Review: Moshi Luna keyboard for Mac offers backlit keys, stylish design
If there’s one thing I miss from my old MacBook Pro, it’s the backlit keyboard, which let me easily see keys in the dark—being a morlock, a dimly lit room is my preferred work environment. Moshi’s $100 Luna is a USB desktop keyboard with a similar feature: It has backlit, illuminated keys, similar to those found on Apple’s MacBook Air and MacBook Pro keyboards.
The Luna is a full-size, 109-key keyboard with a glossy-black finish surrounded, around the edges, by clear acrylic. The keyboard is angled downward at a nine-degree angle that can’t be adjusted, so if you prefer a flat typing surface, this may not be the keyboard for you. Having said that, I have no complaints about the keyboard’s angle—I found it fairly neutral for my usual typing position and I didn’t experience any difficulty using it for long periods.
Part of the reason for this comfort is that the Luna is a low-profile keyboard, with a key feel not terribly different from Apple’s current keyboards. Underneath the keys are scissor-switch mechanisms, which help produce a smooth, short keystroke with a soft touch. The Luna lacks the sharp, tactile response of a mechanical keyboard such as Matias’s Tactile Pro, but using the Luna is an easy transition for people accustomed to the membrane-style keyboards found on Apple’s products. The keyboard is also quiet, making it well-suited for work in a shared space.
Unlike many keyboards in this price range, the wired Luna keyboard lacks pass-through USB ports of its own, so if you have other devices you’re planning to plug in, you’ll need to use one of your Mac’s USB ports instead.
The Luna hosts a row of 12 F-keys above, but separated from, the number row, with the F-keys grouped into three pods of four keys. There’s also a group of three keys (prt scr, scoll lk, and fn lock—more on these below) over the navigation keys, another group of four keys (mute, volume down, volume up, eject) over the numeric keypad, and an eject key to the far left. There’s a good amount of space between this row and the main key area. This arrangement, along with the pod groups, makes it easier to find and use the F-keys by touch, unlike with Apple’s keyboards, which mash the F-keys into a single, uninterrupted row directly adjacent to the number row. (As with Apple’s keyboards, the F-key row uses half-height keys.)
The Luna does not require any software drivers. The F-keys support most of the same special functions as those on Apple’s keyboards: F1 and F2 control display brightness; F3 activates Mission Control (in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion) or Exposé (in OS X 10.7 Lion or earlier); and F4 activates Dashboard. But things differ a bit starting with F5: F5 and F6 are dedicated to the keyboard’s brightness level; F7, F8, and F9 are used for media playback (back, play/pause and forward, respectively); and the volume-control keys are, as previously mentioned, located above the numeric keypad.
The Luna is designed as a cross-platform keyboard compatible with Macs, Windows PCs and Linux systems. This means that you’ll find the aforementioned Windows-specific “prt scr” (Print Screen), “scroll lk” (Scroll Lock) and “fn lock” (Function Lock) keys, which do nothing when the keyboard is used with a Mac. Otherwise, the Luna’s Mac-centric design shines through, from the special-function F-keys to the Bowen-knot symbol on the Command key. (On Windows-centric keyboards, this key usually sports a Windows symbol.) However, an ill-placed luna logo on the left-hand side of the space bar gave me fits when I first started using the keyboard—I’d spot it peripherally and mistake it for the Command key.
What makes the Luna exceptional compared to other well-crafted keyboards in this price range is the backlighting of the keyboard. The effect is similar to what you see on a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air: White illumination appears around the edge of each key cap and illuminates the character etched on the key. This makes the Luna particularly well-suited for use in low-light environments, especially if you’re not a touch typist. The illumination is not as pronounced when the lights are up: Unlike with Apple’s laptops, there’s no automatic adjustment for ambient light—you must use the F5 and F6 keys to adjust brightness.
Moshi has added a bit of aesthetic embellishment to the Luna, in the form of a clear-acrylic frame that surrounds the left, right and bottom edges of the keyboard. (The frame protrudes farther on the bottom than on the sides.) In dim ambient light, the very edge of that frame casts a white light, which adds to the “keyboard hovering in space” effect. However, if you tend to rest your hands on the edge of the keyboard, you’ll notice that this acrylic edge easily gets smeared with finger- and handprints, and those blemishes are especially noticeable—along with any dust or dirt—in dim ambient light thanks to the frame’s illumination.
Moshi’s Luna isn’t the first illuminated keyboard for desktop computers, but it’s one of the very few that’s made to work well with a Mac. It sports a stylish design that looks great with the lights on, but the Luna shines (quite literally) when the lights are off. The soft key feel and low profile are fine, if unremarkable, but just bear in mind that what you’re paying for with the Luna is the design and backlighting.