Apple’s Mac laptops and desktops have long been the go-to option for creative professionals and tech enthusiasts who value style and simplicity over all else. But while Apple continues to push the envelope with its PC hardware (and how much people are willing to spend on it), the company’s Magic Keyboard doesn’t enjoy the same amount of innovation, with its overall look and function remaining virtually unchanged for years. For tighter integration with M1-powered desktops like the Mac Studio and the 24-inch iMac, Apple offers an updated full-size Magic Keyboard (starts at $179; $199 as tested), adding Touch ID to the roster of features found on its full-size keyboard. Other than this addition, it’s virtually the same as it has always been, which might delight Apple enthusiasts but doesn’t make it compelling for anyone else.
Where’s the Magic for All This Money?
If there’s one thing that Apple nails across every device in its product line, it’s the overall look and design. The bespoke, high-quality look and feel of the Magic Keyboard remains in this latest refresh. The full-size keyboard’s height, width, and depth (0.4 by 16.4 by 4.5 inches) remain identical to that of the older keyboard, though it manages to lose some weight, clocking in at 0.81 pound, which is a fraction of an ounce lighter than the older full-size model.
(Photo: Zackery Cuevas)
It also weighs less than our favorite Magic Keyboard alternative, the Satechi Aluminum Bluetooth Keyboard, which is already light as a feather.
Longtime Mac users will also notice the new color scheme. The black-on-metal of our review unit was previously available only with the purchase of the Mac Pro tower, though it’s finally available for individual purchase. Bizarrely, getting the black keys will cost you $20 more, bringing the total up to a staggering $199 from the already high $179 for the white-key variant. Both key-color options are matched with a silver body.
If you’d prefer a more compact keyboard, the 60% version is available at $150 and also features Touch ID. The smaller board lacks a number pad. Both the full-size and the numpad-less versions are also available in seven different color schemes to match the colorful 24-inch iMacs, but only if you’re also buying an iMac. Otherwise, standalone purchases of the $150 keyboard are available in silver only, with not even an option for the black keys offered on the standalone full-size model.
(Photo: Zackery Cuevas)
The latest full-size Magic Keyboard keeps the trademark slope from front to back, but because of its thin body, it also keeps the keyboard’s trademark shallow key travel, which is a pain for heavy-handed typists or those who simply type all day. Comfort-wise, it doesn’t hold a candle to general-use ergonomic keyboard options, like the Logitech Ergo K860 or the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard. Both of these boards feature far superior support for your fingers and wrist during long typing sessions.
Still, the Magic Keyboard can continue to get away with its less-than-ideal tactile performance in part because a majority of the creative types that use Macs—like video editors and graphic designers—are probably not typing for long periods of time and likely value a light and compact keyboard that’s easy on the eyes. If that’s not you, however, you’ll find a number of Mac-compatible mechanical keyboards that offer a far superior typing experience.
(Photo: Zackery Cuevas)
If you’ve used a Magic Keyboard before, you’ll find some features familiar. The wireless keyboard is outfitted with a long-lasting battery that promises a full month of power in between charges. It automatically syncs with your Mac, and it includes a woven USB-C-to-Lightning Cable, for charging and wired use—no wireless pairing necessary.
Keyboard customization is accomplished using the System Preferences app, and it’s pretty basic. Users can create shortcuts, modify keys, and monitor battery levels, as well as adjust how often a key repeats and the delay times between each repeat. But there’s nothing here you haven’t seen on a previous iMac or Mac laptop before.
Touch ID Arrives on the Mac
But what of the newest feature: Touch ID? Well, if you’ve used Touch ID on your iPhone or iPad, you can expect the same thing here. The Touch ID sensor takes the place of the defunct eject button on the previous Magic Keyboard.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Setting up the Touch ID feature is similar to how it’s done on other devices. You pick your favorite finger (in this case, my pointer), and you place and lift your fingertip onto the Touch ID scanner multiple times, allowing your fingerprint to be completely scanned. The whole process takes barely a minute and is pretty foolproof.
The sensor sends encrypted fingerprint data to the M1 chip, which uses it to unlock your Mac, use Apple Pay, authorize downloads from the iTunes Store, App Store, or Apple Books, and autofill passwords. You can even use the Touch ID sensor to quickly switch users, a nice feature if you’re using your Mac as the designated family computer. You can save up to three fingerprints at one time.
Overall, the addition of Touch ID is a great way to improve security and privacy options, and it works extremely well. Of course, the addition of biometrics to any device is a sure-fire way to draw the ire of consumers wary of giving more data to big companies, so the feature is optional. Pressing the Touch ID button without a fingerprint stored will simply lock your computer.
(Photo: Zackery Cuevas)
With all that being said, one important caveat potential buyers must consider is if the keyboard is even compatible with their system. The keyboard requires the latest Apple silicon (i.e. the M1 chip or its variants), so if you don’t have an M1-powered iMac or Mac laptop, you can forget about making use of Touch ID. The keyboard will still work (even with a Windows PC, so long as it has a USB-C port), just without Touch ID. And if that’s the case, you’re better off either using a keyboard you’ve already got lying around, or picking up the previous version of the Magic Keyboard, which Apple still sells starting at $99.
Expensive, for an Aging Design
All in all, the full-size Magic Keyboard with Touch ID is not a step forward or backward for Apple peripherals. It instead embodies the age-old mantra, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The addition of Touch ID is a welcome change, but the problems that plague the keyboard—namely its shallow key travel—still provide a less-than-ideal typing experience.
When you factor in an almost-$200 price for the black version, it’s easy to pass on the full-size Magic Keyboard, even if you’re the most die-hard Apple junkie. You’re better off using the keyboard you already have, or looking into wireless alternatives like the Logitech G915 Lightspeed Wireless Mechanical Keyboard or the Satechi Aluminum Bluetooth Keyboard.
Apple Magic Keyboard With Touch ID
The Bottom Line
The latest Magic Keyboard is a stylish companion for your M1-based Mac, but improvements amount to Touch ID and little else, making the $179-to-$199 asking price hard to swallow.
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