|Min OS X: Any Version Requires: USB Port|
I have no love for Apple's USB keyboards. They are cramped and the keys are too soft and sticky (although it's rumored that the Mirrored Drive Door G4s have improved keyboards). The moment I bought my first PowerMac G4, I ordered a Griffin iMate ADB to USB adapter so I could continue to use an old Apple Design Keyboard. Later, I "upgraded" to an Apple Extended II Keyboard (AEII), which is arguably one of the best keyboards Apple produced. It was a true full size keyboard and had a nice, responsive and tactile feel to it; which made inciting forum flame wars all the more enjoyable.
When Microsoft sent me their Internet Keyboard Pro, I was eager to see if it would satisfy my fingers as well as the Apple Extended II did. It certainly has an attractive feature set: 19 customizable hot keys, 2 USB ports, and a detachable palm rest. At $44.95 it is still $15 cheaper than the Apple Pro Keyboard, but doesn't sport the translucent plastics to which Mac users have become accustomed.
First ImpressionsThe first thing I did after plugging in the Internet Keyboard Pro was to open up Text Edit and test the feel of it. (Note that my description of the keyboard is subjective and everyone has their personal preferences of what their perfect keyboard should "feel" like.) The keys were easier to depress and rebounded noticeably quicker than the AEII, resulting in more inflammatory forum posts per hour (I didn't measure exact words per minute). The Internet Keyboard Pro is also quieter than the AEII, but still loud enough to disturb a light sleeping roommate.
The position of the arrow keys, function keys and numeric keypad are more spread out than on the Pro Keyboard, similar to the layout of the AEII. The shape of the last row of keys bows a bit, so the space bar is wider than usual, while the control key is smaller than usual. Although the command and option keys are labeled differently, they are in the same position as on an Apple board. Their positions are actually switched by default, but installing the keyboard software (see below) corrects it.
Although the Internet Keyboard Pro isn't as ergonomic as Microsoft's Natural keyboards, the removable palm rest added to the level of comfort and should delay the onset of carpel tunnel syndrome by at least a few years.
I was glad to regain the convenience of two built-in USB ports that I had lost when I ditched Apple's USB keyboard. Connecting a digital camera or mouse no longer required me to explore the dusty nether regions of my G4's backplane.
Key to the HardwareMicrosoft's powerful IntelliType Pro software (available for Mac OS 9 and X) enables all the extra features of the keyboard and allows for complete user customization. Installing the software adds a preference pane to the System Preferences and when clicked on, launches the Microsoft Keyboard control panel. There are five tabs in the control panel, each tab showing a different group of keys: Internet Hot Keys, Media Hot Keys, Other Hot Keys, Advanced, and Options. Like the IntelliPoint mouse software, you can create a set of settings for a specific application and disable the IntelliType features for any application.
Hot keys access the most commonly used internet, e-mail, and media functions. I get the most use out of the global volume controls, the iTunes controls, the media eject key, and the power key (unfortunately, it can not power on a computer). If you don't like those settings, you are free to customize them to your heart's content. There are many pre-programmed functions, but you can input your own keystroke combinations. Since my function keys are often unused, I programmed them to launch the applications I use most, like iChat, OmniWeb, Entourage and iTunes. My only complaint about the IntelliType Pro software is that it doesn't allow for full-blown macros. It would be convenient to program regularly used phrases, words, or URLs into the keyboard.
Final ThoughtsMicrosoft's Internet Keyboard Pro is an impressive full size keyboard (as impressive as a keyboard can get). Its keys have a very nice feel (better than the Apple Pro Keyboard, in my opinion), the hot keys are useful, and the software is extremely flexible. If you're in the market for an affordable USB keyboard, seriously consider the Internet Keyboard Pro. But before running out and buying one on my advice, make sure you go to your local computer store and pound on it a bit. When it comes to a keyboard's "feel", everyone has their own preference.
• Inexpensive ($45 vs. $60 for Apple Pro Keyboard)
• Customizable hot keys
• 2 USB ports
• Full size keyboard
• No replacement keys for "Alt" and Windows keys.
Test system: Sawtooth G4/500, Mac OS X 10.1.5, 10.2