Editors Keys FSX Keyboard
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Flight Simulator X Keyboard
For FSX/Prepar3D Developed by Editors Keys
Reviewed by Joe Lawford
September 2015

Introduction

Editors Keys is a Manchester UK based company born out of a very successful Kick Starter campaign. They were established in 2005 and comprise of a small, highly talented team of enthusiastic individuals. They have grown to become the leading developer of dedicated PC and Mac editing keyboards for all of the major video, audio and design programs (such as Avid, Pro Tools, Cubase, Final Cut Pro, Logic, Ableton Live, Reason, Sony Vegas and many more.) They have an impressive list of clients such as BBC, ITV, NASA, MTV, Universal, CNN and Fox

Back in November 2013, Giles Bursnell, the Head Designer over at Editors Keys, contacted me about a product he had in early development asking advice about the concept. Giles also made a call for Beta Testers in our forums to help shape the product design. This product has now run its full development cycle and Editors Keys has released to the market a new backlit keyboard designed for Microsoft Flight Simulator X and derivatives.

The timing of the launch couldn’t have been better, although FSX as a boxed product is no longer sold, its future has been assured by Dovetail Games who have released an optimised FSX product via Steam. FSX SE (Steam Edition) has generated renewed interest in flight simulation and introduced many new users to the flight simulation community whom I see being the prime market for this product.

Although not advertised (yet), this product can also be used for Prepar3D (P3D) as both FSX & P3D are based on the Microsoft ESP development platform. The default keyboard mapping is identical in both simulators and are defined in the standard.xml file (%APPDATA%\Lockheed Martin\Prepar3D v2\Controls\Standard.xml).

As a flight simmer of around 30 years, I am quite familiar with the basic shortcuts: landing gear, flaps, lights etc. but I have found myself writing down the key strokes for those more obscure functions, usually on a “Post It” note stuck on my monitor. This keyboard could be the answer so let’s see how it performs.

Installation

Un-pack, admire for a while, and then plug in the USB cable and you’re done. Windows will recognise the keyboard and make the device ready to use with no intervention from you.


Presentation Box


First Impressions Count

There were no setup notes so until I found the scroll lock was the power key for the back light, I thought I had a faulty product. Now it is as easy to use as any normal keyboard.

Features

The keyboard has over 100 Microsoft Flight Simulator short cuts, and features switchable back-lighting. There were many shortcuts included which I didn’t know or use before, for example standby frequency swap (X) or carb heat (H), sometimes it is easier to hit a key then search around a new cockpit looking for the switch, and I am using the keys quite a lot now.


So Many Short Cuts!

As we all know, the Ctrl and Shift keys are used in the sim to make the normal keys multi-functional, the legends on the keys are colour coded blue for +Ctrl, green for +Shift, cream for a direct press and orange text to denote the number lock key has to be on. Some of the keys also have an icon depicting the key function as well, to cut back on any confusion the icons only refer to a direct press of the key.


Multi-Use Number Pad

When the light is dimmed the keys emit a soft glow from the tops of the keys and a brighter glow around the edges making the ‘target’ easier to hit.

You can see how much thought has gone into its design from the screenshots included here.

Design, Quality & Performance

When unboxing this product you get an immediate impression of quality. The product box is made of thick board with fine printing just as you would expect with the most expensive laptop box, even the lid is magnetic so it very snugly snaps shut.

Weighing in at a mere 612g (21.5oz) the keyboard is a real light weight, but don’t let its weight concern you when thinking about how steady it would be on your desk top, just so long as you use it flat on your desk it will not move under normal use. It has five rubber grip pads underneath so stays in position well. However, with the two rear risers in position to tilt the keyboard forward, the keyboard loses rear grip as the rear rubber pads become useless, this results in a slight less steady position. This could have been mitigated by using larger grip pads at the front like certain leading keyboard manufacturers do. These risers are a bit fiddly to use compared with other keyboards I have but luckily it’s not often the height has to be changed.


Low Profile


Rear Riser Can Make Keyboard Slip

The keyboard has a very low profile at only 15mm high at the back and 10mm at the front. For those who only have a limited space, it is approximately 457mm wide and 154 deep (another 10 mm should be allowed to accommodate the lead). At 1.5m, the lead itself is slightly on the short side for my liking as my PC is underneath and to the left of my desk. I am sure the lead will reach the PC but it would be a little taut so I plugged it into an USB extension and had plenty of slack.

The glossy, piano black finish case makes this keyboard look very classy with the clear, precisely printed, keys making it look high tech. It has a quiet keystroke with responsive keys that bounce back quickly, reducing the possibility of unintentional repeats.

The keyboard layout is based on the UK English QWERTY design. As a standard keyboard, its core functionality has been retained with the key overlays being subtle enough not to be too distracting in everyday use, indeed, I am writing this review on the keyboard and have made the adjustment in minutes but with one exception. Most European keyboard designs have a large upside down L shaped enter key on the main keyboard, with the # ~ key to the left. This keyboard has a smaller, straight, short bar enter key with the #~ key above, so I am finding myself entering # by mistake quite often. After enquiring with a few friends abroad, this design is actually quite common, with time this niggle will pass as I get more used to the design. For Windows 8/10 users you will be happy to see that the keyboard also features the Windows 8/10 start key.


Straight Enter Key
Eye strain

Editors Keys are well aware of potential eye strain problems when working with keyboards, especially in a dimly lit room. Early in the design process Editor Keys sought advice from one of the UK’s leading dispensing opticians, Optical Express, to ensure this keyboard design reduced the risk of eye strain and helped better eye health in the long term..

I work all day at my PC and I wear spectacles so eye strain is a particular concern of mine. I have been using the keyboard for a few weeks in all conditions, light and dark, flying and writing, and I can happily report that using this keyboard caused no extra eye strain than an unlit keyboard.


The Keyboard in Action - Note the Backlit Keys

Value for Money

When looking to the market for bespoke keyboards such as this, or gaming keyboards, prices can vary enormously. Gaming keyboards by makers such as Logitech, Corsair, and Mad Catz can set you back as much as £235, so at an asking price of £99.99 the Editor’s Keys FSX keyboard represents reasonable value for money. Unlike a software add-on product, I will be using the keyboard every day, and hopefully for years to come.

Conclusion

The Editor’s Keys FSX keyboard makes a superb addition to your home cockpit. Let’s face it, we all love cockpit buttons lit up like a Christmas tree (unless it’s a flight emergency) and this keyboard is a useful and innovative product which makes the flight simming experience that bit more enjoyable.

Developers website: Editors Keys

Scores:
   ● Ease of Setup: 10/10
   ● Build Quality: 10/10
   ● Performance Against Expectations : 9.0/10
   ● Value for Money: 9.0/10

Editors Keys' Flight Simulator X Keyboard is awarded a Mutley’s Hangar score of 9.5/10,
with an "Outstanding" and a Mutley's Hangar Gold Award.

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