Review: MacAlly iceKey
The keyboard is a fundamental component of modern computer systems, and the “feel” of the keyboard’s keys is very important. Many laptop users begin to prefer the scissor-action keys found on modern laptops, leading them to suffer through (relatively) poor ergonomics in order to use a keyboard whose “feel” they’re accustomed to.
Most people take keyboards for granted. Every computer comes with one, and you can obtain one for as little as a few dollars. However, people who use their computers a lot agree that having a higher-quality keyboard will be better in the long run.
The iceKey is a standard extended keyboard, with a layout similar to the Apple Pro Keyboard, complete with volume, mute, and eject keys, as well as a USB port on each end. The difference is the design of the keys; rather than being twice as tall as normal laptop keys, the keys on the iceKey are laptop keys. Using plastic scissors, the iceKey’s design allows the keys to be thin, and almost identical to those on most modern laptops. The keyboard itself feels stiffer than the iBook’s keyboard, mostly due to its stiffer chassis.
The iceKey, like most desktop keyboards has feet that allow it to be propped up at an angle. When it is lying flat on a desk, it is almost completely flat. Ergonomically, this is supposed to be better, although there are lots of conflicting opinions about ergonomics.
In day-to-day use, the iceKey performed flawlessly and is just as comfortable to use as a laptop keyboard, minus the cramped typing area. Less force is needed to press the keys than on a standard keyboard, so the change from iBook keyboard to desktop keyboard throughout the day is seamless.
The iceKey is white, with clear ends, so it will match most, if not all of Apple’s products currently on the market. A five-foot USB cable is also attached, allowing connection to even a Power Mac sitting on the floor.
In order to use the volume, mute, and eject keys, a driver must be installed, but it works behind the scenes (no Preference Pane/Control Panel), and has not conflicted with anything we’re running. There are 3 green LEDs in the upper right corner that indicate num lock, caps lock, and power.
The iceKey does have a quirks, but none of them should drive you away from purchasing one. There is a blank “dead” key next to the right control key. It serves no purpose, but shouldn’t cause any problems, especially for those who use laptops regularly (it’s in the same general area as the inverted-T of arrow keys). The other gripe is that the modifier keys are not the same size on each side of the keyboard. On our “wish list” of features would be the ability to customize the unused F-keys, similar to the functionality provided by Microsoft and Logitech.
The iceKey, as with all bright-white computer products, tends to get dirty easily, but cleanup is not a hassle.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
The iceKey is a terrific keyboard that is great for laptop users or as a replacement for a Pro Keyboard, and at $59, a great value.