Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

We Like: Keyboards

Brydge keyboard
Brydge keyboard

I write a lot on Six Colors about keyboards. On one level, this makes sense—I am a writer and my keyboard is the tool of my trade. My old pal Andy Ihnatko always referred to his keyboards (and laptops in general) as a rock star would refer to his guitars—they are his instruments.

For most people, though, the keyboard is just a functional object. As long as the keys are in more or less a familiar position, I think most people could care less about key travel or the shape of the arrow keys or the sound made by the keyswitches. And for much of my life, I was the same. I’d notice differences, sure, but I was happy to use whatever keyboard I ended up with. In general, I can type about the same speed on any regular-sized keyboard.

But you get older and you start to realize that while you can make do with just about anything, sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself to something a little nicer. That’s how I fell down the rabbit hole of the clicky keyboard, and began buying mechanical keyboards to use on my Mac. I joke about my obsession with keyboards, but I’ve only bought three or four of them, and one of those I sold back on eBay when I realized I preferred a different kind of keyswitch. (For the keyboard nerds out there, my first modern mechanical keyboard was a Cherry Blue, and I’ve decided I prefer Cherry Browns.)

My current iMac Pro keyboard is the Vortex Race 3, a “75 percent” keyboard that omits most keys beyond the standard alphanumerics, making it narrower than most keyboards and letting me slide my Magic Trackpad closer to my keyboard.

Yes, I enjoy mechanical keyboards like the ones on the first computers I used as a kid, with lots of travel (up and down movement) and big satisfying sounds for each letter you push down. But the most important thing about a keyboard is the context in which it sits. Apple’s Smart Keyboards are not especially amazing as keyboards (though they’re a wonder of engineering, since they’re made out of fabric and the keys stay up with fabric tension!), but because they’re so thin and foldable that you can carry it everywhere you take your iPad and have it ready at a moment’s notice.

Since the new iPad Pro came out, I’ve been using the Smart Keyboard Folio as my primary iPad keyboard, because it was the only one out there that was especially made to travel with the iPad Pro. In the last few weeks, though, I’ve been spending time with new iPad Pro keyboards from Brydge and Logitech and they’re both interesting in their own ways. They’re both far bulkier than the Smart Keyboard Folio, but they’re also more stable, with more traditional keys. Both keyboards essentially transform my iPad Pro into a laptop—which, when I’m writing an article on my iPad while sitting on a chair in my backyard as I am right now, is a pretty good shape for my writing tool of choice. The Smart Keyboard Folio isn’t bad on a lap, but it’s not as solid as either of these other cases. (Full reviews of the two keyboards are coming soon, but I’ve wanted to take my time using both models before writing about them.)

There’s another context I write in frequently, and that’s standing at the bar in my kitchen. I pop my iPad Pro into a stand that elevates it off the bar top, and attach a USB or Bluetooth keyboard. Lately I’ve been using my oldest mechanical keyboard, the Leopold FC660M on my iPad, attached directly via a USB cable. It’s nice to have the same keyboard feel at both my iMac and on the bar top, but I’m not entirely convinced I’ve found the right match. Sometimes I will type on a Matias Laptop Pro Bluetooth keyboard or a Tactile Pro. I will even occasionally pull out the keyboard Apple still ships with iMacs, the Magic Keyboard, and use it with my iPad and the Studio Neat Canopy stand.

Many keyboards, many contexts. Most people don’t need this many keyboards in this many different places, but like I said, sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself. Especially if the keyboard really is a tool of your trade.

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