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  IBM RapidAccess Keyboard - Review
by: Larry Mingus Published: August 15, 1998

 

IBM addresses the need for easier computer sound control plus...

IBMkybdbox1.jpg (49224 bytes)

Why don't all keyboards have volume/mute controls?

That is what I said to myself after buying my first multimedia keyboard. Something so simple and yet overlooked for so long by computer manufactures.

It doesn't matter if you are a gamer or like listening to CD audio while computing. You will say the same as I did, "Why did it take manufactures so long to do this"

Imagine playing a hot game of Quake2 or playing a CD and the phone rings or someone needs to talk to you, just tap the mute button and answer the phone or talk to someone in the room. No more fumbling with the mouse to get at the Windows volume control or reaching under your desk to get at the controls on a subwoofer.

What Can it do

The IBM Rapid Access Keyboard makes computing in Windows more convenient than ever by providing quick access to your most commonly performed tasks. The keyboard provides 14 Rapid Access buttons that perform various tasks including accessing Windows 95 help, CD and audio controls, and Suspend mode.

Four of the buttons are customizable, so you can set them up to start your most commonly used applications or files. This allows you to go straight to a file or program with the press of a button instead of having to click an icon or search for a program in the Windows 95 Start menu. For example, if you frequently browse the Internet, you can set up one of the customizable buttons to launch your Web browser, or if you work on the same file often, you can set up another button to open that file.

The above two paragraphs were cut/pasted from the IBM help file.

Installation

Simply plug the keyboard in turn on the computer insert the driver CD and click setup. Before you can blink it's installed. One nit pick with the install is that the install software does not create a start menu entry, so you have to go figure out where the program is. Once found I added a short cut for the keyboard customization program to the start menu and everything was fine.

The next step is to setup the four customizable buttons to launch your favorite applications. Very easy to setup less than 2 minuets and your done.

How does it work

Great, with one catch. Whenever a button is pressed the control software shows an on screen display of volume slider or CD control commands play, stop, next track, etc. The problem is when playing a game full screen the keyboard software switches video back to the windows desktop and getting back to the full screen game can be difficult. The good news is you can disable the on screen display output and that cures the problem. I found no problem living without the on screen display.

The quality of the keyboard feels above average for today's keyboards. The key switches feel very good with nice tactile feed back without the annoying click that IBM used to use. Touch typists should find it a joy to use. I do! ;)

Puzzling questions

Why add a dedicated help button, if help is available you get the same result from pressing function key <F1> still a single keystroke?

Why not make the extra function keys user programmable, able to record multiple commands like joysticks and game pads can do?

Would it have been that hard to check if a game is using a different video mode and if so, not display on screen data? Maybe IBM programmers don't play games. ;-p

I'm guessing these questions would have taken three extra years to get through the corporate decision ladder.

Conclusion

IBM has done a wonderful job of integrating audio control and quick launch functions into a high quality keyboard. The control software works fine with Windows 98 and the games that I tried.

I wouldn't call it the ultimate PC keyboard, however at this time its the best I have found.and is the first multimedia keyboard I can recommend without reservation to anyone.

Note:The keyboard was tested with retail Windows 98, Unreal, Jedi Knight, Quake2, and Forsaken.

 

Pros: Works with Windows98, excellent quality

Cons: Can not use on screen display output while playing games, and you have to figure out on your own where the install program installs the files.

IBM Corp. www.ibm.com

Purchased at: OfficeMax $49.95

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