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Bytecc's Zippy EL-610 keyboard


It glows and stuff
— 5:38 AM on April 25, 2003

Manufacturer Albatron
Model Zippy EL-610
Price (list) US$55
Availability Now

GENERALLY SPEAKING, keyboards aren't all that exciting. Some are louder than others, some have a bunch of auxiliary buttons that I never seem to end up using, and some are carefully molded to be more ergonomic. Even with all those potential areas for differentiation, keyboards few keyboards offer anything interesting enough to capture my attention for more than a fleeting moment.

I guess the fact that the majority of keyboards aren't all that exciting makes it easy for something new and unique to turn heads. Maybe that's why Bytecc's Zippy EL-610 caught my eye. This Lilliputian USB keyboard is small, thin, light, and even back-lit for late-night IRC or gaming sessions in the dark—and it looks like a perfect match for a small-form-factor PC.

The layout
Even with the lights on, the Zippy EL-610 looks quite a bit different than other keyboards on the market.


The keyboard's silver finish and translucent white keys are quite a bit more stylish than the beige contraptions I've been typing at for years. Pairing the Zippy EL-610 with a small form factor system like one of Shuttle's cubes makes even more sense when we see just how small this glowing keyboard really is. Check it out:


Measuring only 11.5" long and 5.25" wide, the Zippy EL-610 is quite a bit smaller than standard desktop keyboards. In fact, the Zippy EL-610 is even smaller than the keyboard on my Inspiron 8200 laptop, making the Zippy EL-610 a potentially attractive choice for a small-footprint desktop or as a portable keyboard for LAN parties. The Zippy EL-610's bantam weight—only 460 grams—makes carrying it around easier, too.


The Zippy EL-610's light weight and stylish exterior are complemented by the keyboard's slim profile. At its beefiest point, the Zippy EL-610 is just over half an inch thick, making it one of the thinnest keyboards I've ever seen. Being so thin, I expected the Zippy EL-610 to be flimsy, but it's as sturdy as the other full-sized keyboards I have in TR's underground benchmarking sweatshop.

Although the Zippy EL-610's supermodel-like proportions are great for its portability, Bytecc had to play around with key sizes to fit everything into the smaller form factor. In addition to swapping a dedicated numpad for a shared keypad similar to what's found on many of today's notebooks, Bytecc also decreased the size of the Zippy EL-610's keys.


Standard keyboard


Zippy EL-610

When compared with a standard keyboard, the Zippy EL-610's keys are a little small. Notice how the penny overlaps the J, B, and N keys much more on the Zippy EL-610 than it does on the standard keyboard. Since the Zippy EL-610's slim profile necessitates relatively short key heights and travel distances, the edges between the keys are much closer together than they are with full-sized keyboards or even the keyboard on my Inspiron 8200. Could that create a problem for bigger hands? We'll see in just a minute.

First, let's check out the Zippy EL-610's "electron luminescence design."


Ooooohhhh.

Aaaaahhhh.

With the tap of a button, the Zippy EL-610's keys are illuminated in a warm, blue glow that's bright enough to make them readable even in total darkness. For those who only type with the lights on, the potential benefits of this feature will be lost. However, the nocturnal types among us will surely appreciate the comforting glow.