Typing at the Speed of Light


As I sit here and type the review of the Luxeed U5 LED Dynamic Pixel Keyboard, I do so partly to share my experience with it, but mainly I’m typing this review just to have an excuse to use this keyboard more because I’m enjoying it so much!  When I first saw this keyboard online, I knew I wanted to try it out.  Since they are only sold a limited number of places online and they cost in the neighborhood of $140, I couldn’t bring myself to buying one, finding out I didn’t like it, and having to go through the hassle of trying to return it to an online store.  So, I E-mailed Luxeed and they agreed to send me an evaluation unit and I agreed to write an honest review. 

Rather than bore you with the technical, “geeky” details of this keyboard, this review will be written for the average user.  If you want more of the technical details, feel free to contact me.

What makes this keyboard so unique?  Well, unlike other illuminated keyboards, each of the illuminated keys on this keyboard can be programmed in one of 7 different colors, letting you create your own layout of colors and saving up to 4 different layouts so you can pick the one that fits your current mood.  There’s even a “Rainbow” mode in which the keyboard cycles through the available colors…it is a pretty cool effect.  Other reviews have already covered the main features of this keyboard, like this one:


I’d like to focus on one of the fairly overlooked options of this keyboard called “Spark” mode.  When the keyboard is in this mode, keys light up in your chosen color only when the key is pressed.  Many people find this feature to be “geeky” or a novelty, but I see it in a completely different way.  Without knowing it, Luxeed has developed a piece of adaptive technology for people like me who type with either a head-wand or a mouth-stick.  I, myself, use a head-wand to type (see picture below), meaning that I look at the keyboard as I type and not the screen.  Without some sort of feedback, I do not always know if I have pressed a key hard enough. 

Me typing on a standard netbook

For years I have used a utility called Voiced Keyboard which gives me audible keyboard feedback in Windows by having a synthesized voice repeat each key I press.  Unfortunately, I discovered that it does not work within the remote support software I’ve been using with clients for the last year because of the way the remote software “captures” my keystrokes; the keys never actually make it to Voiced Keyboard.  Considering that I spend around 80% of my time now providing remote support, this is somewhat of a problem because I constantly have to look at my screen every few seconds to verify that I have not made any mistakes.  This decreases my productivity greatly. 

Within minutes of connecting the Luxeed keyboard, I knew I had found the solution to my dilemma!  I spent a few minutes playing around with each feature, and then I turned on “Spark” mode (using my colors of choice), and I have not looked back since; I rarely look at my screen any more as I type either because I’m so confident in my typing now.  My typing speed has increased by 10%-25% as well, verified by a typing speed test utility, because it takes a fraction of the time for me to see a key light up than to hear a synthesized voice say a letter or number. Light does in fact travel faster than sound.  (Note: I typed those last two sentences without looking at the screen once and they were typo-free!). 

Me typing on a the Luxeed U5 LED Keyboard


Now, lest you think I am being paid by Luxeed to write praises about this keyboard, it does have its faults, some of which are rather significant:

  1. On the current model, there is no number keypad.  This is important for many users, and it has kind of put me at a slight disadvantage because I often use the keypad as a mouse (using Windows’ built-in MouseKeys option) when I need to move the mouse a very small amount.  I did read a rumor saying that Luxeed was going to release a separate keypad soon.  Since this keyboard offers me other advantages, I’ve learned to live without it, but I hope to see a keypad on the next model.

  2. The spacebar does not light up at all!  This, for me is the most glaring fault of this piece of hardware.  The largest and most-used key on the keyboard not only stays boring, it gives me no visual feedback of being pressed!  I had to re-enable Voiced Keyboard for the spacebar so I could continue to type without looking at my screen, but this does not help me during a remote support session. 
    I believe the lack of any light for the spacebar comes from the fact that the same LED layout is used on the black version of the keyboard and on the white version.  I’m using the white version where most of the keys are translucent so the entire surface of the each key appears to illuminate.  On the black version, however, the keys are etched with their letters, numbers, or symbols so that the light shines through the etching only.  Since the spacebar has nothing etched on it, they decided not to place any LEDs under it.  While it looks fine one the black version, it does make the white version appear a bit odd, especially when all the other keys are lit.

  3. The very top row of keys (Esc, Color Control, F1-F12, Insert, Print Screen, and Pause/Break) are made of a hard, solid plastic so these keys do not illuminate either.  In reality, this does not bother me very much since I rarely use those keys, and they also have a fairly nice “click” to them so it is fairly obvious if they have been pressed hard enough.

  4. This is more a feature I’d like to see rather than a fault, but I’d like to see them implement a way to keep the “CAPS LOCK” key lit in in “Spark” mode if that key has been turned on.

Overall, I really like this keyboard and I’d give it a score of 8 out of 10, and I especially recommend it to anyone that needs feedback in order to type accurately.

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