Apple's new butterfly keyboard

abhibeckert

09 Mar 2015, 22:12

Today Apple announced their next generation MacBook, with a completely redesigned key mechanism.
MacBook_PF_OP30_Svr-PRINT.jpg
MacBook_PF_OP30_Svr-PRINT.jpg (184.36 KiB) Viewed 5659 times
For details watch this video from 33 minutes in: http://www.apple.com/live/2015-mar-event/

It has a stainless steel switch, a hybrid plastic/glass "butterfly" spring, and is 40% thinner than a scissor switch key.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

09 Mar 2015, 22:17

Some talk about it here:

http://deskthority.net/keyboards-f2/lap ... ml#p215234

Promising for something so tremendously thin. And as they'll soon be in Apple Stores, something quite easy to try out. Looking forward to it.

JBert

09 Mar 2015, 22:18

It looks it has an awfully short travel distance... We'll see how it turns out.

abhibeckert

09 Mar 2015, 22:21

When I switched from using Apple's scissor switch keyboards to mechanical keyboards my biggest complaint was the amount of travel. I really don't like high travel keyboards.

On the other hand, apple's scissor switch keys wear out really fast and get mushy. They're great when you first buy them, but too expensive to replace constantly.

Hopefully this new one proves more durable.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

09 Mar 2015, 22:23

That's the thing, this isn't going to compare well to a mechanical keyboard in the abstract. The overriding design goal is to be thin. The tiny travel's going to be insane. It won't feel like anything in the mech world.

But the question is whether it's better than the current Apple scissor switch chiclet boards. Hopefully so! They've never been much good in any respect but size and backlighting.

robo

09 Mar 2015, 22:25

abhibeckert wrote: On the other hand, apple's scissor switch keys wear out really fast and get mushy.
I've been through a lot of Apple keyboards and haven't noticed this - but different models have have different feels (not sure if it's by design, or just differences in dome material between different OEMs or at different times). My wife's old 2009 15" MacBook Pro has a very crisp feeling keyboard still, while my 2014 MacBook Air's keyboard is noticeably less tactile, for example.

User avatar
Daniel Beardsmore

09 Mar 2015, 22:36

Is this some stupid page that only plays on a Mac?

User avatar
Muirium
µ

09 Mar 2015, 22:41

This any good for you?

http://images.apple.com/media/us/macboo ... 8-9dwc.mov

They release 1080p mp4 files of these keynotes soon enough as well.

User avatar
Daniel Beardsmore

09 Mar 2015, 22:47

I probably don't have QuickTime installed — nor should I. Stupid proprietary garbage.

andrewjoy

09 Mar 2015, 22:48

lets hope the put that keybord on the air and pro as well. and please apple PBT caps none of this abs rubbish you have been using recently

User avatar
chzel

09 Mar 2015, 22:48

So, it's basically half-scissor stabilized metal dome?
It should keep the same feel for a good while, unless lint or grit gets in there.
I'd like to try it when it hits the stores, but I am afraid it will feel like those metal dome membrane keyboards, too tactile with too little travel.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

09 Mar 2015, 22:53

Edited the OP to include Apple's stock photo. Also, here's some crops I just took from the video, during the keyboard segment:
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 9.48.14 pm.png
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 9.48.14 pm.png (31.83 KiB) Viewed 5648 times
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 9.48.02 pm.png
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 9.48.02 pm.png (68.6 KiB) Viewed 5648 times
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 9.47.42 pm.png
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 9.47.42 pm.png (68.05 KiB) Viewed 5648 times
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 9.48.25 pm.png
Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 9.48.25 pm.png (399.21 KiB) Viewed 5648 times
It's a double stabilised take on scissor switch, with a segmented stainless steel dome. Quite what that does to the feel… I'll find out once they have some on show at Princes Street!

abhibeckert

09 Mar 2015, 22:54

Daniel Beardsmore wrote: I probably don't have QuickTime installed — nor should I. Stupid proprietary garbage.
It'll be available on YouTube, but that usually takes a few extra hours.

Flash is the only truly cross platform video format, and since Apple doesn't sell any hardware that can play flash videos (unless you install third party software), they don't use it on their own website.

abhibeckert

09 Mar 2015, 22:56

chzel wrote: So, it's basically half-scissor stabilized metal dome?
Pretty much, but the scissor part is "glass filled nylon", whatever that means.

I guess it's a lot more rigid.

andrewjoy

09 Mar 2015, 23:00

At least they are looking at keyboard technology again :). Will have to give one a go and see what its like. IF they wanted a nice keyboard on there new laptop they should have just used beamspring switches :P

User avatar
scottc

09 Mar 2015, 23:02

andrewjoy wrote: At least they are looking at keyboard technology again :). Will have to give one a go and see what its like. IF they wanted a nice keyboard on there new laptop they should have just used beamspring switches :P
Mmm yeah, they could call it the 11" (thick) model. I've always wanted a 12kg laptop! :evilgeek:

User avatar
Muirium
µ

09 Mar 2015, 23:03

They tried that in the labs…
PowerBook G5.jpg
PowerBook G5.jpg (15.97 KiB) Viewed 5626 times
Sir Jony wasn't having it.

User avatar
chzel

09 Mar 2015, 23:10

abhibeckert wrote: Pretty much, but the scissor part is "glass filled nylon", whatever that means.

I guess it's a lot more rigid.
GRP (glass reinforced plastic) is nothing new or exotic, but it is a lot more rigid and durable. It is basically plastic with tiny glass fibers mixed in.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

09 Mar 2015, 23:12

One of the themes of the presentation was their fondness for fancy materials. I'm sure it all sounds impressive when you're otherwise not interested in the topic at hand. But the keyboard bit caught my interest more than most, of course.

User avatar
Daniel Beardsmore

09 Mar 2015, 23:16

abhibeckert wrote: Flash is the only truly cross platform video format, and since Apple doesn't sell any hardware that can play flash videos (unless you install third party software), they don't use it on their own website.
Flash isn't a video format. It does appear that Firefox doesn't like H.264 — testing via QuirksMode, I can play WebM and Ogg/Theora but not H.264/MP4. My PC understands MP4 codecs just fine, and Flash just enables them in a way that Firefox doesn't want to (might be built into Flash Player itself — Windows is an utter mess when it comes to codecs). (IE 11 only recognises H.264/MP4 on the same page.)

Of course, Apple could do a proper job if they cared. They're simply belligerent. That really makes me feel encouraged to take an interest in their products.

andrewjoy

09 Mar 2015, 23:23

Muirium wrote: They tried that in the labs…
PowerBook G5.jpg
Sir Jony wasn't having it.

I like that :P.

He is a good designer , but he needs to understand that sometimes people need to use the products he designs, shocker i know Jony but that's how it is :P

Findecanor

09 Mar 2015, 23:30

The metal domes in the keyboard looks a lot like the ones in some of my TI calculators from the 1970s... Nothing new. Very low key travel though.

The "butterfly" stabiliser is also nothing new: there have been lots of variations of that. I expect Apple's to break in the middle. Some larger ones have gear teeth connecting the sides instead. I can't see what it is here that prevents the keys from falling out ...
chzel wrote: GRP (glass reinforced plastic) is nothing new or exotic, but it is a lot more rigid and durable. It is basically plastic with tiny glass fibers mixed in.
Yep. You can get 3D-printing filament with it. I sometimes add microfibres manually to epoxy when I glue or cast something when I need extra rigidity and strength.

abhibeckert

09 Mar 2015, 23:57

Daniel Beardsmore wrote:
abhibeckert wrote: Flash is the only truly cross platform video format, and since Apple doesn't sell any hardware that can play flash videos (unless you install third party software), they don't use it on their own website.
Flash isn't a video format. It does appear that Firefox doesn't like H.264 — testing via QuirksMode, I can play WebM and Ogg/Theora but not H.264/MP4. My PC understands MP4 codecs just fine, and Flash just enables them in a way that Firefox doesn't want to (might be built into Flash Player itself — Windows is an utter mess when it comes to codecs). (IE 11 only recognises H.264/MP4 on the same page.)
I was simplifying things. I'm a web developer at a consulting firm and intimately familiar with the issue, since we've done video deployment for several clients.

FireFox's ability to play H.264 depends what operating system/plugins/hardware you're running on. It's complicated.
Of course, Apple could do a proper job if they cared. They're simply belligerent. That really makes me feel encouraged to take an interest in their products.
They've got more important things to do. As I said it'll be available on YouTube, half the videos they've created today are already available but not the entire keynote yet.
Last edited by abhibeckert on 09 Mar 2015, 23:59, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Halvar

09 Mar 2015, 23:58

So there's no rubber part in it any more? But a metal spring instead kind of like in a Futaba switch? Sure sounds interesting.

jacobolus

10 Mar 2015, 00:11

Some of my comments copy/pasted from geekhack:

They’re using a different typeface for the legends (San Francisco vs. VAG Rounded?):
Image
Image

I must say, I’m not impressed with the glyphs for symbols and punctuation, or the alignment of anything, on the new legends. I think they just pulled the same glyphs intended to be used in printed text, rather than customizing them to make sense in the context of keyboard legends, and as a result the stroke widths, glyph sizes, etc. are all over the map. The previous Apple laptop legend designs seem much more careful and consistent. I think these might actually be the least carefully done keycap legends on any Apple keyboard since the M0110. For all that some people here dislike like the Condensed Oblique Univers of the late 80s / early 90s, everything else about the legend design was done with careful attention to detail.

Using smaller outlined glyphs for the various functions like media controls, volume, brightness, etc. makes them all less distinguishable and less legible.

Interesting how they reversed the text alignment on the bottom row. I like the old one marginally better, but it’s not really a big deal.

I can’t imagine there’s any real positive advantage of the larger keytop size and reduced space between keys. The old ones seemed pretty reasonably sized/spaced, but I wouldn’t even mind slightly more space between keys than those, I think.

The bottom row, including the spacebar, seems to not be quite as wide as on the old keyboard. (Personally I think it would benefit by being an extra ~5 millimeters wider. An extra wide spacebar makes quite a nice improvement in typing comfort.

Extra long escape is kind of an interesting change. Might be nice, even though the trade-off is squeezing the F keys.

I’m definitely not a fan of the new left/right arrows. The little gaps in the old version are really helpful for locating the arrow cluster.

Overall a lot of this new design looks like it was rushed out by some interns.

User avatar
stratokaster

10 Mar 2015, 00:26

The new font looks too thin. The old one (is it VAG Rounded? I have always thought it's Myriad) is definitely more legible.

abhibeckert

10 Mar 2015, 00:29

jacobolus wrote: the stroke widths, glyph sizes, etc. are all over the map.
Surely you need to see it in person before you can judge that. Photos on an LCD isn't accurate enough to judge.
I’m definitely not a fan of the new left/right arrows. The little gaps in the old version are really helpful for locating the arrow cluster.
I agree, but I never use them anyway *shrug*. I always use control + b/p/n/f.
Overall a lot of this new design looks like it was rushed out by some interns.
Highly unlikely. It would be the work of Jony Ive's "core team" of 19 hand picked designers, and every one of those would have had input for almost every decision.

jacobolus

10 Mar 2015, 00:33

I mean, obviously it’s not actually the work of some interns. My point is I think they did a shit job, and need to get some better graphic designers on board next time they design keyboard legends. (And having seen Apple’s other output,they have some excellent graphic designers, typographers, etc. It’s just whoever did this particular legend design that screwed up.)

I don’t mind the new typeface, as a text/UI face. I hope they transition OS X and iOS to using it instead of Helvetica Neue, which is a terrible typeface for user interfaces. (I much prefer OS X 10.9 over 10.10, entirely because Helvetica Neue in all the UI is hard to read and makes me sad to look at.)

The problem with the new keyboard design is that they didn’t adjust all the glyphs for the context. Keycap legends are a very different use case from paragraphs of text.
Last edited by jacobolus on 10 Mar 2015, 00:36, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

10 Mar 2015, 00:34

what an impressive and elegant little fashion toy. Looking forward to see what they cook for the big boys (namely macbook pro). I expect that keyboard to propagate to all the line.

Not sure I like the big ass esc key :) and agree with jacobolus that the little gap on left/right arrows actually helps touch typing. What can I say. It's Apple, you have to conform.

Also... 1 LED per key... wondering if they bothered adding a controller for a per-key-lighting functionality.
Halvar wrote: So there's no rubber part in it any more? But a metal spring instead kind of like in a Futaba switch? Sure sounds interesting.
futaba?! someone said futaba?!

User avatar
Halvar

10 Mar 2015, 00:35

abhibeckert wrote:
jacobolus wrote: the stroke widths, glyph sizes, etc. are all over the map.
Surely you need to see it in person before you can judge that. Photos on an LCD isn't accurate enough to judge.
I agree, and it even looks more like a rendering than a photo.

Post Reply

Return to “News”