When I was a kid, I was promised a future loaded with flying cars, holographic movies, interactive billboards and crazy new ways of engaging with super-powered computers. A few of those I'm still yet to receive, but one of them landed on my desk the other week for review: a laser projection keyboard. Little did I realise that it was just another broken promise waiting to happen. Let me explain.
What Is It?
The Celluon Magic Cube is a tiny box that emits a bright red laser keyboard onto your desk and connects via Bluetooth or USB to turn that pretty projection into something you can use as an input device. The Magic Cube also features a multi-touch mouse mode so that you can browse around your screen without having to take your fingers away from the laser area.
The Magic Cube works by throwing a laser keyboard projection down onto your desk using the pattern projector on top of the device. An optical sensor then works hand-in-hand with an infrared sensor, and the two tell the keyboard and in turn the tablet, smartphone, PC or Mac where you clicked.
It comes in four colours -- red, white, black and silver -- for $US169.99 of your hard earned.
The Magic Cube is an amazing concept. It's the future in a tiny little box on my desktop.
It's easy to pack and carry round with you and it's dead-easy to set up thanks to its compatibility with a Bluetooth HID profile and/or USB 2.0.
Sadly, that's where the good stops.
The Magic Cube is a box full of the future, but it disappointed the small, 10-year old boy inside of me the second I turned it on.
The keyboard projection is incredibly dim when used in a well-lit environment like an office. It works best in a dark room, but how many of you work in a dungeon everyday?
There isn't enough key travel when it comes to actually using the thing, which means all the keys start to get jumbled together. It gives you a manual which instructs you to lay your wrists flat on the desk and, without lifting them, peck the keys while looking down at the keyboard, but for touch typists and anyone who wants to achieve over 40-words per minute, it's infuriating.
Even if you are using it how the manufacturer prescribes, you're still on a one-way trip bound for frustrationtown. Here are our typing tests. These are the best results out of 10 or so goes at it.
Dark Room Test:
Normal Keyboard: I'll write this bit with the laser keyboard, using four fingers while looking at the layout on my desk here. I'm in a dark room and conditions are optimal for use, so let's see how we go.
Magic Cube Keyboard: ['9ill write this bit with g kaeerk kybordusing four fingers whilelookingyh lasyoutji my desk hr. I'm in a dark diim d conditions are optimal fir use, so let's see his we go
Light Room Test:
Normal Keyboard: Now we'll test it in the light with this paragraph, i'll retype it exactly the same and see how it turns out. Not entirely sure how it's going to go with the bright lights in here.
Magic Cube Keyboard: now week test itjin the kighthwih thisoqrqgraoh. ill retype itkr\exsctly the sane sndnee how it tuns outot ntrkysure his its giunttogo with the bright lights un htrr but we'llser.
It also makes such an obnoxious noise out of the box to indicate you've hit a key that, after a little while, your housemate or your desk buddy is going to want to beat you to death with this little box. The noise can be deactivated, but it gives way to another issue. When you turn it down is that there's no tactile feedback to let you know that you actually have tapped a key, so you're left wondering while looking down at the keyboard if anything has been typed at all.
What would have been nice is a tiny haptic feedback unit in the bottom of the device that gave your desk a very subtle buzz when you tapped something, making it quiet but reactive to your touches.
The device can't be elevated in any way, meaning if you want to rest it on a monitor shelf or something like that, it won't be able to use it.
The response time isn't good enough for gaming, either. Not by a long way. Even if you're only using WASD and the space bar, the device can get confused with what you're pressing as we've seen previously in our light and dark keyboard tests.
Speaking of light and dark, the most annoying thing about the device is that it is set off in high light areas. I sit at my desk next to a window and when the sun hit it, the keys reported random button presses. This makes it unusable in a standard office setting.
Should You Buy It?
I opened this up and thought I'd be getting a dose of the future, straight to my veins, but was disappointed when it wound up to be a laggy, buggy, stupid mess. If you want a keyboard and mouse in one, difficult to use, expensive and noisy box, then the Magic Cube is for you. I'd say avoid for now.