Xoxide Resource Center: Computer Keyboards

Computer Keyboards

Author: Dave Melchiore

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Illuminated Keyboards | Gaming Keyboards | Gaming Pads
Ergonomics | The Future | Buy A Keyboard

Keyboards are the primary text input devices used on practically all computers today. In addition, they are the primary control device used in almost all computer games. As such, the selection of a high quality and functional computer keyboard is essential for a pleasant computing experience. There are many, many brands and models of keyboard today, each with their own features and drawbacks. The point of this article is to elaborate on some of these distinctions.

Illuminated Keyboards

Illuminated Gaming Keyboards

A popular type of pc keyboard for the computer modding enthusiast is the illuminated keyboard. Illuminated keyboards have translucent or even transparent keys and a backlight, which when combined result in a keyboard with keys that light up in the dark and allow the user to see what he or she is typing. This feature provides both a functionality increase and additional aesthetic appeal. Examples of light up keyboards include the Logisys Illuminated Acrylic Keyboard and the Saitek Eclipse II.

Gaming Keyboards

Gaming Keyboards
Of course, no computer keyboard article would be complete without a section on gaming keyboards. Gaming keyboards are just that: keyboards designed with gamers and gaming in mind. They include rugged construction, light-up keys, and special function keys that can be programmed to perform whatever action the user wants. Of course, a gaming keyboard needs to excel at everything normal keyboards do, because nobody wants a keyboard that's great for gaming but terrible for everyday computing. Two of the best gaming keyboards are the Logitech G15 and the Wolf King Timberwolf.

The Logitech G15 has a whole bunch of extra features, including individually lit keys, 18 programmable macro keys, and a backlit LCD display that can be user-programmed via C++ to display a virtually limitless number of functions. The G15 also has a gaming lockout feature, which disables certain annoyingly-placed keys (ahem, windows key) during gameplay. Finally, the G15 is made by Logitech, which means it is sturdily constructed and of the utmost quality.

The Timberwolf Gaming Keyboard takes a slightly different approach to gaming keyboard design. Its claim to fame is a separate gaming pad featured on the left hand side of the keyboard. This feature was specifically designed for FPS gamers, but can be utilized by virtually any game. This special pad has 40 specially-placed keys that allow gamers to frag for hours without contorting their hands into awkward reaches for that weapon assigned to the "9" key. Because this keyboard does away with the redundant and under-utilized numpad, the Wolf Claw fits in 40 extra keys in a separate pad without taking up any more room than a standard keyboard. This is a boon for LAN gamers who already have to carry enough.

Gaming Pads

Gaming Pads
For gamers on a budget, or anyone who doesn't want to replace their existing keyboard, standalone gaming pads can also be used to supplement the functionality of their regular keyboard. A gaming pad is a USB-powered device which contains the most commonly used gaming keys arrayed in an ergonomically-friendly package. In addition, gaming pads often have additional keys which can be programmed to perform a variety of functions. Some great gaming pads include the Cyber Snipa, Wolf King Warrior, and Saitek Pro Gamer Command Unit. The Pro Gamer Command Unit even has an analog thumb hat for ultimate pwnage!


Ergonomic Keyboards

Ergonomics are vital when it comes to keyboard use and design. Improper usage of a keyboard, as well as bad ergonomic design, can cause repetitive stress injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome. First of all, look for a keyboard with a wrist rest. Keep your wrists in a neutral position (i.e. not bent upwards or downwards), and make the keyboard as flat as possible. For those who want additional ergonomic features, there are keyboards with angled keys which better conform to the way your arms and hands are oriented during typing. There are even keyboards that are oriented vertically to keep the forearm in a neutral position.

The Future

Future Keyboards

So what does the future hold? Leading companies have been designing innovative keyboards that give gamers the ultimate edge. Razer has been working on a new keyboard called the Tarantula. The Tarantula features an onboard 32kb memory chip that can store up to 5 user-defined profiles for different games. If 5 is not enough, up to 100 profiles can be saved with included software. The Tarantula also features an anti-ghosting design that allows hardcore gamers to press multiple keys at once. Other innovative features include hyperresponsive membrane keys for reduced latency, 10 user-programmable macro keys, and customizable keysets.

ZBoard Gaming Keyboard

Another bleeding-edge keyboard called the ZBoard has been developed by a company called Ideazon. The ZBoard's claim to fame is that it features interchangeable keysets. What this means is that this keyboard is actually two (or more) keyboards in one. This keyboard essentially allows gamers to have a separate keyset for gaming, complete with specialized gaming keys not found on normal keyboards. In addition, the base keyboard has many useful features as well, including a USB hub, hotkeys, multimedia controls, and specialized "Lock" functions including "Bar Lock" and "Pad Lock".

Optimax OLED Keyboard

Finally, perhaps the most radical keyboard concept is the Optimus Keyboard, which hails from the Art Lebedev Studio in Moscow. This revolutionary new keyboard features a separate, full-color display on every key! What this means is that the keyboard can be easily used in all languages AND can be completely customized for any program or function, including mathematics, web development, Photoshop, and games such as Quake. The Optimus Keyboard also features a unique set of function keys on the left which can switch the keyboard between different modes. Unfortunately, the Optimus Keyboard is not yet in production because its patents are still pending.

Keyboards for Purchase

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