In two weeks I’m moving into a new house and, because it has three bedrooms, I finally get my own writing (read: procrastinating) room. Yesterday my family and I took a trip to hell, er, I mean Ikea, and I have selected a lovely solid beech desk with a glass top and a decent, comfortable and good-on-the-back swivel chair (which is going to beat my old screw-missing office cast-off desk and Â£15 chair).
Yes, my life is turning into an Ikea catalogue, like that bit in Fight Club.
Anyway, now I want to buy a decent keyboard and monitor that I can hook up to my MacBook Pro in clamshell mode so that I can use it like a desktop when working at the desk. I would really value any recommendations people can make for a good keyboard an monitor.
The Matias Tactile Pro 2 keyboard (discussed in this thread looks great, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere (I checked all the UK stores and distributors linked on the Matias website, and the keyboard is out of stock at all of them). I certainly like the idea of a good clackety-clack keyboard rather than using the standard Apple one. (The caveat, of course, is that it must be available in the UK.)
As for a monitor, I want something stylish, flat-screen (obviously) and 20" or more. I could go for an Apple display, I suppose (they are expensive, but I do have a 20% hardware discount that I have to use up at some point this year - you get the discount when you pay up to join the developer programme).
Keith, I don’t use one myself, but have been intrigued by the thread on the Matias.
I travel to the UK fairly frequently â€” though I don’t think my next trip is scheduled
till September. If you decide to get a TactilePro, let me know. I’ll be happy to pick one
up for you and bring it over on my next trip.
With that developer’s discount, I would go with an Apple displayâ€”they are superbâ€”though I’ve found Viewsonic to be an excellent vendor.
The Macally IceKey is a very good laptop (light-touch) style keyboard though its driver is a little flakey. In one of the threads here the $20 Microsoft ergonomic style keyboard was praised. I tried it; it did have a nice touch; but it was plug-ugly.
My preferred keyboard is the MacAlly Icekey, largely because it has the same feel (similar switches) to the MacBook keyboard, and is very easy on my aging fingers. I have used this keyboard for 3+ years, constantly (though not yet while sleeping) and it is the first keyboard I have used that has not broken in 6 months. It is also reasonably priced.
I just got the DELL E228WFP 22" monitor and I love it. Here in Canada it costs about $300 which seems exceptionally cheap. Plugged into my 15" MacBook via the DVI cable it is exceptionally sharp, bright, and did I mention big (well, big enough for me). They have a similar model that will swivel from horizontal to vertical but it costs another $100 and I figured I would not use that feature once the novelty wore off (about a day, I would guess).
Keith — why close the MacBook? I use a powerbook AND the external monitor simultaneously. Having the extra screen real estate is wonderful when working on almost anything. When programming, for instance, I can keep a couple of editing windows open on one monitor, and a reference page or two open on the other one.
I can’t remember the source, but I read a couple of studies in the last year or two that claimed that one of the biggest productivity enhancers one could buy for a computer was increased screen space (bigger monitor or second monitor)… Why not do both? (I don’t know how valid the “studies” were, but I know having two monitors makes a big difference in how easily I can get some tasks done.
Well, yes, the option to have two monitors running will be nice too, of course.
Thanks to all for the suggestions so far.
Bobm - I want to avoid Dell if possible. Not because they aren’t a good make (although I do hold a grudge that they never bothered to reply to an e-mail I sent them asking for laptop years ago; though perhaps I ought to thank them, because I ended up buying an iBook…); but rather, we use Dell for just about everything at my school. So it’s purely psychological - I don’t want to see the Dell brand anywhere at home because, as ICT co-ordinator at school, the Dell logo is inextricably linked in my mind with WORK. Shudder.
I’ve heard a few people recommend the MacAlly. I really like the idea of something that has a real click-clackety-click feel and sound to it, though. “Mechanical switches” - whatever they might be - sound impressive. I want my room filled with the sort of sound you heard on Murder She Wrote whenever Jessica Fletcher found time between solving crimes and hiding behind the local sheriff at the time of arrest to type away at her novels (although even she upgraded to a “modern” two-ton computer at one point).
I second the recommendation for the icekey – it will make enough noise, Keith! And get the Griffin iCurve2 laptop stand so that the laptop display will be at height similar to that of your flat panel display.
I actually have a split level desk, so my laptop is on the bottom level above my keyboard and mouse drawer. Then my second monitor sits just above the laptop. So rather than side by side, I have top and bottom. It requires a little less head movement to see both displays and works well for me. And I didn’t have to buy any extra equipment… I suppose it’s all just personal preference.
I hear you Keith, re DELL. My one experience with them has not (yet) been bad but I agree with you on boycotting companies that give you grief. My other large monitor is a BENQ 19" and I see they have a new 22" (FP222WH) that is ccomparable in price to the Dell. Most people seem to like the Dell’s better but I am quite happy with my BENQ and I expect that the new ones are even better.
I agree with odysseus that the IceKey is worth a try. I too like the clackety clack but the icekey is so lovely to work with and so easy on my hands that I am willing to just pound the keys harder if I need to hear something
As to the screen: don’t lose any more time, just buy an Apple display. I bought an Apple display almost two years ago, and I’m very happy with it. The only thing you have to worry about is whether you should buy the 20" or the 23" version.
I have the Matias Tactile Pro 1, and it’s been everything its proponents say: wonderful tactile feedback, accurate typing, perfect for Mac users. It’s also very clacky, which can be annoying to others in your house.
Great as it is, I’ve hardly used it in the past year because I now work from a recliner, with my PowerBook on a lap desk, so I get ergonomic correctness without needing my Matias or iCurve. So, Keith, if you can’t find a Matias over there, PM me and maybe we can work something out.
I’m thinking of using my 20% hardware discount on the Apple 23" display. I was kinda hoping that Scrivener might win the “Best User Experience” Apple Design Award that I entered it for this year, as one of the prizes is a cinema display. Oh well - given that the results are announced at WWDC, which starts tomorrow, and that finalists are usually (according to the website) notified before WWDC begins, I guess Scrivener didn’t even get shortlisted. Sob.
I might also go for a Mighty Mouse - does anybody have one and an opinion upon it?
So then it all comes down to the keyboard…
EDIT: Hmm, I’ve been looking at the IceKey and I’m not so sure. The keys look like the MacBook’s, and I was never really 100% sure about my MacBook keyboard…
Congratulations on your new residence! I wish you and your family the best in your new move and acquisition.
I respectfully suggest the DELL 2407WFP as a monitor selection. It provides a great deal for the money, and I have been impressed with Dellâ€™s customer service. It also goes on sale frequently. Many Mac users own this monitor who have previosuly owned Appleâ€™s as it is a better monitor than Appleâ€™s 23 Cinema. Please note that rumor has it that Apple is about to EOL the 23â€
When I kitted myself up with all things Mac a couple of months ago, I bought a Bluetooth Mighty Mouse and to be honest, I’ve been disappointed with it.
I’m not certain why. Maybe it’s the weight of the MM with two batteries on board; it feels better to me with only one. Or the balance, without a USB cable (although I’ve been happy with a wireless mouse before). Or the shape - not as full into the palm as most. Or possibly the “two-button-functionality-via-one-button”. Not sure, but it’s not as comfortable as I’d like for a device I spend at least four hours a day with.
I’m one of those insane types that actually went and bought an old mechanical switch Apple Extended Keyboard off eBay, and the ADB-USB converter to use it. This was mainly because of the difficulties (and cost) in obtaining a Matias…
However, my second choice would be a MacAlly, whether the IceKey or not, simply because in my experience they’re very reliable. I used MacAlly keyboards almost exclusively for nigh on ten years - never had a problem with them, and if you can’t get mechanical switches they’re the next best thing.
I have a Dell Ultrasharp 24", and it honestly is a beautiful monitor. It has the identical display component that Apple uses in their 23" monitor. The only difference is the casing and the input options, which are far greater on the Dell. Card readers, multiple inputs, USB 2.0 hub, et cetera.
While not quite as nice, the Gateway widescreen of similar size also uses this same LCD component that Dell and Apple use. So if you really hate the idea of having a Dell that much, there is that. There is also a piece of black electrical tape over the Dell logo! I cannot make a recommendation on them though. I’ve only had one Gateway monitor and it came free with a computer years ago. It still works, that old monitor, so I suppose that is a good sign.
My mouse is the new Logitech cordless one with the fancy scroll wheel. I love it. If you flick the wheel fast enough, it rises off of the “click-click” mechanism and becomes a high-speed fly wheel. You can chew through mammoth documents in seconds. With Steermouse, you can access all 15 of its buttons, or whatever it has. Some number that would make Steve Jobs wake up in a cold sweat, but I like a bunch of buttons.
I don’t have a good keyboard recommendation. That is something I’m still searching for, myself. Unlike many Mac users, it seems, I’ve never been impressed with MacAlly. Their keyboards (the ones I’ve come across anyway) look like gigantic Legos or something. Big, blocky, child-proof looking things. And I’ve always been fond of mice that can do more than right click and scroll. That IceKey certainly does look the exception, though. And the type of keyboard the original Titanium laptops had were probably one of my favourite feels ever. If it is anything like that, I might have to rescind my stance on their equipment.
The way I type, this is not a bad thing Keyboards are about the only area where the normal ‘ooh, shiny’ aspect of my Mac fandom holds no sway. I want/need something that can stand up to being hammered for five hours every day without falling apart.
Ya, another positive for the Dell 24" Ultrasharp. I’ve been using mine for almost two years, still perfect.
Mighty Mouse, I’ve not found a better mouse. I’ve used MS, Logitech, etc. and I just find the MM a much nicer approach. That said: 1) A box of those little alcohol pads in the desk drawer. Once a week or so, just rub one quickly over the roller ball for 15 seconds or so. Keeps the whole thing clean and happy. (I keep a second MM in the drawer, fully cleaned, but only have to swap every 10 months or so…). 2) I couldn’t quite handle the wireless version… too much lag in response, not as precise. But then I do a fair amount of graphic work, and want really fast mouse time.
Keyboard: There’s a note on the Matias Pro thread about the Avant Prime, and here’s a link to the lowendmac.com article…
I used the original Pro for over a year, I’ve not touched one of the new versions. To my hands, the difference in quality and touch between the original Tactile Pro and the Avant Prime is much like a Ford coupe and a Mercedes. The Avant is very solid, a bit noisy, but a great keyboard.