Speedlink Base Line USB Keyboard Review

Introduction

Input devices are essential to the running of every single PC out there – after all they allow the user to control their processes and applications; a good mouse and keyboard are invaluable and can make working or gaming much easier. One such company which has a good track record in the peripheral industry is Speedlink and they are renowned for producing top quality products at a range of price levels that can suit a specific user’s needs. With a large number of keyboards already available, Speedlink have created the Base Line – a keyboard designed with the economic crisis in mind sporting a very reasonable price tag. We’ve seen brilliant things from Speedlink in the past, so let’s see how this latest product shapes up…

Description

“Open Office and media applications in no time at all. The most important hotkeys for Internet and multimedia applications are located at the top of the keyboard. Moreover, this you can concentrate on what is important as this keyboard doesn’t know what typing noise is.”

Features

  • Keyboard with soft touch finish
  • Hotkeys for Office and multimedia applications
  • Sleep button to put your computer into standby mode
  • Rubber feet provide excellent grip on the desktop
  • PS/2 adapter
  • USB connector
  • 1.3m cable

Contents & Packaging

The retail packaging is quite understated with the UK layout of the Base Line Keyboard displayed in the centre. A splash of red adds some colour and gives rise to the main features including both the multimedia and office “Hotkeys”.

The back goes into far more detail on each individual feature complete with any number of translations.

With the keyboard essentially a plug and play device without any drivers, there are just a couple of accessories: a red Speedlink instruction manual and a USB to PS/2 adapter.

Speedlink Base Line Keyboard

As with the packaging, the aesthetics are quite understated with a matte black finish and white lettering. A small Speedlink logo resides in the corner below the three green LEDs for the Caps, Scroll and Num Lock buttons.

The Hotkeys are divided into two sections with each key situated along a small groove. The first six silver buttons offer a range of multimedia options; from left to right there are: play/pause, mute, previous track, skip track, home and create new folder.

The final group of two buttons are for opening your default email program and putting the PC into standby mode – a wake up button sits below.

These buttons offer quick access to a range of functions saving the user time; unfortunately they are not macro buttons and so cannot be programmed to carry out a particular set process.

Whilst it’s true to say that the alphanumerical layout is much the same to any UK standard layout keyboard, a number of changes have been implemented to make the keyboard smaller. The biggest change is evident with the Enter, Backspace and Shift keys on the right hand side; they have all been condensed into much smaller buttons in order to allow the arrow keys and the usual group of six buttons (Home, insert etc.) to fit in on the end. This then allows the number keypad to move across resulting in a thinner board.

Although it does reduce the keyboard size, this layout is not perhaps the easiest to use and requires a lot of getting used to. For instance there is only one small Ctrl button and the backspace button especially, being the same size as the letter keys is not the easiest to use.

The back features two collapsible feet with a couple more rubber pads to stop the keyboard from slipping. A total cable length of 1.3m should be long enough for most users too.

Testing

The Test Setup:

ProcessorIntel Core i7 C0 920 @ 2.67GHz
MotherboardAsus P6T
Graphics CardXFX 1GB Radeon 4870
MemoryOCZ Gold Triple Channel Platinum-10666 6GB (3 x 2GB)
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda 3.0GB/s 7200.10 500GB,
Western Digital Caviar Blue 160GB
Power SupplyNOX Apex 700W
EnclosureCooler Master ATCS-840
OSWindows Vista 64-bit

Methodology

There are no set benchmarks for testing key response times or any advanced software to come out with a set score for a keyboard. Consequently, keyboard reviews, as with most peripherals, are very subjective and so it is a good idea to check out any peripheral fully as your opinion may well differ from that of the reviewer’s.

In order to test the Speedlink Base Line, I will be using the keyboard for sustained periods for both gaming and general usage to see how it handles.

The games used for testing were Call of Duty: World at War and Battlefield 2.

Results

Gaming
Call of Duty: World at War is the latest in the CoD series featuring all manner of explosions, gunfire and multiplayer action. This first person shooter relies heavily on the mouse for pinpoint accuracy and fast tracking but the keyboard too plays a large part to quick change weapon, whip up Bouncing Betties or simpler actions such as jumping to evade gunshots.

The Base Line keyboard was quite impressive with quick response times allowing me to quickly carry out any actions I needed to. The keys are perhaps not the easiest to press and they could be a little smoother but on the whole it wasn’t bad.

Similarly, with Battlefield 2, the keyboard plays a big role especially for using the Q and T buttons to request supplies or artillery from the commander and communicate with other squad members.

Obviously, it’s not going to compete in the same league as the top gaming keyboards like the Logitech G15 but for a budget keyboard it’s really quite impressive especially when it’s not really designed for gamers.

Speedlink Base Line USB Keyboard Review

General Usage
To test general usage I simply used the keyboard whilst surfing the net and typing. The hotkeys proved a triumph to quickly change tracks or open up my emails in a flash.

However, my issue came with the button layout on the keyboard. I really didn’t like the smaller enter, backspace and shift keys. Of course after a while you do get used to the different configuration but if I had the choice I would definitely prefer the larger keys, it’s just so much easier to type with.

The lack of a second Ctrl was no biggy though as for most keyboard shortcuts I used the left hand button anyway.

Cost
At less than £10, the Speedlink Base Line really is a bargain.

Conclusion

One the whole, the Base Line is a very well manufactured keyboard. The hotkeys are very useful and at less than £10 the keyboard is really very well priced.

On the downside, the key configuration does take a lot of getting used to and it’s not my cup of tea but the smaller size is certainly great for transporting the keyboard. I’m not quite sure of Speedlink’s claim that the keys are less noisy but they aren’t too loud.

Sure, the Base Line isn’t going to have the fancy features of a top gaming keyboard such as macro buttons, profiles and coloured lighting but as a budget keyboard it really is very impressive.

Overall, if you’re on a tight budget you’d do well to find a better affordable keyboard.

Pros

  • Hotkeys
  • Great price point
  • Plug and play
  • Compact

Cons

  • Key Layout

80

Thanks go to Meroncourt for providing the keyboard for review.

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