Optimus keyboard due out in a month

Written by Brett Thomas

January 8, 2008 | 07:19

Tags: #ces-2008 #events #lcd #macro #oled #optimus-maximus

Most of us can remember the first coverage of the Optimus Maximus keyboard back in late 2005. The concept was simple but incredibly unique - by using an OLED screen for each keycap, the keyboard could change its look to suit various programs. A bit of software later, and the board could change functions too.

The design was revolutionary. It's also been classed as vapourware, since over the time span of two years we hadn't seen much in the way of the product ever hitting release. At least, until now. At CES, the Optimus Maximus was alive and well - and there were a few full-functioning models to show off. But the best part seemed to be the price - too good to be true at a mere $500.

It turns out that it is indeed a little too good to be true - the $500 gets you the full keyboard, but only one OLED key. The keys themselves will be sold as separate units, which is actually a pretty brilliant thing. They will be able to be bought in anywhere from one to one hundred key batches, with price going from $20 per key for one down to $10 per key for 100 - or, you can buy the full keyboard for a flat $1500.

Though the expense is a bit steep, the "pay as you need" model is great for people who really wouldn't want to redo their letter keys or the like - if all you want are the "macro" keys and the function keys, you need only buy them. Key programming data is stored on an SD card inserted into the keyboard itself, allowing you to keep your settings from computer to computer or share them with friends on or offline. It also means great protection in the future should a key go dead - ten quid will get a new one off to you in very short order.

The keyboard does everything promised on the tin, including looking absolutely fantastic. However, actual typing is a bit mixed - the board feels a little too "smooth" and so you don't get that satisfying clickity-clack (don't laugh, you all know what I'm talking about) from the action of a depressed key.

Currently the shipping date is the start of February, and five thousand units will be available in the first run. Since the units have already been ordered for mass production, we can finally say that the Optimus is a "when", not an "if". We'll look forward to its final release - and if you're interested (or simply obscenely rich), you can pick up yours at ArtLebedev, the designer's site.

In the meantime, why don't you tell us your thoughts on this huge project finally coming to fruition in our forums.

And just in case you fancied some more pictures - these were taken by us on site with a real, working model.

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