Feel and hear when you type characters. (November 15th, 2010)
Back to basics with this well-made QWERTY keyboard that makes typing a breeze. You receive tactile and audio feedback, as well as laser etched keys with those elusive special characters, plus the alphabet.
Product Manufacturer: Matias
Price: $149.95 US
- Excellent typing feel.
- Best keyboard I've used in 15 years.
- 3 port USB 2.0 hub.
- Shows option-combinations on keys.
- Solidly built-may last longer than your computer.
A long time ago, Apple made great keyboards. The Apple Extended and Extended II keyboards were the best; you could type on them all day, and not feel tired. The secret of these keyboards was that there was a mechanical switch under each key, and that gave you a wonderful feel and crisp feedback. The Apple Extended Keyboard was codenamed "Saratoga," after the aircraft carrier. Sadly, Apple no longer makes these keyboards, and hasn't for many years.
For those of us who like the full-size keyboards, and whose USB to ADB adapters are getting flaky, Matias recently started shipping the Tactile Pro 3 keyboard. Like the old Apple keyboards, there is an individual Alps mechanical switch under each key, which gives them the same great feel.
The point of having a mechanical switch under each key is that when you press a key, you feel a bit of resistance, and when the key depresses, you feel a "click" as the switch trips, and this can be felt in your fingertips. This means that there is no confusion as to whether you really did press that key, because you get feedback.
The Tactile Pro 3 is a full-sized keyboard, with a full QWERTY layout, plus the navigation pad, a numeric keypad, and 15 function keys along the top. It is a big keyboard, the same size as the Apple Extended Keyboard. It measures 18" wide and 6.5" deep, so if you have a small desk, then it is not for you.
The sculpted keys on the Tactile Pro 3 have slightly raised edges and a dip in the center of each key. This makes it easier to tell when you hit a key off-center, so you can correct your fingers. In addition to the Latin alphabet (you know, the one you use every day), the characters that you type when you hold down the option key are etched onto the top of every key. That's laser etched, which means the labels are permanent and you no longer have to hunt and peck to type special characters. German and Japanese versions are also available now, but the site notes that a UK version is also coming.
The disadvantages of the mechanical switches are twofold: First, the switches make the keyboard noisy-very noisy. If you are in a shared office, and you want to drive your coworkers crazy, this is a good way to do it. Each keystroke makes a distinct "snap" as the switch closes. Second, the mechanical switches require more force than the rubber-dome switches found in most keyboards today, so you press harder than you would otherwise. I never found this to be a problem and the Tactile Pro 3 is built like a tank.
The Tactile Pro 3 also has three USB 2.0 ports built into the keyboard. This is a nice place to plug in your iPod, iPad, iPhone, flash drive, or digital camera to transfer data to and from your computer. It does not charge your devices though, because it is not a powered hub. If you need a Windows version, they offer a downloadable driver so that you can change the Command and Option keys into Alt and Windows keys.
The Tactile Pro 3 lists for $149.95, but you can find it for significantly less from various online retailers.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor