If you, like me, fall into that group of gamers who have yet to master touch typing, you know that it can be a major irritation to have to try to make out keys by the light of the monitor late at night. But fear not, because EluminX is here with an entire line of backlit keyboards for the consumer market.
According to the EluminX website, the technology behind the keys (literally behind, since the keys are transparent pieces of plastic that let light from beneath through) was first licensed to Itronix. Itronix used said technology in a variety of "ruggedized" laptops. "Itronix laptops have been field tested and approved for use by military services, as well as government agencies including the FBI and CIA. The International Olympic Committee is also using this patented technology for their operations", according to EluminX.
The back of the box that the keyboard comes in has two pictures of the keyboard in operation. The first was shot in a well illuminated area, and the second in a dark area, the point being to show that under normal lighting conditions, you won't even notice that the keyboard lights up. This is not completely true, at least under the lights in my apartment: I am always conscious that my keyboard is glowing, but it's dim enough that it doesn't create a distraction.
The concept works very well when typing in low light conditions. Even in total darkness, the glow from the keys does not radiate too far beyond the edge of the keyboard. Likewise, the glow is dim enough to not bother pupils that have constricted to pinpricks after a four hour midnight Quake session, but bright enough to make typing much easier. The light is, of course, the most important aspect of this keyboard, and EluminX nailed it.
As for the keyboard itself, I have mixed feelings for the reasons that follow. The keyboard is extremely responsive, and easy to type or game on for extended periods. According to the product specifications, you're only required to depress a key four millimeters with a tactile force of thirty grams to get a response. However, as I mentioned earlier, this technology was initially used in laptops, and the keyboard has a cramped, compact feel that I associate with typing on a laptop. Measuring in at 42 centimeters long and 15.6 centimeters wide, the EluminX S-202 is substantially smaller than a standard 104 key keyboard. This isn't entirely a bad thing; it leaves me more free space on my desktop. However, the spacebar is quite small, the function keys are just over half their normal size, and the positioning of the delete, home, PgUp, PgDn and end keys is too close to the enter and right shift keys. This sometimes results in unintentional cursor movement, especially in text-editing applications. The actual alphanumeric keys, as well as the shifts, the enter key, and the pipe key are all full sized, but the rest of the keys vary from half to three quarters size. The number pad is also full sized, but positioned only a scant half centimeter away from the rest of the keys. A good feel for exactly how constricted the keyboard feels can be obtained by looking at the image above. Additionally, and this is a rather nitpicky complaint, but nevertheless, the pictures on the webpage clearly show the caps lock, numlock and scroll lock LEDs glowing the same blue as the rest of the keyboard, while the LEDs on mine are the standard green. For me, the size of the keyboard has just been a minor annoyance that I became accustomed to after using it for several hours, but I also have rather long and slender fingers. If I had larger or beefier hands, I don't know if I would have been able to adapt nearly as well.
The EluminX keyboards aren't exactly cheap, either. The webpage lists a price of $99.95, plus shipping. With a little shopping around the internet, I was able to find a price of $84, but that's still more than eight times what I usually pay for the generic beige keyboards I use, and four times more than the cheapest wireless keyboard I was able to find.
Ultimately, I believe that there are two groups of people for whom an EluminX keyboard makes sense. The first is other people like me who are not completely comfortable touch typing and spend a fair amount of time on a computer in low-light conditions. The second group is full of people who have already invested a huge amount of money in their computers and cases, and want a glowing blue keyboard to match the blue glow coming from the neon in their cases. The average gamer needs to decide of the "coolness factor" of these keyboards outweigh their minor shortcomings and price.