Saitek GamerÂ’s Keyboard

Goes for $49.99 US

The keyboard is the one item we interact with most on our computers yet it's usually such an afterthought that we purchase a cheap $10 part for systems worth thousands of dollars. Today Brian Â"VeloxiÂ" Rubin chimes in with his review of Saitek's back-lit keyboard and pad system.

A few years ago, companies like Saitek (with its Gaming Mouse) and Microrosft (with its Strategic Commander) created devices, meant to supplant the keyboard in various gaming situations. SaitekÂ's Gaming Mouse, for example, consisted of a mouse (obviously) and a pad for the left hand, which had a hat switch for use as directional keys in first person shooters, instead of the usual WASD combination. It wasnÂ't a bad device (I might still be using it today if the mouse was optical), but eventually, the keyboard won the battle.

Saitek saw the writing on the wall, and like other companies, have created products not to replace the keyboard, but to improve upon it. The result is SaitekÂ's GamerÂ's Keyboard, a USB-enabled keyboard with an extra programmable pad. While you might ask yourself, Â"Why would I use this keyboard over the typical $10 keyboard?Â" The answer is simply, because the GamerÂ's Keyboard kicks ordinary keyboards in their white plasticy-asses.

The GamerÂ's Keyboard came in a normal-sized keyboard box, with a driver CD and a sheet of installation instructions. Installing the keyboard was simple. Turn off the computer, plug the keypad into the keyboard, plug the keyboard into your USB port, and power on the computer. Once Windows is loaded, install the drivers, youÂ'll then see the pad in your control panelÂ's game controller applet (screenshot below).

One of the first things youÂ'll notice about the keyboard is its backlighting. Both the keyboard and the pad have a blue light underneath the keys for nocturnal gaming, and it looks mighty cool. YouÂ'll also notice how solid the keyboard is. If you hit someone with this keyboard, theyÂ'll go down. Its heft means it wonÂ't move around the desk too much, which is very handy in hectic gaming or typing situations.

The keyboard itself is very functional, having all the essential keys and volume control keys. This is a nice change of pace over keyboards that seem to have a button for every common function on the computer – such as email or internet – yet are barely used, if at all.

One of the things that I find very positive about the keyboard is its tactile feel. My favorite keyboards were the old IBM keyboards that weighed 20-30 pounds and made a very loud clicking sound when typing. I always felt the tactile feedback on those keys was wonderfully solid. SaitekÂ's Gaming Keyboard seems to meet halfway between those older, solid keyboards and todayÂ's softer (read: mushier) keyboards.

The keys have a very firm feel to them, and feel just right even after several hours of typing or gaming. The actual keys have a thick feeling to them, adding to the keyboardÂ's overall solid feel. The keys seem to be made from some type of non-slippery plastic, so when you put your fingers there, they donÂ't slip to other keys, as is common with other keyboards after only an hour or so of use.

The typing response time also feels a bit quicker than typical keyboards. IÂ'm unsure if such a thing can be noticed, but I did notice a very slight increase in response time between pressing the keys and seeing an on-screen response. I tested this using the GamerÂ's Keyboard and a normal keyboard -- both connected to the USB port -- and did seem to notice a very small increase in performance from the Saitek keyboard. Call me crazy, but it is something I noticed, and feel it must be mentioned.

The additional keypad also holds these features of solidity and sturdiness. The pad is basically a second numerical keypad, only with two mode buttons. The pad is also fully programmable. Using the included profile editor (shown below), the pad can be programmed in all three modes (unshifted, Mode A, and Mode B) for a myriad of keyboard commands. While it might not seem like much use in a FPS or RTS, this pad comes in handy in sims such as Falcon 4.0 and (of course) Jumpgate.

While IÂ've been heaping praise at SaitekÂ's GamerÂ's Keyboard, one must wonder if there are any downsides to the product. Well, itÂ's only USB, so those with only original keyboard ports are out of luck. It wonÂ't work with a USB-to-Keyboard Port connector (IÂ've tried) because the keyboard port apparently doesnÂ't put out enough power for the backlight. While this isnÂ't a slight against the keyboardÂ"…I had to think of something! I mean, this keyboard is frigging awesome!

In conclusion, those gamers in the market for a new or upgraded keyboard would do very well with SaitekÂ's GamerÂ's Keyboard. ItÂ's sturdy, solid, and if itÂ's like my trusty X-36 H.O.T.A.S., will last for many years. The backlighting and programmable pad are just icing on the cake.

Brian Â"VeloxiÂ" Rubin

Comments

Nice write up Veloxi.

I read a review in CG Magazine this weekend about this board and was starting to wonder about it. Damn, I'm on the hook for this bad boy. I need to get rid of my old MS Internet KB. Hate the tactile response on it. It's too mushy and it slides around a lot. It's especially good at hidding lost CD's.

Swampy has one of these already?

Can you turn off the backlight? I have my computer in my room and my power supply having a blue light is bad enough as it is (I may open it up and turn it off at some point.

Otherwise, it sounds pretty nice.

Blue LED backlit with Bright/Dim/Off selector through licensed patent

From official site, sweet!

I have this KB too. I think the feel is OK but not great; I find it inferior to the MS keyboard it replaced in this regard. Try it in store if you can.

The backlight is cool looking but not terribly functional because it goes in between the keys, the keys themselves are not lit like say the Elumin-X or whatever it's called. So if you're wanting to play in dim light the backlighting isn't enough to be able to tell at a glance if that's the F5 or F6 under your finger.

Pyro the backlighting has off, low, and high settings.

Thanks for the write up. I've been looking at these and wondering. I also have a CompUSA(blech!) giftcard burning a hole in my wallet.

I have this KB too. I think the feel is OK but not great; I find it inferior to the MS keyboard it replaced in this regard. Try it in store if you can.

Do you feel it's inferior because the MS keyboard is softer or another factor? I loved my old IBM clickety-clack to death and if the Saitek is closer to that than the MS nautral multimedia I'm sold.

Excellent use of the word "plasticy." Right on!

I too miss the tactile response of the old IBM boards. Been looking for that in all the wrong places. May give the Saitek a try.

Pyroman[FO] wrote:
I have this KB too. I think the feel is OK but not great; I find it inferior to the MS keyboard it replaced in this regard. Try it in store if you can.

Do you feel it's inferior because the MS keyboard is softer or another factor? I loved my old IBM clickety-clack to death and if the Saitek is closer to that than the MS nautral multimedia I'm sold.

I haven't used the natural multimedia, but to me it feels mushier than my natural pro. I've only had it a couple weeks though so maybe it'll get better after it's broken in. Also it's not too bad, otherwise I wouldn't have brought it home from the store

What ever happened to the Glidz Padz things with the GWJ logo on them? I would love to buy em.. I'll take 4

PAR

It wasn't going to be cost effective to do a small order ourselves so I hooked the Glidz guys up with the crew who sell our shirts. I guess it never panned out, I'm not entirely surprised. Those mouse pads are great but hella expensive.

I bought two of these keyboards and used them for 2 days before going back to my Dell Multimedia Keyboards (so far best one yet)

The big drawback of this keyboard and I'm suprised Certis didnt mention this is that all the keys are smaller than regular keyboard keys.

If you have larger hands then this keyboard will not work for you at all... in fact you'll hate it instantly. 2 of my regular gaming buddies confirmed this also during one weekend of LAN play at my house.

So I have 2 if anyone is interested in them... Free to the small handed.

Oh and the light was annoying as hell... it hits your eyes in just the right way to create a weird strobe like effect.. I turned it off after about 5 min and never turned it back on.

If you have larger hands then this keyboard will not work for you at all... in fact you'll hate it instantly. 2 of my regular gaming buddies confirmed this also during one weekend of LAN play at my house.

Damn well that rules me out then.

Also Veloxi wrote the review.

The big drawback of this keyboard and I'm suprised Certis didnt mention this is that all the keys are smaller than regular keyboard keys.

I didn't write it.... filthy skimmer ;)

So I have 2 if anyone is interested in them... Free to the small handed.

Sold! I have small, delicate yet manly hands

A friend of mine purchased one of these not too long ago. I thought the tactile response was pretty good, but not as good as my Logitech Deluxe 104, which I puchased for ~$10 about five years ago. I like a keyboard with lots of springiness and a helluva lot of noise; I hate it when I'm using a quiet, mushy keyboard and can't tell whether or not I've managed to depress a key. I consider the Saitek to be middle-of-the-road in this regard. If you're used to an old IBM behemoth, you won't be impressed at all.

Other detriments are the cost and the small keys, as mentioned by TheGameguru.

TheGameguru wrote:

So I have 2 if anyone is interested in them... Free to the small handed.

I would so be interested in one of those.

So I have 2 if anyone is interested in them... Free to the small handed.

I have small hands and would like one. That is if the offer is still on the table.

I also have small, delicate, elfin hands and would be up for the keyboard - if not well I may just have to try one.

While I’ve been heaping praise at Saitek’s Gamer’s Keyboard, one must wonder if there are any downsides to the product. Well, it’s only USB, so those with only original keyboard ports are out of luck.

That was really fishing for a downside. If a gamer just spent thousands of dollars on a PC and didn't get enough USB ports...

Most laptops now a'days dont even come with a keyboard port so your outta luck unless you have a free USB... I have 5 keyboards lying around but I needed to buy another just for this reason.

PAR

I purchased this one as well hoping to be able to see my keys in my dark subterranian office. It does absolutely nothing to light the keys and make them readable if you like to play games with the lights off. Just gives off a glow around the keys.

Didn't really like the feel of the keyboard either. Felt cheap in comparison to my Logitech board or past MS boards I've used. I could probably deal with the cheap construction if the letters themselves were actually backlit.

The separate numpad looking device seemed like a cool idea as well, but it lays completely flat on your desk which made my wrist hurt after limited use. Maybe they'll get it right with the next revision as it is a good idea.

I bought this keyboard a while ago, and like it for the most part. Im a dark environment gamer, and I thought I had enough typing experience to be able to go by button outline alone in the dark, and while that is sort of true, it's just that. Sort of. It helps, but I sure wish they would have just went with translucent lettering instead. That said, it's an otherwise comfortable and quiet keyboard. I like the mute/vol up/vol down buttons as well, instead of all the nonsense buttons that are usually on a board. I actually use them.

My big joy with this board is the programmable keypad. I have a real problem with games that do not allow reconfiguration of the keys, and the pad tends to help with that. Or if you have a set of sub-commands you want quick access to, there they are. I like to move the camera in an RTS with my left hand, yet this wreaks havoc with all the hotkeys if you want to set it up WASD. I set the keypad up with the camera controls and my three obligatory heroes, and Im all set, problem solved. Ive found it useful for long gaming sessions in WoW, I can sit back and put it on the arm of my chair and have my directionals and what not available for casual play, and if the sh*t suddenly hits the fan I can sit up and hit the real keyboard.

Also, the keypad programming software can also be used for running macro commands off the keypad, and the software makes it very simple to do so. I have one profile with all my passwords for instance, and I just hit a certain key and *name*-*tab*-*password*-*enter* runs and I'm logged in to whatever in the blink of an eye. You can also use this in any game for any combo of keys, and that helps with some games that require shift-this or control-that, or whatever key combos required.

All in all I wouldnt say it's a lifesaver or anything, but it has made things a little easier here and there for this gamer.