Nearly Two Decades Later, Apple’s G4 Keyboard Is Still the Best

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Key Takeaways

  • The keyboard for the iMac G4 might be the best keyboard Apple’s ever made.
  • The maximalist design of the iMac G4 keyboard is a perfect replacement for the undersized keyboard on the new M1 iMac. 
  • The G4 keyboard is available on eBay, but don’t forget your USB-to-USB-C adapter.
Someone using an older iMac computer and keyboard at a conference.

Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images

As much as I love Apple’s new M1 iMac I, despise its keyboard, but I may have finally found a perfect replacement with a nearly 20-year-old design. 

I picked up a brand new iMac G4 keyboard on eBay for less than $30 the other day, and I couldn’t be happier. The keyboard that comes with the M1 iMac is tiny, sleek, and runs on Bluetooth, but it’s unusable with its small keys. The G4 keyboard, on the other hand, is massive and connects via USB, but it's perfect for people who need to type. 

The G4 keyboard hit the market in 2003 when Bluetooth was a wild and futuristic idea. It’s got deep, perfectly springy keys that are shaped like giant white teeth. Typing on this keyboard is like running through a field of flowers in the sunshine. Well, not really, but it’s comfortable. 

"The M1 iMac’s keyboard might be ideal if all you do is occasionally tap passwords into an Apple TV."

Why, Oh, Why Make the M1 Keyboard?

My hatred of the keyboard that comes with the M1 iMac knows no bounds. An M1 iMac keyboard is a beautiful object with its solid aluminum frame and crisp white keys, but this is definitely a case of form over function. 

Aside from the ridiculously flat keys that make, you know, typing difficult, among my pet peeves is the lock key on the upper right of the keyboard. The lock key must have seemed like a good idea on the drawing board.

After all, it offers a quick way to activate the lock screen on your Mac in case you work at the Central Intelligence Agency and Tom Cruise is coming to steal your NOC list. Since I don’t work at the CIA, the lock key has instead been a major inconvenience, because I’m constantly hitting it instead of the delete key. 

My M1 iMac speeds through applications, and its design is sharp and highly usable, if not the most attractive object Apple has ever created. That award might go to the G3 iMac, which has earned a place in the permanent collection of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. 

Someone using an older model iMac with keyboard and mouse.

Francis Dean / Getty Images

However, it feels like a different design team, or maybe even another company, designed the M1 iMac’s keyboard. Granted, this keyboard won’t take up much room on your desk. It’s tiny and flat and might be useful for travel when you don’t have any luggage allowance left. 

To add insult to injury, I’ve never been a worse typist than on the M1 iMac keyboard, so my finger is never far from the delete button. The problem is that the keys on the M1 keyboard are pathetically shallow and squinched together. 

The M1 iMac’s keyboard might be ideal if all you do is occasionally tap passwords into an Apple TV. There’s no margin for error with the M1 keyboard’s compact design. Of course, there’s no separate set of numeral buttons, because Apple was trying to apologetically squeeze every last ounce out of the keyboard as if it was being packed for an Apollo mission. 

They Don’t Make Keyboards Like They Used To

The G4 keyboard’s ancient USB connection is a selling point for me. I’m getting tired of Bluetooth, as magical as it can be at times. Yes, it’s wonderful not to have tangled cords, but having to constantly worry about whether things are charged and connected adequately via Bluetooth has gotten old. 

"Typing on [the G4] keyboard is like running through a field of flowers in the sunshine."

I did run into one problem at first with the G4 keyboard. The keyboard doesn’t connect out of the box with the M1 iMac because its USB keyboard isn’t compatible with USB-C. But I solved that issue by purchasing an Apple USB-C to USB adapter, which at $19 cost nearly as much as the keyboard itself. The admittedly minor investment was worth the money because, soon, I plugged it in, and the keyboard was recognized and worked flawlessly. 

For less than $50, the G4 keyboard isn’t just a nostalgia trip. Even though it’s long discontinued, this keyboard is worth seeking out.

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