Keyboard comparison: Zippy Technology WK-888 and Ortek MCK-280
Review date: 10 April 2002.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
I've reviewed plenty of silver PC cases, all of which are as much about style as they are about substance. But it's been brought to my attention that a certain segment of the computing population just won't take you seriously as an international super-stud if you don't have a shiny keyboard to match your anodised aluminium computer.
The bigger one's made by Zippy Technology Corp, who do tons of OEM keyboards, as well as several models sold under their own name. This one's their WK-888 model, but done in slate-grey and silver instead of the standard boring beige. It sells for only $AU29.70 delivered.
The smaller one's more expensive - $AU71.50 delivered. It's Ortek's MCK-280, and it crams a full "Windows keyboard" key complement into a package with a 374 by 203mm footprint, by using a no-empty-space layout.
Both keyboards have a PS/2 cable, and both are sold here in Australia by Aus PC Market.
For the money, the Zippy keyboard is a perfectly all right piece of gear. It's got slightly flat keys with a bit less travel than is usual, but its key-feel isn't any worse than that of various other cheap keyboards. It's also got a row of eight small "hot keys" along the top of the 'board, some of which naturally do something in current Windows flavours, and others of which do nothing without the included driver software.
The driver software works in Win98, ME, 2000 and XP, and lets you remap the functions of the extra keys, if you like.
The driver software also makes the decorations on the Zippy 'board's standard function keys meaningful. Three of them make some sort of sense already - the question mark on F1, the reload glyph on F5 and the three-figures-vaguely-suggesting-the-concept-of-"Find" on F3 - but the others only apply with the software running. Whether you want to be delivered to a shopping site when you press F9, an auction site when you press F10 and something to do with air travel when you press F11, I don't know - but it doesn't have to happen, so it's no big deal.
If you don't bother installing the driver software, possibly because you're running some OS other than Windows, then this is still a normal PS/2 keyboard.
It's got Wake Up, Sleep and Power keys where Insert, Home and Page Up could more reasonably be expected to be; frankly, I think the latter two of those keys should be under a flip-up safety cover, if we have to have them at all. Lots of cheap 'boards have those keys, though; someone's decided that the average punter likes them.
Apart from them, the Zippy 'board is fine, and you can't complain about the price.
The most obvious feature of the Ortek MCK-280, besides its compressed layout, is the inch-wide shiny round thing at the top right.
This object is a decoration.
That's all it is.
OK, OK. It might help you spot attackers sneaking through a hole in the ceiling while you work. That's all it's good for, though.
At last - an actual, physical, Really Big Button That Doesn't Do Anything!
Apart from that oddity, the Ortek is another OK product. It's a reduced-size 'board, but it's got normal sized keys, and its layout is acceptable.
Space, Enter, Shift, Backspace and Caps Lock are all of normal size - many compressed 'boards have a titchy little space bar, but this one doesn't. The function keys are pretty much where they should be, too. The cursor keys have been shifted right and down, but they've got the normal inverted-T layout, and there's a real numeric keypad as well.
There's another bleeding Power key, sitting perilously close to Escape in the top left corner. But that's about where the layout lousiness stops.
Once again, you also get a row of extra little buttons along the top, and the same sort of software support. Truly, this is a Keyboard For Button Lovers.
The MCK-280 feels like a yum cha laptop, because that's the sort of keyswitches it uses. Not much key travel, not much key feel; I've typed on far worse 'boards, but I'd rather use the cheap Zippy 'board than this one.
If you need a keyboard that'll fit into a small space, though, then this is the sort of product you're after. It'll fit sideways on a 19 inch rack shelf, or in small-ish backpacks and briefcases.
There are even smaller keyboards out there, like the other Ortek model I review here, but they all have cut-down keyboard modules; they're generally just laptop keyboards in a PS/2-cabled casing. So you get no numeric keypad, shrunken function keys, and so on. The MCK-280 is much closer to being a "proper" keyboard.
I've got a healthy population of silver PCs here, but I don't feel any urge to get either of these silver keyboards. I've got boring beige basic 'boards on machines that just need a keyboard, any keyboard (actually, at the moment my print server has a Nasty Surprise Keyboard plugged into it, because I ran out of other 'boards), but the keyboards I use on any PC where I have to do a significant amount of typing are all IBM battleship 'boards.
Some people don't like these loud-and-clicky buckling spring keyboards, and they're not nearly as portable or stowable as the MCK-280. But if you ask me, there's nothing better for hammering out a lot of words than a buckling spring 'board. And the racket it makes causes everyone nearby to think you're frighteningly productive.
You can get buckling spring keyboards for quite reasonable prices, too. Hang around the right liquidation auctions and you can find yourself crates of the things for a few bucks each - at which price, who cares if one in three has dud keys - but there are also always online auctions for IBM keyboards, with good buckling spring units going for $US20 or less. Many IBM keyboards up for auction are newer rubber dome 'boards, but it's easy to find the older ones.
There are other brands of buckling spring keyboard, but practically all of the ones up for auction are IBMs.
If you'd rather buy a brand new monster-board, you can, but you'll pay about three times as much as you would for an as-new 'board on an auction site.
Since extra programmable keys are, at best, a waste of time as far as I'm concerned, I don't miss them on my old IBM 'boards. The ones I'm using at the moment aren't even young enough to have Windows keys, and that suits me just fine.
But I type a lot. If you don't, then the Quest For The Perfect Keyfeel is not something you're likely to be very interested in. A funky-looking silver and black keyboard with some extra convenience-feature buttons might be a much more attractive product, from your point of view. And you're sure not going to be able to slide an IBM 42H1292 neatly in on top of your rack-mount server.
So I'm not going to judge you. Knock yourself out. Get yourself a Zippy or an Ortek, if that's the kind of keyboard you want. The Zippy's decently priced and feels OK; the Ortek gives you a full key set in a small package.
Me, I'm sticking with my +5 Keyboards Of Bludgeoning.
Readers from Australia or New Zealand can purchase these keyboards from Aus PC Market.
(if you're NOT from Australia or New Zealand, Aus PC Market won't deliver to you. If you're in the USA, try a price search at DealTime!)