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SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard review

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SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard
  • SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard
  • SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard
  • SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard
  • SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard
  • SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard
  • SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard
  • SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard
  • SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard

Summary

Our Score:

7

Unlike gaming mice, we've always found the case for gaming keyboards to be rather less clear cut. Gaming mice came about because of a need to get better accuracy and tracking, the benefits of which anyone - not just gamers - can notice straight away. However, in terms of performance, any old keyboard that actually works will get many people by no matter what level they game at. Instead, the evolution of gaming keyboards has been about extra features, like programmable buttons and LCD screens, or better ergonomics. So if you don't need the extra features and find a normal keyboard reasonably comfortable, you're left with little reason to buy one. All of which makes the Steel Series 7G a rather intriguing proposition.

This is a premium, performance keyboard that's meant to provide the utmost in accurate responsiveness and survive a long and hardy life at the hands of over exuberant gamers but it has little in the way of extra features and has no macro programmability. In other words, it's quite a niche product. Let's see if it's something worth investing in.

Available in every colour so long as it's black, the 7G has an intriguing two part design. The main keyboard section is devoid of any extraneous borders or wrist rest-type extensions and as such it stands very tall, to the extent that you can't rest your wrists on the table and type comfortably. You instead must constantly hold your hands aloft, which is arguably how you should type anyway to reduce your risk of RSI.

If you do want to use a wrist rest, though, you can of course use your own third party one or use the provided plastic surround that slots on top of the keyboard and incorporates a very large wrist rest – it's nearly four inches from its edge to the front of the keys. In this regard its actually one of the best wrist rests we've ever used as, unlike the token efforts you get on many keyboards, it's actually long enough to support your wrists. However, it's only made of the same hard plastic as the rest of the keyboard so doesn't provide any cushioning. Of course this fits in with the whole hardcore image of the keyboard and it means the surround will last, untarnished for years to come but, when it boils down to it we'd rather have the comfort in the short term – after all, with a modular design, it's perfectly possible to sell replacement wrist rests should the original get grimy.

Another comfort issue comes from the fact that this has a completely conventional keyboard layout. Having used for the last year or so at work a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard, I've become used to its more natural wrist position and large spread-out keys. Also, the vast majority of half decent keyboards nowadays are either low profile or slightly curved, or both. So, coming back to a conventional layout and key height feels very cramped and, though I've not noticed any marked increase in discomfort (bar the cold weather making my hands cold and stiff) in the week or so that I've been using this keyboard, it is a stark reminder of how unnatural the normal keyboard layout is and why I recommend everyone give an ergonomic keyboard a try.

Ryan131

January 8, 2010, 5:59 am

It's like a homage to my wonderful IBM Model M! I especially like the PS/2 by default. Maybe it's just me but I can never get USB input devices to be niggle-free across BIOS, Windows, Keyboard/Mouse software, and Games.





(Although you are right about a missing Windows key being annoying!)

Keldon

January 8, 2010, 6:42 am

I really like this keyboard but I think its let down by the odd lack of left windows key and lack of extra features.





It looks great and easy cleaning and a good key action would be great but for a hundred quid I just expect more, my g11 lights up has a switch to deactivate the windows keys and has the macro keys (which are like marmite, some love them some hate them) and all for alot less than this board :)

Xiphias

January 8, 2010, 7:41 am

Not a bad review for someone not familiar with the market, you did get it wrong in a couple of places though.





"Incidentally, SteelSeries makes a big deal of this keyboard's unique ability to have every key pressed at the same time and have it register instantly (most other keyboards can only handle seven simultaneous keys before delays are introduced). However, we really can't think of any situations where this is advantageous but it's there if you want it."





Saying most keyboards will handle seven keys before delays isn't quite right. Most keyboards will not register all held down keys for certain combinations of three or more keys, while other combinations of keys could probably go as high as 12 or so while still seeing all the keys. Common (gaming) combinations of three that won't work are W + D + E and A + S + X. It's easy enough to test these in a text editor, just hold down two and see if the third comes up when you press it. If it does then you've either got a high end gaming keyboard or a keyboard with unusual wiring (in which case some other combinations of three won't work).





The 6/7 key limit is from USB and is on top of whatever other limitations a keyboard has, A PS/2 connection has no such limitation. While it's easy to see why you'd want to go from not being able to press a third key in some situations on a normal keyboard to the 6-keys/all-keys minimum of a keyboard like the steeleries it is a bit more unusual to want more than six keys at once, but it's easy enough to see how it could happen if you needed to hold down keys with both hands rather than the 3-4 keys with one hand that's common in most games.





"So, we come to the most important bit of any keyboard, the key action. Each key is individually sprung and SteelSeries uses a, so far as we're aware, unique key mechanism that resembles a classic 'clicky' mechanical switch but without the click. "





Unique? Not quite.





They're Cherry MX Switches and used on quite a few high end keyboards. The ones in the Steelseries 7G are the heavier linear ones but you also get clicky and soft click('tactile') variants, both of which are generally reckoned to be nicer to type on. They've been around for 20 years or so in that design, but as far as I know never got into any dell or similar keyboards like Alps did so it's understandable if you've not seen them before.





The cheapest keyboard available with them is Cherry's own G80-3000. G80-3000LPCGB for the linear switches, G80-3000LSCGB for the clicky, the soft click ones aren't available in a UK layout in the G80-3000. The number on the end (-0 or -2) is the colour. It's not as overbuilt as the 7G and doesn't have the more-guaranteed-keys-at-once feature but at ~£65 it makes the Steelseries a bit overpriced as just a typing keyboard.








For those who do want the whole package, an alternative to the Steelseries 7G is a Diatec Filco Majestouch. Previously they were only available in Japanese and US layouts but I know at least one company ('The Keyboard Company') is expecting some UK layout models soon. They're very similar keyboards to the 7G including the guaranteed many keys at once feature (Diatech calls it N-key rollover rather than Steelseries' anti-ghosting but it's the same thing) with PS/2 capability and the cherry MX switches (available in soft/tactile and click variants as well as linear). I don't think they have the audio passthrough, but they do have a proper windows key. I've heard the ones with blue LEDs are rather bright so you might like to ask about that before buying but they often come in other colours as well. Pricing is similar to the 7G, around £110.








Oh, and if you do still have the 7G could you test whether the Steelseries logo key is implemented in hardware or software (i.e. can the computer see it)? As it's Taiwanese (the 7G is built by Datacomp AFAIK) I suspect it's hardware which means you can't even rebind it to function as a windows key (which wouldn't be ideal as it's not portable, but it'd be something at least).





p.s. I apologise if there's any obvious mistakes here as I'm writing this post at a late hour.

Ed

January 8, 2010, 2:45 pm

@Xiphias: The logo key is implemented in hardware.





Fair cop on the rest of that stuff. I'll amend accordingly.

PoisonJam

January 8, 2010, 3:35 pm

Oh how I long to be able to easily remove the caps lock and insert keys!!

Ed

January 8, 2010, 4:10 pm

@PoisonJam: I'm totally with you on the insert key!

PoisonJam

January 8, 2010, 6:23 pm

On my current basic Logitech media keyboard I keep hitting the caps lock key with the A key. On my Dell keyboard at work the edge of the caps lock key is recessed.

Rickysio

January 8, 2010, 7:49 pm

On my current stock OEM Compaq keyboard the key action sucks. Big time. :(

smc8788

January 8, 2010, 9:12 pm

@ PoisonJam - The Logitech SetPoint software will let you disable the Caps locl/Insert/Windows keys amongst others if you want. It should work with any Logitech keyboard, at least it does with my Illuminated Keyboard.

dev

January 8, 2010, 9:28 pm

I think TR should spearhead a campaign to remove the Caps Lock key...

Xiphias

January 8, 2010, 9:51 pm

PoisonJam & Ed: You could just turn it/them off, Sharpkeys should work fine for that: http://www.codeplex.com/sharpk...





The recessed caps lock is the standard design (i.e. IBM did it) and you'll find most serious keyboards have it. Microsoft and Logitech both used to do it but they seemed to have stopped lately, I guess it's a further descent down the road of trading off usability for cost.





I use a keyboard with the arrow keys and number pad moved to the left so I can have the letter area of the keyboard directly in front of me while the mouse is just to the right. As insert is five keys to the left of 1/! I never hit it by accident any more. It's a far more sensible design than the usual for right handed mousers and I'm surprised it's not more widely used.

Ed

January 8, 2010, 10:04 pm

@dev: Or you could just learn to type properly ;)





Nah, (but they will being trying to kill you...) I do agree that all caps lock keys should have that recessed section.





@Xiphias: What keyboard's that then? Sounds intriguing. It strikes me, considering all this discussion, that there's still ample room for the perfect keyboard. Personally I'd like the switches, audio pass-through, and USB hub of the 7G with the layout of the Microsoft Ergonomic series (or at least the Logitech Curve) and the number pad on the left along with some macro/multimedia keys. Easy.

dev

January 8, 2010, 10:44 pm

@Ed: I could learn to type properly eh - "they will being trying to kill you"??? :P

Ed

January 8, 2010, 11:18 pm

@dev: Dang! Hoist by my own petard.

PoisonJam

January 11, 2010, 2:17 am

@smc8788 - Good suggestion. I normally don't install the Setpoint software as it's just another largely unnecessary thing on startup. I gave it a try but it only recognises my mouse, probably because my keyboard is PS/2?





@Xiphias - Is it likely to be the same (i.e. USB only) for Sharpkeys, or does it disabled them in the OS?

Xiphias

January 11, 2010, 4:19 am

@Ed: It was marketed as a 'left handed keyboard' without a brand attached. It was made by Strong Man who apparently went out of business so they disappeared from most of the shops. I notice a couple of places are expecting new stocks but with Cherry MX switches this time instead of the Strongman copies of the Alps design mine has so I assume they're now being manufactured by someone else. There's also a cheaper one using what looks like scissor switches (laptop keys) from Evoluent under the name of 'mouse friendly keyboard' but that unfortunately uses a mangled and squashed together layout.





I'd agree about there being ample room for the perfect keyboard. Considering the standard keyboard layout (minus windows keys) came out in 1985 it's surprising how little innovation there's been considering the massively changing usage of the PC. There's plenty of completely custom keyboards, and plenty of standard keyboards with extra buttons that provide functions that already have keyboard shortcuts but very few that are adaptations of the standard keyboard to new uses.





@PoisonJam: I've no idea, it's uses windows remapping so I'd imagine it supports both but it's possible it's USB only.

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