iKey4, by Macally
Posted: 14-Jul-2006

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Macally Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

Overview
The Macally iKey keyboard is a full-sized USB 105-key extended keyboard for the Macintosh. It sports quiet soft keys, tactile feedback key switch control, a power button, a 5 foot USB cable, and extra USB ports. The iKey retails for only $29.99. The original iKey comes in Bondi Blue, and the iKey4 comes in Graphite. This review is of the iKey4.


Features

  • New curved two tone translucent design (Available in Bondi Blue/Ice or Graphite/Ice)
  • Power Switch (USB Softpower)
  • Plug & Play and hot swapping
  • Excellent Feel and Shape
  • Quiet soft touch with tactile feedback key switch control


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


Specifications

  • Maximum Cable Length : 5'
  • Net Weight : 2.2lbs
  • Dimensions : (W) 18.4",(L) 7.4",(H) 1.6"
  • 3 year warranty

Installation & Configuration
The iKey is "Plug and Play" all the way. I connected the iKey keyboard to my Mac Mini, and it was working like a charm. There was no software or drivers required.

Usage
I've used several keyboards, from the original ADB Apple Extended Keyboard II, to the latest USB Apple keyboards, and I have always preferred the Macally keyboards. I'm very sensitive to key pressure and texture, as well as key size and spacing. All of the iKey keys are spaced well, and have a soft but very sturdy feel to them. Macally calls this "
Quiet soft touch with tactile feedback key switch control". I call it "feels good to use!" I prefer the feel of the keys on the iKey over any of the Apple designed keyboards.

Unlike the iMediaKey which has an extra set of programmable keys above the function keys, the iKey is closer to the design of the full-sized Apple keyboard, with a few exceptions. It does not include the volume keys and CD eject key that are right above the numeric keypad on the latest Apple keyboards, so if you are used to those keys, this may not be the keyboard for you. On the other hand, the iKey spaces the function keys away from the rest of the keys (the way that old Apple keyboards were designed), and I much prefer that spacing. I don't like the way that the function keys are crammed up against the rest of the keys on the Apple keyboards because it makes it too easy to hit one by accident, and makes the keyboard look more crowded. If you are looking for a compact design, then the Apple keyboard is the way to go, but if you're looking for a more spacious keyboard design, the iKey fills the bill.

The iKey also comes with a power button. The power button is a welcomed feature, one that I have missed from the ADB keyboards of old. It's unfortunate that Macs can no longer be powered on by any keyboard, but I still like being able to trigger the shutdown by pressing the keyboard power button. The button is leveled with the keyboard surface, so it's not easy to press it by accident.

Visually, the iKey is a very attractive keyboard with an ergonomically pleasing curved design. Unlike the plain white of Apple's keyboard (which shows dirt and grime too easily), the iKey4 has a beautiful graphite translucent design, and features dark keys with white print. The only drawback of the dark keys is that in poor lighting, I think the white keys with black print are a little easier to see.

The one thing I've always been annoyed with on the new Apple keyboards is the length of the keyboard cord. At best, the cord barely reaches the destination port into which I need to plug the keyboard. In many cases, however, it simply doesn't reach at all. The iKey, on the other hand, comes with a generous length of cord, giving you 5 feet of distance to reach your USB port. The iKey also comes with two USB ports for plugging in low-powered devices, such as a mouse.

Conclusion
The MacAlly iKey4 keyboard design is a wonderful replacement keyboard for any of the Apple keyboards. It has a full-sized keyboard layout, with an added power button. You won't be able to boot up a Mac with the power button, but you can trigger a shutdown. In terms of texture and pressure of the keys, I prefer the feel of the iKey keyboard over any of the Apple keyboards. Likewise, the translucent case design is beautiful, and does not show dirt like the Apple white keyboards. In poor lighting, however, Apple's white keys with black print may be easier to see than the iKey's dark keys with white print. The iKey also doesn't include the volume and CD eject keys that come with the Apple keyboard, and is not as compact as the Apple keyboard. On the other hand, I prefer the spacial design of the iKey, especially the space between the function keys and the other keys. I also prefer the 5 foot cord on the iKey, giving me reaching distance for any system setup. The Macally iKey4 is an excellent and affordable replacement keyboard for a situation where your Apple keyboard is broken, or you have one of those older super compact keyboards, or you want to add a full-sized keyboard to your laptop. I prefer the keyboard design and the tactile keys of the iKey4 over any of the Apple keyboards.

Pros:

  • Soft and sturdy feel to the keys (w/tactile feedback)
  • 5 foot USB cable
  • Beautiful graphite translucent design (doesn't show dirt like white does)
  • Good key spacing, with function keys elevated from the rest of the keys
  • Power button

Cons:

  • No volume or CD eject keys
  • Harder to see keys in poor lighting
  • Power key does not boot up Mac, only shuts down (Apple's fault)


Mac Rating:

4 out of 5 Mice