Now, a disclaimer for the next product and review. I'm going to gush rainbows and butterflies. I'll be up front about that because, in my own simple way, this is one of the most perfect pieces of hardware for me.
The Steelseries 6Gv2 and 7G mechanical Pro Gamer keyboards
Have you ever typed on an older 1987 IBM keyboard, banging away at the indestructible keys, hearing the klak-klak-klak-klak of the keys and switches hitting without rubber sound dampeners? ... It is truly a magical thing. What is so great about mechanical keyboards, though, and why would I fall so head over heels in love with one?
Mechanical keys result in a different response time in typing. The touch is lighter and you type faster, as the action needed to get the key to hit is a different feel. You're not pressing all the way down on the keys -- rather, about a 40 percent press is all that's needed to make the key fire. You get used to it really quickly, and it changes the world.
Kim, the designer of the 6Gv2 and 7G, takes pride in the fact that the keyboard makes noise. That sound brings you back to the days of indestructible mechanical keyboards, unapologetically retro while enhancing the reaction time from the keyboard and player. The keyboards are Spartan, without superfluous controls or macro buttons, relying on a simple, clean approach to the keyboard layout. There is no windows key on the left side, eschewed for a Steelseries function key that can activate simple media controls -- Play, Pause, etc. That's all the keyboard will let you have.
One thing that has always bothered me about most keyboards is the lackluster spacebar, a key that gets more use than any other on the keyboard. The spacebar has to be the backbone, the paragon key. Most keyboards that I've used have a springy metal piece that launches the spacebar back up at you after connecting with the rubber piece to signal a button press. So, what did I do? I made Kim rip the spacebar off of the 6G. He did -- and there was no spring. There was barely anything, actually. Three switches controlled the spacebar, with barely any moving parts and nothing to jam the key. It was a thing of beauty. He told me in no few words that no one had really asked for that -- but it was important to me, and I stand by that.
While the pro gaming keyboards are designed for what people might see as a less "key-press-complex" genre than the MMO (mostly FPS and RTS), I feel like these particular keyboards can bridge that gap. As much as the Shift intrigued me and surprised me functionality-wise, my personal opinion is that I love a super-utilitarian keyboard. The 6Gv2 fit that bill better, while still being the most responsive keyboard I have ever used for typing and gaming.
The 6Gv2 keyboard is the basic version, and the 7G upgrades the kit with some USB ports and audio jacks for your headset or speakers, much like the Shift. Both keyboards, however, are rock-solid monsters that are going to last you a long, long time. I might get one as an heirloom, to pass down to my future generations of children, their children and their children's children. I cannot say enough good things about the mechanical keyboards from Steelseries, hence the gushing. Kudos to Kim for punching the keyboard in front of me, ripping off keys that I wanted to see and showing me how awesome old concepts can be when updated with today's design and innovation.
Xai laser mouse
Kim's other baby is the Xai
, a powerful mouse in such an unassuming package. The Xai has been out for a while and has received some awesome accolades.
Simplicity is key, much like the 6Gv2 keyboard. The mouse reminded me, at first grasp, of the Logitech mx518, probably my personal pick for the greatest gaming mouse in the last 5 years. The Xai is more of the type of mouse that I am used to, allowing a firm grip rather than the loose palming technique of the MMO mouse or larger-width mice.
It's gorgeous. The buttons are barely flush with the mouse, providing just enough rise to feel what you're pressing. The mouse scrolling speed buttons found on a few similar mice are eschewed for one double action button that accesses all types of mouse functions through the LCD screen on the bottom. Everything is set up and stored on the mouse.
The mouse is designed to be driverless and won't allow the game itself to screw around with your preferred settings if you don't want it to. You can have five profiles stored, which makes for some easy transitioning between RTS and FPS games to something that requires different detailing, like an MMO. It was a simple switch.
Suffice to say, the bottom line is that the Xai is my spiritual successor to the mx518. For those of us out there more content with a mouse that has just enough buttons, the simple and solid Xai design is could not make me happier. The Xai did not mind my mouse death grip.
Personally, Steelseries' showing at BlizzCon was pretty spectacular and happily surprising. As a player who comes from multiple genre backgrounds, I was particularly enthralled with its pro gamer series stuff. My feelings on proprietary peripherals are usually not the most positive pieces, but Steelseries' WoW
licensed stuff surprised me. There is nothing better that being surprised by genuinely creative and accessible features, both of which dot the surface of the Cataclysm
key set for the zboard and Shift keyboards. The MMO mouse took time to adjust in my hand, but once it did, I had no trouble -- maybe we'll call this "mouse shock" from here on out. The designers at Steelseries have their hearts in the right places when building this hardware, and it shows.
BlizzCon 2010 is over! WoW Insider has all the latest news and information. You'll find our liveblogs of the WoW panels, interviews with WoW celebrities and attendees and of course, lots of pictures of people in costumes. It's all here at WoW Insider!