The Office Letter
Blink Section - Product Reviews
From Volume 6, Number 15
(October 2, 2006)
Eclipse II Lets You Type in the Dark
When I went looking for a keyboard replacement recently, I had two key (pardon the pun) requirements. First, I wanted a standard key layout so I wouldn't have to relearn the position of any key. Second, I work late into the night and so as not to disturb anyone else in the house, I need a keyboard that is quiet (no clickety clack, please).
Saitek's Eclipse II offers those two features and one I hadn't expected I'd like -- it's illuminated so you can work in low-light conditions. But wait, there's more -- you have a choice of backlight color: blue, red, or purple (as well as no light at all). The dimmer control lets you pick the brightness.
The Eclipse II has a solid feel, responds well to the touch, and comes with small but useful set of multimedia controls (stop, play, skip forward and backward, mute, increase/decrease volume) that I can use while I listen to streaming radio programs during the day -- and I've come to realize how convenient it is to have a "mute" button I can press quickly when I need to answer the phone.
The well-constructed Eclipse II, available only in black, has a removable palm rest and connects to your system via a USB port. Its large rubber feet keep the keyboard from slipping.
Street price is around $55, or $69.95 if purchased directly from Saitek. More information is available at http://www.saitekusa.com/usa/prod/eclipseii.htm.
For comparison purposes I tried a low-cost Microsoft Wired Keyboard 500. Though not backlit, it has many of the same features as the Eclipse II, and it's much less expensive -- just $15. It has a serial-port connection and comes in white or black. (The same keyboard is packaged with a USB/serial port two-button-and-a-scrollwheel Basic Optical Mouse and sold as the Wired Dekstop 500.) It includes programmable keys, including a set of multimedia keys, which worked well.
The problem with this keyboard, as it turned out, is that Microsoft has placed the Home, End, Insert, Delete, Page Up, and Page Down keys in three rows of two; the Eclipse II uses the more common two-rows-of-three arrangement. Getting used to the rearrangement of these six buttons -- after using keyboards with the traditional layout for over 25 years -- proved too difficult. It may sound silly, but old keyboard habits are tough to break, and I found myself constantly pressing the wrong buttons.
You can find more information about the Microsoft Wired Keyboard 500 at http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouseandkeyboard/productdetails.aspx?pid=063
-- James E. Powell
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