So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Creative Labs ProdiKeys PC-MIDI
- Fun to play with,Looks funky
- Piano not retractable, Piano keys not sensitive enough, Uncomfortable to use.
The piano component isn’t the best quality and since its not retractable it makes the keyboard component uncomfortable and awkward to use.
Price$ 79.95 (AUD)
Way back in the heyday, when the Commodore 64 (C64) was the latest fad, an accessory was released that when placed over the C64 keyboard turned it into a piano. This was mind blowing at the time and we were envious of anyone who had the luck to own one. So naturally, to abate the raging storm of jealousy that still rages to this day, we jumped for joy when the Creative ProdiKeys keyboard arrived at our offices.
In theory, a keyboard with a built-in piano sounds like an excellent idea - an invention only eclipsed by the discovery of electricity. Unfortunately, the reality is an uncomfortable and monstrously large keyboard with an unresponsive piano and a package of fairly generic bundled software.
The ProdiKeys is a huge unit and will take up a large portion of desktop space. The Piano section of the keyboard is at the front and covered by a hard plastic removable cover. This cover sits at an angle that defies all the laws of ergonomics and makes regular typing rather uncomfortable and irritating. The first thing we tried to do was push the piano portion inside the keyboard as we assumed it was retractable but we were sorely mistaken as this a permanent fixture Unfortunately, as well as being the most prominent feature of this keyboard, the piano is also the most awkward.
We found the piano to be rather unresponsive and it required almost violent force in order to achieve results. The unit is meant to simulate a real piano to allow you to press lightly when needed, but it overcompensates to the extent that even pressing hard sounds too weak. You need to almost smash your fingers into the keys in order to get a loud note and after only a few notes your fingers are too sore to bother.
The keyboard installation is rather simple though, with drivers and the included bundle software. This software includes a piano tutorial program called EasyNotes, a sound effects mixing program called FunMix and a piano keyboard called Mini Keyboard. EasyNotes is a good introduction into using the keyboard and has some nifty tutorials whereas Mini Keyboard is a simple keyboard with various MIDI instrument sets available for music creation. FunMix is a very simple mixing program where sample bass, drum, percussion, vocal and sound effects are allocated to the keys of the piano which can then be mixed and recorded. It isn't a terribly complicated program and doesn't make any quality "music" but it's a load of fun to fiddle with. You can also output your creations into WAV format but the file sizes are excessive since the audio is uncompressed.
We can't completely understand to whom this keyboard is targetted. Musicians wouldn't use a keyboard like this to make music as the audio quality wouldn't be as good as using a Roland or similar piano. We also feel that it isn't suitable for anyone that does a lot of typing, as it is just too uncomfortable for this purpose. Perhaps this could be the perfect keyboard for kids, as it has that fun and funky element and children won't be hampered by its uncomfortable design.
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