Macally iKeySlim: Great Feel and USB 2.0

I’ve been using the Macally iKeySlim for several weeks now, and the best thing I can say about it is that I’ve hardly noticed the change.

Quality Counts

That’s a good thing. As a writer and editor, I spend a lot of time using the keyboard, and I’ve always been picky about what I use. In the olden days, Apple’s ADB Extended Keyboard and Extended Keyboard II were the top choice. When Apple went to cheaper keyboards, we started using the MicroSpeed KB105M at work.

When Apple introduced USB with the iMac in 1998, its USB keyboard had a decent feel but a lousy layout. One of the keyboards we settled on at Baker Publishing was the Macally iKey, which had a good feel and the traditional extended keyboard layout. I also found the MacSense UKB-600 to be an excellent keyboard.

When I got my first notebook, a first generation Titanium PowerBook G4, I found I didn’t care for the built-in keyboard. It felt kind of mushy, so I went in search of a good USB keyboard I could use with it. After reviewing my options online, I went to local office supply and computer stores to see how they felt, and I settled on the Logitech Cordless Elite Duo, a wireless mouse and keyboard with a USB receiver. I’ve been using that keyboard for eight years, and it still feels great.

In Praise of iKeySlim

MacAlly iKeySlimWhen I say that I hardly notice the difference when using the $30 iKeySlim, that’s high praise. This keyboard has an excellent feel, something missing on most low-cost keyboards.

MacAlly iKeySlimThe iKeySlim is white, making it a great complement to a white MacBook, an iBook, a white iMac, or an eMac. It has a very clean look and includes a small trough where you can store a couple pens or pencils.

It’s also a USB 2.0 device, so in addition to being a good keyboard, it acts as a 2-port USB hub. That makes it very convenient when plugging in a card reader or flash drive. My other options are to plug it into the back of my Power Mac G4 on the floor or locate a USB 2.0 port on the back of my Dell flat panel display. The USB 2.0 hub is a good reason to consider the iKeySlim over a wireless keyboard.

MacAlly iKeySlim

The keyboard has a power/sleep button, something Apple abandoned years ago, as well as dedicated volume up, volume down, mute, and eject buttons. Unlike my wireless Logitech keyboard, which needs to conserve battery power, the iKeySlim has Caps Lock and Num Lock lights – a very nice feature that always seems to be absent on wireless keyboards.

The question for me is whether to go back to the Logitech or stick with the Macally. The Logitech keyboard has a scroll wheel, which I missed at first, and a dial for adjusting volume. I have no trouble switching to the scroll wheel on my Logitech M705 Marathon Mouse wireless mouse, and using buttons or a dial for changing volume is no big deal.

One Small Drawback with Older Macs

For my use, there’s only one drawback to using the iKeySlim, and it only applies to older Macs with built-in USB 1.1 and add-in USB 2.0 expansion cards. If you want to use the keyboard’s power key to turn on your Mac or touch a key to wake it from sleep, the keyboard has to be plugged into a built-in USB port, which means USB 1.1 on older (almost all pre-2003) Macs. If you want to take advantage of that fast built-in USB 2.0 hub, you need to plug the keyboard into a USB 2.0 port – which is on a PCI card in my Power Mac, a card that powers down when the computer goes to sleep.

This is admittedly a small minority of Mac users these days, but as this is Low End Mac and I am one of those users, I thought it only fair to point out this small drawback. That said, Apple’s USB keyboards haven’t included a power button for years, so you’re not losing out by comparison. And even on USB 1.1, this is a great keyboard, you just won’t benefit from the USB 2.0 speed of the hub.

This is not an issue with any particular keyboard; it’s a matter of how Apple designed the Sleep function in its computers. A sleeping USB card cannot process input.

After weeks of use, I don’t hesitate to give the Macally iKeySlim our top rating.

Update: As of September 2014, I’m still using this keyboard daily, and it looks and feels like new. It has withstood almost four years of heavy use, and my recommendation stands.

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