The original Apple Wireless Keyboard, while not perfect, is definitely my favourite Apple keyboard after the Apple Extended Keyboard and Apple Extended Keyboard II. It’s the model A1016 and was introduced in 2003. I’ve been using it since 2005, and for me it combines the best of many worlds:
- It’s mechanical
- It’s extended
- It’s wireless
When Apple updated its standalone keyboard lines in 2007, and introduced the thin, aluminium models still in use today, made a choice that presented a problem for me (and, I presume, for people with my same typing habits): the new Wireless keyboard was not extended. Model A1255, later updated to A1314, had the same key placement as the keyboards in Apple’s laptops. If one wanted an extended keyboard, the only option (from Apple) was the wired A1243 model.
I actually purchased a new, non-extended Apple Wireless Keyboard last year, to see if I really missed the numeric keypad and special keys after some use. I quickly discovered that I did, so I passed that keyboard to my Power Mac G4 Cube along with the Mighty Mouse, so that I could free another USB port and go totally wireless with the Cube. As for my main setup, I decided to keep the original Apple Wireless Keyboard (alternating with the ADB Apple Extended Keyboard II every time I needed to recharge the batteries).
But recently things got worse when suddenly the right Shift key started being unresponsive. And then two days after it was the turn of the Up Arrow key. Then the right Ctrl key. Then the Esc key. Then the right Option and Command keys. Then the F15 key (assigned to a frequently used shortcut). I tried to go on for a while even with this loss of functionality, but eventually I had to give up. The problem, of course, was: which would be its successor?
I thought of some candidates. The first coming to mind were mechanical keyboards, because I type a lot and prefer their feel. So, the Mathias Tactile Pro and the Das Keyboard were the first off the top of my head. A further Web search brought more results in the mechanical keyboard department: you can see a lot of them summarised in this forum post called The Mechanical Keyboard Guide. But the funny thing is, none of these keyboards has the three features of the original Apple Wireless Keyboard mentioned above. All of them are mechanical, most of them are extended, none of them is wireless. Additionally, it seems quite difficult to find a modern wireless mechanical keyboard with Italian layout.
The Italian layout is another strict requirement for me, because that’s the layout I’ve mostly typed with in the past 25 years or so. I write in Italian, English and Spanish mostly, and a US keyboard layout is problematic because the accents aren’t readily available: I’d have to memorise two different shortcuts for the acute and grave accents, and then type the vowel I need accented. It’s doable, mind you, but it really slows my typing speed. On a keyboard with Italian layout, instead, there are specific keys for accented letters (ì, è, é, ò, à, ù).
Since I needed a new extended keyboard quickly, my temporary solution has been to ask my wife to get me a modern Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (pictured above) for my birthday, ordering it from the Apple Store online because you can specify the layout when you choose it. The next day the DHL courier was already at my door with the keyboard. As I said, this solution is temporary while I keep looking for possible candidates (I’m open to suggestions if I missed something): this keyboard is not mechanical and is not wireless, but at least it’s extended and with an Italian layout. The media keys are rearranged but their placement is very similar to the MacBook’s keyboard, so I got used to them rather quickly.
As for typing on the keyboard itself, it’s actually better than I feared, though I’ve found out that after long typing sessions my fingers get more tired than with the previous Apple Wireless Keyboard and with other mechanical keyboards I have used in the past. A great feature of these new flat Apple keyboards is that they’re really easy to clean and they don’t get as horribly dirty as the previous Apple Pro Keyboards (especially the white models) and the original Wireless Keyboard. That it could get very dirty and visibly so — especially in nooks and corners that are almost impossible to clean properly unless you wash the entire keyboard — was the only single downside I found in the original Apple Wireless Keyboard. Something I attempted to mitigate by covering the keyboard with a silicone skin, but it turned out to be a poor workaround because it didn’t take me long to wear out the silicone skin over the most used keys. And it tended to slow me down while I typed.
A few months ago, Mathias told me over Twitter they were working on a mechanical Bluetooth keyboard, and I’m really looking forward to such a product, although the lack of Italian layout could still be a deal-breaker. Looking for another Apple Wireless Keyboard on eBay could be another option, although I’m not particularly eager to deal with a used (read: dirty) keyboard. If I’m lucky maybe I’ll found some new-in-box model. But really, is it too much to ask for a wireless, mechanical, extended keyboard also available with an Italian layout? So far, it would seem so.
A few people have pointed out that the original Apple Wireless Keyboard isn’t an entirely mechanical keyboard, but rather a Dome-switch keyboard. It’s true and I stand corrected. My point, however, is that even a dome-switch keyboard like that is preferable to the current Apple Keyboards (wired and wireless) and similar keyboards which have a scissor-switch mechanism. Long typing sessions are much less fatiguing, plus the original Apple Wireless Keyboard has a nice ergonomic arching of the six rows of keys. Compare its profile with the newer Wireless Keyboard in this picture:
And I’m still looking for a (good quality) wireless, mechanical, extended keyboard with an Italian layout.