iMediaKey Keyboard, by MacAlly
Posted: 8-Sep-2002

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: MacAlly Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE


The iMediaKey keyboard is a full-sized USB extended keyboard for the Macintosh. It sports a translucent case, programmable hot keys, and extra USB ports. It retails for $69, but I found it for as low as $44.57 at
TheNerds.net.

Installation & Configuration
The iMediaKey fully lives up to its "Plug and Play" description. I connected the iMediaKey keyboard to my G4, and it was working like a charm. To program the hot buttons on the keyboard, you have to install the iMediaKey Manager control panel that comes with the keyboard. Installation was a breeze, and after rebooting my Mac, I was setting the keys with ease. Most of the keys are already preset to functions represented by the icons pictured under the keys (such as Volume Up, Volume Down, and a group of Quicktime controls). You can override those functions quite easily using the iMediaKey Manager control panel. By clicking on a picture key in the control panel, a popup is displayed highlighting the currently selected function. You can change the function to any one of the presets, or use the "Open Item" function and select any file to open.

The email and WWW buttons are preset to open your default email client and web browser (as configured in your Internet control panel). My default browser is Netscape, but I wanted my WWW key to use Internet Explorer instead, so I programmed it to Open Item, and selected Internet Explorer. This worked like a charm. There are additional non-descript functions keys, M1 thru M5, that you can program to do anything you desire, from entering a keystroke, to opening any file, or any of the available preset functions. You can also change the functions from application to application. One thing that it didn't do that would be nice is entering a string of text (rather than just a single keystroke). For example, I often reply to SPAM email to the postmaster of the guilty domain (when I can determine it), and it would be nice to press a key to have "postmaster" typed in. All in all, the configuration was a snap.

Features

  • 19 HOT Keys (for web, email, CD controls, volume, and programmable buttons)
  • Manage multimedia application with a touch of a button
  • 105 Keys extended keyboard
  • Plug & Play and hot swapping
  • Two additional Built-in USB ports
  • Two tone translucent colors to match your Mac


System Requirements

  • G3/G4, iMac or PowerBook with a built-in USB port or any PowerPC with 3rd party USB adapter installed
  • MacOS 8.6 or later


Usage
I've used several keyboards, from the original Apple Extended Keyboard II, to the latest translucent Apple designed compact keyboards, and the iMediaKey is by far my favorite of the bunch. It brings back the full sized keyboard that I loved about the Apple Extended Keyboard (including the power button), with the addition of the special "iMedia" keys and a very stylish translucent keyboard design. All of the keys are where I want them to be, and the size I want them to be (I was happy to see the wide DELETE button). The keys were spaced great, and the feel of the keys were a welcome surprise to me. I liked the feel of punching these keys better than any of the Apple designed keyboards. The keys have a soft but very sturdy feel to them.

The power button was another welcomed feature, one that I had missed greatly. My computer is often in a place that requires bending over to turn on and off, so being able to control the power by the keyboard was a big plus. The one caveat is, to get this feature to work, you also have to have the MacAlly USB hub that supports power toggle. With all the USB devices that I have, a USB hub becomes a necessity, so it was no problem obtaining the 7-port MacAlly USB hub to support the keyboard power button. This is an effective work around to what I consider to be an Apple design flaw in their new line of computers.

Another design flaw in the new G4's is the lack of a button on the computer to eject the CD-ROM drive. The iMediaKey keyboard provides a work around for this issue as well. I am running on OS 9.2.2, and instead of a built-in Eject function, there is a stand-alone "Extras" application that can be run to eject the CD-ROM drive. I used the iMediaKey control panel to assign the Eject button to run this application. This requires locating the application, so certainly this could have been better by building that functionality into the control panel. On OS X, I could not find a work around for this.

Conclusion
The MacAlly iMediaKey keyboard is a wonderful replacement keyboard for any of the line of Apple keyboards. It has the full-size layout of the older keyboards, while surpassing the new Apple keyboard in style and function. This keyboard sports a power button along with 14 media keys, and 5 additional miscellaneous keys, all programmable with a simple-to-use control panel. The software could be improved to better integrate the CD-ROM eject functionality. I have not used any other keyboard that has as good a feel as this keyboard, both in terms of key pressure and sturdiness.

When your computer already comes with a keyboard, it may be hard to imagine why you would consider replacing the keyboard unless it is broken. I highly recommend this keyboard to replace any of the Apple USB keyboards, working or not. Using this keyboard is like using a two-button mouse; once you experience the enrichment, there's just no going back.

Pros:

  • Excellent feel to the keys
  • Sturdy construction
  • 19 programmable buttons and a power button
  • Full-sized keyboard layout

Cons:

  • CD-ROM Eject functionality needs to be better integrated into the software


Mac Rating:

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice