Mac mini accessories: New keyboard and hub

My 2020 M1 Mac mini received some nice upgrades recently.

Perhaps the biggest upgrade is the new keyboard. After the Mac mini arrived back in November, I tried to use my Magic Keyboard with it, but quickly learned some of the keys were not working properly. I purchased that keyboard back in 2015 for use with my original late 2014 Mac mini.

Thankfully, I had a spare standard Dell keyboard I could use, which has tided me over… until now.

When the 2020 Mac mini was first set up, I tried to use my Apple Magic keyboard with it. Unfortunately, it had two dead keys. Thankfully, a spare Dell keyboard I had — which came with the Inspiron 620 — worked fine.

I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a mechanical keyboard on my daily driver for some time now. I love the sound and feel of the vintage Apple keyboards I use with my vintage Macs, such as the Extended Keyboard II I’ve been sharing between the Macintosh Classic and SuperSE. However, mechanical keyboards are not exactly cheap and the Dell keyboard served me fine. I didn’t really see a point in upgrading.

However, while upgrading another part of my daily driver setup — which I’ll discuss later — I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger on a mechanical keyboard.

The keyboard I ended up going with was the Keychron C1 tenkeyless keyboard with Gateron G Pro Blue switches. It’s a wired keyboard, which works perfectly with my application on the desktop Mac mini and reduces concerns about having another battery-powered device to worry about. The switches are also hot-swappable, meaning the switches can relatively easily be swapped out if needed without any soldering.

The Keychron C1 keyboard was my choice to replace the standard Dell keyboard I had been using previously. Keychron is a reputable manufacturer of mechanical keyboards and was recommended by both friends and online reviewers.

After arriving and setting up the C1, I’m mostly impressed. The Keychron is the exact opposite of the Magic Keyboard I would’ve been using with this Mac mini; the Magic Keyboard is quiet whereas the mechanical C1 has a nice clicky sound (though nowhere near as loud as other keyboards, such as the infamous IBM Model M with buckling-spring switches) with decent key travel and tactile response. It offers the perfect feel and sound for my taste, but might be a little too loud for some looking for something quieter.

Listen to samples of the Keychron C1 keyboard with Gateron G Pro Blue switches here.

The Keychron C1 is a backlit keyboard with many different backlighting options. You can keep the backlight on constantly in the default setting, or you can have it scroll across the keyboard, flicker intermittently or even “radiate” from the key you just pressed. (Which, while pretty, might not be the best to have on if inserting private information, such as a password.) To turn the backlighting off, you simply press the “Fn” and backlight keys simultaneously.

An interesting noteworthy feature — at least to me — is the inclusion of a dedicated screenshot hotkey. While Command + Shift + 3/4/5 works fine, this keyboard saves you the trouble of pressing three buttons simultaneously, allowing you to grab a screenshot with the press of a button and a drag of your mouse. (This button defaults to the Command + Shift + 4 screenshot mode, but there’s probably a way to change this.)

A bad photo of the aforementioned screenshot hotkey in the upper right of the keyboard.

One major criticism I noticed right away with the C1 was the dim indicator lights for Caps Lock and Mac/Windows mode. You can hardly see them when they’re illuminated. I was also sad to discover (during the purchasing process) the Keychron keyboards — and most others out there — lack a USB pass-through you can find on standard wired Apple keyboards, such as my old Magic Keyboard. This isn’t a huge issue, but it’s always nice to have that pass-through for your mouse and freeing up another USB port on the computer.

The photo may not do it justice, but lights used for indicating Caps Lock and Mac/Windows mode are very dim when illuminated.

As with most keyboards, the Keychron can be tilted with folding feet found on the bottom. On the rear is the port for the included braided USB-C cable and a switch for changing between macOS and Windows mode.

However, the lack of that pass-through port isn’t a huge problem considering my other purchase.

When I originally set up the Mac mini, I used the same FlePow USB-C hub I purchased alongside the 2019 MacBook Pro for all of my USB-A and SD card needs.

The FlePow USB-C hub (top) has become increasingly unreliable.

The FlePow has become more unreliable as time has passed. It will randomly disconnect my external hard drive, flash drive, or anything else plugged into it, which isn’t just inconvenient but also puts my data at risk. I decided to bite the bullet and spend a little extra to purchase a higher-quality USB-C hub built for the Mac mini: the Satechi USB Type C hub/stand.

The Satechi stand hub is a unique design that stacks below the Mac mini and blends right in.

The Satechi hub features three USB-A ports, the same amount as the FlePow. It also has a single SD card reader (as with the FlePow), along with a separate microSD card reader. (The FlePow doesn’t have a microSD card reader, but does feature a TF/TransFlash card reader.) The Satechi hub also has a single USB-C port and a 3.5mm headphone port, which is a nice touch since I no longer have to worry about stressing out the Mac mini’s headphone port on the rear. An unusual yet unsurprising omission is the HDMI port — which most hubs, including my FlePow, have. (However, the Mac mini has its own HDMI port, so this isn’t surprising.)

The Satechi hub stacks below your Mac mini, resulting in a nice appearance that cleanly blends those extra ports into your setup. Previously, the FlePow just stuck off to the side of the Mac mini. Vents inside the Satechi hub maintain proper airflow to the Mac mini. A single USB-C cord connects the hub with your Mac mini.

The Satechi stand hub sits below the Mac mini system unit and plugs in via a single USB-C plug. Vents in the hub maintain airflow.

The Satechi hub not only expands port selection on the Mac mini, but makes things so much simpler. The 3.5mm headphone jack on the front is a huge plus, but so is the ability to easily install and remove USB devices without having to reach behind the computer or worry about upsetting the iffy FlePow hub.

The Satechi stand hub and Keychron C1 mechanical keyboard will enhance the experience of using my daily computer.

Overall, I’ve been impressed with the Keychron C1 and Satechi hubs and feel they will improve my work environment by offering an enhanced typing experience and reduce the hassle for using USB devices and reading SD cards.