Like butterfly keyboards and chargers being included with iPhones, the MacBook’s Touch Bar seems doomed to extinction soon. The feature wasn’t completely useless, but its diminutive size prevented it from reaching its true potential. If you’re going to put a screen on a keyboard, you need to fully commit to the idea, like this mechanical keyboard with a 12.6-inch touchscreen does.
Amazon’s listings of consumer electronics continue to be slowly taken over by brand names that are not only completely unknown, but seemingly created by a random character generator. You can talk amongst yourselves about the right way to pronounce, “Ficihp,” but there’s little debate as to the usefulness of this creation.
As spotted by BoingBoing, although it looks like a self-contained mashup of a laptop and a tablet, the keyboard contains no actual computer components. On its own, it’s useless. But when cable connected to a computer, or a mobile device that’s compatible with external displays and hardware accessories, it serves as both a compact 71-key mechanical keyboard and a 12.6-inch color touchscreen with an ultra-wide aspect ratio and a cropped HD resolution of 1920×515.
Unlike the MacBook’s Touch Bar, which had its customization limited by how applications chose to use it, the screen on this keyboard serves as a secondary display for a laptop or desktop PC, so users can move whatever apps or toolbars onto it they so please. The ability to have touchscreen shortcuts for commonly used tools and functions in complex apps like Photoshop was one tantalizing use case the Touch Bar never fully delivered, but this could.
Some of the other suggested use cases for this accessory in the keyboard’s promotional imagery actually seem quite handy. For instance, you could use the keyboard’s screen to take notes during a video conference call, leaving the larger screen for showing the talking heads of all the participants. Or, you could just use it as a dedicated place to park your Twitter feed so it’s visible at all times. It’s your mental health, who are we to tell you how to take care of it?
The device is seemingly no slouch as a keyboard either, with adjustable brightness, swappable keycaps, and full RGB backlighting that has 15 different built-in lighting patterns. It’s also got n-key rollover, so it’s potentially even suitable for gaming too.
The hardware does have some. It’s only real connection to a device is through a USB-C port, so if you need to go the HDMI route for an older PC or laptop, you’ll need to get a hub or cable adapter to bridge the two. And while the touchscreen supports up to 10-point touch detection, that only works when this thing is connected to a Windows PC. When paired with a Mac, touch detection is limited to just a single point.
The biggest issue, however, might be the keyboard’s $US390 ($541) price tag. You can easily find a much larger hi-def external display and a passable mechanical keyboard for cheaper than this. Is the added touch functionality right at your fingertips worth the premium pricing? That’s up to you.