Like it or not, the keyboard is still the main interface for using your computer. We've still not perfected Minority Report style gloves, speech recognition is getting better all the time but is still no match for a good touch typist, and neural interfaces are nowhere to be seen, thankfully. In order to tell our computers what to do, we're still primarily using the trusty mouse and keyboard combination.
And the keyboard itself hasn't really evolved over the years, either. The only evolution has been the addition of a few extra buttons here and there – quick-launch keys to open your browser or email client, volume controls to save you a few mouse clicks, and the dreaded Function Lock. This last "feature" is used to toggle between the standard F-key functionality, and another row of handy shortcuts to launch your word processor, or spreadsheet of choice, and is commonly found on Microsoft and Logitech keyboards. The problem with Function Lock, in my experience, as that it seems to have a mind of its own.
The Matias USB 2.0 Keyboard is, I'm very pleased to say, completely free of all these useless buttons. There's no nasty f-lock, no browser launch buttons, and no forward and back for music control. It does sneak a mute, volume up and volume down button into the space above the help, home, and page up buttons, but that's the extent of its deviation.
Unless, of course, you count its main selling point: a USB 2.0 dock port. Matias claim, and I'm inclined to believe them, that the USB 2.0 Keyboard is the only keyboard to feature a built in USB 2 port. It's certainly the only one I've found on my travels.
The keyboard itself looks and feels very much like some of Logitech's offerings when you remove it from its box. The first major difference you're likely to notice is the two USB connectors on the end of the cable. As the keyboard sports two USB 1.1 ports in addition to the USB 2.0 dock, two connectors are needed to supply sufficient bandwidth and power to the device. One connection handles the keyboard, and USB 1.1 features, while the other is reserved for the USB 2.0 dock. This is unlikely to be a problem for the majority of machines, but it's worth bearing in mind.
The second thing you're likely to notice – with the Mac version at least – is the large number of symbols on the keyboard. Every key is not only marked with its letter, but with the corresponding two symbols for that key press. If you're regularly looking these key strokes up, the Matias keyboard could be a Godsend. The combination of option + a key displays the bottom of the two symbols, while shift + option + a key press selects the upper. It's intuitive and will not doubt be incredibly useful for a number of users.
Inevitably, you're going to start typing, and it's at this point that you'll notice the "high-quality rubber dome keyswitches". Whatever these are, they seem to do the trick; the Matias USB 2.0 Keyboard feels a lot better to type on than the majority of plastic based keyboards I've used. It can't compete with the likes of the Das Keyboard, or really high end, microswitch based devices, but it isn't trying to. That said, I'd like to see what Matias could produce if they did aim for that end of the market.
For the $30 that the Matias keyboard will set you back, I can't help but recommend it. I find it to be far better to type on than Apple's equivalent, and the addition of the USB 2.0 Dock elevates it further. For extended periods of typing, the Matias felt more natural than my Apple keyboard, or any of my Logitech keyboards. There's a certain amount of resistance on each key; not too much, but just enough to make the typing experience an enjoyable one.
The keystrokes don't make an insane amount of noise, but they do make a little. It's certainly one of the less "clacky" keyboards I've come across, thanks to the weight of each key.
The dock has worked with every device I've thrown at it, from memory sticks, to my iPod, to external hard drives. If you're intending on hiding your computer under your desk, or in another difficult to reach spot, having a few USB connections on your keyboard is extremely handy.
The only thing I don't like about the Matias keyboard is the return key. It's half the size of the return keys of most keyboards, and occasionally I'll hit backslash instead of enter. It's really not a big deal, however, and I am getting used to it. In fact, it didn't take very long for me to adjust at all.
In summary then, a big thumbs up for the Matias USB 2.0 Keyboard. It's affordable, well made, and has some extremely useful features.
Product reviewed was the white Matias USB 2.0 Keyboard for Mac. Also available in black for Windows/Mac.Powered by Sidelines