When I was considering buying a new computer, top of my considerations were the obvious ones: which manufacturer to plump for, its memory capabilities, processor, and even the speakers.
Which keyboard to choose came a long way down my list, which in retrospect is strange seeing as they are so essential. Although choosing this Dell multimedia keyboard was little more than a stab in the dark - I was more excited by the software package than I was at buying this - fortunately it has proved to be a worthwhile buy.
~ My first impression... ~
... was that it looked good. Superficial I know, but I didn't want a fancy schmancy one with backlighting, or one designed with gaming enthusiasts in mind. This is more standard fare yet looks better than other multimedia keyboards I saw. The top section is silver coloured and contains 14 hot keys and a volume control dial. The rest of the keyboard is in black. Sadly not in the glossy piano finish of some keyboards, but despite the rather dull look it's proved to be robust plastic.
~ The hands on experience ~
Setting it up was a synch. It isn't a wireless keyboard, although with only the one wire it was easy to connect to my PC. Nor does the solitary wire make the floor space look cluttered. It should be compatible with any PC using a PS/2 connector.
~ Overall design and quality ~
The shape is a conventional rectangle, which some may not find as attractive as the curvy designs which other manufacturers seem to love but it suits me just fine. It's pleasant to use, and more importantly for me I know that all the keys will be where I'm expecting to find them.
The keyboard looks good and feels stable. This keyboard won't flex under pressure, I don't know if the same can be said of the wafer thin ones currently on sale. Another notable aspect is that the tiering between the five main rows is also good, I find I'm less likely to muddle up the keys.
~ Its best features ~
The keys are all black with nice bold white lettering which makes them easy to see even in dim lighting. Even despite my constant finger jabbing, none of them have faded. They also have a very fast response rate.
It is comfortable to use. I'm not a very competent typist; occasionally I'll have a go at touch typing, but for the most part I simply point and jab using two fingers. Even so, I find typing for long stretches is easy on this keyboard.
The six media buttons are well thought out in a nice circle in the top right of the keyboard. I use them often with both Windows Media Player and iTunes. From left to right are the Stop, Rewind, Play/Pause, Fast Forward and Mute buttons. A further button here opens up the volume control window on the PC, and a nice big dial in the middle turns the volume up or down as I see fit. These are well positioned for my right hand and easier to reach for than the mouse if I'm busy typing. For anyone left handed, this may not seem so convenient. A nice touch is that all these buttons are lit up making the symbols easy to see.
~ Any downsides? ~
The wrist rest that came with this is quite cheap and hard. I didn't think it would help my wrists so it got discarded quickly.
The keys are not very quiet. Any tapping might seem a tad loud for some users. Using this in our spare bedroom with nobody else in earshot, it isn't a problem for us, but I could see how it might be distracting.
Aside from the media keys, there are 8 further hot buttons which I personally don't use very often. They may perform common actions such as opening up Outlook and taking me straight to My Computer, but there aren't enough occasions when I need to use its calculator to really make them worthwhile. If I'm surfing the net, then the chances are I'll have my hand on the mouse already, so pressing the page forward or back button doesn't often cross my mind. That said, they don't really have a negative effect in making the keyboard look too cluttered.
~ Recommended? ~
To anyone wanting a simple to use keyboard which will last, then yes. It's comfortable to use, if a little noisy. It also looks nice and has enough controls to justify calling itself a multimedia keyboard, even if I don't often use them all. For an average user I don't really think that a more expensive keyboard could better this one.
Having used this keyboard daily for nearly three years, I'm also happy to report that all of the keys still operate perfectly well. This is even despite the occasional crumbs of food being dropped between them. A quick shake of the keyboard upside down (yes, still possible with the wire attached), and a wipe over with an antibacterial cleansing wipe and it's as good as new again.
I bought mine online from Dell, but that was several years ago. There are probably find various online retailers who are now selling it cheaper.