Recently I went to look for a reasonably good and affordable USB keyboard. And what better place than Lowyat Plaza – the computer shoppers paradise of Klang Valley. However, to my dismay, I just couldn’t find one. Perhaps my definition of an “ideal” keyboard is a little more than what an average computer user demands.
Firstly, there weren’t a lot of keyboards out there that comes with a USB interface. Most of them are PS/2. Well, I personally do not have any hard feeling towards the older PS/2 interface, it works like a charm on desktop systems compared to USB. But I’m getting this keyboard for my laptop. Most laptop these days do not have a PS/2 port due to the size factor of today’s laptop, it comes with several Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports instead. Perhaps some of you would be wondering why I’m looking for a keyboard for a laptop that already has one built-in. Well, I do occasionally play games that require tapping the keys rather aggressively, and it would be heart-ache and a hole in my wallet if the laptop’s keyboard gets broken in the process. Furthermore, playing such games on a full-sized keyboard is much more comfortable and enjoyable.
This also brings me to my second point, most of today’s keyboards have a relatively slim or low profile and a “soft-touch” feel towards it. The keys are also rather flat and do not tap as deep as those keyboards that we all get about 5 years ago. Perhaps itâ€™s more of a personal preference, but I like the tactile feel when typing on my keyboard, especially for games. As for normal word typing, I have started to adapt to the low-profile keyboards like those on a laptop. In fact, I’m typing this on them. So I guess the tactile feel is a must for a keyboard, and a no-no to the “soft-touch” design.
* Illustration based on photo of Genius SlimStar keyboard.
As I was looking around for keyboards, some innovative designs caught my attention. The additional USB ports on the keyboard would make it a better buy. Currently I’ve only seen 2 USB 1.1 ports built-in to some of the keyboards. Perhaps it would be better if keyboard designers integrate a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 hub with 3 or more USB ports into the keyboard. In that way, users could easily plug in their USB drive or MP3 players like iPods on the side of the keyboard and transfer data at a much faster rate (compared to USB 1.1) without the need to reach out for the computer unit (which most of us tends to put below the desk, or on the floor).
Speaking of convenience, perhaps keyboard designers could also go a step further by integrating a memory card reader that supports some of the major formats like SD, MS/Pro, MMC and xD. The widespread use of digital cameras and mobile phones that uses memory cards had many of us using one of these memory cards. Having a built-in card reader would make transferring files to the PC much easier.
The trend of the day for most computer casings and LCD monitors seems to be black with silver highlights. So why shouldn’t the keyboard? It would match the rest of the system and looks pleasing to the eye. Even our optical (CD/DVD) drives these days come with black or the classic beige front panel.
In my opinion, perhaps one of the positive side of today’s keyboard design trend is the convenience of additional Hotkeys to access our frequently access application. However, from my personal experience, not all keyboard’s Hotkeys are born equal as some have very poor (or non-existent) driver support. It seems like only the bigger names in keyboard peripherals have proper driver support to enable the use of the Hotkeys. Last but not least, I like having a big ‘Enter’ key as I’ll have a tendency to hit the other key on some of the half height ‘Enter’ key.
I guess this is all I would wish for of my ‘ideal‘ keyboard that should also be reasonably priced. A keyboard which would also become a fully integrated piece of human input interface device for the rest of us, together with its close companion called the mouse. The computing unit could then be tucked nicely at a corner and would only be accessed occasionally to access the disc drives.
Note: If you know of a keyboard out there that fits my definition of an â€˜idealâ€™ keyboard, feel free to leave me comment and share it with me and the rest of the world.