Art Lebedev Studio caused a stir when the Optimus Maximus keyboard concept emerged in 2005. The peripheral advertised a full set of Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) buttons that were 100% user-customizable and looked downright amazing.
I had the opportunity to see it in person at the Consumer Electronics Show 2008 and to delve into its little brother, the Mini Three. The hype was real and the technology was very cool indeed. I wanted one like almost everyone else – until the company announced how much it would cost. At over $ 1,400, the Optimus Maximus remains more of a fantasy than reality as the photos and videos available online are the closest thing to most users.
Fortunately for those interested in OLED keyboard technology, Art Lebedev isn't the only gamer. OCZ Technology recently released its Saber OLED Gaming Keyboard, which features a set of nine programmable OLED keys and a significantly cheaper price.
Aside from the bank of OLED keys, the Saber is a pretty standard 103-key unit. The board's bezel is dark gray with a smooth black palm rest in the lower area. There's no real palm rest that you can't get used to until your previous keyboard had one.
The Saber came in a standard retail keyboard box, with a brief overview of some of the standout features on the front and a full list of specifications on the back. Inside, we found the keyboard itself along with a quick guide. Drivers (both 32- and 64-bit versions) and the user manual are pre-installed in the 128 MB internal flash memory of the keyboard.
The nine programmable OLED buttons are on the far left of the keyboard. Each has a resolution of 64 x 64 pixels, a contraction ratio of 2000: 1, a viewing angle of 160 degrees, and a brightness rating of 100 nits. In contrast to the Art Lebedev offerings, the Saber's OLED buttons are not full-colored and are only displayed in yellow. So don't expect many oohs and ahhs from the audience.
There is a single USB cable on the top of the board to connect to your computer. There are no media buttons, fancy LCD screens, or USB ports here, but OCZ hopes the OLED buttons will make up for these lack of functionality.
Instead of using backlit keys like many avid keyboards on the market, the Saber features a blue LED side-lighting effect that illuminates the areas on either side of the keyboard.
Two rubber feet on the underside of the circuit board near the bottom keep the device in place during use. There are also two retractable feet near the top in case you prefer to tap on a slight incline.
Some readers may recognize this board as the "United Keys OLED Keyboard". According to their website, Foxconn makes this board and OCZ has licensed it and markets it as its own. This is common practice with many accessory suppliers and nothing to worry about. United Keys also sells this board under its brand, but it's $ 45 more expensive than OCZ's offering. So there is no reason to choose it over the OCZ branded product.