The Matias Tactile Pro 3.0 is the next best alternative to tracking down an example of the original Apple Extended Keyboard that garnered cultlike appeal for its long throw action (key depression distance), solid build quality, and the mechanical clacking sound. Apple has long since retired the Extended and Extended II designs in favor of its newest, but Matias continues the legacy with Apple-inspired features like Alps mechanical keyswitches, laser-etched sculpted keys, and three USB ports for connecting your other USB peripherals. Casual typists will certainly balk at paying $150 for what appears to be a "basic" Apple replacement keyboard, but we recommend the Matias Tactile Pro 3.0 for true typing enthusiasts that understand its throwback appeal and appreciate its modern upgrades.
The layout of the Matias Tactile Pro 3.0 is purposefully reminiscent of Apple's original Extended Keyboard, but you'll also notice a similarity to the much-criticized Apple Pro Keyboard that came bundled with the Power Mac G4. Luckily, the Tactile Pro 3.0 only borrows the design of that era. The keyboard features the same translucent white plastic finish that makes a good match even next to modern Apple computers, and the build quality feels durable despite an audible flex to the plastic body. Finally, Matias also includes a three-port USB 2.0 hub on the back and sides of the keyboard so you don't have to sacrifice your other precious peripherals to use it.
The Matias Tactile Pro 3.0 plays nicely with your Mac out of the box with plug-and-play installation, and the key layout features reversed command and option keys. On the other hand, if you love the keyboard and are stuck with a PC, the Matias Web site provides Windows drivers that reconfigure the Alt and Windows keys.
The top of the numerical pad has four media-control buttons for raising and lowering volume, muting, and ejecting, and all of the keys have secondary labels for quick access to infrequently used symbols like ™, €, £, ¥, and ©. And while most modern key labels are usually printed directly on the surface, Matias goes the extra mile to laser-etch each letter directly into the keycap, ensuring that the labels won't fade over time with repeated use.
While the general public is satisfied with flat Chiclet-style keys you get on most laptops and even the Apple Wireless Keyboard, typing purists will appreciate the Tactile Pro 3.0's beautifully sculpted keycaps that rest comfortably beneath your fingers and keep them planted in the home position for faster, and sometimes more accurate, typing. Similar to the Apple Extended II and the recent Das Keyboard models, the Matias Tactile Pro 3.0 uses mechanical switches underneath each key that provide an audible click and a tactile response with each depression. The Alps switches on the Tactile Pro actually feel louder and less springy than the Cherry Blue-branded switches found on the Das Keyboards, which could be good or bad depending on your environment. In either case, we should warn you that the keyboard makes a loud clacking noise that could be an irritating distraction to anyone in close proximity.
That said, we love typing on the Matias Tactile Pro 3.0--aside from the satisfying noise closely resembling the sound of a typewriter, we found ourselves typing faster and with improved accuracy based on simply hearing and feeling the impact of the switch hitting the mechanism beneath our fingers. Finally, the Tactile Pro includes a feature that Matias calls Anti-Ghosting Circuitry (more commonly known as n-key rollover) that ensures that no key press goes unregistered, no matter how fast you type.