be worth spending a little more on a keyboard that is certain to last longer. After all, it’s something that I’ll be using every day.

2 Comments

  1. Make sure you update the site when you decide – I didn’t even realise there was a keyboard that would switch between two devices. Would be very handy at work when I’m working on my desktop and laptop mostly at the same time. I do use Microsoft’s garage to have a virtual kvm which allows me to use one keyboard to move off to the left and seemlessly switches to the laptop, and back to the right to switch to the desktop again. Very nice and worthwhile – but only useful if both machines are on the same physical network which isn’t always the case. Now if there was something that would switch the monitor(s) at the same time but fool the pc into thinking it’s still connected so I could have my 3 monitors on both my machines……

  2. Hi Neil. Long-time reader here. About a year and half ago, I bought a DasKeyboard, which I absolutely love. I will never buy another keyboard brand. It looks like they have them for Mac and in the UK.
    http://www.daskeyboard.com/where-to-buy/
    P.S. Congratulations on all your life changes since last I commented (about 7 or so years ago), career, marriage, house, upcoming baby.