The Magic Keyboard and Trackpad

I was recently speaking with my pal Katie Floyd about the new Apple Magic devices and explained I would “probably” buy the keyboard and trackpad. She snorted. That was a well earned snort because we both knew I’d end up buying them. I did. The good news is I’ve been using them both quite a bit for the last week and you get to benefit from my largesse. 

The Magic Keyboard

If you look at the design trend of Apple keyboards over the last several years, the demure size of the Magic Keyboard should not surprise you. The prior Bluetooth keyboard was as small as you could make such a keyboard while at the same time accommodating removable batteries. Get rid of the removable batteries and instead use batteries that can be formed into the case and you get the Magic Keyboard.

A lot has been written about Apple keyboards in the last year. First with the new MacBook design and now with the magic keyboard, Apple has reduced the amount of key travel in their keyboards. A lot of people are upset about this. If you like keyboards with a lot of travel, this is bad news for you.

For several years, I used the big clickety-clack keyboards that you could hear from the driveway. I studied mechanical switches like gamblers study racing forms. However, my clickety-clack keyboard went on the fritz one day and I used an Apple Bluetooth keyboard “temporarily” as I got it sorted out. The thing is, I found I liked that Apple Bluetooth keyboard more than my clickety-clack keyboard. I discovered that low-travel keyboards work for me. My fingers don’t get as sore and they are so much quieter when I’m on a microphone.

So exactly how low-travel is the new keyboard? I’d say somewhere between the new MacBook and the old MacBook. This new Magic Keyboard is made for people like me. If you instead prefer big mushy keys with lots of travel, move along … this is not the keyboard for you.

While it’s easy to make fun of the minimal profile of the new keyboard, it is an impressive bit of engineering. It looks great on my desk. Charging the built-in batteries via lightning port was smart. Just about everyone, myself included, already has a lightning cable hanging off their iMac or in their laptop bag so recharging will not be an issue. As an aside, after a week, I have 72% charge remaining in my battery so I’m on track for about a month of usage. I also think the inclusion of a physical button to turn the devices on and off is long overdue.

I’ve read some complaints that the new Magic Keyboard does not include illuminated keys. My guess is Apple had to make the decision between illuminating keys and the extra physical space and battery hit an illuminated keyboard would entail. I would ultimately agree with the decision to leave it out. However, if you rely upon illuminated keys, once again, this is not the keyboard for you.

So who is it for? If you want a keyboard that looks good and features low-key travel, you should take a look at the Magic Keyboard. For most people, getting a new keyboard for their iMac is not something they do until the next time they buy a new iMac. That is sensible. Even if you are a low-travel keyboard nerd such as myself and are currently using the existing Bluetooth Keyboard, I’m not certain you need to upgrade. I think it is nicer but it’s also not cheap. I think this keyboard falls in the category of a “want” more than a “need”. Nonetheless, I am happy with purchase as I tap away these words on it.

The Magic Trackpad

I’m a trackpad guy. I’ve tried to use mice a few times over the past several years and I find they just don’t work for me anymore. I like that a trackpad only takes an alloted amount of space on my desktop and I rock gestures on my trackpad in ways I’ve never been able to match with a mouse, regardless of how many buttons, switches, and dials it has.

The Magic Trackpad 2 is an improvement over its predecessor. Like the Force Touch trackpads in shipping MacBooks and MacBook Pros, it’s not hinged so clicking at the top is as easy as clicking on the bottom.

The new trackpad uses the Force Touch mechanism so everything is a bit mysterious. For fun, turn the trackpad off before a friend uses your computer and watch their faces as they try and click and nothing happens.

I’ve noted that the Force Touch trackpad does have some detractors. Some people don’t care for the artificial clicks and find using them awkward. If you haven’t tried one yet, you should get in an Apple store and try it out yourself. I use one every day in my laptop and I don’t even think about the fact that it’s not actually moving.

Once nice improvement is that the Magic Trackpad 2 is 29% larger. It’s not just bigger, it’s bigger in the right ways. The shape of the trackpad now more closely resembles the wide-screen iMac it is attached to, which makes a lot of sense. With the trackpad getting bigger and the keyboard getting smaller, it’s pretty funny setting them side-by-side. The trackpad is about 2/3 the size of the keyboard. I didn’t see that coming.

That's right. The Magic Trackpad 2 is bigger than the Millennium Falcon.


Like the Magic Keyboard, the new rechargeable battery situation is much better than before and I’m tracking for about a month of usage on a single charge.

One of the big selling points from Apple is the ability to add Force Touch to my iMac. I’m not so excited about that. I already have Force Touch on my laptop and almost never use it. Hopefully some enterprising developers will find a way to make it essential to me but that hasn’t happened yet. Although I do note that BetterTouch Tool already has an alpha version supporting the Magic Trackpad 2 and that just may be the key for me. I don’t think Force Touch is going away anytime soon and it seems a natural for it to come to the Magic Trackpad.

I think the case for a Magic Trackpad 2 upgrade is stronger than it is the Magic Keyboard. The bigger size and easier click at the top are compelling and while Force Touch isn’t all that just yet, I suspect it eventually will be.