Bored with your keyboard?

Cyborg Keyboard

The much anticipated Optimus Maximus, with its organic light-emitting diode (OLED) programmable keys, quickly put our jaws on the floor when the price tag reached $1,800. Luckily, Saitek offers a budget-friendly gaming keyboard that will give you plenty of flashy lights without your wallet seeing stars. For $80, you won’t be able to program every key, but the Cyborg Keyboard offers 12 programmable keys along with customizable backlighting and two modes for pre-set gaming controls and everyday use. The backlighting and mode selection are controlled by a touch panel which is a bit too touchy. Still, it’s great geek fun to press the half-lit human face and turn it into a cyborg that lights up the keyboard in blood red. Pressing the keys provides the tactile sensation of the audible click absent in too many modern keyboards that value a quiet nature over the satisfying, visceral reward of pounding out sentences. Unfortunately, a software problem prevented customization of the 12 side keys. Despite the efforts of a friendly and knowledgeable tech support, no solution could be found at press time. None of the normal typing functions or the light controls became affected by the software problem, but it’s a blaring flaw, one Saitek’s support said they have never encountered before. Even with the glitch, the Cyborg Keyboard is worth consideration. The ease of transformation from normal, human word-processing keyboard to an assimilated gaming machine makes it ideal for anyone planning to raid in World of Warcraft before finishing off their French essay.

iKey Membrane Keyboard

Most basic keyboards will withstand normal wear and tear, but when an overzealous gamer spills a Mountain Dew: game over. The Membrane Keyboard has a stainless steel case that surrounds a keypad without any crevices and is designed to withstand grease, disinfectants and environmental contaminants. After a test smear of peanut butter and oil, the hosed-off keyboard was still good to go. Designed for industrial use, the desktop model reviewed was so solid that speedy typing was out of the question. You’re not going to use this for word processing, but data entry would work well with the necessary deliberate key strokes. A built-in touchpad is nice, but the mouse buttons and space bar are small and oddly positioned. Keyboards from iKey are custom ordered, and prices are determined through quotes (the Membrane Keyboard usually runs around $495), so it’s a safe bet this keyboard will only find a home at your work place.

IP-Talky Keyboard
A4 Tech

The voice-over internet protocol (IP) revolution has not swept the masses quite yet, but it is on its way. Only the wisest will be prepared with the IP-Talky Keyboard as everyone else scrambles for long distance phone cards grabbed from grocery stores. A small, nay tiny, phone sits on the right side of the keyboard. Holding it feels like you’re talking into a steak fry, but the sound quality is amazing for only $30. As an added bonus, there is a small row of media and web keys for quick access to music and the illegal sites you download it from. The phone adds an extra few inches on the keyboard, but if you’re addicted to the internet phone software Skype, the extra space is nothing compared with the small price tag and access to free overseas calls.