I looked at four backlit keyboards from one from Ideazon (Merc Stealth), two from Microsoft (Razer Reclusa and Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000) and one from Saitek (Eclipse II).
In addition to finding the best of the new crop of backlit keyboards, I had hoped to modify the LEDs in at least one of the keyboards for use by a blind friend. That project is still on hold, but here is my take on the keyboards I tested for use by people without visual impairment.
The Ideazon Merc Stealth lit in red
The Merc Stealth is designed as a gaming keyboard, with 34 dedicated gaming keys. There are two USB ports on the keyboard, and the USB cable includes integrated microphone and speaker plugs. That’s for headphones and microphones, as there are also jacks for these on the keyboard. To keep the keyboard to a manageable size, the four inverted “T ” arrow keys, and the group six — the delete, home, etc. keys — are merged with the numeric keyboard. In this modified 104-key layout style, the size of the plus key is now standard instead of oversized. The dedicated gaming keys are off to the left, as is common for other Ideazon gaming keyboards, and the multimedia keys are at the top left.
Ideazon Merc Stealth in daylight. Note the tri-headed cable.
The blue backlight is a deep blue, but the purple backlight is more like a pink. Red is a deep ruby red; it matches or exceeds the red backlight used in the Celestron SkyScout and the telescope hand controller. Fortunately, the color choice does not reset after reboot. This keyboard would also be perfect for late-night observing sessions. Remember, for astronomy observations, the computer screens are covered with red filters, so there is no keyboard light on any laptops.
Blue Merc Stealth
Ideazon Merc Stealth switched to purple
There are only three levels of brightness adjustment. The keyboard has a very tactile feel, while the Ideazon literature claims the keys are rubberized. The Merc’s keys are not as “smooth” or plastic feeling as the Saitek. Neither do they feel completely like rubber, but they have a very pleasant touch. The action is just a little stiffer than that of the Saitek, but not as stiff as the Microsoft Reclusa. There are two USB ports above the F10 through F12 keys. Beneath the upper part of the keyboard are collapsible stands to increase the keyboard height. The base has long-and -thin sticky non-skid rubber pads on the bottom of the lower keyboard.
I did not verify the claim that there is a simultaneous response from the keystrokes, especially during game play. Ideazon’s Z-engine software lets you map a key command sequence to a single key. Having dedicated keys for commands like “open document” or “run spell check” could be useful for handicapped individuals. More than special purpose keyboards, this gaming keyboard appears to have much more flexibility in that regard. However, my initial purpose was to look at the backlight, and to see if I could swap out something for a much brighter backlight.