VisiKey Wired Internet Keyboard

Reviewed by: Thomas V. Kappel, August 2004, send e-mail
Manufactured by: VisiKey, go to the web site
Requires: IBM PC compatibles, USB or PS/2 port, Microsoft Windows Me, 2000 or XP
MSRP: US$39.95 (wired model), $79.95 (wireless model w/mouse)

The VisiKey is an enhanced visibility Internet keyboard. It has a standard sized QWERTY key layout, black in color, with very large white key letters, numbers and symbols (glyphs) imprinted with a high visibility font for increased legibility. Most conventional keyboards are visibility rated at 20/70 on the Snellen Visual Acuity Scale. This enhanced keyboard is rated at 20/300. All the keys are extremely easy to read. In addition, the Internet, Music Center Controls, Power Center Keys and the navigation keys are all slightly larger buttons to accommodate the larger printing as well. The navigation keys are also raised and rounded and easier to locate and use by touch alone.

The Pros:

  • Easy to read glyphs (letters, numbers, symbols)
  • Navigation keys are larger, raised and very easy to use
  • Key glyphs are 4x larger than normal keyboards
  • 104 regular keys and 15 hot keys for multimedia and Internet functions
  • PS2 and USB connections
  • Software drivers included for older Windows systems
  • Bright red LED’s for the Num, Caps Lock & Scroll lock keys
  • Easy to read in low light conditions

The keys and return springs have a nice firm feel with no contact noise other than your finger strikes.

The Cons:

There are only a few features that could be made better. There is only one height adjustment setting to increase the keyboard angle in order to provide some wrist relief. There’s no wrist rest and perhaps that’s a good thing as we shouldn't be resting or hands or wrists when typing and the absence of a wrist rest does make the keyboard smaller and possibly somewhat less expensive. The biggest problem is that the Backspace key is way too small. It’s a regular key size. VisiKey made the Enter key extremely large and ended up with room only for a regular sized backspace key. This key is used much more than the Delete key and most keyboards use a size almost as large as the enter key. The little raised dashes on the F & J keys for touch typists to confirm hand positions are also very small and could have been made to run the full width of the key. The keyboard is light which is both a pro and a con. It feels plasticy and light weight, but it’s actually about same weight as other standard keyboards.

(Ed. Note: Some high-end ergonomic keyboards, e.g. Kinesis Maxim, provide continuous fore & aft height adjustment settings, but for the more budget minded there is at least one Microsoft ergonomic keyboard that lets you to raise the front of the keyboard to provide a more natural and less stressful wrist/hand/typing angle. We'd love to see VisiKey's high visibility key design incorporated into a fully ergonomic keyboard).

Don't make the mistake of thinking that this keyboard is just for visually challenged individuals. VisiKey’s initial target market for this keyboard appears to be those individuals that need to wear corrective glasses (reading glasses) and those that need to read large print books. The company also claims that eye strain is replacing carpal tunnel syndrome as the major complaint of office workers. I believe they are right on both counts, but that they also don't really go far enough in identifying all the markets for this product. For example, this keyboard would be great in schools to teach early touch typing skills and if offices to help out those one- & two-finger typists. The keys are very easy to see and read at a glance. Game players who spend too much time in low light conditions also occasionally need to use the keyboard and this one definitely makes it easier in that sort of environment.

The VisiKey is easy to read by only the light coming off the monitor. For gamers or road warriors who travel with their equipment and need a full sized keyboard, this one will also fit in a backpack and can easily be used in an airport or at your LAN/gaming party. And of course, those who actually have eyes over 40 years of age and must wear reading glasses as a result will find this keyboard helpful as well. It was designed to be easy to read and it does the job quite well.

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