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...