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Bytecc Zippy EL-610 Keyboard: Late night fragging would be easier if you can see the keys you're mashing. We look at one of those EL keyboards, and ask... is it worth it?

Date: June 18, 2003
Supplied By:
Written By:

Although it isn't the norm, I have always found that I use my keyboard more than I use my mouse, when the action permits. I will cool switch (Alt+Tab) instead of clicking on the taskbar, in Internet Explorer I'll hit Ctrl+Tab to get to the address bar. I'll use Tab and Shift+Tab to go in-between input fields, Ctrl+Shift+Esc for task manager, Ctrl+Esc for the start menu - I'm getting a bit out of hand here, this isn't a keyboard shortcut article; I honestly want to get across the fact that I really use my keyboard. Hell, that's only windows - forget the linux/bsd systems I run; maybe it's because I started with DOS, or because I type messages and articles all the time, but I need a good keyboard to get my work done… Today I'll be reviewing a membrane-based keyboard, the - a small, USB-based illuminated keyboard. Let's see how it stacks up.

The whole keyboard is painted silver-grey, with white keys that look to be barely translucent - not even enough for any significant amount light to penetrate the keys.

The keyboard configuration is extremely similar to that on most laptops - it does not have a number pad, and instead has a Function key (Fn) that allows for M to be 0, J to be 1, K to be 2, and so on. Also, Zippy has included support for the Euro symbol - by using the key combination Fn+5. I believe, though, this only works in Unicode OS's (In the case of windows, win2k and up.) I have not been able to test this on a windows 9x OS, nor on Linux or Mac OS 9/X.

On the top of they keyboard, Zippy proudly displays its name, has lights for Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Scroll Lock (from left to right… standard configuration,) and then has three buttons. The first button is labeled "Light On/Off" which will turn the illumination on and off. The second button is "Sleep" which will put the computer into Hibernate mode. Finally, there's "Power" which will turn the computer off, but cannot turn the computer on (as far as I know, this is a USB limitation as there is no sort of power on the USB bus when the computer is off, and interrupts are not part of the USB 2.0 specification).

The keyboard looks quite nice when illuminated in the dark. The illumination really only helps out when typing in the dark late at night if you need to look at a key or two. The intensity of the illumination, however, isn't bright enough to cause any glare on your monitor if the keyboard is about 4 inches away.

The way that the keyboard is illuminated is by an Electroluminescent light source below the keys. It gives the whole keyboard a nice glow, without throwing light in every direction. Think Timex Indiglo.

Usability of the keyboard, on the other hand, I have found to be quite poor. I will be the first to admit my fingers are anything but slender, yet these keys are much smaller than those on a standard desktop keyboard. They are also significantly smaller than those on my laptop (Dell Inspiron 8100.) I have found that typing on the keyboard coherently is not impossible, but takes an exerted effort. I constantly make mistakes due to a mis-stroke.

The keyboard "feels" like an Apple keyboard. In fact, the Zippy reminds me of the Apple keyboard in more than one way - its keys feel very similar, and the light white keys seem to be almost identical (except for their size.)

The keyboard is reasonably thin, which is one of its more attractive features. Less than one inch thick, actually, which causes it to be somewhat complimentary to a LCD. The keys are all arranged to be flat, as to minimize finger movement, and thereby be more ergonomic… Although I don't really buy into that.

Final Words

Overall, I would not recommend this keyboard unless you are a hunt-and-peck typist, or type in the dark, and can cope with small keys. The hard time I had with the keyboard most certainly outweighs the coolness factor. The steep price of almost $70 USD also makes me think that the Zippy is overpriced, especially for a USB keyboard with nothing more than a backlight.

Pros: Looks quite nice, especially in the dark

Cons: Keys are small; difficult to type with.

Bottom Line: Look but don't touch - unless you want your sentences toi cvomew oiut loike thus (to come out like this).

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