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New Keyboards from Zippy, Das Keyboard and Matias

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Category: Hardware Published on Wednesday, 04 May 2011

 Keyboards, Keyboards Everywhere

As I write this, I am basking in the glow of a purple backlit keyboard, which may not mean a lot to some folks, but is Nirvana-ish to me.

This is but one of several new keyboards that have been taking up space in my office, all of which have their own personalities.

The Zippy BL-741 Color Gradiation Illuminated Keyboard ($49.99) resembles my old, reliable Logitech K340. These are both so-called "compact" keyboards that are about two-thirds the size of their larger counterparts. The big difference is that the K340 is wireless and the BL-741 is not. There are also several multimedia keys on the Zippy keyboard that are AWOL on the Logitech.

Other key features of the BL-741 include:

  • 512 levels for the backlight encompassing several hues using eight hot keys.
  • Keys that give you access to music, your Internet browser, email, a search engine and your favorites list.
  • A quick-response scissor-key key module.
  • Rubber-padded foot stands.

Truthfully, I was a bit surprised as to how good this keyboard is, due to the dozens of typos on it's packaging. This just reinforces that old saying that "you can't judge a book by its cover."

For the keyboard purist, there's the Das Keyboard Model S ($129). This is a full-size keyboard made for the purist whose fingers get tangled up when using the smaller, compact versions.

A product of German engineering, the Das Keyboard is the epitome of what we've come to expect in a product designed for professionals. Gold-plated mechanical key switches deliver fast, tactile response that you can hear with every "click."

Among it's key features are:

  • Full n-key rollover using a PS2 cable and six-key rollover using USB. This eliminates jamming if you hit more than one key at a time.
  • Two built-in USB 2.0 hubs.
  • Blue LED lights for CAPS, numlock and scroll.
  • An extra-long black USB cable.
  • A Darth Vader approved glossy black upper enclosure.

I also played with two keyboards designed to be used with portable devices, such as iPads and smartphones.

The first was another keyboard from Zippy - - the Zippy BT-500 ($59.99). This is about half the size of the normal compact keyboard and can easily fit in a laptop bag or suitcase. Its Bluetooth 2.0 interface makes it compatible with any Bluetooth-enabled device, although it was a hit or miss situation using Android phones.

It worked perfectly with my HTC EVO, but kept losing the connection with a couple of other devices, including a Motorola Droid and a Blackberry Playbook (which combines its own technology with Android 2.3).

And, although it's 10-times better than using the on-screen keyboards available on most portable devices, it takes a bit of practice to get used to the small-format keyboard.

Other key features include:

  • A transmission range of up to 10 meters (32.8 feet).
  • 82 keys (in comparison to 104 on a full-size keyboard). Many of these keys serve multiple functions when used in combination with the ALT and FN key.
  • Smooth, super-quiet performance.
  • Up to three months of power off of two AAA batteries.
  • Compatible with all Windows and Mac formats.

Last, but not least, there's the Matias Folding Keyboard ($99.95) for the iPhone, iPad and Mac.

When folded, it resembles the Zippy BT-500 in size. But unfolding it reveals a full-size Mac keyboard with all of the keys Mac users have become used to.

This is also a Bluetooth 2.0 device, which means it can easily communicate with an iPhone, iPad or Mac using Bluetooth 2.0 technology. We had no problem getting it to connect with our iPad and, since it's a full-size keyboard, favor using it over the on-screen keyboard on the tablet.

The only problem we had was with maintaining connectivity, which seems to be contagious among wireless keyboards that work with the iPad (see our review of the iGrill and TyPad http://www.scrippsnews.com/node/60215). These keyboards tend to lose contact with iPads when the devices have been turned off for a long period. Luckily, it's a fairly simple process to get them to see each other again.

Other features include:

  • High-quality dome switches that give it a quick response, tactile feel.
  • An enhanced number pad that includes a Tab key allowing you to enter number with one hand.
  • Multimedia, page navigation and cursor keys.
  • An FN key that gives you quick access to functions such as page up, page down and delete.
  • A small fabric slipcase to protect the keyboard.

For more information on these keyboards and others check out www.zippy.com, www.matias.ca and www.daskeyboard.com.

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