That’s the headline to Joanna Stern’s latest column about Apple’s keyboard ongoing nightmare. It’s a hilarious column to read, Stern had her colleagues make some custom tech to remove or add letters from the article to match her brand new MacBook Air’s broken keyboard, and the video has a great conclusion. Don’t worry, there are switches to turn the letters back on.
The “winner?” of the ongoing Apple portable keyboard saga, Casey Johnston, writes about the new repair program for Macbook keyboards:
While the repair and replacement program covers costs and notes that Apple will repair both single keys as well as whole keyboards when necessary, it doesn’t note whether the replacements will be a different, improved design that will prevent the problem from happening again (and again, and again). Having become a one-woman clearinghouse for people complaining about these keyboards since I broke this story, I feel justified in saying that keyboard failures – dead keys, sticking keys, double-spacing spacebars – appear to happen early and often, and repairs do not permanently fix the issue. I also feel justified in saying that the design on offer as recently as February still presented the exact same issues as the design I purchased in the fall of 2016.
Of course, that means nobody should be buying Apple’s modern* laptops until there’s some kind of hardware revision to stop the problems with minuscule grains of nothing destroying these delicate keyboard keys. It’ll be better when I have a reason to stop pining for an iPad with XCode, gcc, an official Terminal.app, and a clamshell keyboard case from Apple.
*Apple will still sell you the 2015 MacBook Pro in various configurations online if you want more standard ports and a keyboard that won’t quit on you if a butterfly flaps its wings within the surrounding 200 miles.
Evan Lahti has an article up titled “Anyone who uses the C key to crouch is a hopeless degenerate“:
However someone who uses the C key to crouch is not welcome, and they do not deserve our respect. The C key is the bastion of fools, and as a community we need to shame its use.
I don’t disagree with his conclusions, it is uncomfortable to swap to the C key from WASD, and I’m probably going to configure more games to use the ctrl key for crouch as I have been one of those degenerates who goes with the default, but this is coming from someone using sentence case in the title of an article. Come on.
Lets get this out of the way up front, wireless keyboards with built-in pointing devices are almost universally awful. I say “almost’ but what I mean is, I’ve never found a combo wireless keyboard/trackpad that is any good but they must exist somewhere, right? Maybe the Logitech k400r will be one of those good few combo devices. There’s no need to read any further. Abandon your hope, this is not that unicorn device.
You might see the k400 and k400r mixed-up online, as far as I can tell the only difference between the two is that the k400r has a different Windows key and you might end up with either when you order one online or buy it in a store.
These combo keyboard and trackpad devices can fail in one way with either the pointing device or keyboard being awful or they can fail in both ways at the same time and have both an awful keyboard and an awful pointing device that combine to become some sort of awfulness Voltron.
How do the keyboard portions fail? Weird layouts that fight your muscle-memory for where to go to type a key combination or even a single key. On this Logitech k400r keyboard the arrow keys are smashed together with the / and right-shift keys so close that you’ll find even the simplest of two-handed typing maneuvers painful. This too-close layout is repeated throughout the keyboard. Of course the keys are also mushy as heck. How far and with how much force do you have to depress any of the keys on the k400r before they will trigger? I can tell you with all certainty that I have no idea and end up just pressing the keys as hard as I possibly can to type out a sentence.
This is bad. Keys should have some responsiveness either through a noise in the mechanism or a mechanical feeling that assures you that a switch has been triggered to let you know when your finger and the key have travelled far enough down to trigger the appropriate reaction from your computer. A slightly larger layout would enable a more natural typing process and fewer missed keystrokes where you hit the wrong key accidentally. Try entering in a slightly complex password with this keyboard, I double-dog-dare you that you’ll get it wrong at least twice.
Next we move on from the awful keyboard to the pointing device. What’s this, it’s a trackpad like on my Macbook Pro. This could be promising!
How do bad trackpads portions of these devices fail? By default this k400r trackpad enables tap-to-click, the bane of many trackpad users. As far as I can tell, the software (only available on Windows) doesn’t offer any option to disable tap-to-click. The only way I’ve found to disable it on any operating system is a secret hardware key combination of striking the blue function key and the left-trackpad pointing-device button at the same time. Of course this is only a temporary solution and it will need to be repeated every time the keyboard is switched off and back on again or when the wireless receiver is paired with a device again.
This is the sentence where I tell you that of course the k400r uses a proprietary Logitech wireless RF receiver that works only with other Logitech devices instead of the bluetooth standard that has proved itself perfectly fine for gaming devices like the Playstation 3 and 4 with great power saving capabilities and excellent responsiveness. The receiver works fine and doesn’t stick very far out of a USB port on your laptop or desktop but it would be so much better if it used bluetooth which is a standard beyond one company.
The trackpad’s gestures are just as terrible as the tap-to-click and scrolling with two-fingers as has become standard to anyone acquainted with the excellent trackpads on Apple equipment will suffer mercilessly as lord Logitech laughs at their pitiful attempts at doing what they want with this monster. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t do at all what you were expecting. Instead of a scroll you get a jumping page that lands somewhere you didn’t expect.
The tracking speed of the trackpad is just as abysmal and undesirably jumpy.
“Your mouse cursor is here, now it’s over there, didn’t expect that did you?” The Lord of Logitech chuckles to himself as he observes you trying to urge the cursor along.
The best thing that I can say about the Logitech k400r wireless keyboard/trackpad combo is that is possible to get used to it for minutes at a time before wanting to chuck it out of the nearest window, and you could use it for many minutes because the battery life is excellent. Recently I’ve started trying to use it with my laptop because that’s raised up a bit off my desk and it isn’t very ergonomic to type on a raised laptop and mouse from a seated position.
Instead, I find myself hooking the receiver up to my laptop only to reach over the k400r and type on my laptop’s keyboard and use my laptop’s trackpad when the k400r inevitably starts proving how awful it is to type on and to use as a pointing device.
You might argue that the k400r is supposed to be used with a computer hooked up to the TV, so it must be good at that. You would be wrong. Entering a password, trying to scroll, playing a game, these tasks are essential for using a computer and it just can’t be trusted at those. Yes the wireless range of the device does seem long. I can wander quite far away and it continues to function, but that isn’t enough, these things have to handle the essentials and be good at them for that range to be useful.
The next best thing about the k400r is that Amazon has it for only $20, which is an appropriately low price to pay to demonstrate how the enjoyment of a cheap product will be eroded by the long-term punishment of using such a device.
What do we say to the lord of Logitech when he presents us with the k400r?
1 out of 5 Commodore 64 SID chips
There are a lot of reasons to be interested in mechanical keyboards over rubber-dome models. Much of what I could tell you about rubber-dome keyboards versus mechanical switching has been already said. Rather than reinventing the wheel we’ll reread a classic part of what Dan said about mechanical keyboards:
The big deal about these old keyboards is their lovely, positive key-click. When you use a keyboard that doesn’t have a good positive click, it’s hard to tell when you’ve depressed a key properly. You have to watch the screen to make sure you don’t leave letters out, or you have to really hammer the keyboard, which is not good for your hands.
Most of the mid-priced keyboards these days use some variant of the “rubber dome” switch technology, which gives a definite little popping sensation when the dome buckles, but doesn’t necessarily give you an actual letter at the exact same moment, thanks to uncertain contacts. The old buckling spring tech absolutely positively does give you the letter when you feel the click. These keyboards feel very much like an old IBM Selectric typewriter – there are plenty of these ironclad behemoths still in service, and they may herniate anyone that has to move them but they’re darn nice to type on.
Rubber-dome keyboards are just not as reliable, ergonomic, or fun to use as mechanicals. Though you do have to give up some goofy options for mechanical keyboards, this Adesso keyboard is kind-of goofy as far as mechanicals go.
Most mechanicals are fairly boring and extremely beige. At most you might get a trackpoint or trackball. This is why you have to go with somewhat more modern options if you want something closer to the gaming keyboard experience without the rubber-domes.
Which features does the Adesso Mechanical Gaming Keyboard MKB-135B have over the basic Model M? An integrated, modern clicky Cherry blue switches, powered two-port USB 2.0 hub, windows keys, multimedia controls, replacable keycaps, and audio jacks. If you too dislike the beige style you might also be happy to know this keyboard is a glossy black everywhere but the keycaps. Speaking of which, the key caps are painted with a good ink that doesn’t feel cheap.
Even my Keytronic and Logitech G15’s keycaps have faded over time, but my original Model M hasn’t. However, until this keyboard has been in my possession for a few years I can’t give any kind of definitive answer as to the quality of the ink process on the keycaps.
After yesterday’s non-review of the Tango Pro, I’m happy to say that this keyboard feels great, the throw on the key press is close to Model M perfection and far superior to anything you can buy from Logitech or any of the other major peripheral manufacturers. With the Adesso I’ve played enough RTS and FPS games and had a similar experience to my old Model M, except without the pain of giving up normal gaming keyboard features.
The only real downside for the Adesso compared to the Model M is that the plastic isn’t as solid and for the life of me I can’t figure out how the multimedia keys are supposed to work. Most cars aren’t as solid as the Model M, it is just that the Adesso doesn’t have a metal backing plate and thicker plastic like the Model M so maybe it’ll only last for ten or fifteen years instead of twenty-five.
Buy a Model M if you don’t need the extra features, or if however you don’t like the color beige and enjoy these extra features buy the Adesso. I’m not returning it for anything else.
The KeyGhost people asked me whether I’d like to review a QIDO, but I don’t really see that there’s a great deal to review in there. I can tell you now what my review would say: “I plugged the thing inline with a USB keyboard, and the keyboard continued to work normally, except when I tapped Num Lock twice, whereupon I couldn’t type any more because I don’t know Dvorak.”