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ATPM 11.06
June 2005



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Review: iceKey

by Michael Tsai,


Developer: Macally

Price: $59 (list); $43 (street)

Requirements: Mac with USB, Mac OS 9.2 or Mac OS X 10.1

Trial: None

Readers of my recent reviews know that I like keyboards with mechanical keyswitches, but that few such keyboards are available to Mac users today. My USB keyboard of choice has long been the MicroConnectors “flavored” keyboard, but it’s louder than I’d like, is designed to match Mac styling from the late 90s, and has been discontinued. The Tactile Pro has good key action, but I found it annoyingly loud, and wasn’t quite happy with its looks or the feel of its keys. The StudioBoard types well, but I also found it loud, and I didn’t like its non-standard key layout. Also, both the Tactile Pro and the StudioBoard cost $80 or more. A good keyboard is certainly worth that expense, but it does seem like a hefty premium over Apple’s own standard keyboard, which costs just $29.

Several ATPM readers came to the rescue and suggested that I try Macally’s iceKey. I had tried many of Macally’s keyboards when I first got a USB Mac, and this had convinced me that Macally and I had totally different ideas about how a keyboard should feel. I’d been pretty much ignoring Macally’s input devices ever since, so without this push I probably would not have tried the iceKey—and I would have missed out on a great keyboard.


The iceKey is a low-profile keyboard with laptop-style scissor-action keys. The default angle is nearly flat, and there are also risers that can slant the back up to the height of a normal keyboard. Since the front of the keyboard is lower than normal, this makes for what feels like a slightly greater than normal slant when the risers are in use. I found this uncomfortable, but then I’ve always preferred my keyboard to be flat; I think the iceKey’s default incline is excellent.


I like the keyboard’s understated flat-white styling, although I could do without the glowing green light that indicates that it’s receiving power. Each side of the keyboard has a horizontal USB port, and a lengthy solid-white cable connects it to the Mac.

The top row of function keys are half-size, yet the keyboard as a whole is deeper than most other USB keyboards. It should easily fit on most desks, though, and it’s much smaller than Apple’s old extended keyboards.


The keys are arranged in a standard US layout. Unlike some other keyboards, the iceKey requires a driver (which is still in beta, but which gave me no problems) in order to use the volume and Eject keys. As with Apple’s newer keyboards, there is no power key, although you can restart, sleep, or shut down your Mac by holding down the Control key and pressing Eject.

The layout of the modifier keys on the right side of the main part of the keyboard is odd. The right Command and Control keys are narrower than the left, while the right Option key is wider. In the corner between the right Control and Shift keys is an extra blank key that has no apparent function. These oddities didn’t seem to affect my typing.


The iceKey does not use standard mechanical keyswitches like the Tactile Pro, nor does it use membranes like most other USB keyboards. Instead, it has mechanical scissor keys like on a laptop keyboard. This works surprisingly well.

The keys are mechanical, so the action is good. You can feel them click down, and they spring back up nicely. The travel is much shorter than with most non-laptop keyboards. This felt odd at first, but it really grew on me. Now it feels like I’m typing faster, and that my fingers are moving less. Because of the laptop-style mechanism, the keys are quiet, though not silent.

The similarity to a laptop keyboard may make it easier to switch back and forth between a desktop Mac and a portable, but this is not a laptop keyboard. There’s no fn key. The keyboard doesn’t bend and buckle as you type. Though the keys require less pressure than on the Tactile Pro and StudioBoard, they’re comfortably stiffer than on a laptop. This, along with the more spacious layout, makes the iceKey less tiring to type on than a laptop because you don’t have to worry about accidentally pressing keys. The keys also feel more springy and solid than on a laptop. They press down squarely even if you hit them off-center, and my finger never catches the corner of an adjacent key on the way up, as sometimes happens on my iBook.

Never having been a fan of laptop keyboards, I didn’t expect to like the iceKey—yet I do. After several months of use, I now prefer it to my trusty MicroConnectors keyboard. I like the look, the price, the action, and the quiet. This is my new favorite keyboard.

Reader Comments (7)

Tony Belding · June 23, 2005 - 18:22 EST #1
I love the Icekey too, I love the feel of the keys. I would describe it as low-effort, yet precise.

One peculiarity is worth mentioning. . . All the keys have the same contour or profile, regardless of what row they're on. This means if you want a Dvorak keyboard, you can easily swap the key caps around and convert the Icekey into one. With many (I would say most) other keyboards that isn't practical.
iGreg · May 12, 2006 - 12:16 EST #2
I like newer and cheaper "ikey Slim" by Macally even more. All the extra Apple keys for sound and eject work without extra driver. I had to install macally driver to get the iceKey buttons to all work (which interfered with Sleep and prevented computer from rebooting into Single-User mode).
tuc · November 15, 2006 - 00:02 EST #3
What do you think of the Kensington SlimType keyboard? It also uses scissor switches.
iGreg · November 15, 2006 - 13:24 EST #4
First let me change my opinion on the iKey Slim, it is not as good as its big brother, the iceKey. Many of the keys on the iKey Slim have gotten mushy as the months go by. I have switched to the Kensingtion Slim Type Keyboard. All the sound and eject buttons work without additional driver on OS 10.4.8. Key feel is close to the iceKey in snappyness. One little wierd thing,there are two Control keys on the left side of the keyboard, I have tried to find out why and couldn't get an answer. So, for now I am using the Kensington Slim Type keyboard.

The iceKey by Macally is still better, but I want to use the sound and eject keys and they will NOT work without additional driver. I have found the Macally driver clunky with the sound keys losing their function for no apparant reason and will only function again if I reboot. Must be some type of conflict. So, if you do not care about the keyboard sound and eject keys then go for the iceKey, otherwise the Kensington Slim Type is close second.
andychrist · March 15, 2007 - 05:35 EST #5
Had the same problem with the Macally iceKey driver seeming to fail and loss of Volume and Eject keys. Think I found the solution:

In Library/Preferences there is file

It read Crashed, so I deleted it and upon restart the Volume and Eject keys continue to work.

Interestingly, the new .plist reads Date Modified as 01/30/07, rather than the date replaced (03/14/07). Think the earlier date was that of Security/Java update.

Anyway, hope this helps.
Terry Ryan · November 4, 2007 - 23:13 EST #6
Have downloaded driver from several sites. opening the dmg file brings up a text file with nonsense. Why?

Followed directions above. Will not work off disc with board either in spite of working ok on another mac at home.
Gregory Martinez · November 4, 2007 - 23:37 EST #7
Go to Macally site directly. Download the driver for ppc macs or Intel, depending on your machine.

BTW. The icekey drivers aren't the best drivers in the world. I recommend using the icekey without the driver, the only things not working then are the volume/eject keys...use the volume controller on the Mac by going to Sound Preferences and showing the controller in the menu,

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