Art Lebedev Studio created a whirlwind of excitement when their Optimus Maximus keyboard concept surfaced in 2005. The peripheral touted a full set of OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) buttons that were 100% user-customizable and downright amazing-looking.
I had the opportunity to see it in person at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show as well as get some hands-on time with its little brother, the Mini Three. The hype was real and the technology very cool indeed. I wanted one, as did nearly everyone else -- that is, until the company revealed how much it would cost. Priced at over $1,400, the Optimus Maximus remains more fantasy than reality, as the closest most users will come to it are the photos and videos available online.
Fortunately for those interested in OLED keyboard technology, Art Lebedev isn’t the only player around. OCZ Technology recently released their Sabre OLED Gaming Keyboard, which features a bank of nine programmable OLED keys and a significantly cheaper price tag.
Aside from the bank of OLED keys, the Sabre is a pretty standard 103-key unit. The board’s bezel is dark gray with a smooth black wrist rest area lining the lower portion. There is no real wrist rest which may take some time to get used to if your previous keyboard had one.
The Sabre arrived in a standard retail keyboard box, with a quick rundown of some prominent features printed on the front as well as a complete list of specifications on the reverse. Inside we found the keyboard itself along with a Quick Start Guide. Drivers (both 32 and 64-bit flavors) as well as the User Manual come pre-loaded on the keyboard’s 128 MB internal flash memory.
The nine programmable OLED keys are positioned on the far left of the keyboard. Each has a resolution of 64 x 64 pixels, 2000:1 contract ratio, 160-degree viewing angle and a brightness rating of 100 nits. Unlike the Art Lebedev offerings, the Sabre's OLED keys are not full color and only display in yellow, so don’t expect many Ooh’s and Ahh’s from onlookers.
The top of the board has a single USB cord to connect to your computer. There are no media keys, fancy LCD screens or USB ports here, but OCZ hopes the OLED keys make up for these missing features.
Instead of using backlit keys like many enthusiast keyboards on the market, the Sabre features a blue LED sidelighting effect designed to illuminate the areas on either side of the keyboard.
Two rubber feet on the underside of the board near the bottom help to keep the unit in place during use. There are also two retractable feet near the top should you prefer to type on a slight incline.
Some readers might recognize this board as the "United Keys OLED Keyboard". According to their website, Foxconn manufactures this board and OCZ has purchased the licensing rights and is marketing it as their own. This is common practice among many accessory providers and is nothing to be concerned with. United Keys does sell this board under their brand as well, but it is $45 more expensive than OCZ’s offering, so there would be no reason to select it over the OCZ-branded product.