Apple MacBook Pro Scissor Switches vs. iPad Smart Folio Keyboard

User avatar
madrobby

11 Nov 2018, 13:21

I’ve several MacBook Pro’s with the various generations of scissor switches, and I have both generations of iPad Smart Keyboards (a 2017 and a 2018 one).

Here’s my verdict:

MacBook Pro keyboard (also applicable to MacBook and 2018 MacBook Air):
IMHO these keyboards are the worst Apple ever made.

It’s not actually the switch which is terrible (well, they sort of are because of the short travel, but that wouldn’t be the end of the world), it’s the keycaps which do it for me. They’re (obviously) chiclet style but they problem is that the keys are way too close together and the surface is not sculped or textured in any way.

It is thusly impossible to tell if your fingers rest on the correct keys and you constantly have to look down. And I’m not even talking about the abomination that the Touchbar is.

They also, especially for their minuscule size inexcplicably wobble a lot. There’s an unpleasant feeling of them “swimming away” when you touch them.

The smooth caps also cause finger oil and debris to accumulate which then conveniently transfers to your screen surface when you close your laptop lid.

Just about the only good thing I can say about them is they don’t bind and the backlight works quite well.

iPad Smart Keyboard
This keyboard is a hundred times better than the laptop keyboards Apple currently makes. For the larger iPad, the keyboard is essentially the exact same size as the MacBook Pro 13” keyboard. (Note that the Smart Keyboard does not have a function key row or a TouchBar).

The keys are a good distance from each other and have actually sculped and textured keycap surfaces (keys are concave, bottom row with spacebar is convex, like God intended). It’s not a Model F or anything, and of course there has to be a compromise in key travel, but they feel oh so much better. I don’t make mistakes while typing on them, because I alwayls know if my fingers are sitting on the keys correctly. It doesn’t have the horrible wobbble either (there is the tiniest hint of wobble, but it’s not like teeth chattering like on the scissor switches).

Because the Smart Keyboard is completely sealed, spills and dust will just come right off and it’s extremely unlikely that the keyboard would be damaged.

I even like the typing noise better. There’s absolutely no problem typing longer texts like this post on it. Of course, I’d use a real keyboard if I have one at hand, but given the choice between the laptop keyboard with the scissor switches and the Smart Keyboard I find myself reaching to my iPad.

One downside is that there’s no backlight. However, due to the iPad screen being right there, it tends to have quite enough illumination from above to be a non-issue unless you type black text on a black screen...

Perhaps a caveat with the 2018 model is there is that the keyboard in the previous models was folded in on itself when not in use, and now the keycap surfaces will touch the screen when you close the folio-style Smart Keyboard. It does a little bit of dirt transfer to the screen surface, however the cover itself now also protects the back of the iPad, so they compromised here. I haven’t had the newer iPad for long enough to make a judgment if that’s a real issue or not.


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I find it extremely weird that the “cheap plastic sealed mobile keyboard” has a better typing feel than the “Pro” keyboards of the laptops. I hope that they learn from this and make the laptop keyboards better. I used to their previous iterations.

What do you think?

User avatar
Muirium
µ

11 Nov 2018, 14:44

I don’t like the iPad cover keyboards at all. Puffy and squidgy, like typing on a keyboard through a tent. Apple did much better several redesigns back, before they went to chiclet everywhere in 2006. From a recent thread about scissor switch hate:
Muirium wrote: My favourite scissor switch keyboard is the very heavily used one in my 12 inch PowerBook, my first Mac, bought new when it came out in 2003. Still feels quite nice to me, all these years and mechs later. It’s no Topre, obviously, but it does have a perfectly passable feel, not at all bad for a laptop. You could blame some of my fondness for it on the sheer hours I spent writing on that little trooper of a machine, and its lasting nostalgia value for me now. But honestly, I always liked it. Right from first sight. The plastics are worn beyond the point of obvious cheapness, and the legend alignments are plain bad; but it still feels cosy to me. Much like the nostalgia trip of heavy aqua and pinstriped Tiger when you turn it on!

Apple well and truly fucked up since. The 2007 era aluminium desktop chiclet boards are what you all have in mind. Those are bad. Never liked them, or the MacBook from whence they came. I didn’t mind the flat keys so much as the feel of them. Only gotten shorter over the years since. No warm fuzzies for that stuff here. Indeed, I seldom write on my 2013 MacBook Pro’s keyboard for just how stifled it feels.

Scissor switches are like rubber domes: they can be done right, but almost never are. So the terms become synonyms for shite, almost fairly, until you find a good one.

User avatar
stratokaster

11 Nov 2018, 14:45

Even in your photo it is apparent that the alphanumeric keycaps on the MBP are actually slightly sculpted (they have raised edges).

I can type very fast on this keyboard, but it hurts my fingertips.

User avatar
NOMiS

11 Nov 2018, 14:50

I have pretty much the opposite feelings, I have a hard time typing on the ipad pro keyboard, but the mbp keyboard is one of my favorite keyboards I have. The problem for me is the reliability of the mbp keyboard, keys failing, getting stuck, feeling different if dust gets under, etc. The magic keyboard has a bit more travel, but not as much, and doesn't have the reliability problems, so that is my preferred 'board.

As for the ipad's keyboard, I think they require a bit too much force, and is hard to tell when they actuate. I believe I could get used to it, but it's out of reach for me atm.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

11 Nov 2018, 14:56

The suicidal failure rate on the recent MacBook / Pro keyboards is all I really have against them. No feel, but almost no depth either, so quite in keeping with Apple’s overall plan! It’s a design trade off that Apple has taken a typically extreme position on. Normals don’t care, so why not. But the way people keep having to take their Macs in for service, again and again for these, yuck. Real mistakes made there.

Anyway, as for iPads this is my answer:

Image

A wireless keyboard with very different choices than Apple’s! The absence of a built in, lacklustre keyboard is one of the iPad’s best features, for me. Using keyboards attached too close to displays all day ruins my neck and shoulders.

User avatar
stratokaster

11 Nov 2018, 15:09

Apple’s Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro is serviceable in a pinch, but the spacebar is horrible.

Obviously, my Bluetooth Filco Minila is 100 times better, so I use it for dedicated writing sessions.

User avatar
madrobby

11 Nov 2018, 15:29

I wish someone made a mechanical keyboard this uses the same magnetic clip-on connector that the Smart Keyboard Folio uses. That would make a nice travel “laptop”.

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

11 Nov 2018, 16:26

every new macbook release I'm expecting them to remove the whole keyboard and replace it with a gigantic touch bar.

I tried all iterations of the new scissor switches and they all feel terrible to me, but I'm an old fart, probably if you are a millennial used to onscreen keyboards macbook keyboard is an improvement.

PS: I knew I knew your avatar, mr.Fuchs!

User avatar
NOMiS

11 Nov 2018, 18:10

I think most millennials used domes and brick/flip phones before smart phones, I get your point though.

User avatar
Hypersphere

11 Nov 2018, 18:57

matt3o wrote: every new macbook release I'm expecting them to remove the whole keyboard and replace it with a gigantic touch bar.
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User avatar
digital_matthew

11 Nov 2018, 22:45

matt3o wrote: every new macbook release I'm expecting them to remove the whole keyboard and replace it with a gigantic touch bar...

User avatar
Muirium
µ

11 Nov 2018, 23:21

I was calling that idea the MacBook Touch back in 2008, I'll have you know.

Personally, I'm all for it. Typing on laptops sucks. Anything thinner than my tubby ole' turn of the century PowerBook just doesn't have room for respectable key-travel. Might as well grasp the thistle and go glass.

The flat surface would make a convenient perch for my HHKB…

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

12 Nov 2018, 08:21

that's what happens when you want to make it thinner just for the sake of it. there are decent laptop keyboards around. my lenovo keyboard for example feels pretty good.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

12 Nov 2018, 10:28

Thinner is the whole point. Trying the new MacBook Air in the Apple Store (I was in there to see the new iPads) it’s a nice enough computer, but my goodness does the MacBook still blow it away in weight and chub. They had them side by side on the tables, along with the Pros, and the MacBook is still the most compelling in physical form.

Now yes, it’s neglected, for now. But the MacBook’s design is the future of the laptop for sure. Something imperceptibly thicker than an iPad, with a nominal keyboard at best, and no fans or any excess pork. Something good in the hand, kind in the bag, and a delight on the lap. Weight is the killer for all of those, and weight comes with thickness. Lightness transforms how it works.

Once they put their own processor in it, and with any luck either more ports or wireless charging, that’ll be a joy to behold!

Laptop keyboards are garbage. It’s all they can be. Bring your own!

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

12 Nov 2018, 10:40

Muirium wrote: Laptop keyboards are garbage. It’s all they can be. Bring your own!
"they all suck, so it doesn't matter if the macbook sucks harder." I'm sorry but that doesn't cut it.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

12 Nov 2018, 10:49

matt3o wrote: "they all suck, so it doesn't matter if the macbook sucks harder if its severe, minimal depth brings transformative thinness and therefore lightness to the whole computer’s design."
Fixed!

If you want chub, buy any other computer. This one’s not for you.

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

12 Nov 2018, 11:14

ah right aesthetics over functionality. always. my bad.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

12 Nov 2018, 11:25

Always? Why? Are they taking your Linux box away?

User avatar
stratokaster

12 Nov 2018, 11:58

Thickness or lack thereof is a non-issue past a certain threshold. My current MacBook Pro is 16mm thick and I'm 101% sure I wouldn't have noticed if it was 17 or 18mm thick... I think anything under 20mm is thin enough for me.

Honestly, I can't think of any scenario where additional 1-2-3mm of thickness would be a deal breaker on a general-purpose machine (specialized items like 12" MacBook are a different category and subject to different rules).

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

12 Nov 2018, 12:07

I mean they always try to push it further. I appreciate that. It's like an engineer says "yeah this can be done in 16mm thickness" and apple says "great now make it 15mm" and they actually do it. that's great. thanks god they are doing it... but sometimes they win sometimes the lose. This time they didn't make it. Maybe next time.

Also relevant http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apple

User avatar
Muirium
µ

12 Nov 2018, 13:32

stratokaster wrote: (specialized items like 12" MacBook are a different category and subject to different rules).
I’m glad you get that! Mind, I consider that category to be “what all laptops will be like in 5-10 years.” Well, almost all. There’ll still be some boat anchors with full numpads and coffee warmers for those who desire them; just not from Apple, of course!

Thickness = weight. That’s the key.

User avatar
stratokaster

12 Nov 2018, 14:29

Muirium wrote: Mind, I consider that category to be “what all laptops will be like in 5-10 years.”
The deadline keeps on slipping, doesn't it? It's exactly 10 years since Steve Jobs introduced the very first MacBook Air (famous for its awful thermal design, failing hinges and a single USB port). Two years later, Apple was forced to retreat and introduced an improved Air which was a tad thicker and a smidgen heavier but had a very robust port selection, not to mention vastly improved cooling. Now we're in 2018, but the 12" MacBook is still a very compromised computer, and mostly for the same reasons as the original Air...

User avatar
Hypersphere

12 Nov 2018, 14:45

Muirium wrote:
stratokaster wrote: (specialized items like 12" MacBook are a different category and subject to different rules).
I’m glad you get that! Mind, I consider that category to be “what all laptops will be like in 5-10 years.” Well, almost all. There’ll still be some boat anchors with full numpads and coffee warmers for those who desire them; just not from Apple, of course!

Thickness = weight. That’s the key.
Well, of course, weight depends on dimensions and factors other than thickness. I suppose they could abandon the concept of milling their laptops out of a solid slab of aluminum and use a lighter material. Perhaps before long we will have foldable or rollable computers printed in thin polymer sheets.

User avatar
madrobby

12 Nov 2018, 15:04

Muirium wrote: Laptop keyboards are garbage. It’s all they can be. Bring your own!
I've used many laptop keyboards that are fine to use. Older Apple laptops (before scissor switches) had much better key spacing for touch typing and I have no problems typing on them. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't seek them out and I would use an external keyboard if it's there (and is half-way decent); but they sacrificed basic functionality to make the whole thing thinner.

Perhaps some enterprising maker of PC laptops could come up with interchangeable bottom modules so you could bring your own keyboard along, as part of the laptop rather than another piece of kit you have to lug around. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

User avatar
Muirium
µ

12 Nov 2018, 15:16

stratokaster wrote:
Muirium wrote: Mind, I consider that category to be “what all laptops will be like in 5-10 years.”
The deadline keeps on slipping, doesn't it? … Now we're in 2018, but the 12" MacBook is still a very compromised computer, and mostly for the same reasons as the original Air...
Indeed. The MacBook is a nightmare in its current state. Not because of its thinness—that’s the one right thing about it—but because of abandonment. It was a fine enough first stab at the challenge, in 2015, but really should have been given the same kind of overhaul as the MacBook Air got after its awkward youth, as you identified. Trouble is, 2016 and 2017 weren’t good years for the Mac, to put it mildly. This was the era where Apple showed every sign of disinterest with the entire platform. So 2015’s futurist MacBook sleepwalked into today’s retro future!

Perhaps the MacBook is waiting for its transformation into Apple’s first fully in house Mac. The iPad Pro’s SoC is up to snuff now, and it’s easy to picture them taking the Mac off doddy old Intel now they have the chops. But for the present, all that model serves is as a reminder in the Apple Store that the new MacBook Air still has a ways to go on its diet…
madrobby wrote: Perhaps some enterprising maker of PC laptops could come up with interchangeable bottom modules so you could bring your own keyboard along, as part of the laptop rather than another piece of kit you have to lug around. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Well, a certain enterprising maker of iPad tablets came up with a scissor switch version of that, as you know! What I’d like to see is an iPad Pro folio case that uses the new magnets, as Apple’s does, but which provides a platform for placing your own keyboard.

Can’t really do all this with clamshell laptops. Not unless they put their guts behind the display and become tablets, like the Surface.

User avatar
stratokaster

12 Nov 2018, 15:41

I agree that the 12" MacBook looks kinda bad right now, but that's mainly because of Intel. This year's Y-series chips are mostly the same as the previous generation, nothing has really changed except for the model numbers. I'm actually interested in replacing my current MBP with a 12" MB because I have a reasonably powerful desktop Mac now, and having a laptop which is almost as light as my iPad Pro with its Smart Keyboard is a very compelling proposition.

User avatar
madrobby

12 Nov 2018, 18:41

stratokaster wrote: I agree that the 12" MacBook looks kinda bad right now, but that's mainly because of Intel. This year's Y-series chips are mostly the same as the previous generation, nothing has really changed except for the model numbers. I'm actually interested in replacing my current MBP with a 12" MB because I have a reasonably powerful desktop Mac now, and having a laptop which is almost as light as my iPad Pro with its Smart Keyboard is a very compelling proposition.
Whatever they do, I think Apple will laugh all the way to the bank.

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

13 Nov 2018, 08:05

Muirium wrote: Thickness = weight. That’s the key.
I'm not entirely convinced by this. 90% of the weight in these things nowadays is battery and screen. The weight you can save by shaving 0.5mm of aluminum is neglectable. Actually thinner means making bigger batteries that spread all over the places. It's more about efficient processors that need less juice, better batteries and probably better engineered screens.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

13 Nov 2018, 12:34

Absolutely. Making things thinner sounds a hell of a lot simpler than it really is. Thinness doesn’t come easily at all. It’s a noble design goal that underlies everything.

There’s no denying that the MacBook’s thinness is paired with a striking lightness, too. Then, one Mac along at Edinburgh’s store, the 2018 MacBook Air is notably thicker and all the more heavier. Shift along once more and the MacBook “Escape” (13” MacBook Pro without a touch bar) is another level again of chub and heft. Three strikingly different settings of the thinness vs. versatility design tradeoff dial, and yet all now with much the same keyboard!

You’re right to imply that a better keyboard wouldn’t add much more weight. But when you’ve gone to all that effort to make the whole computer so thin and light, it’s a pity to plop a thick keyboard into the middle of the sandwich. It’s not what they’re for at all.

User avatar
madrobby

13 Nov 2018, 19:16

The good old times...
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