Scissor-switch keyboards

GanChan

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Jun 21, 2005
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As a writer who spends about 12 hours a day typing, keyboard quality means more to me than it probably does to a lot of other Mac users. My last Macbook Air was a 2013 (I think?), and it only gave out on me recently. I've been avoiding looking at the recent generations of Macbooks because of the controversy over the butterfly switches (plus the fact that I just didn't like the way they felt in the store). So, a scissor-switch design is returning, but it looks to be an "all-new" one... So, here we go again?....

I'm wondering whether I should risk being an early adaptor of one of these new models. I could actually save a lot of money by going with an old old/refurb model from the pre-butterfly era. But how far back in time could I realistically go and still have a decent experience? Would it maybe just make sense to plug the Macbook into my nice mechanical keyboard (wherever practical) if I'm less than thrilled with the keyboard?
 
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theluggage

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So, a scissor-switch design is returning, but it looks to be an "all-new" one... So, here we go again?....
Well, one can only hope that the new keyboard will fix the reliability problems...

As for the "feel" problems, you'll have to wait and see, because that is entirely subjective.

One consideration is that there is already a "new-ish" scissor-action keyboard in circulation - The Magic Keyboard 2 (and the numeric pad version) that launched a couple of years back used a new mechanism with a shorter travel and slightly larger keys c.f. the "classic" keyboard design. I suppose it is vaguely possible that the new keyboard will be similar to that, as its an established design.

Personally (keyboards are subjective): although its preferable to the butterfly atrocity, I still prefer the classic "Wired keyboard" design (which is very similar to the pre-2016 laptop keyboard) and fortunately have a spare. I've had the "new" one for a couple of years - and used it for several extended periods sufficient to get over the "eek! scary change!" phase but find it less comfortable and more error-prone than the old one, and keep switching back.

What's less subjective is that it is clearly more cheaply made than the old one - it weighs less than the old wired model (despite including a rechargeable battery!) keys have a cheaper-feeling glossy finish and 'sharper' edges and the whole thing bows in the middle, only being supported by rubber feet at the corners (not enough to make a practical difference when typing but it doesn't exactly shout "quality").

So, until we can get hands on it, I'm not that confident that the new MBP keyboard is going to be brilliant.

Of course, this is coloured by the fact that the pre-2016 MacBook/Wired Keyboard was arguably the Best. Keyboard. Ever. (or at least, the best non-individual-full-travel-keyswitch keyboard ever) and really, really didn't need fixing.
 

dfs

macrumors 6502
Sep 17, 2008
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As a writer who spends about 12 hours a day typing, keyboard quality means more to me than it probably does to a lot of other Mac users. My last Macbook Air was a 2013 (I think?), and it only gave out on me recently. I've been avoiding looking at the recent generations of Macbooks because of the controversy over the butterfly switches (plus the fact that I just didn't like the way they felt in the store). So, a scissor-switch design is returning, but it looks to be an "all-new" one... So, here we go again?....

I'm wondering whether I should risk being an early adaptor of one of these new models. I could actually save a lot of money by going with an old old/refurb model from the pre-butterfly era. But how far back in time could I realistically go and still have a decent experience? Would it maybe just make sense to plug the Macbook into my nice mechanical keyboard (wherever practical) if I'm less than thrilled with the keyboard?
If you are a professional writer (as I am too) you have an urgent need to raise your game and try a serious keyboard. Specifically, there are two brands you should investigate, Das Keyboard and Mathias. Both make rugged clicky switched keyboards in the $150 range which last just about forever and will revolutionize your life (and improve both your speed and your accuracy). They also offer not-quite-so-nice wireless models which are still miles ahead of the crap keyboards. Apple makes.
 
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someoldguy

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I'll second the recommendation for Das Keyboard . I got one 8-9 months back , and it's great . Feels like one of the original IBM keyboards , plus it's backlit , plus it's wired so there's no Bluetooth nonsense . No idea why Apple persists in providing rubbishy keyboards ( actually I do , its 'thin' and $$$) when they charge a premium for their products.
 
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theluggage

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If you are a professional writer (as I am too) you have an urgent need to raise your game and try a serious keyboard.
I'll second the recommendation for Das Keyboard
Except, presumably, people buy a Laptop because they want it to be portable (thread starter said that they already have a 'nice mechanical keyboard' tha they could plug in) so its not great if you hate the laptop's built-in keyboard.
 
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HappyIntro

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Apr 30, 2016
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Long writing sessions with ANY laptop keyboard are, at best, a very sub-optimal experience. If you like scissor-switches, try the wireless Logitech K750:


Alternatively, you can use one of Apple's Magic keyboards, or any mechanical keyboard that suits your fancy. Mechanical keyboards, as you know, come in so many switch combinations that you really need to know what you like before you buy, as they are expensive (I'm typing this using my Topre RealForce 55-g 104, which is over $300 but very much worth it to me.)

There is no ergonomic way to type using a laptop keyboard - hands are too close to the screen, and the screen is often too low as well.
 

GanChan

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Jun 21, 2005
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Except, presumably, people buy a Laptop because they want it to be portable (thread starter said that they already have a 'nice mechanical keyboard' tha they could plug in) so its not great if you hate the laptop's built-in keyboard.
My current "nice" keyboard is this retro-style E-Element Z-88:
https://www.amazon.com/Element-Mechanical-Gaming-Keyboard-Switch/dp/B07JPXD9LX?th=1

I just would prefer not to have to lug it around with my laptop when I go mobile. It's small, but it's heavy.
- - Post merged: - -

Of course, this is coloured by the fact that the pre-2016 MacBook/Wired Keyboard was arguably the Best. Keyboard. Ever. (or at least, the best non-individual-full-travel-keyswitch keyboard ever) and really, really didn't need fixing.
Yes, I thought it was perfectly fine. But I liked the old G4 iBook keyboard even better....
 
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wordsworth

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Apr 7, 2011
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If, as a writer, that's mainly what you use your laptop for, why not consider the 2017 MacBook Air? It's still available in various outlets (though not from Apple) and its price (to a degree, in respect of the current Apple range, at any rate) reflects that it's not cutting-edge Apple product.

On the other hand, you won't need to fear that the keyboard is a potential issue, because the 2017 MacBook Air is well tried and tested. Looking for a reliable writer's tool? The 2017 MacBook Air certainly fits that bill. Forget about comparing specs and feeling shortchanged – the 2017 MacBook Air is a great little workhorse and will certainly perform as 'a typewriter with bells and whistles'. Indeed, I recommended it to someone recently for just these reasons. Reliabilty and ability to perform the tasks required: that's what counts. Especially when the alternatives aren't convincing enough. (My opinion, of course.)

By the time you start looking to replace it, presumably Apple will have sorted out its laptop line, to the benefit of its customers.
 
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Costino1

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Oct 1, 2012
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Im one of the lone folks who sticks up for the butterfly style keyboards. I own a 2018 MBP and honestly love the keyboard. I dont see myself pounding the keys and gently tapping each key. It took about a week of learning and accommodating myself to the new style, but I cant complain. This is of course my personal opinion and can change based on user.
 
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SpeedyTheSnail

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Sep 22, 2018
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I feel now that Johnny Ives is gone that we will have better keyboards that aren't built for girly-men who have trouble typing on a normal keyboard. Oh and that whole stupid thinness requirement that they think somehow pros want...
 
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tothemoonsands

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Jun 14, 2018
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Personally the butterfly keyboard isn’t nearly as bad as tech bloggers want you to believe. There is a rumor that new MacBook Pros will go back to a scissor mechanism. In any case, go to an Apple Store and try it out. Literally you can sit there for a good hour or two and just TYPE. Feel it out!
 

shaunp

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I feel now that Johnny Ives is gone that we will have better keyboards that aren't built for girly-men who have trouble typing on a normal keyboard. Oh and that whole stupid thinness requirement that they think somehow pros want...

You can't say stuff like that buddy, you might upset some snowflake somewhere because your requirements are based on actual reality rather than the utopia of writing a novel in a vegan café.
 
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SpeedyTheSnail

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You can't say stuff like that buddy, you might upset some snowflake somewhere because your requirements are based on actual reality rather than the utopia of writing a novel in a vegan café.
lol I've been killed with rainbow bullets made of unicorn dust!
- - Post merged: - -

Personally the butterfly keyboard isn’t nearly as bad as tech bloggers want you to believe. There is a rumor that new MacBook Pros will go back to a scissor mechanism. In any case, go to an Apple Store and try it out. Literally you can sit there for a good hour or two and just TYPE. Feel it out!
I very much dislike the butterfly keyboard. I will not type with one.

Now [here comes my controversial statement of the minute], if Apple could get a ThinkPad keyboard and use that, omg it'd be a handgasm.
 

shaunp

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Personally the butterfly keyboard isn’t nearly as bad as tech bloggers want you to believe. There is a rumor that new MacBook Pros will go back to a scissor mechanism. In any case, go to an Apple Store and try it out. Literally you can sit there for a good hour or two and just TYPE. Feel it out!
The butterfly keyboard is much worse than bloggers make out. Because there is no key travel it is really hard to tell where the keys actually are and if you regularly move between machines there is no getting used to a butterfly keyboard, you just make loads of mistakes. Even if they were reliable, which they aren't, the ergonomics of such shallow key travel make it useless.
 

ApfelKuchen

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I've been keyboarding since the late 1960s. Royal manual and electric typewriters, IBM Selectrics and Executives, TTY terminals loaded with 132 column green bar tractor-feed paper, Xerox word processors, and then a long procession of computer keyboards by many makers. The toughest adaptation was the move from the "manly" manual type bar keyboards, which demanded truly brawny little fingers (oh, those Tab and Backspace keys!), to electrics with what then seemed to be hair-trigger mechanisms.

Ironically, the biggest ergonomic problem I had was when I was using one of those Microsoft split ergo keyboards - but it wasn't the keyboard's fault, it was the desk at which I was working along with the position of the display.

I was a professional writer for about 20 years, and have been a professional user of keyboards for most of my 40+ year working life. While I appreciate that one can become attached to a particular keyboard, I for one have not. If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.

Overall, though, I prefer short-throw keyboards like Apple's. To my mind, long-throw keystrokes encourage keyboard pounding, which translates to muscular stress in the hands, arms, shoulders, and neck. Short-throw keyboards encourage a light touch, resulting in far less stress - a far more Zen approach.

Now if you are a keyboard-pounder, a short-throw keyboard probably feels awful - kind of like punching a brick wall. Different strokes for different folks. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Rock, paper, scissors...
 
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grad

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Jun 2, 2014
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For me, nothing beats the old Apple scissors mechanism present in the aluminium USB keyboard and in the now old laptops. I don't even care that the A1243 MB110 burns down with just a single drop of liquid. I have bought it again and again and I am still happy. And if I wasn't able to find one I would only consider something that is its replica (e.g. from Matias).

I hate the butterfly type that Apple has regressed to and I can't stand the noise & feel of the mechanical laptops the millennials love to game with and the old-dinosaur COBOL/FORTRAN/Lotus 1-2-3/WordStar/TTY terminal users loved to type with.

I do type long AND short documents, but also code, shell commands, and I use keyboard shortcuts a lot; so I need something soft and quiet but with enough key travel and feedback. Going from an old MacBook Air to a 2018 MacBook Pro has been a nightmare for me. Thankfully, I am more of a desktop guy, so I still have the option for scissors.
 

Falhófnir

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Aug 19, 2017
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I'd like to think they will just be sensible and use the much lauded Magic KB mechanism. You don't hear complaints about either high instances of failure or how it feels to type on, though it is still quite low travel. Hopefully Apple don't have another bash at making a square wheel work, but I guess we will see...
 
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jagooch

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i'm probably on the minority, but i could not use the DAS keyboard. it was expensive and the keys are too 'tall' so I keep hitting the wrong keys as my finger moves towards the key i mean to hit. the apple wired keyboard is great.

for Macbook Pro 's , i've tried the 2017 Macbook Pro keyboard and hated the lack off tactile feedback. i don't know about the newer models. for now I'm sticking with my 2015 Macbook Pro which is a dream type on.
 

shaunp

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i'm probably on the minority, but i could not use the DAS keyboard. it was expensive and the keys are too 'tall' so I keep hitting the wrong keys as my finger moves towards the key i mean to hit. the apple wired keyboard is great.

for Macbook Pro 's , i've tried the 2017 Macbook Pro keyboard and hated the lack off tactile feedback. i don't know about the newer models. for now I'm sticking with my 2015 Macbook Pro which is a dream type on.

It's a personal taste thing. When someone asks me which laptop they should buy I point them in a general direction and tell them go try one as there is no substitute for that - one person's treasure is another's trash.

Apple's mistake (reliability issues aside) is to not give users any choice - it's either a keyboard with no travel across the entire product range or nothing. I currently wouldn't by an apple laptop because of the keyboard, but you love it. if they change it I would buy one, but you wouldn't. Surely it would be better to offer choice to customers.
 

theluggage

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I'd like to think they will just be sensible and use the much lauded Magic KB mechanism.
Unfortunately, they've "improved" that too - I have the Magic Keyboard with numeric pad and its not as good as the old wired version - its still scissors, but they've reduced the travel, changed the size of the keys (except the bottom row/spacebar which used to be slightly deeper than the rest) and reduced the slope. The whole thing feels light and flimsy compared to the original. Still nowhere near as extreme as the butterfly, but I still keep going back to the original wired KB.

I can't help but suspect that this is all down to cutting costs... the old, 2008 keyboard was near-perfect and really, really didn't need "fixing".

Apple's mistake (reliability issues aside) is to not give users any choice - it's either a keyboard with no travel across the entire product range or nothing.
Apple's mistake is putting such an extreme keyboard design in any laptop other than, maybe, an Air. The original unibody keyboard was an excellent compromise between thickness and travel that came close to pleasing anybody who accepts that you won't get a Model-M-style keyboard in a modern laptop.

Thing is... Apple have always had this form-over-function thing going through the 21st century, which has made for some beautiful computers, but with mice and keyboards that ranged from adequate to truly terrible (but pretty). I remember the pre-unibody MacBook Pro/Powerbook keyboard as unpleasant to use (OK, subjective) and unreliable (less subjective - but at least you could clean/replace it) the full-travel external keyboard as "meh" - and I don't think they've made a decent mouse since they made the only mouse. (OK, subjective again - some people like the Magic Mouse, but then some people liked the 'hockey puck'...)

I think the "Unibody" keyboard design was just a happy coincidence...

...and while we're whingeing about keyboards, can we have a proper UK keyboard please? Not just a US keyboard with a re-shaped Enter key and '#' changed to '£'... ('proper' UK keyboards have both... and '"', '@' etc. are in totally different places) It's really, really annoying if you need to inter-work with PCs, Macs and Linux (most modern Linux distros simply can't cope with Apple UK layouts).
 

shaunp

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Unfortunately, they've "improved" that too - I have the Magic Keyboard with numeric pad and its not as good as the old wired version - its still scissors, but they've reduced the travel, changed the size of the keys (except the bottom row/spacebar which used to be slightly deeper than the rest) and reduced the slope. The whole thing feels light and flimsy compared to the original. Still nowhere near as extreme as the butterfly, but I still keep going back to the original wired KB.

I can't help but suspect that this is all down to cutting costs... the old, 2008 keyboard was near-perfect and really, really didn't need "fixing".



Apple's mistake is putting such an extreme keyboard design in any laptop other than, maybe, an Air. The original unibody keyboard was an excellent compromise between thickness and travel that came close to pleasing anybody who accepts that you won't get a Model-M-style keyboard in a modern laptop.

Thing is... Apple have always had this form-over-function thing going through the 21st century, which has made for some beautiful computers, but with mice and keyboards that ranged from adequate to truly terrible (but pretty). I remember the pre-unibody MacBook Pro/Powerbook keyboard as unpleasant to use (OK, subjective) and unreliable (less subjective - but at least you could clean/replace it) the full-travel external keyboard as "meh" - and I don't think they've made a decent mouse since they made the only mouse. (OK, subjective again - some people like the Magic Mouse, but then some people liked the 'hockey puck'...)

I think the "Unibody" keyboard design was just a happy coincidence...

...and while we're whingeing about keyboards, can we have a proper UK keyboard please? Not just a US keyboard with a re-shaped Enter key and '#' changed to '£'... ('proper' UK keyboards have both... and '"', '@' etc. are in totally different places) It's really, really annoying if you need to inter-work with PCs, Macs and Linux (most modern Linux distros simply can't cope with Apple UK layouts).

It's interesting that Microsoft have decided to opt for replaceable parts (through a removal keyboard), so wonder if there will be a change in the market toward producing equipment that can be repaired rather than replaced, just like Lenovo (thinkpad) and Dell (latttude, etc) have been doing for years and never moved away from. I hope Apple have learned from this. If nothing else you think they would have had enough internal problems to decide to move to something which is cheaper to repair.
 

TheIntruder

macrumors 65816
Jul 2, 2008
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For me, nothing beats the old Apple scissors mechanism present in the aluminium USB keyboard and in the now old laptops. I don't even care that the A1243 MB110 burns down with just a single drop of liquid. I have bought it again and again and I am still happy. And if I wasn't able to find one I would only consider something that is its replica (e.g. from Matias).

I hate the butterfly type that Apple has regressed to and I can't stand the noise & feel of the mechanical laptops the millennials love to game with and the old-dinosaur COBOL/FORTRAN/Lotus 1-2-3/WordStar/TTY terminal users loved to type with.

Unfortunately, they've "improved" that too - I have the Magic Keyboard with numeric pad and its not as good as the old wired version - its still scissors, but they've reduced the travel, changed the size of the keys (except the bottom row/spacebar which used to be slightly deeper than the rest) and reduced the slope. The whole thing feels light and flimsy compared to the original. Still nowhere near as extreme as the butterfly, but I still keep going back to the original wired KB.

I can't help but suspect that this is all down to cutting costs... the old, 2008 keyboard was near-perfect and really, really didn't need "fixing".
Count me as a fan of the A1243/MB110 as well. I've been using the same one since I bought an iMac in 2008.

I recently bought a new Mac, and the Magic keyboard/mouse it came bundled with remain sealed in their box.

The A1243 is still readily available, even in new, sealed retail packaging (or as a service part), though at more than the original $49 price.

I was ready to order one, but got lucky and found a sealed one on craigslist for cheap. It's the /A version, with the F4 Dashboard key instead of Mission Control LaunchPad key, but is otherwise the same as the /B version. No big deal, and saved fifty bucks as well.

I also have both the classic Extended I and II keyboards in storage that I didn't think Apple would ever top, but the A1243 made me a believer. I would have no problems using any of them, but the compact size of the Al keyboard is hard to give up now. Those old keyboards were nicknamed after aircraft carriers, but sized like them as well.

The period when the translucent accessories took over after the last of the platinum ones was not a good one for Apple. The round mouse and the mushy keyboards were a step backward.

Unfortunately, the troublesome MB and flimsy Magic keyboards are a step back again.
 
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konqerror

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Dec 31, 2013
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The original unibody keyboard was an excellent compromise between thickness and travel that came close to pleasing anybody who accepts that you won't get a Model-M-style keyboard in a modern laptop.
That's your opinion. The original unibody keyboards had poor, mushy tactile feedback in my opinion. It was definitely the worst out of any reasonable recent PC or Mac laptop keyboard. The butterflies, especially gen 2+, have much better feedback.