Quick Shot review 37:
Reviewer: Mark Cocquio
Flexiglow Light Speed Keyboard
Review date: 23rd March 2007. Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Years ago, I used to own what could only be described as a rather attractive hoon car. It was old, but performed well. The fact that it looked nice was just icing on the cake, put there by the previous owner.
It was a lot of fun to drive, but I didn't really care that much about how it looked.
It's not that I lack a sense of aesthetics, it's just that I place function over form, as the car I owned before that illustrated. Unlike its dainty successor, that one didn't even have carpet when I bought it.
(It did, however, go around corners pretty damn quickly).
Let's face it though, working on cars is annoying, messy, often painful, and rather unpleasantly... physical. This is why sensible nerds prefer to concentrate their efforts on something they can pick up with both hands.
As one so often finds with car enthusiasts, the PC world has its own bling and neon crowd (bikes too, actually, although putting lights all over a bike actually makes some sort of sense).
Case modding can be taken to quite an extreme level, just like car modding.
It's not for me, but only because I'm essentially a lazy, function-over-form kinda guy. I can appreciate a good case mod as much as the next guy (which is more than I can say for certain car mods).
So now that I've avoided alienating the modding community, I can get on with the review, which of course has nothing to do with cars. Rather, it is of this little beastie.
This is the Flexiglow Light Speed Illuminated Multimedia Keyboard, to give it its full name. Like most modern keyboards, it hooks up via USB, and is, as the name suggests, illuminated for your modding pleasure.
Just the accessory for a glowy tower.
As you can see, it's a slimline keyboard. It has a numeric pad, but the arrow keys and their neighbours have been merged into the main part of the keyboard. All of your favourite keys are there, except for the right Windows key.
(Of course, that particular key is well known to gamers as the "accidentally swap me to Windows and make me die" button, so it's unlikely to be missed.)
In addition to the standard keys, you also get a bunch of shiny special function keys up the top. These work out of the box with XP, and really are very shiny.
Peekaboo. And no, I'm not wearing a shirt. Brisbane summer, don'tchaknow.
In addition to the shiny shortcut keys, you also get keys for launching the default browser and e-mail client, and for putting the PC to sleep.
Out of the box, these keys work as advertised, but if you want to you can (if you're running Windows) redefine their function to pretty much anything using some supplied software.
Under the hood, there's not much to see.
The keyboard is comprised of two modules, with extra membrane switches up the top for the shortcut keys, and the controller board up by their side.
The 'board itself is pretty cheaply made - the main chip is anchored to the board with a musical-greeting-card blob of resin - but it ought to be solid enough for the task at hand.
So that's form covered, but what about function? Bling is all very well, but if it's impossible to type on, there's not much point in it.
The Light Speed has a very similar feel to a laptop keyboard. The keys don't have a lot of travel, and it sits quite flat on the desk, even with the little prop-up feet flipped out.
I've experienced far worse keyboards. A buckling spring beauty it is not, but if you can get used to a laptop keyboard, you can get used to the Light Speed. For occasional use it's perfectly fine. I managed to write most of this review on it without swearing too much.
And, cheap construction or no, it also feels quite solid. I think it should tolerate a reasonable amount of abuse.
This, plus its small size, makes the Light Speed a good choice for gamers.
The key lighting, as with most mobile phone keypads, is powered by humble LEDs. But that doesn't stop it from glowing quite cheerfully indeed.
Cheerful is great if you're LANing in the dark, but it becomes quite annoying if you're trying to watch a movie.
Thankfully, there is a small switch on the right hand side of the keyboard that turns the illumination on and off. This makes it just the ticket for a home theatre PC, as you can use it lit up in the dark, then switch it off once the movie is running.
So, where to get one? Australian shoppers can order one from Aus PC Market.
[UPDATE: This page is a couple of years old now, and Aus PC no longer stock the Lightspeed keyboard.]
The Light Speed is [or was] $AU77 delivered, which isn't dirt cheap but is quite reasonable for something this solid, portable and luminous.
Flexiglow, who are also responsible for Cyber Snipa products, claim to manufacture much of their own stuff. But not all of it, and the Light Speed keyboard appears to fall into the OEM category.
As such, it's possible for shoppers outside Australia to pick up the exact same keyboard without too much fuss. A quick Google of "illuminated usb keyboard" lead me to this random site, which looks like the exact same product, only in white.
All up, the Light Speed is an elegant little cutie, but it's not for everyone.
You'll know if you want it.
Aus PC Market no longer stock the Lightspeed keyboard.
(They've got plenty of other ones, though!)