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SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard - SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard

By Edward Chester

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

For those of you that sometimes get frustrated that your keyboard becomes dislodged and slides around your desk while in the middle of an intense fire fight, you'll be glad to hear you should have no such problems with the 7G. This is largely due to four large soft rubber strips that keep a good grip on any dry flat surface the keyboard is resting on but also it helps that the ridiculous over-engineering of the keyboard has led to it weighing an absolute tonne. Okay, so maybe not a tonne but at 1.5Kg, it's surely the heaviest keyboard on the market.

While the 7G isn't exactly stacked when it comes to extra features, it does have six multimedia keys that are secondary functions of the F1 – F6 keys. These are activated via the SteelSeries logo key that replaces the left hand Windows key, the removal of which we're not happy about. While we appreciate that some gamers find it frustrating when you accidentally press the Windows key while gaming and get dumped back onto the desktop, if like us you regularly use Windows key shortucts – in particular using Windows R to open programs and Win D to show the desktop – then its omission is going to prove very frustrating.

Meanwhile, above the numpad are the usual trio of Num, Caps, and Scroll lock indicator lights but for some reason SteelSeries has felt the need to use the brightest white LEDs known to man. While typing off to the side, they're not too distracting, though entirely excessive, but if you happen to view them straight on you'll be non-too-far from burning your retinas out and at the very least you'll have a nice after glow in your vision for a few minutes. We suppose there is some merit in making it really obvious when you've activated these buttons – certainly it's useful that when typing reviews it is really easy to spot when I've accidentally hit Caps Lock – but it still seems a little over the top.

On a more positive note, we do like the inclusion of headphone and microphone pass-through ports on the back particularly as the quality from them both is very good with not a hint of noise added to the signal on route; whether that's helped by all the connections being gold plated is a matter for debate. You also get two USB 2.0 ports, which use their own dedicated cable. This is because, by default, the 7G uses a PS/2 connector for the main keyboard connection though a PS/2 to USB converter is included in the box. Incidentally, SteelSeries makes a big deal of this keyboard's ability to have every key pressed at the same time when connected via PS/2 and have it register instantly (most other gaming 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. When connected by USB, 10 keys can be pressed simultaneously. All the connections are bundled together in one thick (6mm) braided cable that is a considerable two metres long.

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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