More quirks and extras
While we're on the topic of USB, I should point out that the Osmium's integrated ports are upside-down from the orientation found on most motherboards, including Gigabyte's own. The orientation also differs from the ports on other keyboards in my lab and from those on my notebook. This deviation from the norm is more of an annoyance than a serious flaw, but it leaves me scratching my head about what Gigabyte could have been thinking.
Another head-scratcher is the arrangement of the characters on the key caps. Usually, the primary symbol sits below the secondary one. On the Osmium, the two are side by side, with the primary character on the left. Even after weeks with the Osmium, this layout still makes me pause on occasion, as my mind tries to process what look like smilies on some of the keys. I can't fathom why Gigabyte decided to be different in this regard, either.
Speaking of different, the Osmium comes with a set of custom caps for the macro keys. The graphics seem best suited to RPGs and MMOs, and I'm a little surprised there isn't a fifth one to fill out the macro row. At least the included key puller makes swapping caps a breeze. The puller should also come in handy if you ever want to rid the keyboard's body of accumulated crumbs, dust, and other particulate.
A custom fit is arguably more important than a custom look, so it's good to see riser tabs at both the front and back of the Osmium's underbelly.
The extra tabs provide additional tilt options, and flipping up just the ones on the front creates a perfectly horizontal plane for folks who don't want their wrists at an angle. A palm rest is also included if you want to elevate the area south of the keyboard's front edge.
Admittedly, the angle of the picture above makes the palm rest look bigger than it actually is. The removable piece covers a decent chunk of the bottom of the keyboard, creating a streamlined look that extends the frame by about 2.5".
While I'm tidying up loose ends, I should mention a couple of other things. Gamers, take note. The Osmium supports 64 simultaneous keystrokes anywhere on the keyboard. Good luck hitting more than that many keys with just two hands.
Gamers will also appreciate the win-lock key, which disables the Windows key to prevent inadvertent trips to the desktop or Win8 Start screen. This toggle switch sits to the right of the spacebar and next to the fn key, which activates secondary media controls for the first cluster in the function row.
There are some who would write off the Aivia Osmium based solely on its use of Cherry MX red switches, and that's fair enough. Mechanical keyboard aficionados tend to have a favorite switch type or two. Fortunately, Gigabyte is prepping a twin that combines tactile MX brown switches with white backlighting. That variant is due in April, and it'll sell for the same $130 asking price as the MX red model. Fans of tactile feedback, rejoice!
The Osmium's price tag puts the keyboard at the high end of the mechanical spectrum, which seems entirely fair. After all, this thing is loaded with premium features like adjustable backlighting, programmable macro keys, and extra connectivity. It's also the only keyboard around with a built-in USB 3.0 port.
That SuperSpeed port is what really sets the Osmium apart from the competition, so it's a shame there appears to be a compatibility issue with Intel-based USB 3.0 ports and the Thermaltake BlacX 5G docking station. Those are pretty common components, and they should just work. At least the USB pass-through exhibited no issues with other controllers and devices, including external drives from Western Digital, Kingston, and Super Talent.
Still, the finicky USB 3.0 connectivity makes me a little gun-shy about recommending the Osmium. This is an award-worthy candidate otherwise, but I worry that other device combinations won't be detected properly. Were it not for that issue, the upcoming version with MX brown switches would have a good shot at replacing the Das Keyboard on my primary desktop.