Until recently the only alternatives to the flat
membrane keyboard on the 400 computer were either to buy an add-on
keyboard similar to that found on the 800 and XL series which would
normally be fitted by the supplier, or to upgrade to an 800 or XL
machine. With the introduction of the FILESIXTY replacement keyboard, a
third alternative has become available.
The keyboard consists of a self-adhesive silicon
rubber keypad which fits precisely over the existing keyboard of the
400. The keys are raised and of a grey colour with the function of each
key shown in white on the top of the key. The keys 'sit' on a brushed
steel fascia which is inset into the grey silicon rubber so improving
the keypad's rigidity.
The manufacturers claim that the keypad is moisture and dustproof and
will not discolour and that the keys have been tested for up to 3½
million depressions. Perhaps the most useful feature is the printing on
the steel fascia of the graphics character available for each key when
used in conjunction with the CTRL key. No more hunting for manuals!
The review sample was easily fitted to my trusty 400
although I found that most of the adhesive preferred to stay on the
peel-off backing sheet rather than the keypad. The first thing to say is
that the keyboard looks superb and really looks at home on the 400
improving the look of the machine. As far as actually using it, I felt
that the best test was to key in a magazine listing and see how things
The keys felt quite solid in use and sprang back
positively when released, similar to those on a calculator. It soon
became apparent however that for the best results you needed to be
really precise in pressing them. Hitting a key at an angle normally
produced insufficient pressure to register the
keypress which made me become extremely dependent on the computer's
inbuilt key-click. I also found that it was possible for keys to
occasionally get stuck under the metal fascia which was simple to remedy
but an annoying delay.
Reviewing an item like this is always a difficult
task What one person dislikes another will love and much depends on
whether you find the existing keyboard easy or difficult to use.
Personally I am not so sure that the replacement keyboard gives an
advantage in use over the standard 400 keyboard but then I am quite used
to the flat keyboard.
Initially, the keyboard will be available by mail-order only but
distribution is being extended to selected retailers in the near future.
Probably the best thing to do is to go along to your local stockist,
when appointed, and try one yourself and then decide on its suitability.
The keyboard retails at £14.95.