Review: SwitchEasy SafeKeys

by on November 1, 2013

As predicted, Apple would eventually phase out the traditional MacBook Pros in favor of the Retina MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs. This happened with last week’s event, although it was surprising that the 13″ model is being kept for the foreseeable future. Besides that it continues along, like the iPad 2 an iPod classic, there are a lot of unibody MacBook Pros still in service. Since portable computers generally go everywhere and anywhere, there’s always the concern of damage from accidents—especially spills. SwitchEasy got into the game with the SafeKeys, a silicone rubber keyboard protector that is designed for the MacBook Pro specifically.

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Available in black, clear, pink, green, or blue, the $25 protector fits nicely in the “well” around the keyboard. Similar in theory to Moshi’s Clearguard MB and numerous other cheap knock-offs, the SwitchEasy version is thicker (silicone versus plastic), opaque (except the clear version which is more translucent), and features key symbols printed on the surface.

The typeface on SafeKeys is almost exactly like Apple’s own, and the symbols for the various F-key items are well-drawn. The only notable concern is that F4 is depicted for bringing up Dashboard, which may or may not be true, depending on the year your Mac was made and the version of OS X you are running. Still, this isn’t necessarily an issue. Although the version we tested was designed for the MacBook Pros, it should work on the 13″ MacBook Air and the Retina MacBook Pros. The only change is that the eject key is not present on these keyboards, replaced with a power key, so plan accordingly. In a pinch, it could even protect Apple’s Wireless Keyboard, due to the same layout and key spacing.

The most notable thing about SafeKeys is that it is much thicker than even other silicone keyboard protectors. We had to go back to the iSkin ProTouch PB for comparison, and SafeKeys is even thicker than that. The thickness does cause a bit of a learning curve, as typing is much more difficult at first, but eventually becomes familiar. Initially, the biggest issue was more typos, due to the change of typing feel—it’s rather grippy, which may please you or upset you—again, personal preferences.

One advantage of this changed feel is that it makes the keyboard nearly silent, both absorbing force from you and muffling key click sounds. This could be handy if you plan on using your computer in a public or academic environment. I found it especially pleasant while recording a podcast. Even the not-that-clicky keys on the MacBook Pro get picked up by most microphones and SafeKeys silences it.

Other than that, as you are sandwiching items between the screen and the keyboard, there is always a chance for the oils from your fingerprints to transfer to the screen glass. Unlike with earlier Macs and the MacBook Air, this can easily be wiped off from the layer of glass in front of the LCD panel and shouldn’t cause any permanent damage. If not, you could always remove it and roll it up for later.

Other than the potential concerns regarding how SafeKeys changes the feel of your keyboard, we only have one complaint about SafeKeys: the opaque versions make the keyboard backlighting useless. Although this is a very obvious compromise from the start, it is worth noting, especially since the F5 and F6 keyboard brightness controls are still marked.

Overall, SafeKeys is a well-made and well-designed product, but does take some getting used to. As it comes in a variety of colors, it can be great for personalizing any MacBook Pro while also protecting the hard-to-replace keyboard against spills, dust, and dirt.

The One-Sentence Verdictâ„¢

SwitchEasy’s SafeKeys is a thick, durable keyboard protector in a variety of colors.

Pros: Durable, multiple colors options

Cons: Opaque versions block backlighting, changes keyboard feel

The Facts

3.5/5Product: SafeKeys
Company: SwitchEasy
Platform: MacBook Pro (Late 2008 and later), MacBook (unibody Aluminum and Late 2009 models), 13″ MacBook Air
Price: $24.99

This post has been filed in 'Book Accessories, Reviews