on October 11, 2010
This is review is based on my experience playing World of Warcraft only (raiding, at the moment, ICC 25m weekly including 7-8 hard modes) running on Vista. Since there are more bad comments that I would expect, as I believe this is the best gaming keyboard I ever used (at least, for WoW).
Starting with Con's:
- Learning curve is there and you will not get used to the placement of the keys over night. Took me well over 2 weeks to really "map" the key disposition in my head. However, once i got used to it, it's just amazing. A few highlights of this learning process: getting used to the 2 rows of buttons (1-6, 7-12), learning where's the 3 and where's the 4, you'll mostly likely miss the CTRL/ALT keys available at your thumb (which you will more than likely use only to hit space). With that said, since this is a new approach (at least, new to me) to gaming keyboard, the learning curve was expected.
- The "E" key (something already described on other comments) feels weird during the initial days of use, sometimes it seems to get stuck, sometimes it just doesn't depress as expected. After 1-2 weeks of game play, i believe the internal parts wear off and it starts to feel normal
- On WoW any bind beyond 6 is mostly useless due to the distance to "WASD" (movement keys). This keyboard make them all available to you on a great location. This means that you will use a LOT less "ALT" binds, and, depending on your class, perhaps none.
- Keys that i used to bind to avoid "Alt" binds, such as F, G, C, etc. are all there as well (meaning around 14-16 direct keybindings).
- Since it only remap the standard keyboard keys, it works out of the box, no addons needed.
- Sorry to Logitech on this one, but there's no useless LCD screen to display your stats/clock/whatever (i had a g15 and NEVER EVER managed to use the LCD)
- Cool colors to choose from, or none if you need/prefer
All in all, this is the best keyboard for World of Warcraft that i have ever used.
on October 2, 2011
For starters, the keyboard looks great and it's very durable. I've used it for over 2 years (and it was bought used, so there was use before I owned it), and I've never had a key go out, or have the symbols rubbed off. Also, each key in the game pad is a different shape, so it's easy to tell the keys apart without looking down. I always had a problem with traditional keyboards because I would accidentally press the wrong key because it felt like all the other keys.
Here's a break down of its main features.
IT DOESN'T HAVE A NUMPAD. You can activate the numpad, but then you loose home, end, pgup, pgdwn, etc. I found it really aggravating to reach for the numpad when the lock was off, only to copy something, delete something else, scroll half way down the page, then close the window I was working on. Now I just use the 1-0 row above the letters and life is good.
THE GAME PAD ROCKS. It has a great layout, it's comfortable, and has more buttons than most games need. Only once have I ever ran out of buttons on the game pad.
ZENGINE IS OKAY. In my experience, z-engine is a little clunky and tricky to use. I only rarely use macros, so it doesn't really effect me. Plus you can always get a good free macro program online, and then you can customize your heart out.
BOTTOM LINE: You're paying of the lights and the game pad. If you're not a gamer, this is a waste of money. If you can't function without the numpad, also a waste of money. If normal keyboards cramp your hands and cause you to hit buttons accidentally, this keyboard is for you.
on January 21, 2010
I highly recommend the Merc Stealth to any gamer. First construction. This board is very substantial. Manufacturing quality is high and does in no way feel "cheap". The manufacturer claims it is designed for 10,000,000 keystrokes. Much better than the average 1,000,000-2,000,000 keystroke lifetime of a typical keyboard. And with the feel and heft of this board I belive their claim isn't exagerrated. The game pad on the left side is intuitive in its feel, and with the Z-Engine capability, very versitile. I use my board for both MMORPG's and FPS' and find it to work very well in both of those styles. The long USB cord (6') also has plugs for your sound card and allows you to plug a mic and headset directly into the back of the keyboard. There are also 2 additional USB ports built in. While wider than a standard keyboard due to the gaming pad, they have compacted it by moving the contol keys between the QWERTY pad and the number pad to the number pad itself. This does take a bit of getting used to, but worth the change to keep the overall size of the board manageable. If you are looking for a keyboard for your office, the Merc Stealth is not what you need. But, if you are serious about gaming and want to improve your play, this is the board you need. Your game play will improve, I know mine certainly has.
on July 14, 2011
The Merc Steelseries keyboard worked fantastic right out of the box. It is awesome having the 2 extra USB ports right behind the keyboard. The keys all light up perfectly and have great sensitivity. The side controls work fantastic for MMO's. The only problem with this keyboard is it's configuration. The Zboard system seems to take forever to save a control set. It does have a few games that you can download preloaded sets for, but the customization should be a bit more polished if you want to change keys. It's really a minor annoyance and just takes some fiddling with to get right, but it may confuse basic users. It shouldn't deter anyone from buying this keyboard however. Having the backlit keys should be a "Must Have" for anyone who works/plays at night. Being able to change the color and intensity if I want is great. If you are looking for a gaming keyboard (specifically for Rift, or World of Warcraft or ANY first person shooter) this is the keyboard for you.
on June 22, 2014
Good Keyboard but after a half a year print on keys started to wear out, need better quality keys for that price.
*** update, "S" key's plastic post fell apart 10 months after purchase, no more gaming unless I can buy somewhere spare one...
on November 26, 2011
I've now been using the Steelseries Stealth Merc for about 3 months now. I use it for gaming (currently Borderlands, LOTRO, and Fallout 3 & New Vegas), web surfing, and all normal tasks.
First, the benefits:
- The primary draw for this keyboard is the left-side WASD setup. It has all the keys you would typically use in a standard FPS setup including shift, space, tab, ctrl, alt etc. It also has numbers 1 through 0, and - (labeled 1 through 11), plus commonly used keys R, F, T, G, V, B, C, P, Tab, and Capslock.
- Custom layouts for games. This is probably my favorite feature when combined with the previous point. You can customize the layout and associate it with an EXE. For me, I have a particular layout I like with LOTRO and it automatically runs that custom layout when I launch the game. You can also download others online, it just loads with the software. A light on the keyboard lets you know that a layout is in use.
- The colors are good, and give a nice look to the keyboard. I find I don't change it from red
- Media shortcut keys are handy
- Left side controls include Load, Save, and Print Screen, which was a nice touch
- The keyboard has a good sound to it. The keys are not clacking, but you know you're typing.
There are a few drawbacks, one of which may make you consider a different keyboard.
- No "always on" Num Lock. The home, end, insert, delete and several other keys are integrated in the number pad. This was almost a deal breaker for me. Not being able to just hit the delete, home, or end keys *and* enter numbers quickly is a hard pill to swallow. Once I got used to it, it hasn't really affected me as much as when I first started using it, but to this day it's still annoying.
- Arrow keys are mushed into the num pad, and the zero button is a single key width. This bothers me because I am adept at the number pad and found my speed is dramatically slower with this keyboard. Entering a credit card number on a web form is a chore now. I tend to use the top number row because there's no chance I'll accidentally hit the up or left arrows when I'm trying to hit the zero.
- The software is very hard to use with Windows 7. I read somewhere that it was developed for XP, and has not been updated. I don't know if that is true, but it is very rough around the edges. Some features don't even work correctly because when you release your mouse or key when making a selection, the software considers the release as another action. Very weird. Luckily you don't really use it once your layout is loaded. It just runs it the background and loads the right layout when it needs to.
The drawbacks are really not that big a deal, and I definitely recommend this keyboard. I miss this keyboard when at my friend's house gaming.
One note: I had a problem with the "E" key on the left gaming section. A small minority of the people who purchased this keyboard found that the E key sticks. Mine did that after only a month of use (heavy use, Borderlands requires you to hit the E key a LOT). I contacted Steelseries, and opened a ticket online. The tech was super helpful, thorough, clear, and they ended up replacing the keyboard. I have rarely experienced this quality of support, so if you do happen to run into a problem, their support was top notch for me.
on April 3, 2014
I originally purchased this keyboard back in 2009 when this keyboard was still manufactured under "Z-Board". Before I go on ranting how much I love this keyboard let me point out some points and pro's and cons.
The keyboard is a standard keyboard configuration complete with standard function buttons and numpad. It comes with media buttons along the top next to some customizable lights control buttons complete with three color settings (blue, red and purple) and three brightness settings along with an option to turn the lights off and on. This is helpful for those of us who stay up late on the computer at night and need a little assistance looking at what your pressing. It includes some 3.5mm female audio ports (Green Audio-Out and Pink Microphone) along the top bevel of the keyboard plus some USB ports for non-demanding energy USB accessories. The keyboard comes with adjustable legs on the bottom surface, top left and right of the keyboard to adjust for three levels of height from flat, to 2 other levels of height.
The sweet spot of this keyboard is the left side of the keyboard, which is based on (if not, similar to) the customizable Z-Board's with interchangable face-plates. The portion of the keyboard where you rest your palm to access this gaming-centric partition of the keyboard is declined to allow for a natural palm resting position to reduce hand fatigue. The buttons are placed comfortably for natural button access in relation to your hands resting position on a keyboard.
The WASD, QE buttons are the home of this partition of the keyboard while the outter buttons are conveniently positioned for easy, natural access. There is a SLIGHT learning curve to it, but it just comes so natural that leaves (IMO) minimal delay between initial, first time use and playing the games you love. Playing MMO's like Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft, Rift, Tera, and now WildStar came naturally. I also play FPS (CoD: Ghosts, BF4, etc.), regular RPG's such as Skyrim and Dragon Age, and Mass Effect (admittedly part RPG part shooter) and have had seemless transition.
The keyboard is designed to be used with a software which includes pre-configured settings for games which are loaded into the software. Switching between games is a snap, and customizing keys take minimal tinkering to figure out.
- The gaming partition of the keyboard is easy to use and enhances most if not all of the gameplay experience for games you play.
- Customizable lights with adjustable brightness levels.
- Little to no learning curve.
- Standard sized keyboard buttons with responsive buttons and audible feedback to acknowledge button presses.
- After several years of use, my keyboard now has some faults and locks some buttons without the buttons being physically depressed. But this is probably because of debris and fluids being spilled onto it over the years.
- 3.5mm Audio jacks are un-accessible to some devices due to it being entrenched in a clyindrical hole, making shorter 3.5mm male jacks or ones with special moldings around the jack impossible to access.
- USB ports are useless for more prominent USB accessories that require more power.
- Understandably, not mechanical.
My wife and I loved this keyboard so much that almost immediately after purchasing my initial keyboard we bought one for her! Here we are 4 years later buying another one because of a mishap involving liquids getting onto the switch portion of the board during a recent LAN party. Our friends that were over at the LAN party were so impressed with the keyboard that they bought ones for themselves!
This is a GREAT keyboard and if you play any game (FPS, MMO) enthusiastically, you owe it to yourself to purchase this keyboard.
on July 25, 2011
Although the Zengine software is advertised by [...] as working for Window 7 64-bit, it is quite buggy. The options to save and rename custom layouts didn't work. In fact, any function that required opening up a dialogue window (importing/exporting/saving/renaming/browsing) does not work with the standard Zengine software. When I contacted steelseries.com customer support about this, I received the following response:
"Mike S, Jul-24 22:48 (CDT):
Unfortunately there is an issue with the skinning engine in ZEngine that causes these issues.
First please take the following step. This will allow you to edit game/exe
Access your Z-Engine -> Tools -> Skins
Select "Do not use skins"
The only workaround right now for renaming mods, basically is to make sure the cursor is off of the actual text box when selecting rename.
1) Start off by putting the ZEngine into windowed mode - not fullscreen (so you can see a part of your desktop).
2) Right click on the mod name, which you want to rename - this should bring up a selection box. Now before you click on anything, simply move your cursor outside of the ZEngine window - onto your desktop
3) With that selection box still active, press the 'r' key on your keyboard. This is the hotkey which will activate 'rename' when that menu is active
4) Type your mod name in and hit enter.
Sorry for the inconvenience. It is a known bug and we are looking into a solution to fix it that does not require the removal of the skinning engine.
The latest software is dated 2/22/2011. They've apparently been encouraging users to use this ridiculous multi-step workaround for more than 5 months as of this writing.
Also, the shift button on the main typing portion of the keyboard I received often fails to respond until it's been depressed for almost a full second. This makes missing a capital at the beginning of a sentence fairly common, and wastes a lot of time in backstepping, deleting the lower case letter, then holding down the shift button firmly to ensure that it engages before hitting the letter I want capitalized...again.
Oh, and don't think that you're going to be able to simply reprogram the number pad and move the keys to solve the annoyance of having the arrow keys at the bottom of the number pad; they've cut the notches in the "5" key so it will only fit in its original factory placement on the board. You CAN move the others around and program them to respond as a normal number pad would, but you're always going to be looking at the 5 key above the 8 key on your number pad if you attempt to change the layout to something more traditional.
on June 27, 2013
I have had my Zboard since about 2008 (maybe longer, cant remember exactly) and I have loved it since the day I got it. I learned to play WoW with it and once I got a Razer Naga I was completely set. The left side button layout has been amazing! I've almost never had to make macros because between my keyboard and mouse I have plenty of buttons. The backlight on mine stopped working after about 2 years but not really a big deal to me. Keys have always been fast and responsive (even after my cat has knocked SEVERAL drinks into the keys >_<) and i have always loved the music controls on top
the Zengine software is HORRIBLE! Sometimes it will just shut itself off and i cant use any of the left side buttons in a game. When i try to use them it will open up my web browser or file search. I have tried opening the ZEngine program to reset it but it just turns red and says NO MOD and wont let me restart it. I have to unplug and plug back in the keyboard (which is also a HUGE pain in the rear because of how my system is set up) and sometimes even that doesnt work so I end up having to restart the whole thing!
I do love this keyboard and honestly, i would by another in a second but the software is several years out of date and has plenty of issues. Please Fix it steelseries!!!
on April 28, 2015
I was gifted with this keyboard by my son for Christmas, and absolutely loved it. But they main, long space bar suddenly stopped working properly. I discovered that the brace/attachment point under the space bar cap was broken, so I contacted SteelSeries to see about purchasing a replacement cap. This was the beginning of a 4 month nightmare! First, I was told they don't carry parts for their products because it would be cheaper to just buy another one. WHAT? I wrote back telling them that wasn't acceptable. They write back and tell me OH, that was a misunderstanding, which space cap do I need, the long on below the letter keys, or the small one on the gaming side of the KB? I tell them the long one, and they tell me no problem. Just send them my address, they'll send me a new one. Now, I contacted them to BUY the replacement...but if they're going to replace it for nothing, I won't argue. Unfortunately, a month later I had to write them again...and was told OH, I just put it in the mail for you, you should have it in 7-10 business days. Ok, I waited this long, I can wait a bit longer. A MONTH later, I write them AGAIN! This time, I'm told to return it to them under the warranty...and I need to know where and when it was purchased, and the purchase price. I had already told them it was a gift, I didn't have that info. Two weeks later, when I again write them asking can I PLEASE just buy that replacement space bar cap, I'm told I've been approved for RMA (return merchandise authorization), just follow the directions for return. AGAIN I told them all I needed or wanted was a replacement cap!!! A 50¢ piece, and I'll PAY for it! Finally, in March (this all started the first week of December) they email me the actual info for the RMA, telling me I had 15 days to return it to them for replacement. Well, if this is how I have to get a replacement cap, I might as well...after all, I can't use a keyboard without a working space bar! So, I pack it up and send it, at my expense ($19 UPS fee) back to them. 10 days later, I'm told a new one has been shipped, and I'm in heaven! Well, it finally arrived. And what did they do? They replace my keyboard with their low end Apex model. This one sells for either 1/3 or 1/2 (there is no model number on it so I'm not sure which Apex model is in this box, I refuse to open it) the price of my Merc Stealth board! If I had known they were going to pull something this underhanded, I would have just altered the space bar cap to work again! All in all, this took from the first week in December until last week. That's almost 5 MONTHS of run arounds...which ended in them sending me a POS keyboard and keeping my Merc Stealth, albeit with a broken space bar, but still! As far as gaming, it still worked perfectly!!! The Apex does NOT have that nifty little gaming KB on the side...just a bunch of macro keys, which I don't use! Don't touch anything this company sells, because should you ever need parts or service you're going to be up the creek with no paddle. This company is CLUELESS!!! Which is why I gave them such a low score. I'm an older woman, and while I do game, I am NOT hard on my equipment...the fact that the spacebar cap broke under normal typing is proof of inferior parts being used, and the fact that their customer service STINKS means buy their products at your own risk!!!