Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Keyboard Love

(I love my new keyboard so much that I'm writing a blog post about it, just for the joy of typing.)

Oddly enough, in all of the 13 years I've been actively using computers, I've never had the occasion to choose and buy a keyboard myself. The Early Years (mostly involving my 'cookiemonster123' email address and numerous Napster chats with strangers who liked The Beatles) were spent carefully picking out characters on one of those old, yellowing, clickety-clackety keyboards of yore.

A couple of years later, after absorbing several glasses of sticky beverages, old clickety-clackety gave up the ghost and along came a strange new contraption. I had finally 'mastered' (or so I thought - Future Me kicks 14-year-old Me's ASS at typing) the art of using a keyboard, and I viewed the annoyingly soft and soundless intruder into my PC world as some strange new beast to be vanquished. I was so tied in to that loud 'clack' that I'd be convinced my keystroke hadn't registered, which resulted in tyyypingg liiike tthhisss and some serious keyboard abuse (and bruised fingertips).

Over time, I got used to membrane keyboards, but that's about it. No great love blossomed. I never thought 'Wow, this keyboard is epic!' or really gave much thought to them at all. Computers of my own, when they came, wound up being laptops, so keyboard-buying was a moot point. (I have to interject, though, that the Macbook Pro's post-2008 chiclet keyboard design is absolutely lovely to use).

Then one fine day, a friend of mine is super excited because his new 'mechanical' keyboard has just arrived. What is this mechanical keyboard? I ask. Aren't all keyboards by nature mechanical? He looks at me like I've just crawled out of the woodwork and says, didn't you ever use a computer when you were a kid?!


So they DID still make clickety-clackety keyboards. And, since keyboards are one of the things I'd never bothered to research, I had nooo idea. When my friends helped me build my PC a few months later, I decided to borrow a keyboard and save up some money to buy one of these fancy mechanical fellows later, as they seemed to cost a minimum of Rs.5000 (yes, yes, I was broke).

I normally spend a minimum of a month researching products I'm going to buy, unless specific tech-savvy friends of mine are involved. And a couple of them recently (conveniently) embarked on a quest to find the best mechanical keyboard. This resulted in me walking into a conversation involving an open Amazon product page, someone saying "Wow, that is a REALLY good keyboard for the price, you should buy that!" and someone else saying "I can just add it to the order for you and my cousin will bring it down". To which I replied, in my usual eloquent and well-thought-out fashion, "Ummm, okay!"

This keyboard happened to be the Azio Levetron Mech 5, of which I knew nothing. The reasons I said yes, on merely viewing the product page from a distance, went thusly. a) Volume-control knob. b) Removable numpad. c) Arjun and Vijay gave it a thumbs-up!

After my order was placed, my friends found a really awesome Indian-brand mech keyboard at half the price, the TVS Gold. You can read my friend Vijay's review of it here.

Because they are awesome friends, they offered to give me a TVS Gold instead (since they'd found it after I placed my order). But I hung onto my suddenly-expensive Rs.3800 Azio, because I think I have finally found true keyboard love.

I am not trying to say "This is the most perfect keyboard ever built. All the people should buy it!" I'm saying that this is the perfect keyboard for me. Here's why...

1) There is a button to disable/enable that damn Windows key. I think it's for gamers, to ensure they don't accidentally minimise games (which I've done before) but my main reason for loving it is because I no longer find myself staring at the Windows 8 Start Screen while using Illustrator or InDesign. Not having to glance down every time I use kb shortcuts is a BIG bonus.

2) Volume control dial. Satisfyingly big one, top right corner. Means I don't have to lean forward and reach behind my speaker for volume control (I know I can do it on the system, but that doesn't always cut it if the volume is set to max and I want to increase it, etc.)

3) REMOVABLE NUMPAD. No, scratch that. The numpad comes separately. Now, I have a rather large CPU that sits on my desktop to my right. Next to it is my mouse. An average keyboard with the built-in numpad, due to its length, sits off-centre to my monitor and, for that matter, myself, and makes typing uncomfortable. And I don't think I've ever used a numpad in my life. This keyboard sits perfectly in the centre and typing is now AWESOME.

4) Obviously, the mech keys are the main reason typing is now AWESOME. They sit on Cherry Black mechanical switches, which my friends assured me (and I later read) are the best for typing+durability (you get something like 50 million keystrokes out of them). I can pop out the keys and replace them when I'm cleaning, as with any mech keyboard, and a bunch of spare switches are provided - which is awesome in case I drop/break one, or if the cats steal it.

5) Water. Freaking. Resistant. Well, to a point, anyway. If I spill my drink into the keyboard, and control myself from flipping out and overturning or shaking it, the keyboard will just properly drain itself. After which I can open it up and clean up any stickiness. For me, this is a massive relief - I haven't dropped a drink into a keyboard for over 6 years but who's to say I won't do it tomorrow.

6) Fully programmable keys. This is a gaming keyboard, and it's really awesome for games, but what it's also really awesome for is graphic design. I haven't experimented with programming the keys yet but I suspect I'm going to get some serious use out of that feature.

7) It's symmetrical, and heavy (it was described as 'ultra-durable'). This means that I can lean back, put it on my lap and lean it against the edge of the desk, and type away, without it wobbling or moving a millimeter. I don't have the most ergonomic desk (it's a big desk, but doesn't seem to account for computers at all) so this is a major relief comfort and posture-wise. It's also really solid and well-made despite having additional/removable parts.

There are some other cool features as well, but I've just listed the ones that make it my One True Keyboard. If this has got you interested you should definitely check it out for yourself.

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