I’ve always been very picky about the keyboards I use. When I use systems that have a PS/2 keyboard interface, I prefer either an IBM Model M, “big clicky” keyboard, or one of the well-built 101-key “grey slabs” that came with systems from SGI. When I was really lucky, I’d find an old Northgate OmniKey at Goodwill for $5. Over the years, I built up quite a collection of Model Ms and Omnikeys, and a few spares “just in case”.
I switched to using a Mac full-time at home a couple of years ago. The only thing I didn’t like about the new Apple systems was the mushy keyboard that came with them, and didn’t offer enough lift at the back to be in a proper typing position when using a wrist pad or support. Because the Mac was USB, I couldn’t use my old Model Ms or Omnikeys (and PS2-to-USB adapters had too many limitations). I quickly ditched the factory keyboard and switched to a MacAlly iKey. Goodwill in Austin often had them for less than $10, so I’d buy one whenever I saw it, and have five or six of them around now.
Two months ago, I was looking for “something better” than the iKey, as the key surfaces on them wore out and became “shiny and slick” too quickly, and the semi-transparent keyboard body discolored and became yellow over time. I found the Keytronic USB Keyboard for Mac, and it was even better than the iKey. Despite having rubber keyswitches, it had a good solid feel and was durable – until a soft drink came too close and gummed up the space bar. It may still be fixable, but if so, it will go into the “emergency spares” keyboard pile.
Right now I’m typing on the best keyboard I’ve ever found for a Mac – the Tactile Pro by Matias. It resembles a white Apple keyboard in form factor, but has Alps keyswitches – the same used in the Northgate OmniKey keyboards. It’s got a five-year warranty, so I don’t have to worry about it wearing out anytime soon.
I think I’ll be buying another one to put on my Linux box at work – since it’s USB, it will work with any system that can take a USB keyboard. The Apple keys will map to Windows keys, and driver software for XP to enable special keys is available.
The only thing I don’t like about this keyboard is that it’s kinda loud or “clacky”, but I think that will go down a bit with time as I break it in. Right now I’m just in heaven, after having to use the original iMac keyboard for a few days after the KeyTronic keyboard died.
Edit: I’ve ordered another Tactile Pro to use with my Linux system at the office.