In the land of gaming keyboards and enthusiasts, mechanical keys are easily becoming the norm with every keyboard company coming out with a new feature, doodad, or eSports team sponsorship in a highly competitive market. Without the right guidance and knowledge, it can be difficult to separate the market, and users ultimately end up emotionally invested in their expensive products they use every day. But then you spill a soda on it, or in my case a cup of tea, because you weren’t looking. The keys are now sticky, and the mechanisms don’t feel the same, if you can bare to touch them at all. You look through online guides on how to clean the board, using an array of harsh solvents and cotton buds (or Q-tips) to bring it back to new. Zalman has an alternative up its sleeve.

So it’s not a mechanical keyboard, and relies on standard membrane keys found in the $10 eBay models you can buy. But this keyboard is sealed and designed to be waterproof to the point that you could happily use it underwater. At Computex, Zalman had a hands-on display of the keyboard being used in a large tub of water, and subsequent videos have been posted online showing it in use with a running tap over the top. Add in some chip fragments from your favorite mix of Doritos and Mountain Dew, and when it gets to the point of un-usability (which, to be honest going by some office keyboards, involves fungus), grab some dish soap and a sponge. Five minutes later, it should, with some elbow grease, be back to normal. To be honest, an office environment might be a great place for a washable keyboard.

You can imagine the PC gaming market in several different segments, some of which overlap: those who just want to play, those who want the best equipment, those who attend LAN events, and those that drink at LAN events. Something like a soda-proof, chip-proof cheap keyboard makes sense, such that no-one else will want to steal it and it doesn’t matter what gets dropped on it if it can be easily cleaned. Sure, membrane keys aren’t gaming focused, but if the lack of mechanical keys is what is stopping the user from enjoying the game, then there’s not much else to say.

The ZM-K650WP should be coming to the market sometime in August, with a $30 MSRP. After my meeting at Computex they’ve ended up sending both Tracy and I a couple of samples each, so we’ll get to a review (as much as is possible with a membrane keyboard, perhaps a couple of fun videos) in due course. 

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  • Murloc - Saturday, July 16, 2016 - link

    who cares about the lettering
  • Michael Bay - Saturday, July 16, 2016 - link

    People with functioning eyes.
  • hpglow - Saturday, July 16, 2016 - link

    If you need to look at it you have no idea how to type. That thing could be blank for all I care. Membrane kb used to suck have they improved?
  • BrokenCrayons - Monday, July 18, 2016 - link

    I've been happily tapping out novels on membrane keyboards for years without any problems. Mechanical keyboards are also okay as well, but hardware manufacturers have done a very good job convincing a small segment of the population into being enamored with them despite the fact that they simply don't add much in the way of utility or tangible benefit. If you're in the market for a keyboard, skip the hype and the occasional person claiming there's some special sauce that fixes RSI or makes them a better gamer. Most of that can't be proven and is typically driven by the buyer's own emotional need to justify their rainbow hue mechanical keyboard to himself in much the same way that same person would speak highly of a car or home they'd purchased that they secretly think poorly of, but are compelled to express excitement about to others to save face...usually to an audience of people who don't really care either way.
  • lmcd - Monday, July 18, 2016 - link

    What's really funny about that is I *know* I don't get a ton of practical speed out of them. But it's one less thing for me to get distracted by, which increases my functional typing speed more than my measured "typing test" edition.
  • lmcd - Monday, July 18, 2016 - link

    *literal speed

    for once I actually meant to use "literal" somewhere
  • BurntMyBacon - Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - link

    @hpglow: "Membrane kb used to suck have they improved?"

    Depends on how you type. If you are the type that bottoms out your keys with every key press (like the vast majority), then there are membrane keyboards that should do fine. Probably 95% of all keyboard users would continue to bottom out their keys even after switching to a mechanical keyboard. For the 5% (being really generous here) that don't, mechanical keyboards have some very marginal latency benefits. As for feel, some people like the tactile response (an sometimes audible click) of the mechanical switches. There are no mechanical keyboards available that will replicate this. Note: Not all membrane keys are created equal. Some of the worst membrane keys I've ever used were on the auxiliary keys of Corsairs first (mostly) mechanical keyboard. These keys felt like mush to press. One of the better ones I've used was a "gaming" full membrane model (interestingly) from the same company.
  • Michael Bay - Saturday, July 23, 2016 - link

    I should have known I`m talking to some secretary robot thing.
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Friday, July 15, 2016 - link

    But is the keyboard splooge proof?
  • Samus - Friday, July 15, 2016 - link

    This isn't anything new. HP sells a washable business keyboard (and mouse, for that matter) marketed toward corporate environments...specifically the medical community.

    HP, however, charges $100 for the keyboard and $50 for the mouse. I've seen them on eBay new for around $70. So this is actually quite a deal for those in the market for such a thing.

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