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The MacBook's new trackpad will change the way you click

Jason Snell | March 13, 2015
To make the new MacBook so thin, Apple had to shrink the keyboard's height and remove the trackpad's up-and-down click. So far, Jason Snell prefers the trackpad and its new Force click gesture.

The very small amount of key travel is the first thing I noticed. When you push a key, it depresses slightly, and lands hard (presumably on that stainless steel dome switch). It doesn't feel at all like a cheap keyboard, but it's a shockingly different feel than the current crop of Apple keyboards. It's like a cross between those current Apple keyboards and typing on an iPad screen, if that makes any sense--it's got the physical feel of a real keyboard but the hard landing of hitting that glass screen.

In fact, I found that I typed a lot faster on the new MacBook keyboard once I adapted some of my iPad typing technique to the new keyboard. My typing style on a physical keyboard includes a lot of force as a push through depressing each key. With the new MacBook keyboard, when I started thinking of just tapping the key with a finger (as if I was tapping the keys on an iPad's screen) and not using any extra force, things started to move a lot better.

Apple claims that the keys are far more stable than previous keyboards, and that seems right, though I admit that I've never really had a complaint about the keys on my keyboard feeling unstable. Each key cap is larger, which means they should be easier to hit--but the space between keys has been reduced, which would seem to me to be a decision that would increase the chances that your finger will hit the wrong key.

Beyond the changes to the key movement itself, this keyboard offers a few other interesting features. Each key is individually LED lit. (Can each LED be controlled separately, so we could turn the keyboard into a bunch of blinking Christmas lights?) The Escape key has been elongated and the function keys narrowed. The arrow keys have been redesigned; the up and down arrows are still half-height, but the left and right arrows are now full sized. I can't decide if I like it or not, so for now I'll just say: change acknowledged.

The fact is, any time you switch to a new keyboard, there's an adjustment period, especially if the keyboard style is drastically different. That's the case here. Still, my gut feeling is that this is the best keyboard Apple could make given the constraints of the MacBook. It's too early to say for sure, but if I had to make a judgment right now I'd say that I hope this keyboard stays with the MacBook and goes no further.

The new trackpad
The highlight of my time using the MacBook in the hands-on area after the event was undoubtedly using the new Force Touch trackpad. It messes with your head, but in a good way. I may be cautious when it comes to the keyboard, but I'm in love with the new trackpad.

 

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