First off let me tackle the name, Due to Sky TV and Lawyers the “Recreated ZX Spectrum” has a stupid name, So from now on I am going to refer to is as RZXS and have done with it, how you pronounce that in your head is entirely up to you, to me it sounds like the dying words of a robot with droid rot, which I can totally relate to.
I had fully intended to write my review of the RZXS ON the RZXS – and then you’d be able to see what it was like, as I was going to leave it unedited and honest – Just like the old Speccy herself, but my table is from the 1890s and it’s not exactly level – My modern wireless Microsoft Keyboard has no problems with the table – but the old Speccy with its rubber feet seem to not like the fact my desk is not level – so it wobbles uncontrollably putting a mouse mat under it did not help, So i moved it back and it just wasn’t a comfortable position, So I gave up (for the time being.)
Just to let you know the position this review is coming from three years ago I bought myself a working Speccy from ebay – boxed and in mint condition – it was something I had always wanted as a child however my parents typically wanted me to “learn” and “do well at school” and fell for the whole “The Acorn Electron is for LEARNING because it’s like a BBC Micro, and the BBC care about your children!” admittedly this was before we learned what sinister things the BBC were up to with kids back then. I eventually got a +2 and played the games I always wanted to, but it wasn’t the same – I always yearned for the ZX Spectrums rubbery goodness, 3 years ago it was finally mine and I was happy.. for now.
Scroll forward a year or so, the Speccy laid in her box, I was going to put her on display in a cabinet or something but i never really had space and as much as I loved the thing I could tell my partner was not really as big of a fan as I was so probably not the best idea, one day when I have my own wing in my house it will get the place it deserves and it won’t be sat in the box on the top of a wardrobe. I noted with some interest that they were recreating the ZX Spectrum again, not once but TWICE – two contestants came into the ring the oddly named ZX Vega which looked like a terrible Master system game controller (but boasted 1000’s of games and an SD card that could expand that to the millions) and the RZXS which was basically an authentic remake of the original rubber padded beauty but just a bluetooth keyboard, both of them piqued my interest but the RZXS was a favourite however at the price of £99.99 a whole £20 MORE than the boxed original Speccy I already owned it was way out of my price range.
I saw a Youtube review by the lovely MrBiffo of Digitiser 2000 fame of the ZX Vega and seeing it had a horrible composite out – Not HDMI and no proper keyboard I knew straight away this wasn’t for me, I wanted the RZXS but I knew i couldn’t really justify all the money – I did daydream about being the ultimate super hipster – Sat in the local Rumbles caff (not Cafe) drinking a mug of tea, eating a fry up and writing on my Speccy – while getting adoring looks from the old Tramp who sits at the back and the proprietor who always looks like he’s covered in a good inch of grease – It’s a magical place, but I could only dream…
I got a £30 voucher for Amazon off the in-laws and I was wondering what to spend it on, I had decided i probably would like a ZX Spectrum t-shirt or something, Not really sure – The people who used to make them for Kapow! seem to not make them any more, you can’t get a nice t-shirt with a speccy keyboard anywhere anymore – which is a shame, the Mrs has one and the rubber keys looked MAGNIFICENT across her ample boobage and typing things on them was always fun – But while looking I noticed there was a lightning deal on the RZXS and it was reduced from £99.99 to £60! (for two hours only!) with my voucher that made it £30 a bargain which I could not resist, so I bought it on boxing day, and today it arrived, and I have used it and I will now tell you what I think about it with words, I considered doing a video unboxing but I will leave that kind of things for the pro people who make funny jokes and don’t swear uncontrollably when everything fails to work. (but more on that later!)
Unboxing (What’s in it)
Inside the box you get the RZXS itself, A standard MicroUSB cable & a tiny sheet of instructions, A sticker telling you what the shortcuts are, a hastily written note that says not to use normal AA batteries when using the Micro USB cable – Which doesn’t explicitly say that if you use those and not rechargeable AA batteries it will explode in a horrible fiery mess – but i can only assume that’s what happens and that’s it, the box is only a few MM bigger than the actual unit itself – and the instructions are written on a tiny folded A4 sheet – I imagine that this is aimed at old men like me (No modern child would want a thing like this I am sure) and I cannot read a word of it! It’s all tiny and blurred, so I had no idea what I was doing, but luckily I am one of those people who don’t read instructions anyway – so who cares?
The RZXS is faithful as can be to the original Speccy, ignore the scratches and side by side they’re pretty hard to tell apart – everything is where it should be the back of course has only one plug (for the MicroUSB) an on/off switch, a mode switch and a pair button (for bluetooth pairing) and a tiny LED to let you know when it’s doing things
Using the thing (as a keyboard)
I firstly paired it with my phone and tried typing a text with it and got nothing but gobbledygook I tried flicking the layer switch to see if that made any difference (it did not) nothing I could do would make it work properly – I installed the app for android on my phone and tested it with Chuckie egg and it worked perfectly and thats when I began to worry, Had they pulled a fast one? will it only work with their app?
if so I was being sold a lemon – I squinted at the instructions and they seemed to say that it would work with anything from Chromecast to Roku with no problems at all, So i incorrectly assumed this was a bluetooth problem and tried wiring it to the PC I use and using as a USB keyboard (Because that works) and I also remembered to remove the non rechargeable batteries (to avoid the aforementioned fiery death) – I switched it on, it lit up green and I proceeded to type “hello world” in IRC and it came out like this… QRQRQRQRQRQRstst00000001 0000ffff 00002b3a 00012b38
Which was a BIT irritating to say the least, as the manual was no help I jumped on the Google and searched for ways to sort this problem out and eventually I stumbled across this gem
which told me that:-
“One unexpected thing was the “unlocking” procedure, which you have to do to get the device to work properly as a keyboard. This is easily done online at the Elite systems website or through the app, but still to me this felt a bit of an added rigmarole. Fortunately the device appears to remember the setting.”
So i unplugged it from the PC and paired it once again with the phone, started the app and noticed that there was an icon that said “Unlocking” on it – Apparently when the RZXS ships it is in “gamer” mode which basically means the only keys that work are the cursor keys and 0 to fire – (or QAOP & M) which seems really bloody stupid, but in the app I finally got it in “Qwerty” mode which means it totally is unlocked and working like a proper keyboard should – and after a shitload of faff and quite a lot of swearing – it was finally up and running.
I tried a bit of typing on the PC on IRC, I also sent a text to the Mrs from my phone to make sure it was all working (it was) and when connected via the USB port I fired up ZXSpin (after a good long time of trying to remember which bloody emulator I used to use) and played a game of Manic miner from my massive collection of Spectrum “Roms” (Yes I know they are not roms but that’s what everyone calls them and stop being a nerd) and played the game, It was as responsive as I could want, it brought back loads of lovely nostalgic memories and could i FUCKERS like get of the first screen!
TL;DR (What I think)
I know MrPSB is shouting “It’s just a fucking Bluetooth keyboard” but its not, its a USB keyboard too and it’s got a whole load of personality – it’s a bit lighter than the proper ZX Spectrum but this doesn’t make it seem cheap or tacky. It looks beautiful and when you finally get it unlocked it runs at its full potential.
I will probably get it wired to my laptop and write that novel down the Caff after all, I really love it – and it was totally worth £60.. but £99? Nope..
It’s a faff to set up, the instructions are terrible, but the thing itself is a joy – If you want one you know why you want one and you should get one, if the whole idea leaves you cold then don’t bother.
- Just like the original Spectrum keyboard (dead man’s fingers)
- USB and Bluetooth functionality
- Open development platform
- Just like the original Spectrum keyboard (dead man’s fingers)
- Not much in the box for £99.99
- Faff to set up (first time and not clear)