Mechanical Mac keyboard packs useful features into small package [Review]


Satechi SM1 Slim Mechanical Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard review★★★★
Satechi SM1 offers mac users a compact mechanical keyboard with multiple connectivity options.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The Satechi SM1 Slim Mechanical Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard offers a 75% layout with low-profile brown switches so it’s easy to type on while not taking up much room on your desk. This mechanical keyboard for Mac can connect with up to four computers, including your iPad and iPhone, plus Windows machines. And it uses a variety of connectivity methods: Bluetooth, wired and more.

I’ve used it for several weeks now in my home office. I found a lot to like.

Satechi SM1 Slim Mechanical Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard review

A good keyboard is critical to getting work done. Nothing hampers your productivity like a keyboard that doesn’t fit your needs.

And there are more variables than you might realize. Mechanical versus membrane. Wired versus wireless. Extended versus compact. Mac versus Windows.

The Satechi SM1 is mechanical, is both wired and wireless, it’s compact, and you can switch its keys between Mac and Windows layouts. If that fits your needs and preferences, read on.

Desktop keyboard with a 75% layout

Satechi SM1 Slim Mechanical Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard keys
The Satechi SM1 keys are compactly arranged, with no wasted space.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

A 75% layout like the one on this new Satechi keyboard fits the standard keys into a compressed area. It’s 12.2 inches wide, 4.6 inches deep and 0.8 inches at its thickest point (310mm by 119mm by 21mm).

Don’t think that the overall compact design means the individual keys are small. A typical keycap is 0.75 inches square. And the Q-to-P length is the usual 8 inches. There’s just not any wasted space on the keyboard.

I like the smaller size of the Satechi SM1 — my desk is of modest dimensions, and is generally too crowded with review units, cables, etc., to put an unnecessarily large accessory on it every day.

The keyboard’s aluminum enclosure includes fold-out plastic feet so you can adjust the height of the back edge if you like.

The weight comes in at just slightly over a pound. Combine that with the relatively small size and this accessory is easy to move around. But it’s not really designed to be portable.

While this is a computer accessory not a fashion statement, the keyboard looks good. I think the aesthetics stand up well against any Apple keyboard.

What you want: A mechanical keyboard with Mac layout

The Satechi SM1 keyboard offers multiple ways to connect to computers, plus removable key caps.
The Satechi SM1 keyboard offers multiple ways to connect to computers, plus removable keycaps.
Photo: Satechi

Out of the box, the Satechi SM1 keyboard has the standard Mac key layout. I simply plugged it in and started using it. That means it avoids an irritating flaw of some keyboards — forcing Mac users to put up with keys intended for Windows users.

That said, Satechi included the WIN and ALT keys that Windows users want in the box with the keyboard. As any of the keycaps are designed to pop off, switching these out is a breeze.

A moderately clicky keyboard

Satechi SM1 has mechanical keys, a USB-C port and feet to prop it up.
Satechi SM1 has mechanical keys, a USB-C port and feet to prop it up.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The mechanical, low-profile brown switches in the Satechi SM1 give a satisfying feel quite different from membrane keys.

If you’re vague on the mechanical versus membrane difference, the names are descriptive. One comes with a rubbery membrane that pushes keys back up; the other uses a mechanism with a spring to do the same task The first is quieter but can feel mushy; the second gives a more authoritative click, but keys are harder to press.

I generally prefer mechanical keyboards, though I loved the Logitech K780 membrane keyboard for many years. So I’m somewhat agnostic.

An important aspect of mechanical keyboards is sound. Membrane keyboards are almost silent while some mechanical ones can be surprisingly loud. Satechi’s falls somewhere in the middle. It’s louder than the Logitech MX Mechanical Mini for Mac that I used for more than a year, but not so noisy as to be irritating. Typing is a light clatter, not rain on a tin roof.

Beyond the noise, mechanical switches sometimes require more pressure to type on. These Satechi keys need more than typical membrane keys, but a fairly average amount for a mechanical keyboard. It’s not something I would have even thought about if I wasn’t writing a review.

I’m seeing barely a millimeter of pre-travel and a bit over 3 millimeters of total travel from the keys Satechi used. I find that to be a comfortable amount, though some people like more travel.

Satechi mechanical keyboard for Mac offers many connectivity options

The Satechi SM1 can pair via Bluetooth 5.0 to a pair of computers. The third option is connecting via a wireless 2.4 GHz USB receiver, while the fourth is USB-C wired mode. That’s a wide range. I can easily switch between any of these at the press of a key combination.

For my setup, I connected via the 2.4 GHz adapter to my desktop, and used Bluetooth for my iPhone and tablet. All worked exactly as expected.

I passed on a wired connection only because whenever a USB-C cable is plugged into the keyboard, an LED in the space bar lights up red to show the SM1’s internal battery is charging or green to show that it’s fully charged. I found this light distracting.

Speaking of the battery, Satechi says the 2,500mAh one is good for 16.5 hours before needing a power-up. I’m still at 90% on my first charge.

The devices you can connect the Satechi SM1 to can run iOS, iPadOS, macOS, Windows or Google’s ChromeOS.

Backlights: Useful and also crazy irritating

Satechi SM1 Keyboard backlights
The backlights on the Satechi SM1 are great, but they get too fancy.
Photo: Satechi

The keyboard comes with a white backlight with three levels of brightness. To me, this is a requirement for any good keyboard.

But Satechi couldn’t leave well enough alone. The SM1 supports 14 different blinking patterns for its backlights. And you can activate these with a press of a single key.

To translate that into real-world usage, accidentally hit a key right next to the Delete key and suddenly the keyboard lights up in a blinking pattern. I have to cycle through 14 useless options to get back to the single useful one. This happens about twice a day.

The backlight patterns are sort of fun, I guess, but I really don’t want waves of light to play over my keyboard. Nor do I wish to have all the keys near the one I type light up when I’m trying to work. And setting these patterns off is much too easy. It’s hardly a fatal flaw, but this is a downside of this device you should be aware of.

Satechi SM1 Slim Mechanical Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard final thoughts

Satechi SM1 Slim Mechanical Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard
Satechi’s first mechanical keyboard won’t take up much room on your desk.
Photo: Satechi

I found the SM1 to be completely usable — if it wasn’t, I couldn’t have used it every workday for a couple of weeks. Actually, I very quickly forgot I was testing the keyboard and just typed on it.

I find the keys a bit noisy, but not excessively so. And some people buy mechanical keyboards because they like the clickity sounds. Those stupid backlight patterns, though. So irritating.

Despite my mild griping, this is Satechi’s first mechanical keyboard and I think it’s a home run.



Satechi SM1 Slim Mechanical Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard is available for $99.99.

Buy it from: Satechi

Those interested should also check out the Cult of Mac review of the Logitech MX Mechanical Mini, a similar keyboard.

Satechi provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.


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