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Keyboard head-to-head

What, no special buttons?

Keyboards are forever trying to find a new gimmick, it seems. They have a tireless search for the new trend whether it be LEDs that flash to the music you play, iPod docks or programmable keys. It's kind of refreshing then to find a keyboard that discards all the fancy new features sported by the latest Logitech gaming keyboards, even if it does keep the same high price tag.

The Enermax Crystal may look like a normal keyboard when you first see it – it's slightly bland despite its shininess and the distinct lack of gee-whiz factor that makes things like the Logitech G15 stand out. There's no LCD screen, no backlit keys – hell, this thing doesn't even have desk-to-desk missiles!

So, what is it that makes the Enermax Crystal such a fancy, expensive keyboard?

In a word; diamonds. Lots and lots of them spun very fast and used to cut the aluminium body. The brushed finish is what makes this keyboard so pricey, though to be honest it's nothing more than aesthetics, unless you fancy using it as a worn down nail file. There are hundreds of small grooves that blanket the metalwork and a quick test showed that yes, a fingernail dragged across the surface came off a little more shaped at the end.

Keyboard head-to-head The Enermax Crystal Keyboard head-to-head The Enermax Crystal
Click to enlarge
The finish is a love-or-hate-it type of thing, and while geek snobs may appreciate the high quality finish there are probably an equal number of people who won't see the point. I personally sided with the latter.

Also, because the case is almost solid metal except for the keys, it ends up weighing an awful lot more than most alternatives. Extra weight is handy if you don't want your peripherals blowing away if you leave the window open, and not so good if you plan on lugging everything down to a LAN party every weekend.

Keyboard head-to-head The Enermax Crystal Keyboard head-to-head The Enermax Crystal
Click to enlarge
There are plus sides to the Enermax Crystal, like the general design which would look good on the desk of any image-conscious user (read: Mac owners) and the ultra flat profile supported on sturdy rubberised feet means the board is unobtrusive at worst. The response was good too and the keys generally weren't noisy or uneven thanks to the scissor technology that they use.

The placement of extra ports is another well thought out feature. The keyboard has microphone and headphones ports on the left hand side and on the top right are two sensibly placed USB ports. These are convenient for plugging flash drives into quickly if your case doesn't have some easily accessible ports on it.

On the down side there was also one massive problem with the Enermax Crystal, that overrode all other problems and doomed us to treating it with nothing but frustration.

Keyboard head-to-head The Enermax Crystal Keyboard head-to-head The Enermax Crystal
Click to enlarge
Simply put, there isn't any CTRL key on the right hand side. None whatsoever. Now, that usually isn't a problem for a gamer as any self-respecting fragger will be using a WASD layout so there's a CTRL key within reach, but the Enermax Crystal clearly wasn't designed as a gaming keyboard. You can tell that just by looking at it. The Crystal is more of a general purpose keyboard, suited to office work and gaming in a lunch break. So why it's missing the right hand CTRL key is beyond us.

We used the Enermax Crystal for a week on all sorts of tasks and, though it worked fine for games as long as no bells and whistles were required, it really let itself down in day to day computing.
Keyboard head-to-head The Enermax Crystal Keyboard head-to-head The Enermax Crystal
Click to enlarge
Photoshop for example really showed us how pants life is without a right CTRL key because suddenly we needed both hands on the keyboard to use most shortcuts. Hitting CTRL+I for colour invert needs either massive hands or one hand off the mouse, which kind of defeats the point.

So, no matter how good the key response is and no matter how good it looks, the Enermax Crystal will always strike us as being most useful to a stereotypical, absent-minded office secretary. She can do her typing on it with no problems and even file her nails on it when nobody is looking. Hardcore computer users will be left wanting something a little bit more however.

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