The Tactile Pro 3: A Better Keyboard for Aching Hands?

Most people are content to use the standard keyboards that come with their computers. I know that there are exceptions. About five or so years ago, Apple had a terrible, insanely terrible keyboard that came with all iMacs and you could opt in with your Mac Pros. The keyboards had white keys in a transparent base. The keys that looked good as far as Apple craftsmanship was concerned were unusually difficult to press with accuracy. The thick feel of the press would slow down the average typist’s speeds. It’s no wonder the white keyboard didn’t last long on the market. I have never heard of a fan of that Apple keyboard. What’s silly too is I’ve come to find out Apple called that keyboard the Apple Pro Keyboard. That was a huge mistake. Not so silly as calling a mouse “magical,” but still very untrue.

This got me to thinking: not all keyboards are equal. I’ve noticed in recent months I have more RSI at the end of the day. To offer myself some relief, I changed my posture and got a different seat, but my hands were still aching. Using my powers of deductive reasoning, I concluded the keyboard I used was the only thing left to change (well, there was also my mouse, but that’ll be a totally different adventure for another time).

This keyboard I used was Apple’s Wireless Keyboard, the latest generation. When it first came out, I couldn’t believe how well I could type with it. The short chiclet-style keys make it a breeze to type. It was the new kid on the block. Shallow chiclet keyboards were not yet common.

But I guess with time my hands became lazy with chiclet keys. The faster I type the more force I put behind each tap, and ultimately I’m wear out my hands. Apple’s Wireless Keyboard has a short range from the point you touch each key till they hit the bottom of their impression. And when you hit that stopping point, there’s not a fair amount of tactile feedback to let you know you’re about to stop. This I believe jars my fingers all day long with each key press.

I don’t assume that all people’s ideal keyboards and hands are the same. I feel inclined to match my myself to my ideal keyboard, and with a little research I discovered there is much more to a keyboard than meets the eye. There are keyboards suited for so many unique people. It’s simply amazing what human ingenuity has come up with.

What comes standard with computers isn’t usually ideal, and I make a point to investigate these “default” pieces of hardware and software. I want to know it all: from the best text editor, to the video editing software, to the keyboards. It’s a healthy trait to explore the web and read reviews. Find the real gems that are worth your time and investment. Find the greats. Life’s too short and too much time is used on your keyboard not to have one you enjoy that keeps you productive and feeling awesome. Thus, I’ve started the hunt for the right keyboard.

If it were up to me, I would have liked to buy the top ten models and give each a test drive for a week. Frankly, this isn’t in my budget. Thankfully, other’s have already taken this journey and have great reviews online for the likes of me. In my online journey to find a great keyboard, I met Christian Cantrell’s blog: Living Digitally. I’m so glad that I discovered his site; I know I’ll be frequenting it. His exhaustive review of six of the top ten is an excellent resource, and his latest post about the Tron keyboard? Cool. I like this guy, in a ‘bro’ sorta way.

Anyway, in his review he covers the general topic of mechanical keyboards and what they have to offer, then he covers each keyboard in his written review. Then, going above and beyond the call, Cantrell includes a thorough video demonstration of each of the six. Cantrell is my kind of critic. I think he does a great job of breaking these products down to their true value.

Check out Cantrell’s video here for the Tactile Pro 3:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_fEIKNvFG0&feature=player_embedded]

Then along comes MacSparky. David Sparks wrote a good review for the Matias Tactile Pro 3 (same keyboard as in the video above) back in 2010. Based on Spark’s review, and Cantrell’s, I decided to call Matias and get some more details on their models I was considering (the Tactile Pro and The One: Standard).

Ironically, the same day that I’m shopping for my new keyboard—April 30, 2012—David Sparks posts a wet blanket on the Tactile Pro 3. He writes that he has chosen in recent weeks to start using the Apple Wireless Keyboard. Ultimately, his issue with the Tactile Pro 3 that he’s been using the last few years is that he’s getting RSI with the Tactile Pro and with Apple’s he doesn’t. Funny. That’s the exact opposite of my situation. I’ve stopped using the keyboard he just switched to because I got RSI from it. I guess our hands are built somewhat oppositely? I hope so.

So, I called Matias and spoke with their awesome vice president, Steve McGowan. He answered my questions and last night I made a trip to Microcenter and picked up the Matias Tactile Pro 3. In the store I gave a brief test drive of the Tactile Pro and compared it to the Matias Tactile One. Regrettably, I wasn’t able to spend a great deal of time with either device in Microcenter, but I felt confident that either of these keyboards would satisfy.

First thoughts about the Tactile Pro 3:
In the first 24 hours using the Tactile Pro, I have to agree with its critics and fans. This is a terrific keyboard. While it’s not for everyone—mainly because of it’s exceptionally loud clacky noises, and $149 price tag—it’s exceptionally well constructed and a joy to type with. It feels insanely great. In the days to come I will use it and offer my own thorough review in a few weeks time. By then, maybe I’ll know what my hands and aching tendons think.

My thanks go out to the awesome Internet’s community of dedicated Mac users that led me in the right direction. Other notable influential reviews came from John Gruber and various geeky web forums. Also, my special thanks are in order to Steve McGowan at Matias for the help over the phone. I’m impressed with Matias as a company.

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