Thursday, March 26, 2009

Review: Ideazon Merc Stealth

Ideazon Merc Stealth Illuminated Gaming KeyboardI have, for the most part, avoided PC gaming gear. Outside of a good Logitech gaming mouse, I have stuck to using standard issue PC peripherals for my PC gaming needs. A regular keyboard has always been the end-all, be-all of PC gaming controllers.

However, for some reason, I decided to break tradition and cash in my holiday stash of gift certificates and purchase a “gamers keyboard”. I honestly thought I may be missing something with all this eye-candy PC gamer gear floating around out there. It was my turn to get the “edge” that all these gadgets claimed to give.

My first inclination was to get a gaming pad, such as the Nostromo n52 Speedpad, but after some searching and shelf surfing at my local Best Buy, I settled on the Ideazon MERC Stealth keyboard. The reasoning goes: for the same price as a side-pad type controller, I could get a full keyboard that INCLUDED a side-pad.

There are two nice things I can say about the MERC Stealth.

1. It sure is pretty.
2. The management software is user friendly.

Unfortunately, that is about all I could find for positives. Negativity, as they say, is my thing.

The first glaring problem is the layout of the QWERTY keyboard. Unlike most gaming keyboards, which maintain standard QWERTY key placements, the MERC Stealth moves critical keys around and plays complete havoc with the number pad. I found myself completely lost on the keyboard, feeling like the kid in typing class that is always getting yelled at for looking down.

Secondly, the side-pad is poorly designed. The keys are oddly shaped, poorly placed, and the pad itself is uncomfortably rotated to the side. I gave up after an hour of struggling to find a comfortable position to keep my arm in while keeping the keyboard level with me. I eventually just turned the damn keyboard and straightened out the angle on the pad.

The key placement and design on the side-pad is fundamentally flawed. The movement keys are HUGE. The function keys are tiny and all jammed together. I honestly wondered if any of the function keys were meant to be pressed at the same time as I was using the movement keys. I never found a reasonable way to utilize any of the other keys while using the HUGE movement keys. At that point, the side-pad becomes worthless.

The death knell of the MERC Stealth comes down to the combination of the altered keyboard combined with a horrible side-pad. Sure, with time, I could retrain my fingers to the MERC, but it would be a never-ending battle between my work setup and my gaming setup. The truth of the matter is that computers are a part of most PC gamers day jobs, and moving any standard keys on a keyboard is an easy way to make it feel too awkward for use.

I only spent about 30 hours gaming with the MERC stealth, so maybe it’s a muscle memory thing or maybe I just needed more time. Regardless, I returned the MERC Stealth, because at the end of the day my fingers were horribly confused.

Next up: the Nostromo n52TE Speedpad.
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