Category Archives: Keyboards

Report: Butterfly MacBook Pro keyboards require more frequent, more expensive repairs

Enlarge / The keyboard on the 2016 Touch Bar MacBook Pro. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

An AppleInsider article has stoked some consumer frustration over Apple’s butterfly keyboards. In it, AppleInsider combed through a limited dataset of warranty events from participating Apple Genius Bars and third-party repair shops. The site determined that, in that data, the 2016 MacBook Pro’s keyboard accounted for twice the percentage of all warranty events in that machine’s first year on the market as its predecessors from 2014 and 2015 did.

These keyboards already have plenty of detractors. They have very short travel, which serves two functions: it frees up a tiny bit of space in the machine for other components (every nanometer counts), and it can make typing considerably faster since not as much effort is needed to register a key press. I like these keyboards, but a lot of other people feel strongly that they’re terrible to type on.

The AppleInsider report has resulted in Apple customers expressing frustration in forums and on Reddit. Detractors have even started a petition asking Apple to recall all MacBook Pros from 2016 and later and replace their keyboards with a new design that is less prone to failure. That’s not likely to happen—partly because it’s not practical and partly because the data is not as conclusive as it might seem.

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Google’s Keyboard Gets Support For Themes In the New Android N Preview

Google's Keyboard Gets Support For Themes In the New Android N Preview

Android: Google’s keyboard is a pretty great default, but it still lacks some features of third-party offerings, like themes. If you’re running the Android N preview, that changes with the latest update.

Google Keyboard 5.1—which can technically be installed on versions of Android as old as Jelly Bean—contains a couple exclusive new feature for those on the latest Android N preview. Most notably, you can now pick from a variety of themes, including different color schemes for the keyboard, or selecting a custom background image. 5.1 also comes with a new set of emoji from the Unicode 9 update. Unfortunately, neither of these features work on older devices yet, but it’s a nice glimpse into what’s coming for everyone else.

Google Keyboard 5.1 | APK Mirror via Android Police

Google’s “Gboard” for iOS combines a keyboard with Google Search

The rumors were true—Google just launched “Gboard,” an iOS keyboard that combines Google Search with everyday typing. Right inside the keyboard area, users can search for local business results, images, and GIFs to weave into their conversation.

Gboard looks just like a normal keyboard except for the Google icon on the left side of the suggestion bar. Tap on it, and you’ll get the familiar Google search bar with suggestions above it. Type in a query and the usual “return/send” button will turn blue and say “search.” Results appear in a horizontally scrolling interface in the keyboard area that allows you to sift through search results without leaving your current app. There are tiny tabs on the bottom for normal search results, images, and GIFs.

Normal results can be pasted into the conversation as either usable text or as a picture of the Google results card. In the normal search results, you’ll see more than just local businesses—most of the Google answer cards seem to be present. You can get a card that covers the weather, a celebrity, or a direct answer to a question. You can also find YouTube videos and drop them right into a conversation.

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The Most Useful, Niche, and Wonderfully Weird iPhone Keyboards

The Most Useful, Niche, and Wonderfully Weird iPhone Keyboards

iPhone custom keyboards were a welcome surprise back when they first launched, but over time, it seems like most people abandoned them. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some useful keyboards out there though, and it turns out the more weird and niche they are, the better.

When third-party keyboards arrived in iOS 8, we covered some of the most popular and useful ones. Keyboards like Swype, SwiftKey, and Fleksy are all still great if you’re looking for a replacement to the stock iPhone keyboard. But not all keyboards are meant as replacements. Some are just oddball little additions that make using your iPhone a little more fun. Sometimes they’re useful too, but more often than not they’re just accessories for the stock keyboard. This isn’t a bad thing at all, and arguably these weirder niche keyboards are more useful than replacements because they just do one useful little thing, really well.…

Slash Keyboard Integrates Tons of Other Apps Into Your Keyboard

Slash Keyboard (Free) is an interesting tool that makes searching through a variety of services like YouTube, Spotify, and Google Maps, easy to do from your keyboard. With Slash, you don’t have to leave the app you’re currently typing in to do basic research.

Tap the slash icon on the keyboard, select the service you want to search through, and then type out your search. When you find what you’re looking for on the keyboard, tap it to send it off. Most obviously, you can search Google or look for videos on YouTube. Perhaps a little more niche, you can also hunt down a New York Times article, grab a song from Spotify, look through nearby locations on Foursquare, and more.

If this idea sounds familiar, the previously mentioned ReBoard is a similar app, but Slash does it better. Slash is most useful if you tend to send a lot of links to friends, but there’s a broad enough toolset here that people should be able to find all kinds of uses.

iTranslate Translates Text Right From the Keyboard

The Most Useful, Niche, and Wonderfully Weird iPhone Keyboards

If you’re texting with someone whose primary language is different than yours, then you know flipping between your text message app and a translator app sucks. iTranslate (Free) makes that a little easier by including a custom keyboard in their basic translation app.

To translate a block of text, type a phrase, choose the languages you want to translate, then tap the translate button. When iTranslate is done with the translation, you can paste that phrase into your text box. Sadly, it’s a bit of a convoluted process to translate anything you’re sent (you’ll have to copy, paste, and translate in reverse), but for on-the-fly translations of text you’re typing, iTranslate works great. It’s also nice that unlike most iOS keyboards, there’s a full-featured app aside from the keyboard. This way, if you want to do more complex translation, or translate by voice, you don’t need to download a separate app.

Giphy Keys Puts Every GIF At Your Fingertips

The Most Useful, Niche, and Wonderfully Weird iPhone Keyboards

GIFs are one of the greatest modern forms of communication and expression. After trying out a number of options, Giphy Keys (Free) is my favorite keyboard for searching for GIFs to add to text messages.

The beauty of Giphy Keys is in its simplicity and its overall usability. Tap the search bar, type in the type of GIF you’re looking for, scroll to find the GIF you want to use, then send it off with a quick copy and paste command.

You’ll find some cool advanced features packed in Giphy Keys too. For example, you can bookmark GIFs you use a lot or create custom animated text GIFs on the fly. Giphy Keys is incredibly robust considering it’s a keyboard just for GIFs. If you’re hopping between apps to copy and paste GIFs into conversation a lot, then Giphy Keys is the app you want.

Microsoft Word Flow Makes Typing One-Handed Easy

Microsoft’s Word Flow (Free) seems pretty well loved on the Windows Phone, and the iOS keyboard does a reasonable job of bringing that experience to the iPhone. At a glance, Word Flow’s swipe-style character selection doesn’t seem different from keyboards like Swype or SwiftKey. The character selection isn’t really what makes Word Flow special though. It’s the one-handed mode.

When one-handed mode is enabled, Word Flow arcs the keyboard across the bottom portion of your screen. This makes it considerably easier to type with one hand, especially on larger devices like the iPhone 6s Plus. It’s a fantastic solution to the problem of typing one-handed on bigger phones. If you find yourself multitasking with your phone in one hand a lot, then Word Flow’s worth a look.

Hemingboard Puts Tons of Puns at Your Fingertips

The Most Useful, Niche, and Wonderfully Weird iPhone Keyboards

Love puns? Then Hemingboard ($3.99) is a keyboard made for you. Hemingboard is a keyboard that packs in a thesaurus, rhyming dictionary, and most importantly, a dictionary of puns. Yep. Puns. Just type in a word and you can search for similar words to pun off from it.

The synonyms and rhymes are useful for obvious reasons, especially if you tend to send a lot of emails that need spicing up or you record song lyrics on your phone. Make no bones about it though, the puns are the main show here. The beauty of the puns is that they still require a bit of thought on your part. This isn’t hand-delivered dad jokes waiting for a polite chuckle from anyone in the room. Hemingboard simply displays words that include your search term in them, like “cat” in “catastrophe” or “catalog.” It’s still up to you deliver that pun with the flourish required to make a room full of people roll their eyes.

Most of these keyboards won’t replace the iPhone’s stock keyboard on a daily basis, but that’s not really the point. They’re wonderful additions that make texting a little more fun and sometimes even a little bit easier.

Google Keyboard Now Has a One-Handed Mode

Google Keyboard Now Has a One-Handed Mode

Android: Google’s rolling out an update for Google Keyboard today that includes a new one-handed typing mode alongside a handful of other new features.

The new one-handed mode is accessible with a long-press of the comma key. Once it’s enabled, it crams the keyboard further to the right or left side of the screen to make it easier to reach all the keys. The gesture typing menu also sees some improvements with a bar filled with the dynamic suggests. You can also select between five different keyboard heights to scale it to your needs. Google’s rolling out the update slowly, but Android Police has the APK if you want to check it out right away.

Google Keyboard (Free) | Google Play via Android Police

Microsoft’s Word Flow Keyboard Brings Easier One-Handed Texting to iOS

Microsoft released its popular Windows Phone keyboard, Word Flow, for the iPhone today, which lets you easily type texts with one hand and swipe to spell out words.

Word Flow’s “Arc mode” moves the keyboard to the corner of the screen so you can easily reach all of the keyboards buttons with just your thumb (you can see it in action in the video above). You can tap or swipe to spell things out, and Word Flow will predict what you’re trying to type and auto-correct mistakes. The more you use the keyboard, the more it learns and gets better at predicting text over time. It also looks at your phone contacts so it can try to predict names even faster. You can also customize the keyboard background with an image of your choice or one of the images that comes with the keyboard. You can download the keyboard for free at the link below.…

Word Flow Keyboard | iOS App Store via The Verge

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too

PC gaming gear can be fun, and even help you be more productive, but it’s rare to find ones designed to be customizable and high-performance for gaming but equally useful when it’s time to get things done. Das Keyboard’s new gaming line, Division Zero, manages both, with some caveats.

The Lineup

Division Zero is Das Keyboard’s first foray into gaming peripherals, a market already saturated by big names and popular brands. That doesn’t mean they didn’t bring solid gear to the table, but it does mean you have to weigh it against some well-known competition. Here’s the lineup:

  • The X40 Pro gaming keyboard ($149) is a low-rise, metal mechanical keyboard fitted with custom “Alpha-Zulu” switches. It features changeable aluminum top plates to customize the look of the keyboard, and red LED backlighting behind the keys turns itself off when idle. There’s a spare USB 2.0 port, and audio passthrough so you can plug in a microphone and headphones—which means you also have analog audio cables to plug into your PC, but you don’t have to use them.
  • The M50 Pro gaming mouse ($79) features an ambidextrous design, a 6400 DPI laser sensor, on the fly DPI control settings, and nine programmable macro buttons. It also features on-board memory to remember those macros and your per-application (or per-game) profiles, and a tilt-scroll wheel with multiple degrees of motion side-to-side.
  • The 47W Surface is Das’s flexible mousepad, designed for use with the M50, comes in three flavors, the Flex ($19), Control ($19), and Speed ($29). Das sent us the Control version, and it works beautifully with other mice as well as the M50. It’s a textured mousepad, thinner than a sheet of paper but even more flexible, and features a grippy underside that makes sure it won’t move, no matter how hard you move your mouse.

All in all, their prices are on par with other PC gaming peripherals: Pricey. If you’re rocking the keyboard and mouse that came with your PC, these aren’t for you. However, if you love features like programmable macro buttons, LED backlighting, customizable profiles, and sharp, enthusiast-focused design, then it’s nothing you’re not used to. If you’re a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, well. You’re definitely used to playing this much for a keyboard.

Where They Excel

After using all three, it’s safe to say they shine both for gaming and for getting work done, which is exactly how I prefer my peripherals. I want them to pull double duty on my desk, and for the amount of money you’d spend, you probably would too. They’re not perfect though, and have some glaring drawbacks that should make you think before pulling out your wallet. Let’s break them down into three big categories: build quality, customization, and usability, with special attention to those fancy custom switches.

Build Quality

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too
A mess of cables, but all braided, fabric-wrapped, and with their own velcro for easy management.

Both the X40 and the M50 are sturdy and feel like you could put them through a long gaming session or an arduous workday. That’s exactly what I did, since my work and gaming are in the same physical place. I wound up using the X40 and the M50 for work all day writing, and I would swap them over to my gaming PC for a few hours of blissful, cathartic destruction, puzzle solving, and exploration. The X40′s aluminum build and heavy body served it a little better than the M50′s mostly plastic (but still heavy) build. The braided cloth cables on both are great for keeping dust away and avoiding tangles, and the cords are nice and long with velcro wraps to keep the slack managed.…

The M50 is a quality ambidextrous gaming mouse, which is nice to see. I found the scroll wheel really stiff and tough use (especially compared to the Logitech MX Master I use for work and the Logitech Proteus Core I use for gaming) but it loosened up over time (or maybe I just got used to it.) The 47W is grippy and won’t move or slide around even a smooth desk surface (like mine), and is large and nicely sized.

Customization and Key Macros

If you’re going to spend this much on gear, you may as well get the most possible use out of their customization features. The programmable macro keys work with third-party tools like AutoHotkey, which we’ve shown you how to use with your gaming gear, by the way, just as well as Das Keyboard’s own software.…

In Windows, all you need to do is press Fn + F12 to enable macro recording. Making the special buttons on the X40 and the M50 do whatever you want them to do, whether it’s an Excel macro or a spell rotation, is easy. If you prefer to use AutoHotKey or another utility, it’s just as simple—just tap the button you’d like to assign the action to, program it, and away you go. You can easily turn the five programmable keys on the left side of the X40 into web browsing actions or music controls (technically there are function keys for that, although I miss the Das Keyboard 4′s hardware audio controls and volume knob) and then switch them out for weapon loadouts in your favorite shooter or attack rotations in an MMO.

The other big customization feature on the X40 is one that’ll cost you money: aluminum top panels for your keyboard. Das sent us two to switch out with the default aluminum silver: the “Defamer” in mustard, and the “Stryker” in red. Both have subtly different designs, and there’s also a Defamer in silver and a Stryker in olive green if you prefer those colors. Each additional panel will set you back $39, which is a lot, but if a fresh top panel will give you that fresh-keyboard-feeling without actually buying a new keyboard, we say go for it and swap them out when the mood strikes.


Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too
Each keyboard proudly displays the switch you chose. Linear is off-white, tactile is green.

Speaking of the keys on the X40, we discuss those new Alpha-Zulu mechanical switches that Das is so proud of. The switches come in “linear” and “tactile,” both offering the same 1.7mm travel distance and 45g actuation force, but the difference is how the two feel. The linear switches aren’t tactile or clicky, and the tactile ones still aren’t clicky, but they do require a little extra force to engage the key halfway through the travel distance. What that all means for you is that the “tactile” ones are for gamers used to half-pressing their keys and then engaging them fully at just the right time, while the linear ones are for people who hold those keys down and rely on long-presses. I tested the linear switches.

The switches are great, but they’re not perfect. They’re quiet but satisfying, and give you the depth and key traversal you want from a mechanical, but without the audible “clack-clack” that often comes with. However, if you’re a Cherry MX lover and you love that audible click, you’ll miss it. If you use the linear model and miss feeling the actuation point, you’ll miss that too.…

When I switched between the X40 and my trusty Corsair K70 with Cherry MX Red keys, I definitely missed the sound, but after even a few days I was more than used to the quieter profile. (Which was especially nice, since the linear switches are similar to the MX Red.) They won’t drive you or anyone else nearby nuts while you work, and they’re still fun to play on.

Where They Fall Short

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too
Even in low light, the keyboard is somewhat weak, but the mouse pulses brightly.

Division Zero line has its strengths, but it also has weaknesses. We wouldn’t be writing about it if we thought it sucked, but there are some things you should pay attention to if you’re thinking about buying.

  • The LED backlighting is weak, and not just brightness-wise. The mouse’s LED is bright and strong, but the keyboard’s LED backlighting is dimmer and nothing to write home about. It’s decent, but it’s all red, and in an age of RGB keyboards, it’s a bit of a bummer that you can’t customize the colors (especially at this price.) Plus, it’s not per-key backlighting, so keep that in mind. That all said, it looks nice behind the aluminum backplates, but consider that you can get more customization, colors, and brighter LEDs for less.
  • The price. Das’ Division Zero line is new, and as with all PC peripherals, they’re more expensive today than they’ll ever be. The X40 is $149, the M50 is $79, and the custom faceplates are $39 each. That’s a lot of money, especially considering most of the keyboards the X40 is competing with, like the Razer Deathstalker, the Rosewill RK-9000, and some other entry level mechanicals are all closer to $99. Similar mice to the M50, like the Logitech Proteus Core and the Razer Deathadder, are both slightly cheaper, closer to $70. It’s a tough sell, but expect to see prices come down as Amazon and other retailers get their hands on these and start competing for business.
  • The keyboard’s single USB 2.0 port and extra cables. This is a bit of a nitpick for me, but since I generally don’t use audio passthrough on a keyboard, the analog audio cables on the X40 were just wasted space, velcroed together on top of my desk. It’s a nice feature to have, but I just don’t know many people buying a keyboard wishing they could plug their headset into it. I would have much rather had a second USB port right next to it, get hardware audio and volume controls, or have that port be USB 3.0 instead of 2.0.

These drawbacks may be dealbreakers for some of you—especially the price. If you don’t mind splurging, or you’ll use yours for gaming and for work, then they may be a good buy, especially when compared to its more popular—and in some cases more affordable—competition.

The Bottom Line: Pricey, but Sturdy, Sharp, and Fun to Use

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too
The “Defamer” keyboard cover, which includes the wrench required to swap top plates.

So that leaves us with the big question: Should you buy these? Well, we can definitely recommend the 47W mousepad and the X40 keyboard. The M50 is a little trickier to tell you to buy.

The mousepad is huge and grippy, and will probably stay on my desk long after the M50 makes its exit in favor of the less-ambidextrous but smoother-to-use Proteus Core, which is still my favorite mouse for gaming right now, and I’ll probably continue to use my MX Master for work. In short, the M50 is great, and great for lefties or people who just prefer an ambidextrous mouse, but it’s stiff, a little heavy, and while it glides across your desk easily enough and has all the right DPI settings, I still felt myself missing the button layout of the Proteus Core, and if I had to run out and choose one from a store shelf, the Proteus Core is cheaper.

Getting back to the 47W control surface though: You’ll have to choose the surface you think is best for you. I liked the Control surface a lot, and the price there is about right for a “gaming” mousepad, if that’s what you want. If you don’t though, well, it’s an easy one to skip.

The X40 is a bigger deal though. I liked it, enough to push over my Corsair K70 sometimes. I like the idea of the changeable top plates, but I’m also a sucker for customization like that. Little ways to make something you own feel brand new are a great way to spend a little where you could have spent a lot. However, the X40 is definitely missing things I miss from other keyboards. And like the others here, it’s pricey. Even so, it’s fun to use, great to type on and play on, and it’s the first keyboard in a while that I enjoyed writing on as much as I enjoyed gaming on. If you can try it before you buy, definitely do, and make your own decision, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The Clickiest Corsair K70 Mechanical Keyboard Is Cheaper Than Ever

The Clickiest Corsair K70 Mechanical Keyboard Is Cheaper Than Ever

Corsair’s K-series mechanical keyboards are some of your favorites for gaming, and for general use as well, and the Cherry MX Blue model of the popular K70 is down to an all-time low $100 on Amazon right now.……

This Corsair K70′s clicky Cherry MX Blue switches are great for touch typists, its aluminum chassis lends it a premium feel, and its key-by-key customizable backlighting is just plain cool. For $100, you really can’t go wrong here. [Corsair K70 Mechanical Keyboard, $100]…

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SwiftKey Now Predicts Two Words at a Time So You Can Type Faster

SwiftKey Now Predicts Two Words at a Time So You Can Type Faster

Android: Our favorite Android keyboard, SwiftKey, is getting a big update today. The app can now predict your next two words at once. In addition to double-word prediction, SwiftKey also has also added new themes, languages, and more.

The double-word prediction is the biggest new feature and should help reduce the number of times you have to peck at your on-screen keyboard. They’ve also revamped the emoji panel and settings screens and added 34 new themes in six new theme packs. Finally, the keyboard now supports five new languages: Yoruba, Igbo, Zulu, Xhosa, and Breton.

Check out the improvements highlighted on SwiftKey’s blog post or just head to Google Play to download or update the app. (The update isn’t available for me yet, so you might have to wait to see the new features.)

SwiftKey (Free) | Google Play

What’s Your Favorite Mechanical Keyboard?

What's Your Favorite Mechanical Keyboard?

Once you go mechanical, you never go back. Previously, the murdered out Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate took down the 2013 win in a close race. Now it’s time to revisit. Tell us, what’s your favorite mechanical keyboard?………

1) Your nomination should contain:

  • The specific name of the product, not just a brand or series.
  • Why you think this item is the best.
  • A link where the item can be purchased.
  • An image of the item.

2) Vote by starring someone else’s nomination.

3) Please do not duplicate nominations.

What even are you talking about?…

How do I know what these switches feel like before I buy?…

I’m a gamer though.…

No really I do not want mechanical.…

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