Review: Eclipse Wireless Litetouch Keyboard
MSRP: $129.99 ($99.99 for wired version)
It’s not everyday that a keyboard can turn heads in an office, but that’s exactly what happened when I put MadCatz’s Eclipse Wireless Litetouch Keyboard through its paces. And there’s no denying that the sleek design, backlit keys, and eye-grabbing 3-in-1 LCD touch-sensitive keypad are all attention grabbers to the passerby. But how did the keyboard hold up to a week of the day-to-day grind? Read on..
Let’s get one thing out of the way now: get rid of any preconceived notions you may have towards MadCatz products when considering this keyboard. MadCatz has made a name for itself by offering gaming accessories at budget pricing which some have confused with budget quality. The Litetouch is sold under the Eclipse badge, and the quality of the product is clear right away from the box it arrives in, and continues with the look, feel, and function of the keyboard itself.
Looking at the keyboard, the first thing you will notice is the LCD 3-in-1 touch panel on the right side. This touch panel will allow you to utilize the keypad portion of the keyboard as a standard keypad, a media manager, and as a customizable shortcuts section in the “MyEclipse” mode. The panel is bright and inviting, and also includes indicators for power, volume/brightness level, wireless link indicator, and Num/Scroll/Caps lock. Touching keys on the pad will give a soft, audible clicking noise to indicate the input was received, which helps with touch typing on the keypad. The media player and MyEclipse options of the keypad add a ton of personalization options, and while it will take a while to remember all of the things the keypad will let you do, when you do remember and click on them, the response is fast on screen, be it loading the calculator, your browser, Outlook, your documents/picture/video folders, and much more. And being able to customize the keys on the MyEclipse portion just gives you that much more control. In fact, you can program up to three programs to load on a single button, letting you load, say, Platform Nation, Platform Nation’s forums, and the profile of your favorite Platform Nation writer all with one button press. Installation of the included software is quick, pain-free, and adds the MyEclipse customization functionality to the keyboard without becoming a resource hog. The touch panel area also includes a physical trackball and left/right mouse buttons. This won’t replace your mouse, but having them on your keyboard gives flexibility and function to the keyboard, allowing for a pointer in a pinch.
This keyboard is more than its incredible looking touch panel, though. The keyboard itself is full sized, so there’s no adjustment period to learn how to type on smaller sized keys. The layout resembles a laptop with regards to the location of the arrow keys and Page Up/Page down section of keys, which may take some getting used to for traditional keyboard users. The keys are all scissor-keys which mean that keypresses are practically silent. Typing on the physical keyboard was perfect, with no issues on physical feedback or dropped keypresses through the 2.4 GHz wireless connection. The backlit keys also make typing feasible at any time of the day. The backlight is bright at first before dimming for a few minutes to remain accessible without being obnoxiously so. The brightness is also adjustable via the touch panel. You’d think this backlighting would kill the battery life, but I was able to get about 20 hours (two and a half work days) out of the keyboard before needing to recharge, which would translate to weeks of use in a less intensive setting.
Nothing is ever perfect, however. The touch panel, unlike the physical keyboard, does drop keypresses when typing quickly, making rapid number crunching difficult. This difficulty is compounded by the lack of any haptic feedback or raised home key spot on the touch panel, so doing touch-typing just isn’t possible; an audible sound is not always heard in noisy environments or when using headphones. The trackball is also not a suitable replacement for a mouse. It works in a pinch, but I could only use it for about 45 minutes before my hand cramped uncomfortably due to the placement of the left and right mouse buttons being directly to the left and right of the trackball as opposed to being below. The trackball also cannot be clicked to simulate a left mouse click, and while good for moving the mouse pointer across the screen, doesn’t have pinpoint accuracy on small movements. Finally, accidental brushes on the touch panel will often result in the opening of folders or programs. There’s no way to avoid this since the touch panel isn’t slightly raised, so your right hand will inevitably brush against the pad and cause this behavior. There is a lock key to prevent accidental keybrushes, but this also prevents using the touch panel at all without unlocking it again. Based on these issues, people looking for a gaming keyboard or office power-users who utilize the keypad extensively should probably look elsewhere.
vttym’s take: If you don’t fall into the heavy gamer or heavy keypad user, though, you have no reason not to get the Wireless Litetouch Keyboard. The ideal application for it is in the living room, working either with a PC hooked up to your TV, or even directly into your TV (I was able to hook the tiny wireless receiver into a USB port on my HDTV and now can use the keyboard for all the apps the TV has, and can even adjust/mute the volume). This would also work well with your console gaming system as a means of typing out quick messages to friends or surfing the web without having to use a game controller. The physical keyboard is flawless, and the customizable options on the touch panel give fantastic flexibility and customization. While the trackball is not ideal, it still works for using a pointer without having to use another device. All told, the form factor, long battery life, silent keyboard, and dynamic touch pad make this keyboard hard to resist.