Read next: The iMac review.
Apple is updating its standalone keyboard, trackpad, and mouse today in ways that make them much better than they used to be. The key change across the line is that they're all switching from AA battery power to built-in batteries that charge over a Lightning cable. Their batteries are expected to last about a month per charge, and they're supposed to be able to quickly gain about nine hours of power from just two minutes of being plugged in.
The new trackpad is remarkably better
Beyond the battery change, each device is receiving design changes, with some being far more dramatic than others. The biggest change is to Apple's trackpad: It's no longer awful; and, in fact, on initial use, it actually appears to be quite good. The new trackpad has a flat metal base and a white top, which slopes down from back to front. The trackpad's surface is now wider, taking on a rectangular shape, and the trackpad itself is gaining new tricks: it supports Force Touch, and more importantly, you can actually click it anywhere. Yeah, the old one didn't let you do that, which is something you might still be excessively frustrated with because you once recommended that someone buy it without realizing it couldn't really click. Unfortunately, the new model is far more expensive, nearly doubling in price to $129.
The keyboard is seeing the next biggest change. It looks much different: It's now a single slab of metal that gently slopes down from top to bottom — it'll actually fit perfectly beside the trackpad if you buy both of them. The keys are made ever-so-slightly wider by reducing the air gap around them, but their actual placement remains identical. The function keys are also changing in size, from tiny rectangles to full square keys. The keys all make a very satisfying tap as you press them.
The new keyboard has a sharper look, but you'll have to get used to typing on it
While the updated keys are essentially in the same place, they type a lot differently. For one, they're a lot shallower than those on the old standalone keyboard (but not quite as shallow as those on the new MacBook). That's not as big of a difference as you might think, but it's compounded by the change in the keyboard's slope. Each row of keys is now much closer to being level with the rows beside it, which means you have to move your fingers slightly deeper to reach certain rows. This is probably something you'll get used to quickly enough, but be aware that you won't be able to move perfectly from the old keyboard to the new one. It's available for $99, a price hike of $30.
Apple's mouse has the fewest changes
Apple's mouse is seeing the fewest changes. It looks almost identical, with the same weirdly flat top that seems to question everything we know about the contours of hands — it is slightly longer, though, which is nice. The big change is on the bottom, where there's no longer a thin, removable plate covering the battery slot. This is a big deal not just because you no longer need batteries, but because that thing was really difficult to remove, and you might still be frustrated that the first time you opened it, the plate flew out of your fingertips and dinged the screen on your new MacBook Pro. Apple also says that it has redesigned the "rails" that the mouse slides on. They seem about the same, which is to say they'll probably wear down and get weirdly scratchy over time if you aren't using a mouse pad. It's selling for $79, $10 more than the old model.
Apple is giving all of these products slightly new names, which may be just a touch confusing. The new Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad are called the Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2. But there's no Magic Keyboard 2, there's just a Magic Keyboard, because the old Apple keyboard was called the Apple Wireless Keyboard. Apparently it was not magical. It would require some retconning, but I don't think anyone would have minded if it were just called the Magic Keyboard 2. All three products are available starting today.
Along with the updated accessories, Apple is also releasing an improved version of the 27-inch iMac and a 4K version of the 21.5-inch iMac. Those machines will all ship with a Magic Mouse 2 and a Magic Keyboard. They can also be configured to include a Magic Trackpad 2, rather than a Magic Mouse 2, for $50 more.
Photography by Sean O'Kane.
MacBook review: A tiny glimpse at the future