Tuesday, September 5 2023

Saturday, September 2 2023


I have used Apple keyboards forever, going back to whatever came with the used Power Macintosh 7600 I started college with.1 I generally used whatever came with the computer I had. A dual processor G4, some titanium PowerBooks, etc. I’ve been using the Apple Magic Keyboards (with the number pads) at home since they came out. I tried other keyboards here and there, but generally really like the Apple Magic Keyboards: low profile, good key action, and they look decent. I think I’ve had 2 or 3 of them, starting with the USB plug-in one, and ending on a black Bluetooth one. I also have one at work.

There were a few dark years where I had to use Windows machines at work. The first one had some crappy keyboard. When I changed jobs, I got a Logitech solar powered keyboard. Decent keyboard, kind of similar to the Apple Magic Keyboard in a lot of respects. That keyboard prompted me to try out a nicer Logitech for home. After it and the warranty replacement both broke in the same manner2, I had them send me a the Mac version of the solar keyboard. I didn’t like it as much as the Apple keyboard, so I ordered the black Apple keyboard when I got my now ex-Mac Mini.

While I like the Apple keyboard, I kind of wanted one that I could a) program and b) didn’t have a number pad. I don’t use a number pad at home much and wanted to reclaim some desk space. I really wanted to get a HHKB, but couldn’t stomach losing the arrow keys while not being truly programmable. I’m perfectly happy with Vim keybindings for arrows, but the HHKB has some goofy layout that I could tell was just not going to work for me.

About 6 months ago, I decided to try a Keychron S1, a low profile mechanical keyboard. I figured since I was so used to flat keyboards, a low profile keyboard was the way to go. Nice keyboard, well built and programmable. I just couldn’t type on the thing. Not sure if it was the profile or the switches, but it was super touchy and I was constantly hitting neighboring keys by accident.

Unfortunately, several days after I got (and before I came to the realization that I couldn’t type on the damn thing), I also ordered a Mode Designs Envoy. The thinking at the time was the Keychron was good, I could maybe take it to work, and I was going to get something more customizable for home. Once I decided the Keychron had to go, I started to regret ordering the Envoy, but water under the bridge and all.

The Envoy came in about a month ago. I built and am happy to say it is GREAT. Looks super nice, is well built, the keycaps are great, and I even like the switches.3 All the misgivings I had with the Keychron (it really is a nice keyboard) aren’t present in this keyboard. I highly recommend it if you want a 65% keyboard. I’m tempted to also order a Tofu60 or Tofu65, but I know I have no use for a second keyboard like that.

  1. AppleDesign Keyboard? I don’t think it was the Apple Extende Keyboard II, but it could have been. ↩︎

  2. I think they pulled that model off the market. The switch mechanisms would break where the keycap attached, so your key would get off center and wobble around after the first attachment point broke. ↩︎

  3. I went with quiet tactile switches. At some point I’ll try a different type. ↩︎

Saturday, August 19 2023

HiDPI Monitors

I recently upgraded my computer and decided it was time to upgrade my monitors as well. I have been using an old 24" NEC PA241W SpectraView1 as my main high quality monitor and 2560x1440 (WQHD) HP Z25n for the other monitor.

The NEC had some hours on it. The backshell of the calibrator fell off a while ago, but I could still use until around 2020, when the NEC software stopped supporting the old sensor. I figured I’d eventually get a new NEC when I was ready.

About a year ago, I started to look into a replacement, and it turns out NEC left the color calibrated monitor market. The NEC was a great monitor: KVM, hardware calibration, uniformity compensation, AdobeRGB gamut, and a 10-bit panel. Current options seemed to be limited to Dell (1 monitor), BenQ, or Eizo to get most or all of these features. Of course, there is that Apple Studio Display, which looks amazing, particularly with the 5K resolution, but none of the niceties I was used to in terms of color reproduction.

My struggle with picking a new monitor was I that I got really used to the screen real estate of the HP 25" monitor. It was good resolution at 2560x1440, the macOS interface was a ‘good’ size, and the monitor wasn’t too big.2 Unfortunately, most of the monitors out there are either 24" 1080p, 27" WQHD, or 27" 4K monitors. 1080p was right out. WQHD is decent, but I was hoping to get a ‘retina’ display, but that meant running a 4K monitor at 1080p. So I didn’t know what to do.

Well, it turns out I didn’t know how the whole retina/HiDPI thing works on macOS. This is probably news to no one since I am way behind the curve on display technology. macOS is smart about the scaling of the interface with HiDPI screens: images are rendered with detail corresponding to the native resolution, but the interface is scaled in size as if the display resolution was lower. What I didn’t realize is that you can choose intermediate resolutions other than just 2x (e.g. 1920x1080 for a 3840x2160 display). One of the options was 2560x1440! I was used to that resolution on a 25" monitor and it’s only a little bit bigger on a 27" monitor. Everything is much cleaner and sharper looking too, particularly fonts. I’m seeing details in text that were really obscured in the typical 12-14 pt fonts I use for text editors and terminals. This intermediate resolution might be slightly harder on your graphics cards than a straight 2x scaling, but I’m not noticing any specific issues.

I ended up with an Eizo CS2470. Highly recommended for anyone doing photography and wanting the extra stuff that a monitor like this provides. There also seems to be a lot of $400-600 27" 4K monitors that calibrate very well if you want to spend a bit less and don’t mind giving up AdobeRGB and hardware calibration. 27" 4K monitors seem like a good match for macOS; maybe not perfect 2x scaling like the Apple Studio Display, but you have a bunch of options for cheaper, many with more capabilities than the Apple monitor provides. Running them at an effective resolution of 2560x1440 is perfect for me (just like the Apple display).

WQHD side note

During my monitor research, I saw a lot of discussion about how 2560x1440 looks like crap on macOS. Turns out Apple removed subpixel rendering of text at some point in the last few years and a lot of people miss it. I never actually liked it. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that I was using bitmapped fonts in terminal and in my text editors.3


A lot of people mentioned an app called BetterDisplay while I was reading up on the problems with macOS and WQHD displays. You can fake the HiDPI display rendering with it and get smoother font rendering on a LoDPI screen. Seems like overkill to me, but the program has a ton of features for managing your screens and is very cool.

  1. Purchased approximately 13 years ago. ↩︎

  2. I’m also spoiled by the 38" ultra-wide at work. I looked for ultra-wides, but they seem to have some uniformity issues which could be annoying for photo stuff. ↩︎

  3. RIP ProFont↩︎