Having grown sick and tired of wireless keyboards and mice and the endless headache of battery charging that goes along with them I decided to go back to good old wired peripherals. I honestly can't think of any reason for keyboards to be wireless unless you are sitting about 6 foot away from your monitor. Not only are there no real benefits (how inconvenient does it really become to have a tiny wire running down the back of the computer desk?) they actually bring a whole plethora of problems to your computing habits. Constant battery charging being the main one, but throw into the mix the wide variety of wireless technological hiccups even the best devices on the market suffer from and you've got yourself a completely pointless and needlessly expensive exercising of gadget-worship. Stick with wired.
The Cherry eVolution Stream keyboard is the best keyboard I've used in my 20-odd years of computing, and with that in mind to say the price is a bargain would be an understatement. I grew up in the era of the ZX Spectrum and Amiga, not to mention the dodgy RM Nimbus systems my school used to have, and eventually made the move onto Windows desktop PCs. None of the keyboards I've used in that time has been as comfortable, fluid and aesthetically pleasing as the Cherry eVolution Stream.
~ [ Processing/Quality ] ~
The keyboard is put together in a robust and slimline package, with a fairly solid plastic body which supplies the keyboard with strong protection and a nice overall weight. The LEDs aren't overly bright, and their soft orange haze isn't distracting/eye catching when you're looking elsewhere. The keys themselves are easily popped off and cleaned, and popping them back on involves simply pushing down on them until you hear the click; no springs or other irritating fidgety bits to worry about here.
~ [ Reliability ] ~
I've had this keyboard for the better part of two years now, and it hasn't shown any signs of deterioration in performance at all. The keys are all still working perfectly, and surprisingly the space bar is still as functional as it was from day one (typically the space bar is the first to become loose and/or sticky). I spend a good 8 - 10 hours a day on my PC, and that includes intensive typing and gaming. I would say that the time I spend on this contraption is probably far beyond the average, and as you can imagine I've gotten through plenty of keyboards over the years. The Cherry eVolution Stream is built to last, and is still as nimble and tight as it always was despite the relentless punishment involved in my day-to-day typing habits. The print on the keys is still, amazingly, in perfect condition.
~ [ Ease of Use ] ~
The keyboard is fairly heavy, surprisingly so when you consider the size of it, but this is an important design feature in terms of its ease of use; the last thing you want when you're typing away, or indeed gaming (where every second and every decision counts) is to have the keyboard bouncing and sliding around on the desk as your fingers thunder down on it. You have the option of keeping the bottom of the keyboard flush with the desk, or you can flip up its two feet and have the back-end raised towards you slightly. There are three rubber stoppers on the bottom-end (i.e. the end closest to you) and these provide ample grip in either scenario.
Typing on this keyboard is an absolute joy. They keys are similar in design to those of most modern laptops, but they have a little more depth than laptop users would be accustomed to, which allows for a real satisfying sensation as you press down on them. That sounds a little strange, but trust me when I say that typing on this keyboard feels just right; your fingers don't need to press down too hard, but a little pressure is required (it's not a completely touch-sensitive affair) and it's just enough to keep your hands feeling nimble whilst still in firm control.
There are six multimedia keys along the top of the device, which are very tastefully positioned and designed. That is, you don't have huge obnoxious space station buttons taking up room which seems to be all the rage these days. The functionalities of the six keys are as follows:
[Volume -] [Mute] [Volume +] [Previous Track] [Play/Pause] [Next Track]
Given the slimline design of the keyboard the keys are never out of sight/reach, and if your computer desk is like mine (with a drawer on which the keyboard sits) you'll be grateful for that, because with other keyboards I had to pull the drawer out slightly every time I wanted to press a multimedia key, or simply drag the keyboard towards me and then put it back again when I was done. The Cherry eVolution's "height" is around 7 - 8 inches, much shorter than most keyboards on the market, but not so short that you don't have the full set of F-keys and indicator lights available, and six multimedia keys seems to be a pretty good number; I'm tired of the overwhelming plethora of extra buttons that manufacturers try to cram into every free inch of real estate on the device.
The multimedia keys work out of the box on XP SP3, Vista and Windows 7. No drivers are required unless you want to assign different functions to them.
The keyboard has all of the usual keys you'd expect from a modern keyboard, including the NUMPAD and everything in between.
The Windows key and the key which substitutes your mouse's right-click function have very "obvious" icons printed on them, and the print on all of the other keys is nice and clear and in my 2 years of use they haven't shown any signs of wearing.
~ [ Installation ] ~
Installation can be as easy as plugging it into the USB port (or the PS/2 port using the included converter - very handy). No drivers are required for systems with Windows XP SP3 or later installed on them. However, if you want to reassign the multimedia keys you can install the software from the included drivers disc which will open up the keyboard settings menu with the relevant options.
~ [ Speed ] ~
Once you get to grips with the fluidity of typing this keyboard offers you'll be increasing your word-per-minute count by an admirable number. Typing is so fast and slick on this device that when I first got it I was double-tapping keys by mistake, due to the firmness I was so used to applying with previous boards. It wouldn't be right to say that the keyboard is touch-sensitive, but it's a comfortable middle ground between touch-sensitive and standard keyboards.
~ [ Variety of Features ] ~
Besides the six aforementioned multimedia keys the keyboard has no bells and whistles to speak of. This is one of the reasons I decided to buy it - I'm so bored and in fact frustrated with the amount of junk crowbarred onto modern keyboards these days that a minimalistic device such as the Cherry eVolution Stream was a welcome respite from the tatfest.
~ [ Conclusion ] ~
This is the best keyboard I've ever had, and I can assure you that when it finally gives up the ghost I'll be buying another one. The price is more than reasonable for such a robust, long-lasting and well-designed product. I paid around £13 for mine on Amazon.co.uk, although the price - as of the date of this review - has now risen to around £17, a price still well within acceptable boundaries for this fantastic piece of kit. If you want reliable, understated perfection the Cherry eVolution Stream is the keyboard for you.