iceKey, by Macally
Posted: 31-Dec-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Macally Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

Overview
The Macally iceKey is an ultra slim USB keyboard with a curved two-tone translucent design. It features enhanced Scissor-Key-Switches for thin keycaps with sensitive and responsive touch. It has built-in USB ports on both sides and comes with an ice white finish to complement your Mac.


Macally iceKey - Slim Keyboard

Features

  • 108 key ultra slim USB keyboard
  • Enhanced Scissor-Key-SwitchesTM for thin keycaps with sensitive and responsive touch
  • Built-in USB ports on both sides of the keyboard
  • Ice white finish to match your Mac
  • Easy to store inside keyboard drawer

Requirements

  • Mac OS 9.2 or Mac OS X 10.1, 10.2, or later
  • Available USB port

Specifications

  • Dimensions: (W) 18.19", (H) 1", (D) 6.5
  • Maximum Cable Length: 5'
  • Net Weight: 2lbs
  • 3 year warranty


Price

$59.00

Setup
As you might imagine, there's really not much to setting up the keyboard. Take the iceKey out of the box, plug the USB connector into an available USB port on your Mac, and you are up and typing! There is no software driver needed for standard keys (software driver is required for multimedia keys).

In Use
The iceKey is a very low-profile keyboard, and styled and themed to really compliment the iMac that I tested it on. I have my iMac sitting on an iGo stand, and the space on the stand for a keyboard is limited. None of my other keyboards fit that space, besides the original Apple keyboard that came with the iMac, and now the iceKey.

In addition to closely matching the keyboard space dimensions of the Apple keyboard, the iceKey is also much thinner than your standard keyboard. This means it can slide into smaller drawer spaces. The keys are much lower than a standard keyboard, providing a shorter travel distance when depressing the keys. It's similar to the key profile on a Powerbook or other laptops, except that you have a full size keyboard. It requires less effort to press a key than on a standard plunger-style key. On a single keystroke, the difference in effort is not a lot, but extended over time, that effort of thousands of keystrokes each day can really start to add up. For some, including myself, it takes some getting used to when you've spent years on the deeper keystrokes, but in the long run, it reduces strain and effort on your fingers and joints. I began to notice that after about a month of use.

The iceKey uses a standard USB cable to connect to your Mac, and includes two USB ports on both sides of the keyboard (for your mouse or other USB device). It plugs in and works just fine out of the box. It comes with a nice long USB cable (60 inches versus the 34 inches on the Apple keyboard), so if you have a tower, you are less likely to have any "reach" problems. There are three LEDs on the top right of the keyboard: Power, Caps Lock, and Num Lock.

The only difference in terms of available keys between the latest Apple keyboard and the iceKey is that the iceKey does not include the F16 key. Also, the four multimedia keys over the numeric keyboard require a software driver to be installed for the keys to work (software is included with the keyboard, as well as can be downloaded from Macally's website). The multimedia keys are volume up, volume down, mute and CD eject. There is one additional blank key on the iceKey that I didn't even notice at first. It's to the right of the right control key, and basically does not function (with or without the driver installed). This mystery key does not interfere with using the keyboard, but it does make you wonder why it's there. I would have preferred that the key not be there, and that the working keys be wider to fill in the gap.

The iceKey's performance is excellent. While other keyboards I've noticed in the PC world seem to be suffering a lot from shabby design and keys that aren't always responsive, I found the iceKey to be perfectly responsive, and that's saying a lot considering how fast I type. No matter how fast I typed, the keys that I pressed were always acknowledged. The keys feel good when they are pressed, a solid tactile response (without the loud clicks).

There's also a second added benefit to the low profile keys besides the shorter travel distance. Have you ever noticed how gross your keyboard starts to get over time just from the accumulation of grease, dirt and dust? It's easy to clean the tops of the keys, but for the standard keyboards, the majority of the dirt is on the sides of the keys. With the shorter length of the keys on the iceKey, there is much less side space, and of what sides there are, they are easier to clean than the longer keys.

(Editorial note: I first wrote "length of the iceKey keys", which sounded strange, hence my rewording; but it does highlight the notion that using the name in speech should be considered when naming a product; of course, no one bungled that as bad as Apple and their uncreative naming of their email application "Mail").


There's just one more thing I want to add regarding the iceKey. I've noticed on various websites that PC users are adopting the iceKey to use with their PCs. The keyboard is so unique and reliable, that a Mac keyboard is being adopted by PC users. That's saying a lot considering the that iceKey driver is Mac only, and that the key names are purely Mac. Normally, we Mac users end up using a PC product that doesn't have a Mac equivalent, hoping that it works on the Mac, and knowing that there is no real Mac support for the product. It's nice, for a change, to see things reversed!

Summary
The Macally iceKey is a low profile USB keyboard for the Mac. It comes in a very stylish and sporty pro-Mac theme, complete with a full set of keys (sans the F16 key), two USB ports, and a nice long USB cable. Its low profile design allows the keyboard to be used anywhere the Apple keyboard is used, and its thin design allows for short drawer space usage. The shorter keys on the iceKey mean less travel distance, less strain on your fingers over time, and less dirt on the keys. The keyboard does take some getting used to, depending upon the number of years you've spent with longer keys, and your ability to change. There is an unmarked unusable "mystery" key, but it does not impact the use of the keyboard in the slightest. The iceKey is a reliable and responsive keyboard, unique in design, and truly ergonomical, making it a hot addition to any Mac system.

Pros

  • Low profile keyboard, thin and lightweight
  • Shorter keys means less travel and less dirt
  • Stylish Mac-savvy design
  • Long USB cable

Cons

  • Unusable mystery key
  • May require some getting used to
  • Missing the F16 key


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice