Monday, October 15, 2007, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)
Review: Apple Wireless Keyboard (aluminum)In addition to the ultra-thin aluminum keyboard Apple unveiled for the iMac last month, a similarly proportioned Bluetooth wireless version was also introduced. Here's a setup and unpacking tour, paired with a look at its features, an operational mystery, and a tantalizing future potential.
The simple box opens up to reveal the plastic wrapped keyboard, a thin user guide pamphlet, and the included pack of three AA batteries.
Physical Features and Setup
The entire keyboard is ultra thin apart from the cylindrical battery compartment (above), which also serves to raise the top end of the keyboard so that it lays at a comfortable typing angle. A metal plug unscrews from the left end of the battery compartment (below top) with a coin or the edge of a key. Drop in the batteries as indicated (below bottom) and it screws back into place and locks into position.
There's a power button on the opposite end of the battery compartment (below) for turning the keyboard off in order to save your batteries while it's not in use.
After you put the batteries in, it turns on automatically and a green LED begins blinking (below top) through an otherwise invisible window (below bottom) in the keyboard's upper right corner, indicating that it's ready to be set up with a Bluetooth enabled computer.
Comparison to Previous Wireless Keyboard
Like the previous version of Apple's Bluetooth keyboard (and every other Bluetooth keyboard), the new version doesn't have any USB ports for attaching other peripherals. The new version also drops the numeric keypad, inverted T arrow keys and other extra keys on Apple's previous wireless model to deliver a smaller profile device that is nearly two thirds the width (below), and ultra light.
Also missing from the previous model is the bagel bits, dust bunny, and stray hair museum that Apple built into its previous keyboards. If you want a crystal terrarium menagerie for collecting gross things around your work area, you'll have to go out and buy one separately. Getting rid of that allows the new keyboards to be much thinner and lighter. Compare the side views (below top), the top edge that's half as high in the air (below middle), and the bottom edge that is about half as thick as a single key (below bottom)
Despite the fact that the new keyboard's keys are a fraction of the height of standard keyboards and have a throw action (how far they depress when hit) that is similarly much shorter, it does not have a "Chicklet" feel. Key presses still feel solidly mechanical and responsive, there's just less finger travel involved. I also found the keyboard angle comfortable. The typing angle is actually surprisingly similar to earlier keyboard, despite being much thinner. The keyboard also has a ruggedly durable feel, and is rigid enough to be impossible to flex. It's built like a solid piece of metal.
The new Bluetooth keyboard is the same size as a MacBook Pro's (below), and has a nearly identical key layout, apart from putting an option key on both sides of the space bar, rather than an Enter key on the right end, as the MacBook Pro does. The actual key design matches those found on the consumer MacBooks; it sports white keys with rounded square edges rather than the Pro's beveled, metallic colored keys. In addition to the unique look, the white keys have a bit more of an audible tap to them, while the MacBook Pro keyboard is softer and has a nearly silent key action. Besides noticing the differences, I don't have a preference for either key style, and didn't really notice the differences while using them.
The back of the keyboard is glossy white plastic (below), with two nub feed on the front edge. The cylindrical portion has two rubberized edges on either end. That means the keyboard rests on plastic and rubber bumps, making it unlikely for the metal edges to scuff up your desk surface as it slides around.
On page 2 of 2: Bluetooth Pairing; The F Key Mystery; What's Missing?; and Rating.
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