Matias is a company that I have been aware of as I remember a few of their keyboards as I look back on some of their EOL products. I never really gave them any real thought when I was looking to buy a mechanical keyboard a couple years ago. It seems the name Matias doesn't come up like Deck, Das Keyboard or even the newer ones from Corsair and CoolerMaster, along with many other names. Upon closer inspection I found out why. It seems that while Matias is making great products, most are geared for Apple products whether it is an iPod, iPad or a Mac. That isn't to say they aren't Zune, Android or PC friendly, it's more that users of the latter list of products is unaware of these little gems.
Cameron my editor had seen the news blast for the latest of mechanical keyboards from Matias and promptly went into action acquiring a sample for me to test. Since the craze of mechanical keyboards is in full effect and I have seen quite a few offering and switch types, but with the Matias keyboards I get to play around with a whole new brand of switches by Alps. What is obvious about the keyboard and keys is the entire thing is made of white plastic and makes for an obvious Apple replacement keyboard, even down to the plungers in the mechanical switches. This isn't just your basic mechanical keyboard either, it has keys specific to Mac's and has a pair of symbols on each key for super simple access to type them into something as you go.
While I currently don't own anything with the Apple name or anything running a Mac OS, I am assured via emails and the information on the site, that with a simple driver install, any PC user can benefit from all but six specific Apple keys and one of the secondary symbols which just happens to be the Apple logo.
Stick around for this one. I am pretty sure whether you are a Mac user or a PC user, the handiness and functionality of the Matias Tactile Pro 3.0 is a keyboard that any writer would love to own and for everyone else, you will see the pricing isn't out of the range of most other solutions that don't come close to this level of usability at your fingertips.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
As for "the best keyboard ever made" that is alluding to the Apple Extended Keyboard that was widely seen by Mac users as the must-have keyboard at that time. The problem is they are hard to locat since they were made in the 1990's from what I can remember. What makes both keyboards so similar in nature is that they both use Alps mechanical switches under the key caps to deliver each stroke to the PCB and onto the computer. These are found under each and every key from the Function keys all the way through the number pad. Speaking of the key caps, each one is laser etched for superior longevity over painted caps and almost all of the keys have multiple symbols on them above and beyond the typical keyboard layout.
With the latest 3.0 version of the Tactile Pro, things have changed from the original and version 2.0. It started with a power button that has been done away with and while the original has a two port USB hub, the second and this latest version have three ports around the keyboard to plug in USB 2.0 devices. Now all three of the Tactile Pro keyboards came in white with a clear plastic cover, but along the way in each series the overall look and design has slightly changed, but still offers the same dual part cover. In the Tactile Pro 3.0 we are looking at today you have the culmination of years of design and improvement that leaves us with the best looking of the Tactile Pro keyboards in my opinion.
As I ventured out into the "œinterwebs" to find the Tactile Pro 3.0 for sale, I found about 16 e-tailers that are ready to take your money. A few of them I have never dealt with before, but the pricing of right near $130 for this keyboard is a steal in my mind. Most mechanical offerings in keyboards are going to run you into the $150 mark for a good one that isn't all show and almost all go. For those of you who aren't very trusting of the lesser known e-tailers on the list, you may also grab one direct from Matias, for the MSRP price of $149.95 and puts it right in the mix with most other mechanical offerings.
With the Matias Tactile Pro 3.0 it is all about straight forward functionality and additional keys right in front of you that will not only speed up your typing, but you won't be stuck in a program looking for the symbol while scrolling through a huge list in the software you are using. For those of you looking for straight forward writers or you are in the market for a no BS layout and feature set, the Tactile Pro 3.0 should be on your must check out soon list.
On the front of the packaging there is an image of two-thirds of the Matias Tactile Pro 3.0 keyboard shown with the tag line of "a better keyboard for your Mac" and your PC as well.
At this edge of the packaging it shows that this keyboard will function with Mac by default and for PC users you will need a driver to get the correct controls of the Option and Command keys.
The left half of the back panel shows a side view of the Tactile Pro with its rear feet extended. Below that is a lot of information as to why this is the return of the best keyboard Apple made and why you should desire one of your own.
The right half covers the features found in the Tactile Pro like the Alps switches, the multiple key symbols and the three port high speed USB 2.0 hub. If you haven't figured it out thus far, all of the doubles of the explanations are in French; this is a Canadian company after all.
The other smaller side of the outer packaging again offers us the name of their keyboard and the same side view we saw on the back panel.
The keyboard is shipped in an inverted position with the cord being bundled at the outer edge. The keyboard itself is wrapped in a dense foam sleeve that got the Tactile Pro 3.0 to my house without a scratch on it.
There is an insert to help you along with all of the extra symbols around the keyboard. To gain access to using them, you need only to push the option button and a key or the option and shift keys to use the second symbol available on some of the keys.
The back of that same insert has the web address at the top followed by the terms of their one year warranty. It then finishes with a list of ways to return the keyboard or to visit www.matias.ca/returns for more information.
Matias Tactile Pro 3.0 Mechanical Keyboard
With the Tactile Pro 3.0 out of the packaging you notice first just how white this keyboard is. Looking at it a little bit closer you can see that some of the keys have been changed from a PC layout along with a ton of extra signs and symbols covering most of the keys.
The left section of the board containing the 73 keys seen here shows you multimedia keys at the top on the F-keys. There is a notch in the Caps Lock key that will turn green when active, but as far as the board goes, that is the only lighting.
Along with changing the backspace to a delete key, the Windows key and Alt. Key have been names option and command on the Tactile Pro 3.0, hence why this is a Mac oriented keyboard. With a driver available on site, these will revert to PC Windows and ALT functions.
This is just a sample of the extra functionality on each key on the keyboard. To use the "∆" on the J key, you use option and hit J. To use the "Ô" symbol, you hit shift and option, then the J key. The same can be said for all of the other laser etched key caps with symbols on them.
Even on the right side of the keyboard on these 35 keys, there is the delete key doubled from the other half and also a clear button added to the number pad in place of a number lock.
The Tactile Pro 3.0 has a dual layered plastic shell that splits around the middle of the edges of the keyboard. There aren't screws holding this together, but rather a series of ten clips like the one off to the right that will allow you to disassemble the keyboard for serious cleaning.
Matias designed this keyboard with a natural curve to it even if it is sitting flat. On the far left edge, as the plastic steps back from the edge of the keyboard, you find port number one of the USB 2.0 hub incorporated into the Tactile Pro 3.0.
Across the back of the keyboard you have the cable attached right in the center with two of the release clips on either side of it. On the far left side again, there is port number two of the hub.
The right side of the keyboard has that same glass-like appearance the rest of the keyboard gives you the feel of looking at it and off to the right this time is port number three of the high speed USB 2.0 hub system.
The cable is just shy of two meters long and I also like that it was only bent three times to get it into the box. To go along with the clean white look of the keyboard, the cable is braided in a silver mesh that has a plastic coating over it as well.
Matias Tactile Pro 3.0 Continued
Flipping the Tactile Pro 3.0 onto its face you get to now see the underside of the board. The clear spots you see aren't drainage holes, but rather where the pins run through the guts of the keyboard to keep everything lined up.
On the front edge of the keyboard the Tactile Pro uses these white rubber pads found on both sides to keep this in place at your desk.
In the back you have the option to raise the clear plastic feet for a more ergonomic angle of use. While they are folded in the keyboard rests on the raised bit that would surround the foot if it was lying down.
With the back feet extended the board raises three quarters of an inch at the foot and just over an inch at the back to present the keys for easier access and use.
I don't think Matias would suggest you do this, but to open up the keyboard you must first gently work around the edge of the keyboard with a small screwdriver to release the clips. They are pretty delicate and I can see impatience here resulting in broken clips.
With the cover out of the way we can now get a look at what is going on inside. The Top Board is where all of the signals are relayed and where all of the voltage control and functionality of the USB 2.0 hub is contained.
To get the steel frame out of the bottom half of the keyboard I had to first unplug the USB ports off of both ends of the PCB. I can't stress this enough, parts in here can be easily broken and if you are this far into a tear down, there better have been a beer spilled or a bag of dust poured into your keyboard to need to get this deep.
There isn't any drainage or a quick way to remove debris, but to ease your mind, the switches are tightly fit as they rest against the steel plate and are essentially sealed if you get to it quick enough and you can see the steel does roll over the PCB to aid in this not shorting out either.
We saw the side of the Alps Tactile switches, but here you can see them and the backs of the keycaps. It is easy to distinguish these against the cross shaped Cherry switches, but these are by far the loudest keys if you don't stop at the mid-point of the switch where the resistance is greatest.
When it comes to what mechanical keyboard I want on my desktop out of the half dozen or so that I have used so far, this Matias solution is by far better than the others I have used. I gave this keyboard a few solid weeks of use and I am going to hate when it comes time to move onto another keyboard for testing. After my time with the Tactile Pro 3.0, I feel my typing in general has picked up its pace a bit and I am in love with the ease this keyboard offers you a huge selection of symbols for coding, writing, spread sheets - just about anything you can think that will take advantage of this will be easier and faster for you with the Tactile Pro 3.0. I am really at a loss of words to try to impress on you just how mice this mechanical keyboard really is.
Mac or PC, it doesn't matter, this keyboard is serious about typing - no gimmicks, no fancy LEDs, no programmable buttons on the side, unlike a mullet, this is pure business with very little party to it. The best feature about this keyboard is that the Tactile Pro is almost plug and play for a Mac, there are some things you need to do when you plug it in to finalize the setup and for PC you simply install a small driver to remap a few keys and you are off to the races.
This shiny yet elegant solution by far wins me over and I have never tried the legacy board this is replacing. I can now see why it was so sought after, even without the comparison to the Apple Extended keyboard, the Tactile Pro 3.0 is keyboard enough to stand all on its own for any potential buyer.
If you are a Mac user, I can't really think of a better solution to your needs. For the PC users, think outside of the box a bit here and deal with a couple of keys that aren't worded correctly and get over it. Matias is offering a keyboard that I really think you shouldn't miss. While this $130 - 150 solution isn't exactly geared to gaming, I had no issues with that, but the real focus is serious typists who are looking for form and functionality over "pretties and bling".
The serious typist in all of you knows I am right about this keyboard and if you are in the mechanical Keyboard market I strongly suggest you give Matias and the Tactile Pro 3.0 a really serious look. I promise you, you will not be disappointed in this purchase in the slightest.