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SteelSeries 7G Gaming Keyboard
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.