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David Zax

A View from David Zax

In Search of the Perfect Keyboard

Matias offers keyboards that are simultaneously innovative and retro.

  • January 21, 2012

All this talk of late about how our devices are hurting us is making me think I need to revamp my workspace. I already use a standing desk, but I have yet to take the crucial step of elevating my laptop screen and buying an external keyboard, meaning I’m forever hunched over. A new series of external keyboards from a company called Matias might just be the trick to ending my—and your—ergonomic inefficiencies at home or at the office, all while adding the ability for you to type straight to your iPhone with the press of a button.

Matias is a business that has been around since 1989, born “in Edgar Matias’ parents’ basement, in a suburb of Toronto,” per its website. Matias seems to specialize in the “oh, yeah, I did kind of want that” sort of product: take, for instance, the “Tune Blocker,” a cable for your iPod or iPhone that’s smart enough to know whether you’re really plugging your device into your (or somebody’s) laptop because you want to sync libraries, or rather because you just need to get a quick charge. And then there’s also the “hm I don’t think I need that but it’s kind of cool anyway” kind of product, like this $595 “half-keyboard” (“One hand incapacitated? Type with the other!”)

More relevant for our purposes, though, are a series of three keyboard Matias announced last week. Not only do these laptops accommodate the ergonomically-concerned, like myself, they also cater to those who are generally frustrated with the virtual keyboards on their iPhones. Often, if I receive a text message that demands a long response, I open my laptop in order to type out an email in retaliation. But Matias’s keyboards are made with these sorts of frustrations in mind; the keyboard is designed to allow you to easily toggle between your iPhone and Mac or PC.

The first is the One Keyboard. What’s cool about the One Keyboard is that it comes with an in-keyboard stand into which you can directly plug your iPhone–your keyboard becomes a command center, in a way, for that device. With the press of a button, you can toggle between your computer or the iPhone. (“You just need to experience this once, to feel how much faster it is,” promises Edgar Matias himself; the privilege will cost you $99.95.)

The One Keyboard measures almost 19” wide; what if that’s too much for you? In that case, you may want to try out the Slim One Keyboard. This one’s just a little over 11” wide, more laptop-sized, but with a special button that says “iPhone” in the upper-right-hand corner. This set up comes with what Matias calls a “MiniRizer,” to conveniently house and angle your iPhone off to the side. The Slim One’s a little cheaper: $79.95.

The third new keyboard Matias is offering is most intriguing, in the way that it melds the old and new. It likewise enables iPhone/computer toggling, but it does so with a keyboard that’s a throwback to an old classic: the “Apple Extended Keyboard.” The Apple Extended (and its sequel, the Apple Extended II), were enormous, not particularly handsome things, relics of an Apple before the anointing of its everything-can-be-sexy designer Sir Jonathan Ive. The thing may have been monstrous, but it is beloved by keyboard enthusiasts. In particular, it was constructed in such a way, with mechanically driven Alps key switches, that it gave off a deeply satisfying clickity-clacking as you typed.

Well, Matias’s Tactile One Keyboard brings back that clickity-clacking, for those of you with serious Apple Extended Keyboard nostalgia, and adds to it iPhone compatibility. It’s a veritable orgy of typist retro-futurism, and it’s yours and mine for only $199.95.

Thanks to Wired’s Charlie Sorrel for first calling my attention to Matias. Other keyboard fanatics out there, how do you think Matias’s offering measures up? Is this the One Keyboard to Rule Them All, the keyboard I’ve been searching for? Just know: I’m not interested in learning Dvorak.

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