Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Best external keyboard for Mac computers

Why I went keyboard hunting

I’ve owned two Apple branded Magic Keyboards. Whilst they were nice to type on, the only thing especially magic about them, is they both magically stopped working after a couple of years of moderate use. In both cases numerous keys simultaneously stopped working. On the first keyboard it was the left Shift key, along with R, A, Z. On the replacement, it was a number of other keys and the spacebar. In both instances, this magic trick made the keyboards unusable. For the relatively high price Apple sells them for, I expected greater longevity. So I went looking for alternatives.

As the lyrics by Ian Hunter put it, “Once bitten, twice shy babe“! (click, to enjoy some classic 1970s Rock’n’Roll, or click here for a Great White cover of the same tune.)

Wired or Wireless?

Personally, I prefer to use a wired keyboard. I didn’t like having to keep swapping out (rechargeable) batteries from my Apple Magic Keyboards. If they had a wired option, I would have bought it instead of the wireless. The latest Apple Magic Keyboards have a built in lithium ion battery, which is likely less of a hassle. But then my concern is, which will magically fail first — the non-replaceable battery, or the keys, or something else? Twice bitten, third time shy.

So, wired or wireless? The keyboard I’ve been using for the past few years, since ditching my last magically dead Apple Keyboard is wired, and it is lovely to work with. I have no particular need for a wireless option, and since bluetooth doesn’t always behave itself, having a wire does away with any potential connection issues. The same brand has a wireless option, of which I cover them all below.

Wired Mac Keyboards

UPDATE: 20240320

From experience, I can no longer justify personally recommending Satechi keyboards as “the best”. Since writing this article on the best keyboards for Apple computers (in May 2021) I’ve had three of them mysteriously die. Much like the Apple “magic” keyboards did in years prior. I don’t do anything unusual with my keyboards, like using them in a Turkish Steam-room or a Sauna. Maybe I just have a strange effect on keyboards! The first Satechi keyboard died in June 2021, shortly after I published this keyboard article. They get such fantastic reviews on, and I have had no issues with other Satechi devices I use, and they are great when they work, so I figured it was just bad luck. Then the replacement I bought died after about 14 months. Extreme bad luck? I wasn’t sure. But I heavily depend on having a functional keyboard (my laptop is on a stand and out of reach, and my Mac Mini obviously needs an external keyboard), so I just went right ahead and ordered another. Well, that one died about a week ago. In each case, what happens is a few keys just stop working. Like “N” and “B on the one that just died. Three failed devices, and I am moving on.

I am now using a MACALLY keyboard. It cost quite a bit less than the Satechi (under half the price). The materials are lower quality, in that it’s made of plastic instead of aluminium. But it looks just as good, if not better (I prefer it’s lower profile).So I am adding the MACALLY keyboards to the top of the following list. If you decide to go with a Satechi, chances are it’ll be fine. But just as I ditched Apple keyboards after multiple failures, I’m now doing the same with Satechi.

MACALLY USB Wired Keyboard with Numeric Keypad

The Macally Ultra-Slim USB Wired Computer Keyboard is the keyboard I’m using right now. The key action is very similar to that on my 2022 Macbook Air (M1). A little louder (not much), and a little more of a rattle (mostly on the space bar), but otherwise very similar. Relatively quiet, with a short action distance making it suitable for fast typing.

This top face of this keyboard is made of plastic, although it looks like brush aluminum. The bottom face is metal, which I gives it some a good level of rigidity. It has a few shortcut keys I’ve not seen before, which are potentially handy. There’s a zoom in and zoom out key. There’s also a power button key, and a Force Quit applications key — normally for this you use Option (or Alt), Command, Esc (Escape), or select Force Quit in the Apple menu. It also has a shortcut key for Spotlight (typically Commend-space is the shortcut I use for Spotlight. There is also a screenshot key (full screen), and a screenshot with area selector key. macOS already has built in keyboard combinations for all these shortcuts, but I suppose for someone not familiar with the built-in key combinations, these single key shortcuts would come in handy.

Satechi Aluminum USB Wired Keyboard with Numeric Keypad

This is the keyboard I currently own, and have enjoyed using for the past few years. Check above UPDATE note—I did own this (a couple of them, but both had keys fail).

The Satechi Aluminum USB Wired Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English, Space Gray) is a high quality keyboard made from brushed aluminium. This is the older version, which has a USB-A type plug on it. If you have a newer Mac with USB-C ports, you may prefer to get the newer version, which also has backlit keys.

This older version (model ST-AMWKS for silver, and ST-AMWKM for space grey) has great reviews. It’s been on the market for over 3 years, so plenty of people have had the chance to put it through its paces. The newer model (below) has relatively few reviews (as of May 2021), so the jury is still out on that one. I will say, I’ve used numerous Mac accessories from Satechi, and they are all of excellent quality.

Satechi Slim W1 Wired Backlit Keyboard (USB-C)

If you don’t want the numeric keypad, and prefer a more compact keyboard, the Satechi Slim W1 Wired Backlit Keyboard is the option to go for. It’s a more recent release than the model above, so it has a USB-C connector. So it’s best if you have a newer Mac with USB-C. Otherwise you could use an adapter such as these high quality nonda USB C to USB Adapters. I’ve not personally used this keyboard, but I expect it’s of the same high quality as the one above (which I am typing on right now).

Satechi Slim W3 Wired Backlit Keyboard with Numeric Keypad

The Satechi Slim W3 Wired Backlit Keyboard with Numeric Keypad is the newer version of the keyboard I have (above). It comes with USB-C plug, and has backlit keys. I see a few people on Amazon have mentioned an issue with the backlight flickering at night. If it’s just a question of the computer activating the keyboard (because the computer is coming out of sleep), then I expect it’s best they adjust the backlight brightness to zero (yes, the backlight is adjustable, and can be turned off completely). If it’s a matter of the keyboard randomly flickering due to a fault, then it’s best to get a free replacement under its 1 year warranty. Problem solved. That’s what warranties are for.

This keyboard is optimised for Mac — designed with Apple users in mind, the Slim W1 Wired Backlit Keyboard features an ultra-compact size and convenient function keys to transform your tablet into a fully functional workstation. It features a sleek, aluminum finish to complement your Apple devices, and it has low-profile, responsive keys for a comfortable typing experience.

COMPATIBILITY – supports devices with a USB-C port including, 2020 iMac Pro/iMac, 2020/2018 MacBook Air, 2020/2019/2018/2017/2016 MacBook Pro, 2020/2018 iPad Pro, 2020 iPad Air. Does not support devices with a standard USB-A port. — Regarding this, I find it hard to believe it won’t work with a USB-C to USB-A adapter. I will ask Satechi to confirm this.

Wireless Mac Keyboards

If you prefer to have no wires, and don’t mind charging your keyboard every month or so, Satechi also has the above two keyboards in a wireless version.

Satechi Slim X3 Bluetooth Backlit Keyboard with Numeric Keypad – Illuminated Keys & Multi-Device Sync

The Satechi Slim X3 Bluetooth Backlit Keyboard with Numeric Keypad is a full-size keyboard with 15 function keys, the numeric keypad, four arrow keys, and the 6 additional keys (page up/down, home, end, prtscr, delete). It’s the same low profile design as all the Satechi models, made with quality aluminum, and with a quality key action.

It can pair with up to four devices simultaneously, allowing you to switch between typing on those devices with a simple key-press.

It’s optimised for use with Mac, and is fully compatible MacBook Pro 2020/2019/2018/2017/2016, 2020/2018 MacBook Air, 2020/2018 Mac Mini, 2020/2019 iMac, iPhone 12 Pro Max/12 Pro/12 Mini/12, iPhone 11 Pro Max/11 Pro/11, 2012 & newer Mac devices.

Satechi Slim X3 Bluetooth Backlit Keyboard with Numeric Keypad – Illuminated Keys & Multi-Device Sync

The Satechi Slim X1 Bluetooth Backlit Keyboard is the wireless version, without the numeric keypad. Aside from using it on your Mac, you can also connect it to any iOS device such as you iPhone or iPad. What’s more, it’s multi-device sync feature means you can use a simple key-press to switch between controlling up to three devices. So if you have it paired with your iPhone and your Mac, you can quickly switch which device the keyboard is active with.

It has illuminated / backlit keys, and the same sleek, modern design as the other Satechi keyboards.

COMPATIBLE WITH – MacBook Pro 2020/2019/2018/2017/2016, 2020/2018 MacBook Air, 2020/2018 Mac Mini, 2020/2019 iMac, iPhone 12 Pro Max/12 Pro/12 Mini/12, iPhone 11 Pro Max/11 Pro/11, 2012 & newer Mac devices


You will have noticed I’ve only mentioned Satechi products on this page. The reason being is that in my experience Satechi make high quality keyboards, that are aesthetically pleasing, and well constructed. In my opinion they are some of the best MacOS compatible keyboards currently available.

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  1. Excellent, useful review. I purchased the W3 keyboard the other day. In the post… I’m very curious if you reached out to Satechi and if you received an answer regarding compatibility between new keyboards (e.g. W3) with older Mac’s without USB-C…

    “… Does not support devices with a standard USB-A port. — Regarding this, I find it hard to believe it won’t work with a USB-C to USB-A adapter. I will ask Satechi to confirm this.”

    I have a MacBook Air 2017 model. has USB-A ports. Purchased a Satechi adaptor (USB-C female to USB-A male). Very curious and Hopeful it works. Would be surprised and disappointed if not…

    The other Jonathan 😉

    • Thanks Jonathan S. I appreciate your taking the time to give some feedback and add some discussion to this review. I apologise for taking so long to respond. Seems I no longer receive notifications when comments are made. Will sort that out.

      Regarding your question … Actually, I don’t recall if heard back from Satechi on that.

      Now that you’ve tried that keyboard with an adapted, what was your experience? Did it work? Would love to know.


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