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Matias Tactile Pro KeyboardClackety-Clack, The Fun Is Back
I know what you're thinking: just what in Sam Hill tarnation are we doing reviewing a keyboard? After all, keyboards aren't hard to get a hold of. Hell, you can't even walk down the street these days without tripping over a keyboard, so what makes this one any different? Well, the long and short of the Matias Tactile Pro keyboard is that it isn't different, provided you're nostalgically stuck (as many of us are) several years in the past. And that's what makes it great.
As I approach my 32nd birthday this coming fall, it's only fitting to lapse into bitter old man mode to set up this review. Of course, as all such rants have to begin with a hearty "in my day," here goes: In my day, our Macs were beige. They sported SCSI hard drives and NuBus expansion slots. And in my day, our Apple-made keyboards cost $129 extra and made as much noise as a passing freight train. But damned if they didn't just feel spot on to use, which is why I recall them so fondly. Keyboards, at least in my opinion, have slowly but surely gotten worse over time, and even the ones that now sport an Apple logo don't quite measure up to what I consider to be the pinnacle of creamy keyboard goodness, the late, great Apple Extended Keyboard II. Well, the good folks at Matias remember those days, and, more importantly, they remember those keyboards too. So their gift to the world (such as it is, considering the list price is $99) is the Tactile Pro, which attempts to capture the best of the old without sacrificing the newer stuff we expect keyboards to have these days.
Is it for you?
One's opinion of a keyboard is bound to be highly subjective, so I'm not going to pretend that the Tactile Pro will be the right solution for everyone. After all, there are some folks who don't care what they type on, and there are some folks who are so hyper-sensitive to every single keyboard subtlety that their tendons scream bloody murder if everything isn't just so. That said, there are aspects of the Tactile Pro that will appeal to a large majority of users, so I don't think it's a stretch to say that the Tactile Pro may just be the perfect keyboard for most everyone. And yes, Windows users, that means you too.
The main draw of the Tactile Pro, as the name suggests, is how it feels. Again, I know I'm treading in a huge sea of subjectivity here, so please, bear with me. To put it into the most technical terms I know how, the Tactile Pro eschews the "smooshy" feel that is the hallmark of so many modern keyboards (including, sadly, Apple's current lineup) in favor of the "clackety" responsiveness that was such a pleasure to use in keyboards of the past. Each key has a noticeable "point of impact," for lack of a better term, that provides tangible (as well as audible) feedback once the key is fully depressed. So, in addition to having additional sensory clues as to when a key is actually depressed, it becomes a lot harder to accidentally hit multiple keys at once. The end result, at least for me, is that having all the additional feedback re-injected into the typing mix caused my accuracy to shoot way up. Hard numbers? I don't have 'em. I just know that I'm typing faster, and with fewer errors. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I wouldn't be at all shocked to find that increased productivity is a natural side effect of Tactile Pro usage for most folks.
While the huge selling point is how it feels, Matias has packed everything one would expect in a modern keyboard into the Tactile Pro, and even some things one might not expect. The Tactile Pro is clearly inspired by Apple's current Pro keyboard offering, right down to combination transparent and white plastic finish (fig. 1). It's smaller in size than I remember my behemoth Apple Extended Keyboard II being; the Tactile Pro is comparable to Apple's more recent models. And yes, "recent models" in this context happily excludes the 1998-1999 era Apple cra(m)p(ed) keyboard and hockey puck mouse. Good riddance to those, and I shall not speak their evil names again.
Figure 1: Looks like an Apple, but it's not!
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