It's taken us a while to get our hands on Saitek's Eclipse II backlit keyboard. It was originally announced at E3 this year, and we're only now getting some hands-on time with it. The design hasn't changed that much since the original Eclipse board; the only major improvement is that you now have three different backlighting colors to choose from, compared to the original's one. That makes the $69.95 Eclipse II a useful keyboard for those who like to play games or otherwise type in the dark. As far as being purely a game keyboard, we find that while the Eclipse II is good, others are better.
The Eclipse II has many pros going for it. Its no-driver setup means that you can simply plug it in and go, its full backlighting lets you type with the lights off, and the different color options (red, blue, purple, or "off") let you make the Eclipse II your own. Ergonomically, you're better off typing with your keyboard lying completely flat on your desk, but if you must prop it up, Saitek added two different feet on the underside of the Eclipse II, giving you a couple of options for typing at an angle.
For all of its useful features, our biggest problems with the Eclipse II lie in the parts that should be the most refined: the keys. We have two major concerns here. The first is that the keys feel too bunched up. We fell in love with the Razer Tarantula recently, partly because its wide key tray gives your fingers plenty of space and allow each key room to breathe. The Eclipse II's keys feel cramped in comparison. And considering that the Tarantula is only about half an inch wider than the Eclipse II (counting the Eclipse II's feet), it's not like the Tarantula is a bigger desk hog.
Our second gripe with the Eclipse II is that the keys feel mushy compared to the Tarantula's crisp response. The low profile keys on the Tarantula have the quickness of the best laptop keyboards, where the Eclipse II's have a swimmier feeling. This is not to say that it's a bad keyboard. Most people won't mind it, especially if you prefer to work in the dark (Saitek claims that the submarine community is especially fond of the red light option). But for gamers who demand performance first, the Tarantula is the board to beat.
To be fair, you have to pay extra for the Tarantula. At $99, it's even more of an indulgence than the Eclipse II. We should also note that only some of the Tarantula's keys light up, not all of them like the Eclipse II's. But Razer's gaming board outshines Saitek's board in other ways. It has 10 additional customizable function keys which, along with the media-control and image-zoom keys, line the side of the Tarantula, making them easy to reach. The Eclipse II has its own media-control keys, but they sit above the number pad and are crowded by the backlight dimmer knob. The Tarantula grabs your desk more firmly than the Eclipse II, and in a heated gaming session, it's conceivable that the Eclipse II could lose its grip more easily. We should also point out that the Tarantula has USB inputs on it, as well as headphone and microphone jacks. The Eclipse II has none of those amenities. Saitek's keyboard delivers on the backlighting, but that and the slightly lower price are its only advantages.