Tactile Pro Keyboard, by Matias
Posted: 1-Jul-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Matias Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

Overview
The Matias Tactile Pro Keyboard is built from the same premium keyswitch technology that Apple used in its original Apple Extended keyboard, arguably viewed as the best keyboard Apple ever made. This keyboard is made for Mac users who want the feel of Apple's quality keyboards of old. The Tactile Pro Keyboard uses high-quality Alps mechanical keyswitches, with enhanced tactile feedback for greater comfort and faster typing speeds.

Recently I read a post on the Mac Guild mailing list asking about a keyboard that provides the same keyswitch technology that came with Apple's old styled keyboards. The Tactile Pro Keyboard is exactly that, only with a much better look!

Features

  • Uses the same premium keyswitch technology that Apple used in its original Apple Extended Keyboard.
  • The key caps are labeled with the international characters, accents, punctuation, and currency symbols that are available by holding down the OPTION or SHIFT-OPTION keys.
  • Designed to match the look and features of Apple's Pro Keyboard.
  • Includes an in-keyboard 2-port USB hub.
  • Comes with 5-year warranty.

Requirements

  • Any USB Mac
  • Drivers available for Mac OS 9 and Mac OS 10.2
  • Native support on Mac OS 10.3 (Panther) - no driver required

Price

$99.95

In Use
I pulled the Tactile Pro keyboard out of its packaging and connected it to my Mac without any problems. I didn't have to install any drivers, as I'm running OS 10.3, so the keyboard worked right out of the box. For anything previous to OS 10.3, there are drivers available on the CD or by download.

The first thing I marveled at was the design of the keyboard. Matias did a fantastic job in designing the keyboard to look very much like Apple's Pro keyboard that comes with new Mac systems. They took that theme and expanded upon it with some nice little bonuses, such as a keyboard power key, led lights on the CAPS LOCK and NUM LOCK keys, and more efficient size and spacing for special keys. For instance, the ESC key is separated from the rest of the keys like it used to be, rather than being butted right up against the F1 key, and all the FKEYS are spaced back from the main keyboard. I also like the fact that the OPTION key is made smaller than the command key (like it used to be), so that you can feel the difference between the OPTION and COMMAND without having to eye the keyboard.

In addition to the better spaced keys, the top of the keys are printed with additional information. Each key includes the primary key value, but also includes values for OPTION and SHIFT-OPTION (as well as SHIFT for the non-alphabet keys). I found it quite helpful to see the extra values. Putting SHIFT-OPTION values on the keys, however, may have been unnecessary clutter given how infrequent these keys are used, and that many fonts don't support them. Still, it was nice to have a visual reminder of how to create the Apple logo with the keyboard (SHIFT-OPTION-K).

The feature that may lure fans of the old Mac keyboard is most likely the key mechanisms themselves. The keys have the same pressure and key click as the old keyboard, and it feels solid. Some may prefer the old style keyswitches, while others may prefer the keyswitches of the new keyboards. Personally, I find myself liking both styles of keyboards. While the old style keyswitches may win over most customers, what wins me over are all the other features such as the key shapes and spacing, the power button, and the extra information on the tops of the keys. I love the fact that it has the new Apple keyboard theme as well, giving the entire package an elegant and stylish touch.

There is one aspect of the Tactile Pro keyboard that I don't particular care for, and that is the surface of the tops of the keys. To my fingertips, the tops of the keys feel more rigid with pointy corners. The Apple Pro keyboard, and even other 3rd party keyboards such as the Macally iMedia keyboard, have softer and more rounded edges.

After weeks of use, I found the keyboard to be quite reliable, and many of the extras that I mention above to be useful on a daily basis. I felt more confident about where keys were without having to eye the keyboard, and I love being able to power up/down the Mac from the keyboard.

Summary
The Matias Tactile Pro Keyboard is a USB keyboard themed extremely well with the new Mac systems, much like the Apple Pro keyboard, but incorporates old keyswitch technology that provides a much more distinct feel to pressing a key (complete with key click). It's sure to trigger fond memories for all Mac users who have used Apple's old Extended keyboard. It includes some great design features such as improved spacing and size of special keys, as well as an on-keyboard power button. Also useful is the additional print on the keys showing values for SHIFT, OPTION, and SHIFT-OPTION. The values for SHIFT-OPTION may be unnecessary clutter, especially since these keys are not available in all fonts. The keyboard itself is solid and reliably, although the pointy edges on the keys may not appeal to all tastes.

If you long for the keyswitch technology of the old Apple Extended keyboard, but want to have a keyboard that looks modern and works with current Mac systems, the only answer is the Tactile Pro keyboard. This keyboard is priced a bit higher than other USB keyboards, but that's the trade-off for having the best of both worlds. With its unique balance of old and new technology, coupled with some very cool keyboard bonuses, the Tactile Pro Keyboard makes a wonderful addition to your Mac system.

Pros

  • Nostalgic keyswitch technology with latest Apple theme
  • Power button on keyboard
  • Better shape and spacing of special keys
  • Solid and reliable

Cons

  • Key edges are a bit pointy
  • SHIFT-OPTION values on keys may be more clutter than useful
  • A little on the pricey side


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice