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Like many of us, my edit suite is dark. Not pitch black, perhaps, but darn dark. Which often makes typing difficult when you can’t find the right keys – especially when searching for some bizarre key combination needed for that perfect keyboard shortcut.
So, when the folks at Editors Keys asked if I wanted to review one of their backlit keyboards for a couple of weeks, I jumped at the chance.
Editors Keys makes keyboard and keyboard covers for a wide variety of software and keyboards. Their backlit keyboards support:
They also have lots of keyboards for audio and image editing software, as well as a wide range of keyboard covers for laptops. While I only reviewed the Final Cut Pro X keyboard, I would expect all their keyboards to have a similar look and feel.
A backlit keyboard is an amazingly helpful addition to a dim edit suite – far more than I ever expected, since I’m a very fast touch typist. The keys are clearly labeled, easy to see and color coded. The key labels themselves are permanently attached to the keys.
The keys provide a “short-travel when pressed, require a medium amount of force to prevent accidental keypresses, are reasonably noiseless, and have a nice tactile feedback.
The keyboard has a 30-day money-back guarantee, and a one-year warranty. Editors Keys is based in London, but ships anywhere in the world. They have several US partners.
Product: Backlit keyboard for Final Cut Pro X
Manufacturer: Editors Keys
Price: $129.00 (US)
Note: Product has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The keyboard arrives carefully packaged in a lovely box, surrounded by custom-made cushions. The box and keyboard are both black.
The unit supports USB 2, USB 3 and USB-C connections. Plug it in and the Macintosh instantly recognizes it.
Setup could not be easier.
My only wish is that the keyboard lacks a USB port on the side for a mouse. This means that you need to use two USB slots on your computer: one for the keyboard and a second for the mouse. (I’ll have more on this in my interview with Mark Brown, managing director of Editors Keys, below.)
I have owned and used more keyboards than I can count; currently Apple, MacAlly, Das Keyboard, LogiTech keyboards occupy space in my office. I spend most of my computer time writing, so the touch of a keyboard is important to me.
The feel of the Editors Keys keyboard is similar to an Apple keyboard. Both have short throws, both have a “feel,” or resistance when the key reaches the bottom of the travel. Both don’t require a lot of energy to type, but are much more satisfying that trying to type on an iPad. However, the two keyboards do feel different. Similar, but not the same.
I like the feel – it isn’t as deep and rich – or noisy – as the old IBM Selectric or the Das Keyboard keyboards, but it is fast, light and gives me the sense that only the key I’m pressing will be the one that is sent on to the computer.
BUT… what I REALLY like is the backlight. I never thought something as simple as a glowing backlight would make that big a difference in my edit suite.
First it looks REALLY cool! Second, I am a keyboard junkie – I live for keyboard shortcuts. Having the keys clearly labeled and color-coded makes my life much easier when I look down to find the key combination I need next.
NOTE: Its a small thing, but I really like that the 0, Home, End, and Option keys are clearly colored differently from the keys around them. It helps the eye quickly navigate around the keyboard.
The keyboard works great, granted I’ve only be using it for a week but the construction feels well-built, sits solidly on the desk and doesn’t move about. It has little risers in the back to set it at a comfortable angle for typing. It feels like a permanent addition to my edit bay.
And I love the backlight!
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SHORTCUTS THEMSELVES
Well, yeah, about that. There are more than 650 keyboard shortcuts available inside Final Cut Pro X. There is no way even a fraction of them can be engraved on a keyboard key.
What Editors Keys has done is to color-code keys by function – editing, transport, tools – then label the most obvious ones; especially those that don’t also require pressing a modifier key. There’s nothing in their selection that I disagree with. A new editor will appreciate the help the keyboard provides in remembering core shortcuts. Experienced editors will appreciate the backlight and the clear labeling of the keys and, probably, ignore most of the shortcuts.
THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE IMPROVED
Video editors are a visual bunch. There are a lot of small nits I’d like to see Editors Keys tweak:
What I would really like Editors Keys to make is a backlit keyboard with clearly labeled keys, but not shortcuts. Throughout a normal production day, I’m working with, probably, ten pieces of software from multiple manufacturers. There is no shortcut commonality between them. A plain keyboard with a backlight would make my editing life a LOT easier.
Mark Brown is the Managing Director of Editors Keys. As I was preparing this review, we had the following email interview.
Larry: Why did you decide to create these keyboards?
Mark: We had made keyboard covers and keyboards for quite some time, but when we went to visit some of the big edit studios and production houses, we noticed most editors would actually sit in very dimly lit rooms for most of the day.
It seemed like such a simple idea to have a backlit shortcut keyboard, however it had never been done before. We decided to develop a new keyboard and a new type of backlighting which spread the light throughout the whole key rather than just shooting it though the letters themselves.
We originally put the new concept onto Kickstarter and managed to fly passed the funding goal. In fact it ended up reaching over 200% of the original goal amount, so we knew a lot of people were going to love this product.
Larry: Touch typists are very particular about the “touch” of their keys. Which mechanism did you select and how did you make that decision?
Mark: Yes, the typing experience is so important to people. The problem we’re finding now, is that there are two camps emerging… People who like a deep mechanical keyboard and a key press which resembles a 90’s click- clacky PC keyboard or people who love the more modern flat and silent keys press (going in the same direction as Apple.)
Ultimately we went down the more modern route, whilst at the same time [trying] to keep a nice tactile key-press, similar to Apple’s M89 Extended keyboard. In our opinion we think the newest Apple keyboards are a little too flat from the feedback we’ve been getting so we wanted a nice balance. The keys are flat which actually help with our printing process and a nice even spread of light. We use a very high-quality scissor key press structure within the back of the keys.
Larry: You already color-coded the keys, why back-light them?
Mark: We were originally struck by some of the health issues of editing in a dimly lit room without a backlit keyboard. Editors who edit in a dark room can actually suffer long-term health implications ranging from headaches all the way up to developing glaucoma. It’s caused when your eyes have to keep focusing from light to dark areas. By creating a evenly lit backlit keyboard, we reduce eye strain by about 30%. (We worked with Optical Express which is the United Kingdom’s largest opticians.)
“This innovation will significantly reduce eye strain symptoms such as headaches, sore eyes and difficulty focusing which can occur in situations with poor visibility over long periods of time. This will ultimately improve efficiency for the user & improve eye health in the long term,” said Stephen Hannan, Clinical Services Director of Optical Express.
It also looks pretty damn cool too! I mean when you compare a non-backlit to a backlit keyboard side by side there is just no comparison. We have had people saying they have upgraded simply to impress the clients that come into the studio, and who can blame them.
Larry: How long will the backlight last and what do we do if it burns out?
Mark: The backlight keyboard uses the latest LED bulbs and has a rated life of 50,000 hours. (So if an editor worked for 12 hours straight a day they would last for more than 11 years.) All of our products also come with a free 1-year warranty so if any user had a problem we would be able to replace them right away.
Larry: What’s your most popular keyboard?
Mark: This actually changes from time to time, however I would say our most popular keyboard at the moment is the Adobe Premiere Pro CC Keyboard. A couple of years ago sales of the Premiere keyboard really slumped, so we can see that a lot of people must have switched back to Premiere from some other programs. Final Cut Pro X and Avid Pro Tools are a very close second place.
Larry: I am a keyboard junkie, which means that I can easily remember and use hundreds of keyboard shortcuts and I also work with lots of different software. Which means that I either need to buy about a dozen different keyboards, or just ONE backlit keyboard with normal keys, rather than color coded. Do you make such a beast, and, if not, you should!
Mark: Yes, this is a very good question. We are actually developing a range of keyboard covers for our own backlit keyboard, so let’s say you’re primarily a Final Cut user, but occasionally use After Effects, you would be able to put a cover on top to save you buying more than one keyboard.
Larry: Why is their no mouse USB connection on the keyboard? Harumpf… I’m now dangling extension cables all across my hoped-to-be-immaculate desk. (Well, it COULD be immaculate, if I actually cleaned it from time to time).
Mark: When building the keyboard and testing with a lot of computers we found power issues which could cause some hicups. (as the keyboard itself already uses a bit of power to power the lights.) In the future we will look at adding a hub. We found that around 70-80% of users are now using wireless or bluetooth mice so many testers said it wasn’t a deal-breaker at this time. Rest assured we would love to add this in the future.
Larry: The keys when backlit have kind of a grungy look; like there is dirt under the key caps. Is that an artifact of the colored key caps, the plastic of the keys or the backlight. I’m not saying its objectionable — I LOVE! the backlight – but it does make me wonder.
Mark: Yes this is due a mixture of the key structure and the printing process. We’re always looking at ways to improve this. (It’s a bit secret at the moment, but we’re trying to develop a mechanical key that leaves the centre of the key empty underneath. This will then ensure the key is perfectly lid and much more clean looking.)
Larry: There are other customized keyboards in the market, why should we consider one from Editor’s Keys?
Oh, tricky question! I would say that we are always at the forefront compared to our competition. We were the first to launch covers for Apple Mac keyboards some years back with our partner KB Covers, we developed a great budget friendly slimline range for newbies to the editing world and now we’ve launched the world’s first backlit editing keyboard, (which is also Patent Pending). We really care about the world of editing and we love our customers too, so we hope that shows in our product. I believe we also have the biggest fan following out of all of our competitors with over 24,000 followers on Twitter, a 97% customer satisfaction ranking on TrustPilot so it shows we must be doing something right for all the hard-working editors out there.
Larry: You are based in the UK. What happens if our keyboard breaks?
Mark: We have partners all around the world, including KB Covers and LaserVision in the USA and we’ll soon be opening an Editors Keys office on the West Coast, so we’ll always be able to make the exchange process very fast. It’s very rare a product does need exchanging so we always make it a No.1 priority should this happen. We also have a VIP Fedex service so we can ship a keyboard from Little Ol’ England to New York with next day delivery at no extra cost.
Larry: If you were to write a one-paragraph commercial for someone considering your keyboards, what would it be?
Mark: Short and simple – “Edit Faster, save time.” (Maybe “Edit Faster, spend more time at the pub,” for our UK customers 😉 )
I expected this keyboard to be well-made, and it is. I was also pleased with its tactile feel and lack of noise. What I wasn’t expecting was the difference a backlit keyboard makes in a dim room. The fact it also displays common keyboard shortcuts is an added benefit.
In an office, a backlit keyboard doesn’t matter a whole lot. But in a dark edit suite, it makes all the difference in the world. This is one keyboard I wish I didn’t have to send back – its fast, comfortable and easy to see.
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