My local tech store now has the new Macbook, so I decided to try out the new keyboard. This is by no means an in-depth review, just my initial impressions after a short trial of the keyboard itself.
This new keyboard has a 40% thinner key assembly than the previous keyboard design. My initial impressions (first few seconds) were good, the keys have a more 'buttony' feel than the apple keyboards you're used to, with an almost spongey quality when depressed.
However, after a typing several paragraphs of text, my opinion has swung from superficially pleased to pretty disappointed. As a touch typist, with an average wpm of 70, I found there just was not enough feedback for quick accurate typing.
As a small form factor laptop I'd imagine typical use cases to be light computing on the go, which today means Web browsing, file editing, emailing and instant messaging. This keyboard is certainly capable of those tasks.
But throughout the entire experience your fingers will be screaming to get back to your normal keyboard - unlike the keyboards on a Macbook Pro, or even the discontinued entry level Macbook before it; those keyboards don't have such a deficient feel.
Quick typing especially requires feedback from the keys for you to recognise that the key press has been registered. The amount of travel these keys have is very slight and I found my fingers pushing extra hard or extra long because I wasn't feeling the response I recognise. The whole experience feels like a compromise.
Netbooks and small form factor PCs are also a compromise which people are willing to purchase because of their low price point. When you're spending over £1000 on a laptop (The base MacBook model will set you back £1049), you don't want to compromise on perhaps the most important interface you have. Considering the low end MacBook Pro and the each standard MacBook Air model costs less than this, there seems to be a misalignment of what this machine offers and what you're expected to pay for it.
I should add a caveat here that in time I'm sure you could learn the new key travel distance and type quite comfortably on this keyboard. Ultimately I'm expressing a personal preference here, but I think many of you who have been using computers for years will agree with me, whether you're an Apple fan (like me) or not.
PS. I have got to get the comments feature working on this site soon, this seems like a topic that might inspire a healthy debate...