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Opinion: Apple’s 4K iMac, Magic Keyboard, Mouse 2 + Trackpad 2 are pricey steps in the right direction


Apple fulfilled three of my “minor-level” Mac dreams today, announcing (very) long-awaited updates to its 2007-vintage Wireless Keyboard and 2010 Magic Trackpad — accessories I’ve used and mostly loved for years — and a non-trivial update to the Retina 5K iMac it released last year. It also unveiled a sequel to its 2009 Magic Mouse, and a Retina 4K version of the 21.5″ iMac. Yes, it’s easy to call these releases “inevitable” in the sense that we’ve known all of them were coming for a while now, but some of the details were surprising.

Who would have thought that the Magic Trackpad 2, for instance, would be Apple’s first Bluetooth 4-only Mac accessory? That the iOS Lightning connector would make its way into Mac accessories? Or that the Retina 5K iMac would receive a significant screen quality upgrade after only one year?

Each of these products reaffirms Apple’s commitment to a premium experience, and demonstrates that Steve Jobs’ theories about the inevitable march of progress remain part of the company’s DNA. Read on for my product-specific thoughts….


Magic Keyboard

I used the prior-generation Apple Wireless Keyboard for years, marveling at its excellent typing surface but eventually tiring of the need to swap AA batteries (thanks, Apple Battery Charger). Earlier this year, I reluctantly decided to switch back to a $50 Apple Wired Keyboard, and in all honesty, I’ve loved almost everything about it. OS X’s “low battery” warnings have gone away, I’ve enjoyed using a great typing surface, and if I need to plug in a USB flash drive, I can just connect it to the Keyboard’s pass-through USB ports rather than reaching around to my iMac’s back. But I’ve been dreaming that a next-gen Apple-made rechargeable Bluetooth keyboard would be considerably better.

When Logitech introduced the awesome Bluetooth Easy-Switch K811, it seemed obvious that Apple would follow suit with a similar rechargeable wireless keyboard. Apple’s new Magic Keyboard is that product… sort of. You get a rechargeable battery promising a “month or more of usage,” which doesn’t sound great compared with the 6-month and 1-year battery lives promised by top rivals. But the reality may vary based on the Mac you’re using, however, because the Magic Keyboard is supposed to support Bluetooth 4, and may eke out better life with Bluetooth 4 Macs. You also get a Lightning to USB cable, and a Lightning port so you can keep the keyboard connected as much or as little as you prefer, which is handy (and similar to many micro-USB-based Bluetooth keyboards).

On the other hand, Apple brought a variation on the controversial, lower-profile typing surface from the 12″ MacBook over to the Magic Keyboard, which means a reduction in key travel in the name of “33% more key stability” and “a new lower profile.” Unlike Logitech, Apple apparently doesn’t include any dedicated multi-device pairing keys with the Magic Keyboard, so you won’t be able to effortlessly toggle between a Mac, iPad, and Apple TV like the Easy-Switch K811. So although I was excited before it was announced, I’m going to have to seriously reconsider whether the Magic Keyboard will have a place on my office desk; for the $99 asking price, I would not call it a lock by any means.



Magic Mouse 2 + Magic Trackpad 2

I tested the original Magic Mouse and thought that it was pretty nice until the Magic Trackpad came out the following year. While I have nothing against mice in general or people who still use mice (hi, Mom and Dad, computer gamers, et al), switching over to the Magic Trackpad was a complete game-changer for me. I could never imagine going back to any mouse, even if it was a radically reinvented mouse.

Image courtesy Engadget

Image courtesy <a href="">Engadget</a>

The $79 Magic Mouse 2 hasn’t been radically reinvented. It looks virtually identical to the original, swapping AA batteries for a rechargeable battery, tweaking the bottom glide surface for added smoothness when it’s moving on flat surfaces, and — critically — doesn’t get Force Touch support. Apple’s pitching it as useful for “simple gestures,” and only increased the price by $10, maybe because of the included Lightning cable (which unlike the other Magic accessories can’t be connected for charging while the Mouse 2 is in use). I’d call Magic Mouse 2 an easy pass, but that’s just me.

By comparison, the Magic Trackpad 2 is really appealing. The touch surface is 29% bigger than its five-year-old predecessor — something I didn’t really think was necessary — but that gave Apple room to add both a rechargeable battery and Force Touch, features I’ve been waiting for since they first came to trackpads and Macs, respectively. The top is now white glass, a curious shift given Apple’s “black and silver” design philosophy for Macs, and the inside holds four pressure-sensitive sensors.

One show-stopper about the Magic Trackpad 2: it’s the only one of the new accessories that literally requires a Mac to have Bluetooth 4 in order to work. The Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2 are backward-compatible with older, non-Bluetooth 4 Macs (so long as they’re capable of running OS X 10.11). I had hoped to use the Magic Trackpad 2 with my mid-2011 iMac, but it’s pre-Bluetooth 4, so I’m probably out of luck. A lot of people are going to find the $129 asking price hard to swallow for a trackpad, too. Unless I upgrade to a new iMac, I’ll probably be sticking with the original $70 Magic Trackpad, instead.


Retina 4K and 5K iMacs

I’ve kinda-sorta wanted to buy a Retina 5K iMac since the new model was introduced last year, but held off for three reasons: first, I didn’t really need a new iMac, second, the price premium over a regular iMac was considerable, and third, I suspected Apple would release a more polished version within the next year. The mid-2015 27″ iMac update and price drop handled the second point, and the just-announced late-2015 version takes care of the third.

Beyond chip updates, Apple took the rare (but not unprecedented) step of confirming that there was indeed room to improve on its prior “Retina” display with improved color accuracy. Note that Apple’s Mac tech specs pages never dive into color accuracy, instead generically claiming “support for millions of colors,” a pretty meaningless description of color performance.

Today, Apple’s iMac press release notes:

The new Retina displays feature a wider color gamut that brings more brilliant and true-to-life colors to your desktop. With standard sRGB-based displays, many of the colors you see in real life never make it to your screen. The new Retina 5K and 4K displays feature a wider P3-based color gamut that provides a 25 percent larger color space, and with more available colors, images are more vivid, reveal even greater detail and appear more lifelike than ever.

So if you bought a Retina 5K iMac last year because you wanted the most true-to-life screen around, you may be surprised to learn today that “many” real life colors never made it to that screen. But the new Retina 5K and 4K iMacs will fix that. Suffice it to say that I’m glad I waited until at least now to get a Retina iMac.

If I was shopping today, the $1499 21.5″ 4K model would be exceptionally tempting. But then, the new $1799 5K iMac ships with Intel’s sixth-gen/Skylake Core processors, which are missing from the 4K model. The bigger screen, better CPU, and superior GPU would all be worth the added dollars. If only I needed a new iMac…

More From This Author

Check out more of my How-To guides and reviews for 9to5Mac here! In recent months, I published a guide to turning your digital photos into beautiful wall art (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), as well as a lot of different topics of interest to Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch users.

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  1. Paul Van Obberghen - 7 years ago

    How can you know if your iMac is Bluetooth 4 compatible? Mine is Late 2009 and I also use the Magic Trackpad exclusively. I’m not sure I’d need a new one, just for force-touch, though.

    • Jeremy Horwitz - 7 years ago

      General guideline is that if your Mac is older than 2012, it’s not Bluetooth 4.

    • Angel Garcia Zinsel - 7 years ago

      @Paul I spoke with apple support this evening because I also own a late 2009 i7 27″imac. They told me two interesting things. First, you can se it through the lightning cable without problems. Second, u can use generic (mac-compatible) bluetooth usb adapters and the Magic TrackPad 2 will work. Hope this are good news 4u :)

      • monty72 - 7 years ago

        @freediverx Arrange a call with Applecare online via the support page and you will get to a point where you can request an exception if your hardware is out of warranty. Things like you installed a new OSX less than 90 days ago can be used as exceptions. I’ve never not got through and never had to pay the 20 quid charge.

    • Also, if you go to the Apple Menu, hold down the ALT key so that “About this Mac” changes to “System Information…” it will open the System Info window. Under Hardware you should see Bluetooth and the very first line should tell you which version of Bluetooth you’re running. Mine reads as such: Apple Bluetooth Software Version: 4.4.0f4 16320

      Hope that helps.

    • Go to the Apple menu and hold the ALT key while selecting “System Information…” Under the hardware section there should be bluetooth. Select that as the first line should show what version of bluetooth you’re machine is running. Mine shows as such: Apple Bluetooth Software Version: 4.4.0f4 16320

      Hope that helps definitively.

  2. memuslism - 7 years ago

    Where is Thunderbolt 3 in these new 5K Skylake iMacs? And why is USB-C missing as well? I’d much much much rather have USB-C port than a SDXC card slot. I’m still at a loss why Apple left out a USB-C port for charging the keyboard/mouse/trackpad combo; it seems like such a natural fit.

    • mikhailt - 7 years ago

      Thunderbolt 3 will be an alt-mode standard for USB-C. In other words, all Thunderbolt 3 ports will be a USB-C port. Once Apple starts moving toward Thunderbolt 3 next year, USB-C will be there.

      > I’m still at a loss why Apple left out a USB-C port for charging the keyboard/mouse/trackpad combo; it seems like such a natural fit.

      They can still release lightening to USB-C cable, these devices do not need USB-C at the moment, they won’t benefit from it.

      • memuslism - 7 years ago

        But Skylake supports Thunderbolt 3 now. Why does Apple have to disable TB3 in these machines?

        “Once Apple starts moving Thwart Thunderbolt 3 next year….”. There isn’t any reason to wait. Apple can start now.

      • mikhailt - 7 years ago

        Skylake has nothing to do with Thunderbolt 3 support. You’re talking about the Alpine Ridge controller that Intel released alongside with Skylake CPUs that companies can use to add Thunderbolt 3 plus USB 3.1 Gen 2 support.

        CPUs do not have specific paths for Thunderbolt, all it has to do is give enough PCIe and DisplayPort lanes for the Thunderbolt controller and Thunderbolt carries that out to the port. It’s not CPU > TB port, it’s CPU > PCIe+DP > TB > port.

        In fact, you can add the Alpine Ridge controller to the current 5th-gen Intel CPU and get TB3 support.

        I didn’t say Apple can’t add TB3, they could’ve done it a few months ago when Alpine Ridge was released but they chose not to. That’s solely their decision. I suspect Thunderbolt 3 migration to start next year with rMBP getting it first and then the rest follows.

      • mikhailt - 7 years ago

        Just to be clear, Apple did NOT disable TB3. To add TB3 support to a computer, you must add Intel’s Alpine Ridge controller to the computer, Skylake CPU does not give anyone TB3 support.

    • erinsnowanmin - 7 years ago

      To leave a refreshing excuse for next year.

  3. tacos1314 - 7 years ago

    I’m very disappointed that the mouse doesn’t have touch force. I think that would have been a better step. Then just adding charging.

    • mikhailt - 7 years ago

      It is possible the curves on the mice doesn’t allow for accurate sensors. They work best on trackpad and watch because of the flat surface, you need 4 sensors on each corners to detect the pressure location and depth.

      • rgbfoundry - 7 years ago

        It’s probably very technically difficult to separate the mechanical clicks that comprise a mouse click and a force touch action. For Force Touch to work, you’d have to first make a mouse-click as you pushed down on the mouse. Only after the first click could the mouse start to detect a Force Touch push. I think apple has decided to keep mechanical buttons away from Force Touch. You can expect to see Force Touch incorporated into the iPhone 7s Home button. The Touch ID ring will have gaps in it that allow the screen to be a single piece of glass. The ring itself might even disappear as it’s only used to detect your finger (and wake up the processor that reads your fingerprint.) ForceTouch will be your new home button.

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      The Magic Mouse has a large mechanical clickable button, and it’s input is mainly through clicks, not taps. A trackpad is mainly taps, not clicks. A trackpad then, can understandably change things through clicks and pressure, whereas a mouse could not. If you clicked on a mouse, you need the first click to be for input, not just a secondary gesture. You’d have to have deep pressure to even begin to do other gestures. Moreover, there’s no way they could recreate the same clickable feeling in the size of the mouse, just as they can’t recreate it in the watch or phone, because they simply don’t have the space to allow for it. Not only that, but your hand is gripping the mouse, not just a finger, and it would probably be hard for them to single out the vibration to just your fingertip, you’d likely feel the haptic in your hand, which obviously wouldn’t be as great (although not that big a deal).

  4. Tony Myers - 7 years ago

    disagree about step in right direction. These items are for desktop. There is no need to miniaturize the keyboard. They say its is smaller now. Why not add the keypad? This is a step in the wrong direction. Why cant they add solar recharge like the logitech? what about TouchID? come on now.

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      Touch ID could be more a matter of security. Solar? Worthless, slow charge, more space, absolute garbage. Keypad? Worthless to 99% of users.

  5. bukston - 7 years ago

    Charging mouse? What the….? …Oooh, wait I need to charge my mouse…from above?…I will be back to work in an hour …really? No option to connect together the New Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 as one unit as with the old version MagicWand? Design rally looks like from the leapfrog toy series. No comments on the 4K and 5K but from the specifications, the users have smaller, and smaller chances to upgrade these Macs by themselves. You MUST buy these $500 additional 8GB of RAM. …nobody force you… Definitely Apple is going in wrong direction.

    • mikhailt - 7 years ago

      If you’re going to troll, do it with realistic facts instead of bitching with bullshit.

      A few minutes to give the Magic Mice 9 hours of battery life. You can wait 2 minutes. A 2 hours provides a whole month.

      It’s 200$ to bump from 8GB to 16GB on the 21″ iMac. 27″ still includes the ability to upgrade RAM yourself and it is 600$ to bump to 32GB on iMac but you can upgrade yourself with a third party RAM, so you don’t have to buy from Apple.

      • rgbfoundry - 7 years ago

        Bukston is getting it. Apple (Ive) has an unreasonable obsession for “thin” in the desktop realm. The desire for thin and streamlined at all costs us bad for consumers. The complete inability to easily updgrade RAM and HDs is solely a business decision. The iMac is becoming an iPad and upgradability is considered a Pro feature.

    • You can still upgrade the 27 iMac yourself and adding 8 GB to a 21 is $188 not $500.

      • rgbfoundry - 7 years ago

        I did notice that. That have to incentivize the 27″ somehow. They also have to strip something away on the next iMac in a few years. It won’t be long until iMacs are 27″ iPads with an aluminum foot.

    • thisisasticup - 7 years ago

      You can easily upgrade the ram in the 27 inch

      • rgbfoundry - 7 years ago

        We’re complaining about the 21″.

  6. mikhailt - 7 years ago

    > It would probably be too much to hope for haptic feedback in a trackpad at this point, given both power consumption and the potential to rattle on a flat surface, so it’s no shock that Apple Watch- and iPhone 6s-like feedback isn’t included here.

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about, it does have haptic feedback. It uses vibration to not only provide the clicking sound but to give you feedback as you click. That’s the whole point of the new trackpad. Even confirmed the vibration.

    > One show-stopper about the Magic Trackpad 2: it’s the only one of the new accessories that literally requires a Mac to have Bluetooth 4 in order to work.

    No, it doesn’t. The included lightening to USB cable provides data in addition to charging. In other words, you can use the trackpad 2 on Macs without bluetooth.

    • memuslism - 7 years ago

      glad you pointed that out!

    • Jeremy Horwitz - 7 years ago

      I’ve updated the article to omit the haptic discussion, but I was originally referring to the more robust haptics of the iPhone 6s/Apple Watch versus “replacement click” of Force Touch trackpads. Regarding the Lightning to USB cable, no one has confirmed this functionality. I reached out to Apple and was told “Bluetooth 4 Macs only,” which is also noted on Trackpad 2’s page. So I guess we’ll see.

      • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

        The haptics in the trackpads are significantly more advanced than the Taptic engines in the phone and watch. The trackpad is able to trick the brain into thinking it actually just clicked something, the Taptic engines in the watch and phone are merely a subtle response, they can’t, in any way, make you think you clicked something, it’s simply the nature of how much more space they have to work with in the trackpads.

        I don’t understand what you mean by more ‘robust’, unless you mean that the Taptic engines in the watch and phone allow for notification haptic? A computer doesn’t need to notify you through haptic, you’re only at a computer and touching it if you’re using it, in which case you’d hear/see the notification.

        I also want to through my opinion out that the Taptic Engine in the watch actually feels better than the phone, and I can only assume it’s due to the nature of the phone’s having to be stronger and is meant to vibrate the entire big glass and phone.

      • Jeremy Horwitz - 7 years ago

        Uh… the deep press on Apple Watch feels pretty clicky to me, at least when the Taptic Engine is behaving.

        What I’m referring to are the other types of feedback the iOS devices have started to provide, like the “nuh-uh” response you get when trying to 3D Touch an icon with no deep press functionality, quick acknowledgement haptics when activating Siri, etc. These (combined with the potential for using gentle haptics during gestures to simulate motion on textures, etc) feel like the future — things that will happen between now and the next time Apple releases a sequel to the Magic Trackpad.

      • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

        The things you’re describing will come to the trackpad way before the phones. Anyone who has used the trackpad knows that it is substantially superior haptic, you actually don’t know that it isn’t a mechanical button. A look at the internal design lets you immediately know why it is far better, I mean it is a huge amount of magnets which are far bigger.

        Some of the things you mentioned can be addressed immediately in software if Apple wished for them to be there. As far as the texture feeling, yeah, I’ve seen Apple’s patents for it, and the current hardware might be able to do some of that, but if it can’t, then don’t expect that in phones anytime soon, because they’d literally need like an entire layer of haptics under the glass to do stuff that sophisticated I imagine.

  7. kjl3000 - 7 years ago

    Very disappointing, especially the MM2.

  8. taoprophet420 - 7 years ago

    I think all the retina models should have a FusionDrive standard and upper models SSD standard. The 4K sticking to 5th generation Intel chips is disappointing. For the $129 the new Magic TrackPad should have Touch ID or Haptic feedback. Wish the 4K had user a tray to replace ram like the 27″ model.

    • taoprophet420 - 7 years ago

      24 GB SSD for the 1TB FusionDrives is disappointing. If they wanted to go with just 24 GB Inst Sr. Of the previous 128 GB, they definitely should made Fusion Drive standard. One model of the 4K should had an option for discrete graphics and Skylake.

  9. therealtruthwhisperer - 7 years ago

    Re: Magic Keyboard

    What about the missing backlit keys? Why not a version with the proper full key layout eg. arrow, cursor and numerical keypad.

    THEN I’d buy it – heck even for over £100, but until they start to do those two things, I’m sticking with my old wired full size keyboard.

  10. rgbfoundry - 7 years ago

    This new iMac represents a few steps in the WRONG direction for consumers. In short, Apple has decided to treat smaller iMacs like iPads. In order to force more regular system purchases, they’ve done away with user upgradable HDs and RAM. The form factor is now an excuse to limit features. You want upgradability? Oh yea, Apple offers that. Just go Pro. Asking Mac faithful to treat their desktops like they treat their iPhones and iPads is an insult. Do they think a more obvious gambit of planned obsolescence is the direction to take their consumer and prosumer desktops? Apple’s obsession with “thinness” is a convenient excuse to strip away upgradability. Apple is only limiting consumers when they make such a thin desktop. What’s the reasoning?

  11. I am so dissapointed about this update. Update of 21 macbook to 4k is more than welcome, but every other thing that they put inside basic imacs is more 2013 than 2015. 5400 rpm HDD is simply intolerable by today standards and 24GB SSD in fusion drive is just a nonsense.
    And don’t let me start talking about magic mouse. Mouse is unusable when Lightning cable is attached to it. Usability zero.

  12. baussie - 7 years ago

    SSD drives are much cheaper today then they were three years ago, when the first iMacs with fusion drives were announced.

    I expected Apple to increase flash component in a fusion drive from 128GB to 256GB or at least to make a fusion drive with 128GB a standard option for all iMacs.

    What have they done instead? They added a cheaper version with a pathetic 24GB flash option and made the 128GB option (now with extra 1TB of HDD) more expensive ($300 now).

    That is not a step in the right direction. That is a step in increasing the Mac profit margins to the levels of the iPhone and the iPad.

    • rgbfoundry - 7 years ago

      I’m going to put together an infographic that shows how Apple innovates by removing features and hardware. Apple will pitch the downgrading of the HD as a logical step in a time when “millions of customers” are moving to the cloud.

  13. Andrew Hudson - 7 years ago

    The fact that the full size wired keyboard with numeric keyboard has been left behind is a huge disappointment. I can’t operate without the keypad and the extra buttons. And before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I’m some sort of spreadsheet loving minority, I’m not. I’m a graphic artist.

    Please don’t leave us behind Apple. A huge number of us want the new keyboard with the keypad.

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      You are over exaggerating how many people want that. 99% don’t.

      • rgbfoundry - 7 years ago

        I don’t think he is. It’s a big sticking point for a lot of professional (production conscious) Mac users. The complete omission of it is yet another Johnny Ive “simplicity over function” decision brought to the marketplace.

      • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

        Complete omission? Um, show me where it was on the last wireless keyboard. They haven’t really supported that for a very long time, because it is unnecessary for virtually everyone who uses them. Simplicity over useless function always wins.

    • rgbfoundry - 7 years ago

      The way Jonathan Ive is taking Apple, we’ll end up seeing keyboards that don’t have Shift keys because the OS will capitalize letters for you based on an automated review of the context. Why have so many keys when AutoCorrect can form a proper sentence?

      • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

        Nope, only the useless stuff. And I find it hilarious that you actually believe that all decisions rest on Jony Ive’s shoulders. Are you crazy? This may be a striking realization for you, but the executives have meetings every week, and decisions are made as a group.

        Your shift key isn’t going anywhere soon.

  14. Hmm, after upgrading my mid-2010 21.5″ iMac to SSD (480GB) a few years ago there is no way in hell I could go back to a hard drive, let alone a 5400rpm hard drive… adding a 512gb SSD to the iMac 4K makes the cost really high, and without discrete graphics? I look forward to seeing the benchmarks but suspect I will run my current iMac into the ground before I replace it.

    Shame as I’m sure that display is damned pretty…

  15. readenreply - 7 years ago

    As much as I’d rather have a 27″ iMac, it’s just too damn big for my home office, I spent the morning with measuring tape!

  16. Mike Ellis - 7 years ago

    Will the trackpad work on Windows?

  17. SleptOn (@JxSleptOn) - 7 years ago

    Can anyone confirm that the new trackpad will work with non 4.0 bluetooth MacBooks if connected through lightning cable?

    Also why didn’t the design the magic mouse to still be use while plugged in?

  18. SleptOn (@JxSleptOn) - 7 years ago

    Where can I get the old trackpad for a deal?

  19. charismatron - 7 years ago

    New keyboard and track pad do something great: they make the Apple Watch look unbelievably fantastic!

    I’m sorry, but although I wasn’t really blown away by the watch design, these things are just ugly. And in all seriousness (like, seriously!) ugly isn’t something Apple does much. Has it ever? Probably. But, good lord, are these tools just ugly.

  20. I doubt that this Magic mouse design (battery charging) would survive under Jobs.

  21. neonspark22 - 7 years ago

    wow, even the trash you see all in ones at best buy have touch and don’t come with 5400rpm drives. Apple is clearly a phone company and not a computer company any longer. This is so lagging it isn’t even funny.

  22. sardonick - 7 years ago

    $230 bucks for a keyboard and a trackpad with built in batteries and a butt ugly redesign. #losttheirdamnminds Think I’ll stick to the originals for a while longer.