It’s a testament to how good the original Eclipse keyboard from Saitek was that when I found my Eclipse II had arrived just hours before I was to travel to Chicago for 2 days that I started thinking of reasons to bring it along. Sadly, I wasn’t going to be spending any time gaming or at a PC of my own in Chicago, or the Eclipse II would have become the personal item to accompany my carry on for the flight.
The original Eclipse was an instant hit upon release. With only it’s strong construction, gigantic anti-slide footpads, and a sleek black design it could have easily made a nice entry into the gaming keyboard marketplace. But then Saitek upped the ante, with patented blue LED backlighting and laser-etched keys that allow the backlight to shine through the letters. The backlighting had 2 levels of brightness, as well as an ‘off’ setting, and also featured a built in wrist wrest. Even in just this single paragraph, it’s easy to see why the Eclipse received the GamingNexus Editors Choice Award.
With the Eclipse II, Saitek has raised the bar again.
The most obvious change is the design. The form factor of the keyboard itself is that of the original, but gone is the black on black of the Eclipse. The Eclipse II now features the silver and black plastics of the PC Gaming Mouse. If there was any weakness to the original design, it was the shape of the wrist rest that tapered in the middle where the left hand sets to make use of the space bar in many games. The wrist rest has also been redesigned to more of a standard shape, while remaining adjustable as to the distance from the keyboard.
When I first heard the Eclipse II was being developed, I started thinking about what could be done to improve upon the original unit. Aside from the wrist rest, there was very little I could come up with until I spent some time with the Pro Gamer Command Pad, which came with red, blue, and green LEDs. It was clear the Eclipse II would come with more than one color of LED.
This leads us to my favorite change that came with the new keyboard. Much like Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequels, the Eclipse II is packing purple. Users can switch between red, blue, and purple LEDs with the press of a multimedia key on the top right of the keyboard. Along with more color choices, you now have more control over brightness as well. A dimmer dial has been added to the keyboard to the left of the multimedia keys. Using the dial, you can adjust the brightness of the backlighting from off to full brightness, and anywhere in between. Saitek also threw in a bit of fun by adding LED bars to the sides of the keyboard, so that there’s some extra illumination besides the light protruding from behind the keys and through the laser-etched characters on the keys themselves.
Also new to the keyboard are multimedia keys that will work as play/pause, track skip, and volume controls for most media players. These keys are small and unobtrusive and enhance the overall functionality of the unit while doing nothing to detract from the layout of the primary keys.
To really put it through its paces, I spent nearly 20 hours playing solo missions of Battlefield 2 and Star Wars: Empire at War on the Eclipse II. The keyboard was never anything but comfortable, and the keys have an instant tactile response with just the right amount of resistance. I never felt like I had to push too hard or worried about double keystrokes during rapid action. In addition, I’ve typed this review using the keyboard, and it performs just as admirably for everyday personal or business use as well.
Playing mostly in the dark, I really took a liking to the adjustable backlighting. I found the purple LED with the dimmer dial set to provide about 80% of the maximum light was perfect for late night gaming, providing light while not being too bright. At maximum brightness, the Eclipse II provides plenty of light to see all the keys, and even maybe where you put you can of Mountain Dew. The blue and red LEDs are nice as well, and when playing a violent multiplayer game like the Prey demo, the red LED feels all too appropriate.
There were simply no flaws to this unit or it’s design. The only improvement one could possibly think of is a wireless version, but that is likely prohibited by the power usage of the LED’s.
In conclusion, the Eclipse II is not just the best keyboard I’ve ever used; the only thing even close to it at this point is its predecessor. Only time will tell if the new offerings on the horizon from Razer and Zboard can provide some competition.
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