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Article: A Magical Week

by on November 12, 2015

When it comes to input devices, I find myself heavily conflicted. My daily driver at home and work is the Apple Wireless Keyboard (2011), which is a quite nice product and has held up quite well. The scissor mechanism has always given me a faux-mechanical click that is much more pleasant to type on than the cheap rubber dome keyboards found on most PCs. It’s nowhere near the experience of beloved Cherry MX-based mechanical keyboards, but it’s also a lot smaller and cheaper. Plus, it matched the last few portable Macs I’ve owned, creating a consistent typing experience. As far as pointing devices, I gravitate towards the Magic Trackpad, as I’ve grown accustomed to the gestures and also spend a lot of time in iOS. When Apple introduced the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2, I thought I’d give both a try and see if Apple’s newest iterations deserved a spot on my desk.

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Magic Keyboard

The Magic Keyboard is obviously an evolution of the Wireless Keyboard, borrowing the same aluminum-with-white-keys aesthetic, and overall layout. There isn’t a numeric keypad or extra keys that the average user doesn’t need. Some might miss this, but I’ve always liked bringing my keyboard closer to my pointing device, and honestly wish Apple had kept making the short-lived short version of its Wired Keyboard. Notable changes mostly mimmic the new MacBook—San Francisco is the typeface of choice, Escape is larger, and the horizontal arrow keys are full-height. Unlike the MacBook, the keys are still scissor-based, but a bit larger than the prior model and feature a shallower travel. Function keys have grown in size, too.

The keyboard itself is a bit smaller, too, as it loses the battery hump along the back, as well as the extra space to accommodate a couple of AA batteries. Instead, the keyboard is powered by a nonremovable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and charged via an included Lightning-to-USB cable (although any extra cable that you might have on-hand would work). The cable also pairs the keyboard with the computer, eliminating the step of Bluetooth discovery and entering codes. While my tests weren’t long enough to factor in battery, life, many are expecting about a month or so, and a quick charge of a few minutes will get you through the day until you can charge longer. On the one hand, I know that the older model will work forever (as long as we have Bluetooth in some capacity), due to the removable batteries, while the new model will eventually not hold as much of a charge as it once did. On the other hand, Apple has had a good track record with internal batteries, and the keyboard should be able to fall back on USB as an input device.

After a few days of use, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the keyboard is magic, but it’s a competent upgrade, and fits more in line with many third-party Bluetooth keyboards, especially when it comes to charging and power. As for me, the keystrokes took a bit of getting used to, but I enjoyed them more. The arrow keys led to quite a bit more frustration, as someone who uses the inverted-T as a guide. Since I have plenty of Panasonic Eneloop Apple Rechargeable AA Batteries and a charger, and I find the layout of my current keyboard a bit preferrable, I returned the loaner Magic Keyboard and probably won’t be purchasing one of my own. It’s a nice product, and certainly worth using if you get one with a new Mac, but spending $100 to upgrade is probably not the best idea unless the typing feel knocks your socks off. The price isn’t bad if you consider that you are getting a Lightning-to-USB cable with the keyboard, making it about $12 more than its predecessor ($69+$19=$88) in theory.

Magic Trackpad 2

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The Magic Trackpad 2 is a more radical departure, as it’s much bigger (29% according to Apple), looks different, and even works much different. Expectedly, Apple added 3D Touch Force Touch to this version, moved to a rechargeable battery, and added charging and pairing via a Lighting-to-USB cable, exactly like the Magic Keyboard. Gone is the battery hump and the trackpad gains a white finish (under textured glass), offering a slightly different look than its predecessor, but still feeling very appropriate next to a Magic Keyboard.

The clicking mechanism has been removed from the feet, instead being replicated via a Taptic Engine. When the Magic Trackpad is off (there’s a switch on the back), you cannot click it. When powered, it provides the sensation of a click, but is instead tricking you, much like the Apple Watch, iPhone 6S, and trackpads on the MacBook and MacBook Pro. Basically, it’s those trackpads, but much bigger. You get the exact same settings and adjustments, including the ability to adjust firmness through software. This reminded me of the little knob on the bottom of the Apple Pro Mouse, which changed click resistence, although having a software control feels way more futuristic.

Priced at $129, the Magic Trackpad 2 doesn’t come cheap, being much more than its $69 predecessor. Additionally, even if you factor in the price of a Lightning-to-USB cable, it’s still quite a bit more. When ordering an iMac, it’s now a $50 upgrade, rather than a same-price built-to-order option.

After using it for a few days, I found myself enjoying the extra space most of the time, but gravitating towards the lower-right corner for most tasks. It’s a nice product, but there isn’t much software to take advantage of Force Touch in a meaningful way, unlike the Apple Watch or iPhone 6S. Throw in the almost doubling in price, and it’s a tough sell over its predecessor as an upgrade. That being said, if my Magic Trackpad died or I was buying a new iMac, I’d thrown down the money in an instant.


Having primarily used Apple’s keyboards for as long as I can remember, with flirtations from other vendors (especially with mice), I was eager to try out the current versions. They’re certainly nice and feel like a worthy evolution, when contrasted to their predecessors. However, I think they’re best experienced when included with a new iMac or as a replacement, rather than an upgrade, mostly due to price and their predecessors being good enough. Still, these have come a long way from when users were often looking for a replacement the minute they unpacked their Mac.

I didn’t test the Magic Mouse 2, but it’s the most like its predecessor of the new input devices—the same shape and size, although I’m told the feel has changed, and I think the location of the Lightning port (underneath) is a bit silly. I’ve owned a Magic Mouse, so I have a feeling that the overall feel won’t be to my liking no matter how Apple changes the battery or weight, although your preferences may be different. As such, I’m not against it, and if you enjoy its feel, it should be an improvement over its predecessor, much like the other two devices.

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