Thursday, 5 January 2012

Gaming Keyboard Review!

New year, more reviews for you guys. So we have taken a look at mice, pads and headsets so now it is time to look at the most important thing, the keyboard. We have a vast range to test out including keyboards from Logitech, Thermaltake, Gigabyte and Coolermaster.


The G510 has a plethora of features including a LCD GamePanel, 18 programmable G-Keys, custom colour key lighting, headphone & microphone jack and up to 5 simultaneous key press support. It’s quite the feature packed keyboard and the size reflects it. Now, this keyboard contradicts what I said in a previous review about it being all unified. Turns out some gaming products require dedicated software. So a big fail on that part in terms of application support. The software itself is very easy to use and customize. The games list for the G-Keys is as long as anybody would need. Customizing keys and settings are easy and instantaneous. 

The LCD GamePanel is quite cool and has features like CPU/RAM Load, Profile switch, a RSS Feed, Date & Time and a stopwatch/countdown timer. Information is easy to read and understand. You can also add more features like Email support and media display. However I only managed to get media display working with Windows Media Player & iTunes (No VLC).

Lighting colour can be changed to anything on the RGB scale within the software and the LCD panel could be switched off (the backlight). The keyboard features all your standard media controls with additional mute button and a fairly large wheel that can control volume.

Typing on the keyboard is fairly comfortable. It feels like a mechanical keyboard without the heightened sensitivity. You really need to push the keys to activate it, and yet it still feels great.
So I setup a gaming profile for MW3 and setup a simple macro that when pressed, would crouch the player and reload. Very simple macro and it worked a treat so no issues there. The key press recording feature is easy to use and setup. The profile auto detects the game when launched and switches to the games profile so you’re ready to go. No need to manually change profiles (you still can change profiles manually on the fly if you wish). What I also liked and found to be quite clever was even if I alt-tabbed out of the game and back in, the profiles would automatically switch between the game and normal. So it not only detects the game being launched but detects in when it is or isn’t open on your screen.

This keyboard seems to pack in the features and plenty of detail into its craftsmanship to produce an elegant and solid performing keyboard. It is well built and sturdy for carrying around and offers the hardcore gamer a good option in gaming keyboards. I was a bit optimistic about this keyboard but it has surprised me and I have warmed up to it. If you’re in the market for a gaming keyboard and are not fussed about it being mechanical or not, the G510 is definitely one to consider.


This Challenger Ultimate features on board audio jacks, 2x USB ports, a set of multimedia & macro keys, an interchangeable fan with 2 locations and a smart cable management system. Unpacking the unit is exciting as it comes in its own carry with a strap to carry on your shoulder tucked away inside the keyboard bags sleeves. Thermaltake really out do their competition in terms of packaging.

The keyboard looks slick and stylish as expected from a Thermaltake product. However I have noticed some blotchy black spots on certain keys. It almost seems like the paint didn’t dry on the keys and left a permanent mark. Good thing though is it is removable with a bit of a rub with your fingers. Still, a strange sight to see on a new keyboard.

The software with the Challenger Ultimate (Downloadable) is horrific. It looks like a Visual Basic test program written by a high school student 10 years ago. Its buttons are large bubbles that look like the default Photoshop gradient tool with bold white text that is awkward to look at. You need to hover over a few of the buttons to figure out what it is actually for because the icons are designed in a way it’s as if they were playing picture charades. There are 5 profile options available and is changeable on the fly with a dedicated key on the keyboard. The layout is a full size but looks compact in a way. The F Keys along the top are condensed to half the height and span across the length with no spaces. Along the line are the media keys and a few extras.

Using the keyboard is fantastic. It has soft keys and don’t require you to push into deep to activate the key press. There are 5 macro buttons on each end of the keyboard labelled from T1 to T10. The macro keys are easily recordable and function great. In game the keys work a treat and the comfort of gaming on the keyboard is brilliant. The softness and quietness make it perfect for those late night gamers who don’t want to wake up the household via keyboard usage.

The keyboard comes with its own fan which can be placed in either side of the top corner on the keyboard to help cooled your hands with either the WASD area or the Number pad area. The fan adds a somewhat comedic feel and look to the keyboard (and it actually works well!). in a separate bag you’ll find key replacements for WASD and your Arrow keys with replacements in red colour. You can also replace the Windows key to prevent accidental presses. All these extra little features come in their own little Velcro sealed bag. The USB cable has a double connection which allows good speedy connectivity to your PC with devices connected to the keyboard.

Overall, it disappoints with its software, but makes up for it with unique features, comfort and usability. This keyboard offers gamers and casual PC users a good keyboard option.

Up for the chopping block now is the CM Storm By Coolermaster Quick Fire Rapid Mechanical
http://www.centrecom.com.au/catalog/000631-logitech-mx518-p-44255.html?sort=2a

This is the Cherry MX Red edition of the Quick Fire and is a mechanical keyboard featuring 1ms response rate, multimedia keys, compact design, interchangeable keys and anti-ghosting.
This is an interesting keyboard I must say. It has a compact design (no number pad) and is a full-fledged gaming keyboard. I’m not so sure if as many people would be attracted to a compact keyboard for gaming, usually when you think of a gaming keyboard, you assume it’s going to be a large sized unit that dominates your desk area. Don’t let the size fool you, the mechanical nature of the keyboard promotes its weight to something ridiculously unexpected.  It may be small and compact, but it has quite the weight on it.

You have one set of replacement keys which are red and can be used as replacements for both WASD and the Arrow keys as they have symbols of both keys. Replacing the keys are very easy thanks to the tool. A new key just requires you to press on it as you normally would any other key.

Typing on a mechanical keyboard is normally difficult and annoying as mechanicals generally are louder, but the CM Storm seems to be quieter against other mechanicals I’ve used. Unlike most other keyboards you don’t need to install any software to take advantage of its features. The scroll lock, windows lock and caps lock keys have built in lighting on the keys to let you know they are activated. The lights are large and bright and make it clear. The multimedia keys are activated by using the FN key, a feature prominent in compact and laptop keyboards to double up on a single key.

Gaming on the keyboard was great. The mechanical keys responded fantastically and quickly. Via USB the keyboard manages to accept up to 4 simultaneous key strokes, however you can find the anti-ghosting adapter within the box if you really like your keyboard mashing (or your game actually requires it).
 
Overall this is a pretty nifty little keyboard. If you’re not fussed by the compact design and lack of dedicated number pad, this could well and truly be an ideal option for an upgrade to mechanical keyboards.


This is Gigabytes first product of the Aivia series, the K8100 gaming keyboard. This keyboard has a plethora of funky features and bright coloured marketing resolution. First thing that picks up on your eyes is the gigantic box. No seriously, it has a huge box for a keyboard. This is because the keyboard itself comes with the elbow rests attached to the actual keyboard, via screws, 4 of them to be exact. So clearly Gigabyte really wanted you to have a palm rest on your keyboard.

Notable features of the keyboard include 5 macro keys located at the top left corner with an illuminated plastic key to switch between them on the fly. You can also use the software to change the profile with each profile having its own colour as displayed by the illuminated quick switch key on the keyboard. There is a volume slider at the top of the unit with a mute button which I found to be a hit and miss as it was either not sensitive enough and wouldn’t change the volume, or too sensitive and max it out, so could’ve done without this feature.  There is an indicator which is supposed to show the current volume your PC is set at, but it didn’t seem to work for me. There are two USB ports on either side of the unit which is handy for your wireless receivers (Mouse).

Few extra bits & pieces in the packaging include WASD rubber replacements, a silicone keyboard cover and nifty cable management. The software for the K8100 looks like a screenshot from a 1980’s video game. Cheesy animations and blocky menu make the software a complete miss. I’m not sure what Gigabyte were thinking with this, they do other products so well how did they manage to output a product like this.

Typing on the keyboard can be frustrating. The keys aren’t as responsive as id like and I found to be missing letters from my words on quite a few occasions. You really need to press on a key to activate it. This was a bit frustrating during gaming because it either wouldn’t register or it would get stuck. While writing this review, the Comma key and T key got stuck and would continue filling up my word document with its character, very annoying and frustrating as you could imagine.

The term ‘Aivia’ is an integrated acronymic word from ‘advanced, intuitive and versatile interface archetype’ which after using for a while I figured it to be anything but. As a first product in a new series, Gigabyte has a fair bit to go. I wasn’t impressed by this product at all and I don’t think many gamers out there would be as well.

Overall, they all seem to be pretty good keyboards. The CM Storm is excellent for the on-the-move gamer who needs a compact and well performing keyboard. The Logitech and Thermaltake keyboards are fantastic for gamers and all round users.

By Sahin Selvi
sahin.s@centrecom.com.au

The benchmark results may differ from user to user depending on what background software you are running and versions of benchmark software. These results aren’t portrayed to be seen as exact performance figures but merely as a rough estimate on the performance of the machine. These results are in no way bias to any company or person and are here to provide the end user in depth details and to provide extra assistance of potential purchases. All information on this page is subject to copyright. Please do not copy any parts of this article.

3 comments:

  1. So in the end which keyboard did you find best ?

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  2. Personally, I'd go with the the Thermaltake. To me it offers the best price to performance to aesthetics ratio.

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  3. When choosing keyboards, you always have to keep in mind of what you are trying to go for. Mechanical or not, if just membrane keyboard, Thermaltake Ultimate is not a bad choice at all - if mechanical, however, you might need to research on which keyswitch suits you best; there are cherry blue, brown, black and red mx keyswitches - as the most commonly used besides membrane. From loudness and tackiness blue-brown-red-black.

    Gaming wise, most people choose black and brown - cherry red is harder to find, good for gaming where sound of tacking keyboards might be an undesirable trait.

    Typist usually prefer blue keyswitches because they are very tactile, responsive - however they do make a loud noise.

    Hope that helps,
    -ZiP

    ReplyDelete