4

tl;dr

I'm searching for a keyboard with the following specs, in order of importance:

  1. Cherry Brown switches
  2. Mac keys (⌃ control ⌥ option ⌘ command)
  3. Durable, easy-to-clean construction
  4. 1st- or 2nd-party drivers for macOS High Sierra, 3rd-party ones proven reliable over many years
  5. Number pad
  6. Programmable RGB backlighting
  7. Built-in USB hub

It would be nice if it were less than $200, but I might be able to stomach more expensive ones if they're much better.


Rationalle / Backstory

I work on a Mac, professionally. The silicone-dome keyboards Apple makes have really gotten under my skin. At home, I use a Corsair K70 RGB with Cherry Browns for coding, gaming, and writing.

For the last few weeks I've swapped these, and used the mechanical one at work. After fiddling with 3rd-party drivers I eventually got it to work similar to how it does at home and I love it. I love the satisfying feel of the switches, the lower actuation force, my color scheme making it easier for me to find things at a glance, the durable metal construction, the switches being above the board for easier cleaning, the whole shebang.

There are downsides, though:

  • The backlighting can't be customized when working with macOS without using a 3rd-party driver, and it's a bit crashy.
  • It uses the Windows modifier key layout (Ctrl Alt), which gets quite confusing when figuring out a keyboard shortcut. Even when mapped, the key sizes don't feel right when used on macOS. Additionally, there's no fn key or brightness buttons so I had to try to map those appropriately.
  • No USB hub means I have to unplug the keyboard or an external drive to charge my mouse/trackpad.

An ideal solution would address all these as well.


Candidates so far

A matrix of the candidates, where K70 is the tentative winner with 71% (live-updating spreadsheet)

  • Have you looked at wasdkeyboards.com? They have mac compatible boards. – user1691 Jul 16 '18 at 18:05
  • @SiXandSeven8ths I have, but I can't tell from the site if they meet requirements 4, 6, or 7, and I think 3 fails because its keycaps descend below the board – Ben Leggiero Jul 16 '18 at 18:50
  • I'm not sure what you mean by "keycaps descend below the board." But the keycaps are removable, therefore easy to clean. No different from other mech boards. Lights and USB are lower on your priority, I'd say it will be hard to find both those on anything that is Mac compatible. – user1691 Jul 16 '18 at 20:24
  • @SiXandSeven8ths Sorry for being ambiguous. Hopefully this illustration will help explain what I mean. And yes, if 1-5 are all met, 6 and 7 can fall by the wayside. But I would jump on something with all 7 – Ben Leggiero Jul 16 '18 at 21:23
  • 1
    @BenLeggiero It's a pretty large and well supported project that's been going for the last 10 years or so with expanding scope and support. I wouldn't worry too much about edge cases not getting supported. – JMY1000 Jul 18 '18 at 16:43
2

Here's a fairly detailed write up I did a while back for someone looking for something similar to what you want, recommending the "Anne Pro":

https://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/a/7633/6475

I'll go through your list to address your needs specifically:

  • Brown Switches = Yes

  • Mac Keys - Yes. The board has four layout profiles; one of them is dedicated for Mac and the other is fully customize-able including Mac key functions. The keyboard comes with Windows printed keycaps but they are standard size so finding keycaps with the Mac print on them should be easy enough.

  • Construction - This category is a mixed bag with the Anne. It's plate mounted, has quality keycaps, and feels / sounds sturdy despite the plastic housing. I will say the stabilizers can be a little rattly out of the box, mine was enough that I spent maybe 3-5 hours finding and performing modifications to resolve the issue. I'll be happy to provide more info on my specific mods if you'd like, but it was less than $10 in materials and I'm very happy with the result. So it's not perfect but it's certainly something you can work with.

  • Driver - There isn't an app or anything but Anne Pro works out of the box with MacOS. There are apps for Windows 7/8/10, Android, and iOS that you can use to customize the lighting and key layout.

  • Numpad - No dice, this is a 60% board so it does not feature a numpad or dedicated arrow keys. I have my Fn button set to the CAPS LOCK key, and arrows bound to the function layer at WASD and IJKL, this layout works extremely well. Yes I miss the numpad, I will likely end up buying or building a mechanical one to pair with the Anne Pro at some point.

  • Programmable RGB - Yes. There are a few dynamic light modes as well. Programmable RGB layouts are only possible as a static layout, you can't currently make custom dynamic layouts (though this feature is supposedly coming with the 1.5 firmware promised over a year ago, sooooo yea). The only other thing about the firmware that blows is that the on-board macros don't work, but I assume you can live without that since you didn't list it in your post.

  • USB hub - The Anne doesn't have one of these unfortunately.

So it's got just about everything aside from the numpad and the USB hub. Amazon usually has them for ~$60. It may cost you an extra $5-10 and a half a Saturday morning to get it where you want it, but you might be really happy with it right out of the box too. I'd recommend reading the answer I linked as it addresses some aspects of the board that weren't listed in your post in greater detail. There's also a dedicated community on reddit for this keyboard, so you can swing by over there to get a feel for common problems / solutions and popular modifications.

If you have other questions about this board feel free to ask and I'll edit in my responses. Best of luck with the search!

| improve this answer | |
  • How do you program the RGB backlighting without a macOS driver...? – Ben Leggiero Jul 17 '18 at 22:09
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    @BenLeggiero You can configure custom RGB layout and key layout in the Windows, Android, or iOS apps. The settings are saved on board the keyboard itself, so you don't need the app running or anything. You'll juust need to have a device that can configure the board. Key layout settings are preserved even after hitting the reset button, RGB settings have to be reset manually with one of the apps as far as I can tell. – jcam3 Jul 17 '18 at 22:25
  • Thanks for the recommendation! I added it to my list, but I don't think it'll end up being the best fit for my job. Seems like an awesome portable keyboard, though! I might get it for other uses! – Ben Leggiero Jul 17 '18 at 22:41

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