Matias Mini Tactile Pro Keyboard Review
No doubt about it my acquisition of the Matias Mini Tactile Pro was prompted by Mr. Blanc's two article series on clicky keyboards. In April of 2012 Mr. Blanc reviewed clicky keyboards. In September of the same year he took a look at some tenkeyless clicky keyboards. I use my MacBook Air in clamshell mode at my desk desk which makes an external keyboard vital. I started with an Apple Wireless Keyboard but was tempted to get a clicky keyboard after reading Mr. Blanc's fantastic articles. I found this section to be particularly persuasive:
As a computer-nerd-slash-writer, I am always looking and advocating for the right tools. But for years, I have always equated “writing tools” with “software” — I own more text editors than I have fingers to type with — but it never dawned on me until recently that a good keyboard could be equally as important as a good text editor.
I looked around and considered the various keyboards available. I knew I wanted a tenkeyless keyboard (so as to keep my mouse in the same zip code as the keyboard) and if possible I wanted it to be Mac specific. As a newer Mac user I felt that a Windows keyboard might be confusing (especially since I occasionally need to make use of a Windows machine and know several Windows keyboard shortcuts that I employ while on Windows). After checking out a few other sources on clicky keyboards I decided on the Matias Mini Tactile Keyboard.
The Keyboard Itself
The Matias, as I like to call it, is significantly larger than the Apple Wireless Keyboard. To some it may look ugly and seems a bit cheap at first. Everything but they keys are encased in white plastic. There's no way around the fact that white plastic looks tacky. The one thing is has going for it is that it's a strong plastic. However, I don't like the aluminum on the Apple Wireless and The Das Model S (encased in black plastic) doesn't look that much better to me. It could be that there just isn't a great substance out there with which to make a keyboard.
The keyboard itself is USB which means it necessitates a cable to connect to your Mac. This isn't as clean as a bluetooth keyboard you could put at your desk with your Mac and then take to a coffee shop or library with your iPad. However, considering the audible click produced by the keys on the Matias you're likely to get thrown out of both establishments faster than you can say "This never would have happened if Steve Jobs were still alive."
The keycaps are laser etched so they aren't supposed to wear off. They will feel a bit strange if you're coming from a keyboard with pad printed letters. It wasn't a foreign feeling for me coming from the also laser etched Apple Wireless. I occasionally need to look at my keyboard to type something so it will be nice to still read the keycaps in 6 months.
The shape of the keytops are both a blessing and a curse. They are cylindrical which means when you hit them precisely they feel rather nice. Unfortunately that also mean if you are not a well disciplined typist like myself missing a key by too much causes the higher edges of the keys to press into your finger. This isn't terribly comfortable. I guess the moral of the story is for me become a better typist so I don't feel this as often.
Speaking of typing, did I mention this keyboard is clicky? My family knew I was ordering a clicky keyboard and that it would be louder but it was only after I started using it I think they felt as if they worked in a factory running loud machinery. It takes a while to acclimate to the sound. They're still getting used to being able to hear me type from a mile away, but I imagine it will eventually fade from their conciseness as they get used to hearing it. Luckily for them I'm not a terribly disciplined writer so it's not as if they hear the keyboard going for hours on end starting at 6 am.
Anecdotally I feel like I'm able to type faster and more confidently on the keyboard. There's a good chance this is a placebo effect but it's a good one if it is. I decided to do a few to test to see if I was right. I took the same typing test Mr. Blanc used and here are the results. I did four test on each of the two keyboards and averaged them to find the scores.
The results are interesting but I'm not sure how much they say. I do seem to have a slightly better WPM on the Apple Wireless than the Matias (which I attribute to the lower profile of the Apple Wireless). However this test only consisted of writing letters I see on a screen. Typing something I'm thinking in my head is a totally different game. Thinking and typing simultaneously slows my typing speed dramatically.
The keyboard has a row of Mac specific function keys. They are laid out almost exactly like the keys on my MacBook Air's built-in keyboard with minor exceptions. For instance, the F4 opens Dashboard instead of Launchpad (I prefer this behavior). F5 and F6 are normally dedicated to backlit keyboard brightness but since the Matias isn't backlit they are left blank. I've mapped F5 to Launchpad and at this time F6 does nothing.
Overall I like the Matias. It feels more rewarding to type out a long blog post or a paper on it as opposed to something like an Apple Wireless Keyboard. The Matias feels solid. I like it and hopefully it will last for years to come (I get the feeling that it will). It's a tad pricey at $130 and it has an even pricier bluetooth cousin for $170. The Matias Mini Tactile Pro is not going to make you a better typist but it might make you a happier one.