Are you old enough to remember the amazing IBM model M keyboards? I am. And I loved mine. I had several of them as did my roommate from that time.
I remember in the mid 1990s working for a consulting firm in central IL, and during that employment one of the tasks put to us was to install a network with new PCs. Since this was a large company we were doing this for, they wanted to write off all of their items being replaced (or so I was told), so we threw the old stuff into a gigantic dumpster. During that install, we trashed likely more than 100 IBM Mechanical “clicky” keyboards. A few of us were devious enough to stow a few away. Several of us them for close to a decade after.
Now get in your DeLorean and head to 2013. I’ve started a new job and I hear that unmistakable sound of a clicky-clack keyboard from some folks I work with. It’s oh-so-familiar and I’m whisked away to a carefree time of gaming, learning Linux and BSD and drinking crummy beer around a table of nerds with computers.
Then there was an email thread about the keyboards.
I got interested again.
After a bit of googling around I found that there is a very, very large following for the clickey model M-style keyboards. And there is a lot of detail and difference between key styles. Not surprising, they’re great devices and apparent;y far more diverse than I ever knew. So, I set out to find a reasonably priced, modern interface (read:USB) mechanical keyboard. After much deliberation, I settled on the Adesso MKB-125 keyboard. It seems like a good compromise between function, form and cost and is available for about $60 from Amazon.
Now, I’ve been using an Apple “chicklet” keyboard for years. Since they came out, actually, and I can say with confidence that I like it. The tactile response is nowhere near as good, but after 6+ years, it’s muscle memory, and I knew the MKB-125 would be different in many ways.
That being said, this review isn’t really a “review” per se, it’s a detailing of the things that someone that has been using a very different keyboard would experience when switching to this device. It should be said that I love this keyboard. I’m going to buy another one for home to replace my apple keyboard there. However, it is requiring a re-training of my habits. Some of the things I experienced that I did not expect (but perhaps should have) are detailed below.
Lack of special apple keys. I did not realize just how much I used the keyboard volume keys as well as the mission control stuff. There are ways to re-map some of it (although I’ve not found a way to do the volume yet), mission control stuff is all available via hotkeys. I’m still working through this.
Tiny space bar. I didn’t catch this one. It’s still annoying, but I purposely got a compact keyboard. I should have seen it coming but didn’t. My hands are slowly learning that the alt key isn’t the spacebar.
No support for num-lock on mac? Have not figured this one out yet. It doesn’t claim mac support, so who knows. I have done zero investigation but I have lamented it a fair amount.
Lack of USB hub. Again, this could have been solved by getting the MKB-135B for roughly $15 more. Perhaps I’ll get that one for home.
Noise. These things are loud. If you forget to mute on a conference call or video conference and start typing, everyone will know. If you have little kids and want to work while they sleep in the next room, that’s a crap shoot. They’re that loud.
All that being said, I love this keyboard. The mechanical keys are audibly reinforcing and I very much like the tactile response. It’s both nostalgic and useful. It reminds me of being in high school around 1991 and learning BASIC on an IBM PS/2.
I would highly recommend anyone who spends serious amount of time writing code, prose or any other typing-intensive tasks to seriously consider a mechanical keyboard. There are many guides out there to help you decide what is right for you and you’ll be surprised at how much you like it.