Still Looking For Input

My recent blog post "Always Looking For Input" generated quite a bit of feedback from readers and even a few manufacturers. In that post, I wrote about my pseudo-obsession with input devices and why I burn through so many of them on a regular basis. (Hint: It's because I'm a bit OCD)

After reading what I had to say about Enermax's swank Aurora Premium and Caesar keyboards, the folks at SteelSeries--well, representatives of SteelSeries at least--thought I'd like to give one of their keyboards a try, namely the SteelSeries 7G. With its traditional design and supposed high-quality construction, I thought the 7G would be right up my alley, so I decided to give it shot.

If you're unfamiliar with the SteelSeries 7G, it's a standard looking 104-key keyboard, designed specifically for gamers. The stand-out features of the 7G include no-click, mechanical Cherry MX black key switches rated for 50 million keystrokes, 18K gold-plated connectors, a 2-port USB hub, microphone and headphone jacks, and an advanced buffer system that prevents ghosting. SteelSeries says this about the buffer system used in the 7G, "By utilizing the most powerful PS/2 buffer-system ever created for a gaming keyboard, SteelSeries 7G redefines 'anti-ghosting' by supporting as many simultaneous key presses as there are keys on the keyboard." Most definitely overkill, but better than what most other keyboards offer.

Having used the SteelSeries 7G for a couple of weeks now, I think I have gotten a pretty good feel for its good and bad points. First the good. The anti-ghosting buffer works really well. After writing a number of articles and playing more than my share of UT3 on the 7G, I found that its buffer system handles multiple simultaneous key-presses (whether planned or accidental) very well. I also noticed that the keys "activate" when pressed down only about 20% of the way, which may sound strange, but actually makes for some quick input once you get used to the keyboard's layout. Key feel is excellent, with firm resistance and quick response, and the keyboard stays put wherever it's set down thanks to its weight and oversized rubber feet. The 7G also seems to be very durable, as it hasn't exhibited any "shiny-ness" on its keys even after some heavy use.

Now for the bad. The 7G has no height adjustment and its wrist rest is nothing more than a plastic shell that sits around the keyboard--it doesn't even snap into place. SteelSeries also decided to inexplicably replace the left Windows Key with a proprietary function button that activates some basic media controls on the first six function keys. And the backslash and backspace keys are normal sized in favor of an oversized L-shaped enter key (some of you may actually prefer this). Finally, I also found that the built-in USB hub is only USB 1.1, so fast transfers to a flash drive are out of the question.

Overall, I'd rate the 7G very highly in terms of quality and feel--this is a great keyboard for writers and gamers--but I question a couple of the design decisions. If the left Windows Key was still there (or the custom key was switchable) and the built-in USB hub didn't downgrade my ports to 1.1, the 7G would be darn close to perfect. I'm going to stick with the 7G for a while anyway, but am thinking that I may have to plunk down some cash for a Deck or a Das Keyboard Pro out of curiosity...


Posted Tue, Sep 30 2008 9:31 PM by Marco C

Comments

3vi1 wrote re: Still Looking For Input
on Thu, Oct 2 2008 6:05 PM

>> SteelSeries also decided to inexplicably replace the left Windows Key <<

Most FPS players HATE that Windows key on the left, and not just for what it represents (ba-dum pum!).  If you've ever hit that key while gaming and had your game screen go down and your computer choke as it shifts game textures out of memory and the Windows Start menu in, you know what I mean.  I've come back from this experience in several games to find my corpse.

Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.

Hey, since you're interested in input devices - I'd love to see some write-ups on the current natural/ergonomic keyboards, should it fit in with your opportunities.

Marco C wrote re: Still Looking For Input
on Sun, Oct 5 2008 12:12 AM

I'm sure I'll eventually get to some of the ergonomic / natural keyboards...next up will probably be the Das Keyboard Pro...

About that Windows Key though, I know lots of gamers hate it, but I use it for keyboard shortcuts all the time.  Or should I say used it--I've still got the 7G on my desk.  I really like the feel this keyboard and I seem to type very quickly on it--I guess it just suits my hands.

The more I think about it, if this thing had a left Windows key, a USB 2.0 hub, and the wrist rest maybe incorporated some sort of washable / interchangeble cushion, it would be close to perfect.

3vi1 wrote re: Still Looking For Input
on Sun, Oct 5 2008 6:40 PM

My thought on the Windows key is that Microsoft decided to use a trademarked logo so that they could start bullying hardware manufacturers...

I'm obviously clearly biased in that I normally use Linux and never programmed that key to do anything useful... even though it's on the Microsoft Natural keyboard I have connected to my machine.

LOL... I know, that's pretty ironic.... but their ergo keyboards are the best I've used, and I won't lie about that.

Marco C wrote re: Still Looking For Input
on Mon, Oct 6 2008 3:03 PM

Which particular model are you using now?

ice_73 wrote re: Still Looking For Input
on Mon, Oct 6 2008 7:33 PM

hmm i remember at digital life last year they had the steel series and i liked it. its certaintly a step up from my generic keyboard...

though, i have to say i find razer products to be amazing in terms of features and they cater to the gamer too, give them a try. also you might want to visit a best buy or something and actually feel and see the keyboard in person

3vi1 wrote re: Still Looking For Input
on Tue, Oct 7 2008 9:59 PM

>> Which particular model are you using now? <<

This one is a "Microsoft Natural Keyboard 'Elite'".

I have two more, just like it, on the floor behind me.  they appear to have a nasty habit of getting rum spilled on them.  But at least they're dishwasher safe.

Marco's RTG wrote Enter the Das Keyboard Professional
on Mon, Nov 10 2008 3:28 PM

Those of you that have been reading my blog entries regularly should know by now that I am a bit maniacal

Marco's RTG wrote Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sun, Mar 8 2009 10:28 PM

I'm sure you've all heard the old saying, "You get what you pay for" many times in

Marco's RTG wrote Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Jul 24 2009 8:17 AM

I'm sure you've all heard the old saying, "You get what you pay for" many times throughout