There aren't many products that redefine the keyboard, but Ideazon's Zboard does just that, allowing users to remove the entire keyboard interface and replace it with a variety of application-specific boards. However, although this keyboard system has exciting possibilities, especially for gamers and application trainees, some of the inlays are overly busy, and all are a bit hard to type on.
The affordable $29.99 Zboard base, which holds the interchangeable boards, is sharply designed, with hot keys that can be assigned to open apps, files, and folders. Setup requires running the installation CD and plugging the keyboard base into your system's PS/2 port--sorry, USB devotees. To use a board, you lay it into place and snap it down. Boards fold for easy storage and range in cost from $19.99 to $29.99.
We tested the device with the basic Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer interface. Like all of the Zboards, this one has keys labeled and color-coded for specific functions. For instance, the C key is labeled Copy in green, to use in conjunction with the green Ctrl button. For Internet surfing, the function keys and the number-pad keys have specific duties.
On the nicely designed Age of Mythology board, you'll find a full QWERTY setup, but the keys are round, and they're best used for their game functions or quick chat sessions. Although we didn't get a chance to play with Ideazon's Medal of Honor board, first-person shooter games--where a single wasted keystroke could be your downfall--should work especially well with this keyboard setup. Among others, Ideazon has also released boards for Adobe Photoshop, Madden NLF 2003, Microsoft Excel, and Macromedia Flash. The company plans to offer new interfaces frequently.
We found two problems common to all of these interfaces: the spacebar has a gap in it (along the board's folding lines) right where our thumbs naturally hit when typing, and the keys themselves were tight and slightly sticky.