Review: Moshi Clearguard MB
Silicone keyboard protectors are nothing new. Several companies have been making them for various Mac laptop models for a number of years. They’re quite nice, saving wear and tear on the keyboard and protecting the laptop from spills, but some folks apparently don’t like their typing feel.
(Stock photos used due to Clearguard MB blending in with actual MacBook’s keyboard)
Enter Moshi, a “purveyor of electronics fashion”, and its $25 Clearguard MB keyboard protector. While it looks much like any other keyboard protector on the market, the key difference is that the Clearguard is made of ultra-thin urethane rather than silicone. Oh, and the Clearguard is, well, clear. Those of you interested in violently green, pink, blue, or orange keyboards will have to look elsewhere.
The urethane is somewhat stiffer, much less stretchy, and smoother than silicone keyboard protectors such as those from iSkin. Moshi claims this gives superior typing sensitivity. I used an iSkin protector for years on my Aluminum PowerBook G4 and never noticed a lack of sensitivity, but the Clearguard is noticeably more transparent than the silicone protectors I’ve seen.
The clear finish — as opposed to the matte finish of silicone products — shows scuffs, spots, and fingerprints more, so you’re going to have to wash the Clearguard on a regular basis to keep it looking neat and clean. Fortunately, like other keyboard protectors, that’s easy enough to do. Just toss it in a pan of warm, soapy water and rub it around a bit, then rinse and dry.
While I do prefer the transparency, it took a good month or two of serious typing to break in the urethane. This is simply the nature of the material. Urethane is less flexible than silicone, so it feels stiffer at first. Even after a break-in period, the Clearguard still feels more fragile than a silicone protector, and more apt to tear or crack. Time will tell how durable the material is and whether that’s worth the tradeoff.
Initially, the smooth finish of the urethane was mildly slippery, slightly more so than the bare keys on the keyboard. As the urethane wears, though, it gets slightly tackier — though never sticky — and starts to feel more natural. Silicone seems to have sort of the opposite wear pattern: it starts out somewhat tacky and wears smooth, though washing restores its natural tackiness. I prefer the urethane in this regard, though personal preferences will obviously vary, and the best way to determine which you like better is probably to use both.
As with most keyboard protectors, the Clearguard can transfer fingerprints and oils to your laptop’s screen. It’s a good idea to keep a piece of notebook paper or a soft cloth between the keyboard and the screen when you have a keyboard protector installed. I keep a sheet of lens cloth in mine, which doubles as a screen wipe if I get anything on the screen.
The Clearguard MB is five bucks cheaper than the iSkin ProTouch and thus far works just as well, if not better in some ways. It’s cheap insurance and it’s unobtrusive, although if you want loud colors, you’re out of luck. If you prefer form to follow function, the Clearguard is just what you’re looking for.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
The Moshi Clearguard MB is a fine alternative to silicone keyboard protectors at a good price.
Pros: Transparent, protective, minimal impact on typing feel
Cons: Shows dirt easily, no models for older Macs, requires break-in period