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Throwback keyboard delivers sounds and feel of yesteryear

Turn your Fs to Ps

Review The Avant Stellar keyboard stands as a major throwback in a PC industry that thrives on making devices smaller, sleeker and quieter. Creative VisionTechnologies has created a keyboard that's clunky, loud and heavy. And it may be exactly what you're looking for, especially if reprogramming keys is your thing.

Old-timers will remember the clickity-clack that once accompanied a typing flurry. Ancient keyboards let you know when you were on a roll. They let everyone in the office know. A certain satisfaction arose within the user from the audible response the keyboard provided.

CVT's product revives this lost feature of keyboards. Every keystroke delivers a tactile and audible signal. Users can bang away on the Avant Stellar and be reminded of how the device used to feel before PC makers started delivering any old $10 junk to consumers. Users familiar with Northgate's OmniKey products will be right at home with the Avant Stellar. CVT bought the rights to these products and the Avant Stellar is a new revision of the kit.

The auditory bliss, however, comes with the more troubling features also associated with older keyboards. The Avant Stellar weighs in at 5 pounds and has thick, spacious edges. The product - at about 20 inches long - will take up more of your desk that today's common keyboards, especially design-friendly products from the likes of Apple.

Many might associate the weight and size with sturdiness and find the characteristics pleasing. This keyboard will not move around your desk, and if you drop it, keys aren't going to fly around the room. Others will dislike the chunkiness.

Another old feature is that CVT ships the keyboard with a PS/2 connector only, and using a USB converter eliminates some of the keyboard's more interesting features.

Features? Oh yes.

Photo of the Avant Stellar keyboardThe 116-key Avant Stellar ships with software for reprogramming the key functions to suit your needs. The Avant Stellar has 12 function keys across its top and another 12 running down the left hand side. But any key on the board can be configured to do whatever you like. Want your Fs to be Ps? No problem.

Users can set up their own macros for the keys and simplify, for example, user name entry to take just one keystroke. This can be a real plus for gamers or programmers looking to automate a set of keystrokes. CVT ships the products with extra Control and Alt key caps and a tool for popping out keys.

We're told that a number of users reprogram the boards for the Dvorak layout.

You'll need a Windows machine to use the key reprogramming software provided by CVT. And, if you use a USB converter, CVT warns, "the Avant programming software will not function thru a USB converter." You can, however, still program the keyboard using a series of keystrokes to put the device in "record" mode, and CVT provides instructions for doing so.

Keyboards are often a neglected bit of hardware. Users grow accustomed to banging away on sticky, unresponsive trouble keys that develop over time. Your hands get tired at the end of the day. You all know the drill.

The Avant Stellar could help alleviate many of these problems. CVT has created a strong, sturdy and responsive device. There's nothing terribly new about the product other than it's old. It's exactly what you'll remember from 10 or 20 years ago.

Many people may be put off by the price of the device. The Avant Stellar costs $189, while a smaller Prime Keyboard costs $149. You'll have to cough up another $14.95 for a PS/2 to USB convertor, $19.95 for an extended 5-year warranty and $19.95 for a protective covering.

If you miss the sound and tactile response of older keyboards, then the price may be worth it. In addition, customers who want to reduce repetitive keystroke combinations will really enjoy the product. There's more information on the devices available here. ®

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