Apple’s keyboards are a bit confusing at the moment, with two generations of keyboards available, and each generation offering two different keyboards, with or without a numeric keypad.
The older generation of Magic Keyboards is still available, and is now intended primarily for use with older Macs that have Intel processors. These older keyboards lack the Touch ID sensor that is available with the two new keyboards that Apple launched in the summer of 2021.
However, Touch ID and some of the other features of the new keyboards don’t work with Intel-based Macs, so if your Mac has an Intel processor then these older keyboards are the best options available from Apple – although, of course, there are plenty of other keyboards available from other manufacturers, which we review here as well.
The smaller Magic Keyboard can be expensive, but its elegant slimline design started a trend for ‘low-profile’ keyboards that many other manufacturers now follow too.
The aluminium body does feel quite sturdy, but the slimline design means that the keys don’t ‘travel’ very well, so speedy typists might prefer a larger keyboard that is actually designed to do some proper work rather than just looking pretty.
The Space Bar and the little set of navigation keys in the lower-right corner of the keyboard are also rather small and fiddly. To be fair, though, the compact little keyboard does squeeze in quite a few useful features, with the top row of Function keys providing controls for brightness, volume and playing music.
The Magic Keyboard works as a standard Bluetooth keyboard, and Apple says that its rechargeable battery will last for about a month at a time. Like all Apple keyboards it has a Lightning port for charging, but the latest version of the Magic Keyboard – also updated in Summer 2021 – now includes a USB-C-to-Lightning cable, so make sure you don’t buy an older model from other online stores, which might still have a USB-A cable instead (unless, of course, you’ve got an old Mac that only has USB-A connectors).
And, of course, there’s the larger version, called the Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad. This is also quite expensive but adds a numeric keypad for people who need to do a bit of serious number crunching every now and then. This keyboard also has a larger set of navigation keys, which is very useful for scrolling through long documents or web pages, and an additional set of navigation keys that allow you to quickly jump to the top or bottom of a document.
The larger keyboard layout also means that there’s room for some additional Function keys too, going right up to F19 (rather than F12 for the smaller Magic Keyboard). It’s a shame, though, that the options in the macOS for programming your own keyboard shortcuts are fairly limited, so power users might prefer to use a third-party utility such as USB OverDrive or HotKey App, to make full use of these extra Function keys. This larger keyboard has the same month-long battery life as the smaller Magic Keyboard, although it’s showing its age a little as (surprisingly) its charging cable still has a USB-A connector.
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