Hands-on With Apple’s Magic Keyboard With Touch ID for Mac

I’ve been waiting years for this keyboard

Key Takeaways

  • Adds Touch ID to any M1 Mac, including docked MacBooks.
  • Available in any color you want, as long as it’s silver.
  • It also works as a USB wired keyboard.
Apple Magic Keyboard with Touch ID for Mac on a wood table

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

Apple’s new Magic Keyboard with Touch ID is the last step for turning a Mac mini or a docked MacBook into the new M1 iMac.

With an iPhone or iPad, Touch ID and Face ID have long made it easy to avoid tapping in your password every time you want to log in, buy something, or otherwise authenticate yourself. Next, Touch ID came to MacBooks, leaving only Apple’s desktop Macs without biometric authentication. That changed with the 2021 M1 iMac, which ships with a new version of Apple’s excellent Magic Keyboard, putting a little Touch ID button up at the top right corner. Now, that same keyboard is available to buy separately, in two sizes. I bought the big one. 

One note: if you don’t have an M1 Mac, then don’t bother. Touch ID doesn’t work with older, Intel Macs. 

Is It Secure?

To pair the keyboard, you connect it to your Mac with the included cloth-covered USB-C-to-Lightning cable, which pairs it automatically. Alternatively, you can pair it like any other Bluetooth keyboard in the Mac’s Bluetooth settings panel.

Once this is done, you’ll need to set up Touch ID. This is done in a new System Preferences panel, which should appear once the keyboard is connected. On my Mac mini, running the latest version of Big Sur, it took a little while for this to appear, but once it did, setup was easy. Just click to add a finger (up to three are supported, it appears), and follow the instructions. It’s exactly the same as setting it up on the iPhone or iPad. 

Touch ID settings on macOS using Magic Keyboard with Touch ID

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

In this panel, you also can choose what to unlock with Touch ID: your Mac, Apple Pay, iTunes, books and App Store purchases, and passwords. You also can have the Mac switch to another user’s account when they touch the fingerprint reader, which is a neat touch. 

Finally on Touch ID, the reader is also a button. If you press it when the Mac is awake, it boots you out to a lock screen, which means you can quickly lock your Mac with one touch. The button also wakes (and unlocks) the Mac. This is instant, but as my Mac mini uses a third-party display, the monitor, itself, takes a few moments to wake up. 

Touch ID is also, in my experience so far, way more reliable than Apple Watch unlock, which seems to work based on its own robotic mood swings. 

Top Row

The other change here is that the top row of buttons, the media/function key row, has been reworked to match Big Sur and beyond. In addition to the music control, volume, and brightness keys, you now have dedicated keys for Siri dictation, Spotlight search, and for toggling Do Not Disturb. I love the DND key, but I have no use for the others.

Also new is the Globe key, which used to be the function (fn) key. This has its own set of options, as seen in the screenshot below. You also can set it in the Modifier Keys section of the keyboard preferences. I have mine set to bring up the emoji panel, but I might disable it as I keep hitting it when I’m reaching for the forward-delete key below it.

Keyboard settings on macOS Big Sur setting the fn key function

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

In Use

If you’re used to Apple’s recent Magic Keyboards, you already know what this one feels like. Solid, with a good amount of travel to the keys. They’re not as stable as Apple’s disastrous Butterfly Keyboard, but they feel great. It feels exactly the same as the iPad’s own Magic Keyboard, although it sounds different, thanks to the iPad’s rubber coating. The iPad’s keys are also backlit. 

Currently, I still feel more comfortable typing on my old Logitech K811 (a true classic), but I expect that in another month I’ll be just as at home here, once I get used to the layout of the bigger keyboard.

Is this keyboard worth $179 (or $149 for the numpad-less version)? It all depends on how much you want Touch ID, because other than that, it’s just about the same as the previous Magic Keyboard, only $50 more. 

For me, it’s worth it. I’ve wanted Touch ID on the Mac from the moment I tried it on the iPhone. And an expensive keyboard is justifiable for someone who writes for a living. But if you’re tempted, know that it’s just as good as Apple’s other keyboards.

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