Any thoughts on which keyboard might be 'better'? Layout, key feel, programing, ergonomics, etc? It appears that the cmd_key product might not be available yet, but maybe some people might have knowledge about it?
I went the X-keys route and have been pleased but they are expensive. X-keys are backlit with adjustable color (red/blue) and intensity. They are also extremely customizable and allow for any layout. This is of great value to me. I first purchased a 60 key unit to use with the existing layout that ETC has on their website. Its small size is nice but, having worked with several IONs in town, I quickly got frustrated with having to switch layers often and not finding keys in a similar spot. (I am willing to sell this unit for a good price if anyone is interested).
I recently bought the 128 key unit and have customized it to a very similar layout as that of an ION Xe/EOSconsole. I really appreciate the similarity to the original consoles and ease of having all keys available. (shift is used often enough in EOS that adding "layer" to the process was exasperating). It is also important to me that my students can learn on a very similar layout to what they will be using elsewhere. The buttons are solid, comfortable and quiet though not quite as nice as a consoles. I gave up on the nice stickers that ETC sells for the 60 key unit as well and created my own through a fair amount of time with InDesign and printing a quality copy on transparency. These slip into the key caps nicely, allow the light to pass through the text and provide total customization of size, font etc; something that I have grown accustomed to using the EOS family software. Customization for me is critical and backlighting is a big plus. Also, part of the customization that I was able to do with the X-keys is to use 'blank' keys to create spaces around groups of keys as they are on a console, further adding to a similar console experience.
I since have learned about the Cherry SPOS units and now the LX keys and cmd-key. All of these use harder, "Cherry"-type keys without backlighting. They are all significantly less expensive also.
LX Keys and cmd_key are not programmable in any way. This may be a bonus for some; not having to spend the time to program though the system x-keys uses is very nice.
SPOS, from what I can tell are truly programmable and, appear to be the least expensive.
LX keys comes from the UK and shipping is over $50. They offer a 10% educational discount. The layout of keys is difficult to see from their website and they did not respond with a better image when requested.
cmd_keys offers about a 15% educational discount. I do like the colored keys, organization and their use of extra macros and snapshots. They are U.S. based and have some nice design features. I would definitely consider this one if lack of custom programming and backlighting are acceptable.
I would love to try one of the other units to be able to experience the difference in feel, but the quality and customization of the x-keys is excellent and I am very pleased.
The other positive with X-Keys, vs other non re programmable options, is that you can program the keys to automatically change the layout depending on the application you are using. i.e. ETClayout when in nomad, then if you change to Vectorworks, you can have a different layout become active to make all of the shortcut keys easy to access.
X-Keys will also allow for the use of macros. I had a key on mine that would open a program, log me in, navigate to a report screen, enter in report parameters, run the report, open it in excel, change the file from delimited to excel format and remove unused rows from this specific report. That was all in one key press. It was so fun! I used that key once every day.