Review: Matias Tactile Pro

by on September 1, 2004

Most people don’t think twice about using the keyboard that came with their computer. It’s free, works decently enough, and matches your computer. Unfortunately, most people are using cheap keyboards, and find themselves dealing with poor tactile feedback, or lack of durability.

The Tactile Pro, a $100 replacement keyboard intended to be used with recent Macs, claims to bring back the gold-standard feel of the Apple Extended Keyboard II. We decided to see if this Apple Pro Keyboard look-alike is worth the extra money over many other keyboards.

Tactile Pro
Matias Tactile Pro

Tactile Pro
Option Characters Printed on Keys

Tactile Pro
Power Key

The Tactile Pro uses different keyswitches from many other keyboards, replacing the ubiquitous rubber domes or scissors found underneath each key with springs and Alps keyswitches (similar to the switches found on old computers from the ’80s). With these switches, users find the keyboard “clicking” a lot more while typing, than with other keyboards.

The Tactile Pro is a cinch to set up – on Mac OS X 10.3, it is plug and play. With 10.1 and 10.2, a driver must be installed. The Tactile Pro also works with Windows, although the layout of the command/option keys is reversed.

In our tests, the Tactile Pro performed well. It seemed that typing accuracy increased with the Tactile Pro, as it has a crisper, more positive tactile feedback. It also felt very comfortable to use, just like our old IBM PS/2 keyboard (circa 1988).

The Tactile Pro has some features which make it unique. Option-key characters are printed directly on the keys, eliminating the need to try to find Key Caps or its replacement. A power key is also on the keyboard, allowing older Macs to be turned on and off, or to bring up the shut down dialog box on newer Macs. Volume adjustment and optical drive eject keys are also included.

It matches many Macs with its clear and white appearance. Two USB ports are also included for a mouse or other peripherals. The LEDs for num lock and caps lock are located on the keys themselves, making the Tactile Pro seem more like it came with a Mac.

The only drawback we found was the existence of phantom keys (also known as shadow keys) – we got a definition from the people behind the Tactile Pro:

The keys in a keyboard are connected together in an electronic circuit called a matrix. Simultaneously pressing 3 keys that form a right
triangle on the matrix, electrically activates a 4th unpressed key at the
corner where the right triangle would become a square, resulting in
unintended keypresses or stuck keys (untype-able key combinations). These
are called “phantom keys”. A well-designed matrix makes it very difficult
to type phantom keys. A badly-designed matrix places phantom keys in
commonly typed positions.

The Tactile Pro has been reported by some to have some phantom keys, but in our tests, didn’t notice it with the most commonly used key combinations.

We also had a few minor gripes with the Tactile Pro. The caps lock key does not have the same crisp click that the other keys do, although this actually helps to let you know when you accidentally hit caps lock. The keyboard is, as we stated earlier, loud to type.

Although some might feel that the $100 price tag is a bit steep, but the Tactile Pro is designed to last long, and comes with a 5 year warranty. Apple’s own Extended Keyboard II was priced more than this when it was sold a few years ago. The construction feels solid, but is not overly heavy like many keyboards from the ’80s.

We really like the Tactile Pro. It’s simple to set up and use, is very comfortable to type on, and is worth the money.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The Tactile Pro brings back that old-school keyboard feel in a stylish new package for newer Macs.

Pros: Comfortable, good tactile feedback, power key, flip-down legs

Cons: Loud, shadow/phantom keys can be annoying for some, caps lock key slightly mushy

The Facts

5/5Product: Tactile Pro
Company: Matias
Platform: Mac/Win
Price: $99.95

This post has been filed in Input Devices and Reviews