I have never been what one might call "gadget happy". I do like being able to use technology to make my life easier. However, it is very rare that any one piece of technology grabs my interest to the point where my inner voice screams at me "Now there's something I have just got to have!"
When Bytecc first sent the Zippy Electron Luminescence Keyboard (EL-610) to me, I wondered whether I had found that next rare item. The keyboard, with its lightweight design and sharp look, definitely had the requisite cool factor. It turned the heads of just about everyone who saw me using it. The question to be answered was whether its value was purely as eye candy.
- 88-Key QWERTY Format
- Windows Me/2000/XP Compatible
- USB Interface
- 2 ACPI Power Management Keys (On/Off, Sleep)
- Electron Luminescense On/Off Button
- Tactile Feedback
Dimensions: 290 x 135.5 x 21.4 mm
- Weight: 460g
- Cable Length: 1.5 meters
Let's start with the strengths of the EL-610. The keyboard is very small and lightweight. It easily fit into my briefcase without adding any noticeable weight or bulk. To its credit, it also absorbed the beating that my briefcase tends to take without a problem. The keyboard worked on Windows 2000 Pro, 2000 Server, and XP Home without needing any drivers or special software.
The glow-in-the-dark quality of the luminescent keyboard provides the ability to type via the "hunt and peck" style of non-touch typists while in a low lit or dark room. This quality, combined with its light weight and size, makes for a nice laptop accessory. This is especially true for laptop users who do not like to sit very close to the LCD screen. The caveat here is that the feel of the keyboard isn't much different of a laptop. So, if you're looking for an escape from that laptop keyboard feel, you won't find it here.
Zippy EL-610 vs. HP Pavilion Keyboard
The ability of the keyboard to work flawlessly with Windows 2000 Server appealed to the network admin in me. If you have mulitple servers but don't have a KVM switch or the space to keep multiple keyboards around, you'll find that this keyboard works quite nicely. I was able to just plug it in, wait a couple of seconds for the server to pick up on its presence, and type away. For this alone, it has found a place in my tech bag.
There are a number of things the EL-610 does not do quite so well. For starters, I have a hard time calling this a keyboard for gamers. Unless the networked game you're playing is light on keyboard use, the size and feel of the EL-610 is not conducive to LAN party use. Granted, it is extremely portable. But if you're going to take your PC tower with you to a LAN party, is a full size keyboard going to be that much more of a burden? If you use a laptop for LAN gaming, the only advantages the keyboard really provides is the ability to not be hunched over the laptop keyboard and the ability to see the keys in the dark if you're all playing with the lights out
Zippy EL-610 Over HP Pavilion Notebook
The EL-610 will also tend to drive a touch typist crazy after a while. I found it nearly impossible to get any kind of decent rhythm going while typing with the keyboard. I should preface that by saying that I normally type in the 75-80 WPM range on an ergonomic keyboard and even reverting to a standard 101-key keyboard can get me flustered.
The value of the Zippy Electron Luminescence Keyboard is best summed up with the phrase "your mileage may vary". If you're a hunt-and-peck typist up late at night chatting in the dark, you'll be enthusiastic about the glowing keys. If you work with multiple Windows servers without the benefit of multiple keyboards or a KVM switch, you'll appreciate the fact that it worked with every version of Windows we tried. If you're a laptop owner who hates being hunched over the keyboard with your eyes that close to the LCD screen, you'll enjoy the fact that the keyboard adds little extra weight to your laptop bag.
On the other hand, if you're a LAN party enthusiast playing keyboard intensive games, the very portability that made the EL-610 so attractive works against it. Touch typists who hate the feel of a laptop keyboard will find much the same feel with the EL-610.
To recap the pros and cons:
- Lightweight yet durable
- Good for non-touch typists using it in the dark
- Fits easily into a laptop bag without adding much bulk
- Worked flawlessly with every version of Windows we tried
- Manages to look cool while being useful
- Laptop keyboard feel rough on touch typists
- Not really conducive to keyboard intensive LAN gaming
Our thanks go out to Bytecc Inc. for sending us the EL-610 to review.