Update, 6/23/16, 7:20am PT: It’s taken (significantly) longer than expected for Speedlink to get the Ultor to the U.S. market. The company determined that it needed to make some tweaks to the keyboard, and it has now done so. The Ultor now has a “stronger” aluminum backplate (we presume that means it’s thicker), and the key caps are now more curved on the top. Speedlink also changed the logo placement, but much more notably, it’s worked to improve the driver software.
The Ultor will be available in the U.S. on Amazon in the next two weeks. The list price is €99.99, which is approximately $114 USD.
It seems that companies left and right are jumping into the gaming peripherals market, from well-known OEMs that are tacking gaming keyboards and such onto their existing product portfolios (such as Lenovo and G.Skill) to companies that North America is not especially familiar with, such as Speedlink.
Speedlink is a German company -- a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jöllenbeck GmbH -- that has been around since 1998. In March, the company announced that it was expanding its reach into North America, and at Gamescom last month, it announced a pair of gaming keyboards, the Velator and the Ultor, which use Kailh switches and are priced to sell, at approximately $76 USD and $109 USD, respectively.
We wanted to know about Speedlink and its gaming peripherals, so we reached out to the company. Coletta Jöllenbeck, who is in charge of the U.S. wing of Speedlink's business, enlightened us.
Tom's Hardware: Tell us in brief about the history of Speedlink? What are your origins/area(s) of expertise? How have you grown from where you started to where you are now?
Coletta Jöllenbeck: The brand Speedlink belongs to Jöllenbeck GmbH, which was founded in 1974 by Bernd Jöllenbeck and is today still an owner-managed, family business in its second generation. It all started with electronic kits and chess computers. Later, the first electronic accessories for games were added under the brand name "Interact."
[Speedlink's] roots actually lie in the gaming area. So we have been experts in gaming for more than 20 years. And although Speedlink products are now available in over 40 countries around the world, we still rely on organic growth and solid product management. We want to continue to connect to our customers with reliable and attractive technology that is characterized by an excellent price/performance ratio.
TH: How and why are you looking to penetrate the North American market? What opportunities do you see here?
CJ: North America is still the largest national economy worldwide and is also a growing market in the consumer electronics sector. Specifically, the area of PC gaming has grown enormously in the last few years, and I think that a brand like Speedlink combines many attractive features that also appeal to American customers. Meanwhile, in Europe, we now have a broad portfolio which includes products from the Office, Audio and GSM area.
In the United States, we first want to focus on our core competence and only offer gaming accessories. We are currently available at Fry's and online at Amazon.
TH: Why are you developing mechanical keyboards (generally speaking)? We've noticed many new players in that market recently.
CJ: For us, this is a logical consequence of our own development in recent years. We have always inspired gamers with the Competition Pro or the now well-known Medusa headset series. In 2013, we launched our full gaming lineup with the first gaming keyboards from Speedlink at Gamescom -- with a success that has exceeded our expectations by far.
We feel that Speedlink is often the smart choice for many gamers. [We offer] good products at absolutely fair prices. Because gamers, particularly young ones, often have only a limited budget and with Speedlink, you not only get a headset, but also a mouse and keyboard for $200 -- without sacrificing quality.
TH: Specifically, what led you to choose Kailh switches as opposed to the popular Cherry switches, or even upstart Greetech switches? Why blue switches as opposed to reds or browns?
CJ: For one, there are always supply bottlenecks with Cherry; on the other hand, the quality of the Kailh switches is really good. There are now also many renowned brands that rely on the durable Kailh switches.
We use both red and blue switches on our new keyboards. We rely on red Kailh switches with the Ultor, which are designed for up to 50 million keystrokes. The delay-free transmission of commands is guaranteed by the ultra-polling rate. With the Velator, we decided on blue Kailh switches for a precise keystroke.
The integrated and invisible protection from dirt and dust under the key is especially practical. This thin film protects the switches from contamination without disrupting the key feel.
TH: What other design elements in your newly-announced Velator and Ultor keyboards are you proud of or excited about?
CJ: I think that we are simply showing just what is possible with both new keyboards. It is not easy to find a really good mechanical keyboard under $100 (USD). With the Velator ($79.99), the aim was to develop a keyboard that is, for one, well below this price point, but has excellent features. In addition to the already mentioned innovative dust cover, the keyboard features a driver software with which the ten keys can be freely assigned.
In addition, you can control eight auxiliary function buttons using the FN keys. With this, we really managed to offer a full-sized mechanical keyboard with excellent features at this price.
With Ultor, the focus was primarily the design aspect. The Ultor ($119.99) is, of course, also equipped with software which allows the storage of extensive macros on six keys. But we want to show with the Ultor that "economical" does not have to be the same as "boring" and "standard." That's why we decided to put the individual keys on a brushed, Speedlink-red full aluminum panel and to equip them with LED lighting. The Ultor is also easy to clean, since all the keys are on the panel, and you don't have any deep spaces between the keys which can collect dirt.
Update, 9/23/15, 3:05pm PT: Speedlink confirmed to Tom's Hardware that the two keyboards will be available for sale in January 2016. (And of course, they will have a U.S. layout.)