Affordable Illuminated Keyboards: Saitek Eclipse II Backlit Keyboard (PK02AU) Review
Saitek Eclipse II
The PK02AU has multiple color LEDs, and a dimmer switch to control brightness
More practical than I thought
By now, you've probably heard of backlit, or illuminated keyboards. When I first heard of them, I thought they were just a pointless extravagance. But when I'm wrong, I'm wrong- backlighted keyboards can save eye strain and make typing easier. And no, I don't mean for 'hunt and peck' typing… Even touch typists need to know where the keyboard is, when our fingers are first reaching out to type. My computer room is pretty well lit, but the angle of the light, and my keyboard shelf, combine to make the keyboard hard to see. With a small amount of glow helping to place the keys, your hands will unerringly find starting position and be ready to go.
From 'Basic' to 'Blow you Away', and somewhere in between
Illuminated keyboards come in a huge variety. From the basic glow of the W9868BK, to the wow factor of the Optimus Maximus (currently about $2,400!), there's a lot of difference, and obviously a large range in prices.
For instance, the W9868BK doesn't even have a real name... it costs about $20, and has a reputation as an excellent illuminated keyboard. All it does is light up. No real controls, no colors, just a solid basic keyboard for a great price.
The Optimus Maximus is just beyond ridiculous. Each key is an actual tiny computer monitor, and can be individually programmed. Even to the point of animating the image! For the huge price, you expect something extraordinary, and it delivers. But still, I have to wonder how many customers do they have... or need? Let's see, we sold a keyboard this month. So we're okay till next month... Well, okay, I probably went over the top there. I'm sure a work of that much technological advancement must be costly to make. I'm just amazed there's enough buyers out there to keep them in business!
What I like about the Saitek Eclipse II is the very nice feature set for a price near $50. I hate overusing phrases, but 'bang for the buck' really comes to mind here. To me, that's a very important concept. :^)
Not a show-off, just solid performance
For a little variety in your keyboards, The Saitek Eclipse II backlit keyboard offers more control than most keyboards in it's price class. It's a great compromise between price and features. Not quite as versatile as the Luxeed U5, but far more affordable. The appeal of this illuminated keyboard is the variety and intensity of the lights. For the price, you get 3 colors, Purple (Violet), Red, and Blue, to choose from. And brightness control by a standard dimmer-style selector. Pick the color, set the brightness, sounds simple but it goes a long way to customizing the perfect illumination for your keyboard. Even including a setting to turn all the lights off with a single button, or back on. All about choices.
And if you're curious, the Luxeed is around $150, and can run rings around any backlit keyboard out there... except for the Optimus Maximus.
Eclipse II Illuminated Keyboard
Look at the pretty lights!
Of course, there's more to a keyboard than pretty lights. But when you're buying a backlight keyboard, the pretty lights are a significant factor. The Saitek Eclipse II does a good job with the lights. We all work in different environments, it's good to offer options. Sometimes one color provides better contrast than another, or even too much. I'd much rather pick the color that works best for me and the surroundings, than to be stuck with a single color and no options. Just so you know, Blue is the default color. Every time the computer reboots, the color is blue. Easy enough to change the colors on reboot, but definitely a factor to consider. Also, among the color choices, Violet seems to be the brightest, and Blue the least bright.
It's all in the details
In Saitek's case, they did really well with the Eclipse II. Not only are the individual letters clearly lit, but there's some 'backlighting' around the keys. I like this, it makes the keys stand out individually. The letters themselves are laser-etched, with each key being very clearly defined. The keyboard has some overspill on the sides, too, which helps clearly define the entire unit visually. I consider the overall design to be excellent. Plenty of details, all of which combine to improve the gestalt.
And you can actually type on it!
Getting back to the feature set, the Eclipse II keyboard has a few other things going for it. The keys are soft-touch, with a decent 'spring'. You can adjust the angle by a couple of steps, for the best comfort when typing. It's not to everybody's taste, but most users report it to be a very comfortable keyboard to type on. Some companies seem to get wrapped up in the lighting, and forget that you have to actually USE the thing. Saitek has, again, done a very nice job here.
What else does the Eclipse II have?
There are keys for volume control, and media playback. I'm not really sure those are necessary... I rarely use stuff like that, preferring to use the onscreen mouse options in most cases. But it's there if you feel the inclination to use it.
The keyboard has a nice heft. Combined with the rubber feet, it stays where you put it pretty well. The base is actually weighted for the purpose. Standard keys (104) make for a familiar layout.
One thing about the (Saitek) PK02AU that's a little off, is the dimensions as listed. I've seen it listed as 18", and as 19.5", but a more accurate measurement is 21". So expect a rather long keyboard. It's certainly not a 'space-saver' model.
Comes with a side light
How much you spend, and what you get
Looking at the Saitech Eclipse II Backlit Keyboard (PK02AU) from an overall perspective, I see a well-designed illuminated keyboard, easy to type on, with a large footprint. On the negative side is the fact that Blue is the default color. On the positive side is an excellent range of color and brightness control for the money. There are less expensive backlit keyboards available, and they do less. There are more expensive ones that offer a more function. But the PK02AU is very well-rounded, with an emphasis on getting a lot for your money. All things considered, the Eclipse II is a great keyboard. (Unless you're saving a couple thousand up for the Optimus Maximus!)