Older Tweakers may think of the Trabant with feelings of nostalgia, but other than that, people generally have little faith in the creativity of the Eastern-European design guild. The Russian designers of Art Lebedev Studio, however, wanted to prove things can be different and announced their Optimus keyboard last year.
Beside the neat finish, what made the Optimus catch people's attention was the design of the keys, which feature mini OLED screens rather than having characters printed on them. Accompanying software was to enable each key to be assigned a particular function depending on the application being used. With 122 mini screens it would be possible to switch from Azerty to Qwerty layout, or to a Cyrilic character set for that matter. Incidentally, it was already clear the keyboard would not be cheap. In the words of Art Lebedev himself: 'Two hundred dollars is extremely optimistic, three hundred dollars is simply optimistic'. Since the Logitech DiNovo went for no less than 250 dollars, it looks as if fanatics will be willing to spend that sort of money on the Optimus.
Hardly a month after the announcement, British company United Keys tried to beat the Russians to it, but their keyboard only had a row of LCD function keys above an otherwise traditional keyboard. Rumours surfaced earlier this year that the Optimus would start going on sale as early as February, but it soon became clear that Lebedev wanted to do business on a limited scale to begin with.
As it turned out, the Optimus Mini Three could be ordered as of February for a hundred dollars. Shipment was expected to commence on May 15. True to the genuine tweaker's spirit, Tweakers.net regular Floris Looyesteyn could not control himself and placed an order for the gem. However, there was no mail in for Floris in May, and June, July and August passed by in a gadgetless fashion as well. But last week a package straight from the People's Republic of China was sitting in his letterbox, which he generously allowed Tweakers.net to use for review purposes.