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MacBook keyboad really sucks

I’ve just got back from the London Apple Store, having wanted to try out the MacBook for myself.

I’ve got a few notes, but the main headline for me is how much the new keyboard sucked.

MacBook keyboard

The MacBook sports an all-new keyboard consisting of flat, square, widely spaced keys. They look beautiful and minimalistic (AppleInsider has some great shots).

But as soon as I got down to typing on them… eeek! In order to reach the keys it felt like I had to splay my fingers out really widely. Try holding your hands in front of you and splay your fingers so that they are as wide apart from each other. That’s how it feels to type on this keyboard. I don’t have particularly small fingers either.

I was still able to type, but my speed and accuracy was reduced drastically. Aside from the wide spacing, the flat keys offer no tactile confirmation of your finger being on the centre of the key – a really important thing if you’re a touch-type like me. Most keyboards, including my Thinkpad X32, have ridged keys that dip in the middle so you know where the centre lies.

I wasn’t the only person voicing keyboard concerns around the MacBook display either. I wonder whether it’s going to become an issue, especially for those who have ordered online without even trying the new machine out first?

A few other points to note:

Black Casing
I have to say the black casing does look very cool. That’s partly because it’s reminiscent of the old-school black Mac laptops and partly because I’m known for my love of black.

However I’m a bit concerned about the fact it’s matte-black. Those paying the extra $200 for the dark aesthetics may find that their purchase looks dated in a year or so compared to the more time-less white. I think it’s because it’s not glossy-black like the iPod black option.

Glossy screen
The high contrast glossy screen is new for Apple, but has been a feature of many laptops, including Sony VAIO’s, for sometime. However under the bright halogen lights of the Apple store the, the glare was really annoying.

The Apple sales person kept setting the MacBook to show a photo gallery of highly optimised photos (which looked wonderful on the screen). But whilst trying to type on a high contract black-text-on-white-background environment like MS Word, the glare became a little annoying.

I’ve not spent a great deal of time in Apple stores – I went to the one in San Francisco (hey it’s practically a tourist attraction) and I’ve been in the London one once before. However I was really taken aback at the upsell, near-hardsell, I was getting from the Apple staff. (is that normal?)

“Hey, well this is really more for students – you should think about the MacBookPro”

…was the line I got twice from the sales guy. I was really taken aback because he hadn’t really asked me what I was going to use it for so I wasn’t sure how we would know that a MacBookPro would be more appropriate.

He also got really funny about things when I said that I wanted to remove OS X and put just Windows on it “because the MacBook was a good Windows option for for the spec you for the price”.

Clearly I had offended his Apple’y feelings by diss’ing his beloved OS!

So I don’t think I’ll be buying a MacBook. I just can’t get on with the keyboard, and in many regards it’s form-over-function taken too far (IMHO). It’s also given me a reality check as to why I don’t like Apple hardware.

You can check out MacWorld’s review for an alternative perspective.

Published in Gadgets Thoughts and Rants


  1. Hardee Har Har Hardee Har Har

    I really like the new keyboard. i was skeptical also, but once taken home it only took a few minutes to get use to. And I love it. seriously, i can type faster and more accurately on this new keyboard. I was surprised. While at Apple stores one must stand at a desk and work on a laptop, which regardless of height is difficult to feel comfortable working on a laptop, ergonomically speaking. That is why your hands had to be “splayed” thus. So, things are different in the home environment — you cant really test a product solely AT the store, which is quite unfair and far from the whole story.
    Also, one is not paying $200 just for the so-called black paint. That’s just wrong. There are spec differences, if you care to be accurate. If you wish to critique something, you might as well put it on a level playing field, so to speak, unless you only want to reinforce your pre-existing conclusion.
    (Sorry, only meant to say I liked the keyboard…)

  2. Hardee Har Har: This is Ben’s _personal_ _blog_ adjust your BS detector accordingly.

  3. Comms Comms

    You’re “known” for your love of black? Like, when the topic of black comes up people remark, “Oh that Ben Metcalfe, he really loves his black”?

  4. Hardee Har Har Hardee Har Har

    Hardee Har Har: There are _no_ spec differences. You’re getting 20GB more for $200. You can get that in the other models for just $49.

  5. Mmm – reminds me of my ZX-81. Horace Goes Skiing, anyone?

  6. Ben Ben


    You’re “known” for your love of black? Like, when the topic of black comes up people remark, “Oh that Ben Metcalfe, he really loves his black”?

    Yeah. 🙂

    I don’t wear anything but black (I’m not a goth, not that there’s anything wrong with goths). Sometimes my reputation proceedes me on that front.

  7. Ben Ben

    BTW: I love the name Hardee Har Har. Props for that!

  8. I tried one out at the store, and was extremely edgy about the keyboard since I touch-type very fast (it’s what I do for a living).

    And I have to say, I didn’t notice any of the negatives Ben noticed. I found I could type quite fast on it — though maybe not quite as fast as on my Powerbook, and certainly not as fast as on a “real” keyboard (read: giant old ATA IBM).

    But I did notice something else troublesome. There’s so little resistance to the keys, I found myself sort of bashing my fingers against the motherboard. However, I’m betting that has a lot to do with my rough typing habits (coding at a desktop and whatnot) and that I’ll adjust. If someone got one of these sight unseen, however, it might give them a very bad first impression.

    The “$200 for paint” issue is a bit off too, as you’re really only paying $150 extra and it’s not just paint. I prefer the white aesthetically, and if the tables were turned I’d gladly pay an extra $150 for it. I’m actually a little surprised to see so many real Mac fans getting upset about this issue, because part of what makes Apple products so great is that they’re not just a jumble of components with a ten percent markup (*cough* dell *cough*).

    Finally, as for the Windows issue, at this point — with BaseCamp for the gamers and Parallels for the web developers — anyone who runs Windows when they could run OS X fully deserves the user experience they get. And if they actually prefer that, then great. Well, maybe not great, but certainly within the realm of allowable personal choice in a liberal democracy. 😉

    I’m getting a MacBook and will use it for personal things while I use a Powerbook for work, and if after a year or so I really prefer the PB then I’ll get a MacBook Pro. For my money, given the other things I like about the little white MacBook, it’s worth giving it some real time to see what happens.

    (whew, long-ass comment. hey ben, where’s the preview button?)

  9. d’oh!

    s/ATA (IBM)/AT $1/

  10. N N

    Agree on the keyboard. While it’s very fast, the keys feel too far apart. I think it’s b/c they’re flat. If they had some feature (e.g., concave or convex), it’d be easier for the fingers to know where they were on the keyboard. I spent time in the store practising and couldn’t get the hang of it. Maybe if you type enough on it, the centers of the keys get greasier and it’s easier for the fingers to orient themselves. I’ve read the MBP’s have thermal grease to spare: good place to get it. BTW, don’t know if it’s a sign, but one of the Apple Store’s MB’s was running warm and buggy.

  11. D D

    I looked at the MacBook in the Apple store too. It’s true that glossy screen is annoying – really annoying. The constant reflections gave a lack of stillness that would drive me nuts and give me headaches – matte for me anyday please! They need to make this a build-to-order option.
    The keyboard, while actually not that bad, is certainly a downgrade on my aged iBook. The lack of travel int he keys, the hardness, just doesn’t feel right. The mousepad doesn’t click anymore, giving a sense of cheapness.
    I thought this might make a great work machine for me as the specs looked very generous. Sadly, Apple seem to have made more of a toy out of the MacBook – perhaps to tempt people to the MacBook Pro.
    I’ll keep iBooking for another year, I think.

  12. Andrew Andrew

    I resisted the MacBook for two months. I drooled over it at the Apple Store, but the glossy screen and integrated graphcis scared me away.

    Well, I finally bit the bullet and brought home a black MacBook. The first few days it was pleasant enough. The screen glare really isn’t too bad in most lighting and the color and “pop” are amazing for movies and games. The keyboard while shallow, is very fast and actually feels pretty good. The integrated graphics were the biggest surprise, with a game that bogged down on my 12″ PowerBook G4 1.5Ghz (Knights of the Old Republic) actually flying along at movie speed (in Windows XP) on the MacBook. I’ve since installed other higher end games and found that the integrated graphics are up to anything except latest generation first-person shooters. Rome:Total War is a tad bit slower than my desktop, but entirely playable. Max Payne 1 and 2 simply rock and that is the normal experience. By the way, unlike the 64MB that Mac OS X gives to the intergrated GMA950 graphics, Windows XP gives it 128 MB. This isn’t a problem as I have the full 2GB of RAM installed, along with a 120GB 5400 RPM hard drive.

    After a week, I’ve found that I like the MacBook so well that I just put my 15″ PowerBook up for sale and will actually be replacing both 12″ and 15″ units with the 13.3″ MacBook. Its really that good, including the keyboard.

  13. msmaddymax msmaddymax

    i’ll tell you what sucks – the macbook is much slower than the ibook. this freaking intel duo whatever is hyped up crap.

    had my ibook stole and was forced to buy this newer (but worse!) model.

  14. This keyboard sucks! I cannot get the keys right and I keep missing letters even though I KNOW that i hit the key. This is awful, I regret switching to Apple. I hope this takes care of itself soon.

  15. kevin kevin

    Thank you for posting this. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who thinks these keyboards are cumbersome. I’m currently shopping for a new computer. I’ve never owned a Mac and everyone is saying: “Get a Mac. Get a Mac. You’re stupid if you don’t.” I played around with them at an Apple Store today and the keyboards are just…horrible. The concave aluminum keys on the 17″ Macbook Pros are fine. I was ready to buy, but wanted the 15″ cheaper version, but low and behold the rep. brings me to the 15″ version and voila! The crummy plastic keys on that one (???). I’m confused.

  16. jon March jon March

    totally, vehemently DIS-agree.

    Ive had em all, and the 2007-2008 macbook PRO keyboard is a vague, rubbery piece of S#$! compared to the Macbook. after 2 replacement keyboards, just typing this SHORT reply has created 10 typos i never would have had t go back and correct if i did it on my Macbook.

    You want lousy, get a core 2 duo MBP from 07-08.


  17. Chris Chris

    The glossy screens are useless unless you live in a cave with no external light. Stick with a matte screen if your ‘Book is actually mobile.

    The new Macbook and Pro keyboards are rubbish. I’m keeping my last gen pro until they pitch the new boards and go back to the contoured keys with positive feedback.

  18. jwd jwd

    Maybe the lousy new keyboard is part of Apple’s ploy to move forward with the MacBook Wheel.

  19. paris excort paris excort

    espectacular….!!!!, veo las fotos y me sigo emocionando….!!!, la mejor semana santa desde hace mucho tiempo….!!!!

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