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Gadget of the Week 3-7

March 2, 2009 - Dave Hecei
Most people would agree that Macintosh computers are built to be beautiful to look at with some of the best industrial designs; the iMac could be considered a perfect 10. Surprisingly, there is something to be said about the latest Apple keyboard, and it isn’t very positive.

Apple seems to get the computer right, but their keyboards and mice have had it tough. If you had a Mac after the return of Steve Jobs then you might remember that ridiculous round hockey puck mouse, which is still in the books as the worst computer mouse ever. The latest Apple keyboard that come with the iMac and the Mac Pro tower, an amazingly thin aluminum slab, is beautiful to look at, but most agree that the usability is on the poor side. This is a keyboard that you will either love or hate.

I have recently found a new keyboard that I love. It’s the Microsoft Digital Media Pro keyboard. This is a wired USB keyboard that is fully OS X compatible, even though it’s sold mostly as a Windows keyboard. The Media Pro has a great feel and has a standard keyboard layout. The only problem is that the Command key and Option key are not labeled, but they are in the proper position.

The keys themselves have a great feel and since this is a ‘media’ keyboard there are extra keys for other functions. On the far left is a slider that allows you to zoom in and out. This slider does different things depending on what application you are in. If you are in Safari it will increase or decrease the text size. If you are in Preview, Apple’s PDF and image viewer, it will increase or decrease the magnification. If you in most other programs or the desktop, it will magnify the screen itself, similar to what you can do with the Universal Access controls, which can help anyone with visual impairment, or like me, getting harder to see small type.

There are buttons along the top for: volume, player controls, and five of your favorite websites. On the top right, there are six buttons for most used folders and applications: Documents folder, Pictures folder, Music folder, Mail, Web Browser, and Chat. By the numeric keypad there are three more buttons: Calculator, Log Off, and Sleep. There is software included that installs an OS X control panel, which you can access through System Preferences, that allows you to control all these functions and even change what they do. This allows you to customize this keyboard for your use.

I have to say that even though I love my Macs, I don’t love their keyboards and mice. I now use the MS Media Pro keyboard along with my wireless MS Optical 5000 mouse. While this keyboard is not as thin and elegant as the Apple one, it has the right feel that allows me to type faster and more accurate. Plus, having the extra media and application keys keeps my hands on the keyboard and not reaching for the mouse.

The Media Pro keyboard is silver and black, so it does sort of match the new Mac color scheme. You should be able to find it at most computer retail outlets or online. I have seen it prices as low as $15, which is quite a bargain for this type of keyboard.


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