SteelSeries 7G Keyboard

Score:  8/10

Price:  $185 AUD (this may vary depending on retailers, and there are not many retailers in Australia that carry this)

Pros:

-Quality construction

-Reliability

-Tactility

-Mechanical switches

-N-key rollover (a must for self respecting FPS gamers)

-Gold plated plugs

-Its heavy (you could argue that this a bad thing)

Cons:

-Cherry MX Black Switches (i prefer Brown switches with audiable click which require less force to use)

-Not really ergonomically designed (a problem many keyboards of this kind suffers from)

-Expensive (then again no mechanical keyboard is cheap)

-The white LED status lights for NUM/CAPS/SCROLL are too bright

-USB expansion port on the keyboard is only USB 1.1

Verdict: A good mechanical switch keyboard, would be better if SteelSeries could offer them with the brown cherry switches and without the keypad (much like what Filco offers). If you are really want a SteelSeries mechanical switch keyboard the 6Gv2 version is probably a better purchase option.

SteelSeries 7G Keyboard 1

Picture 1. SteelSeries 7G shown from its best angle (taken from SteelSeries website) [1].

Review

I got this keyboard awhile back as a replacement for my Unicomp 104 keyboard. The Unicomp 104 keyboard was based on the old IBM Model M (which was sold to Lexmark whom then sold it to Unicomp) with the buckling spring technology (http://pckeyboards.stores.yahoo.net/customizer.html), something that IT fanatics would know a thing or two about. I have considered several different mechanical switch keyboards on the market before getting this particular model, such as Das, Happy Hacking, Filco, Unicomp, etc. However due to the geographic and market isolation of Australia relative to the rest of the world, it is sometimes hard to get these high quality mechanical switches keyboard in the normal physical computer stores in Melbourne. So i trolled through the various online stores trying to find a suitable mechanical switches that can be delivered within a short time frame, and the SteelSeries 7G/6Gv2 came to my attention. I finally decided that i should get the 7G over the 6Gv2, since the extra 80 dollars should yield something superior in terms of the typing experience (but i guessed wrong). So i haggled a bit with this online store that i constantly buy stuffs off, and i got a discount of around 10%, which is considerable since this is the only two stores i can find in Australia that stock this keyboard.

SteelSeries 7G Keyboard 2SteelSeries 7G Keyboard 3

Picture 2. SteelSeries 7G with and without its oversize palmrest (taken from SteelSeries website) [2].

So the shipping of this keyboard was relatively quick (around 1 week), and what surprised me is the size of the packaging and the weight of it. Since i have thrown the packaging away, there is no point really waffling on about the unboxing experience, other than to say that SteelSeries used a lot of high quality packaging to pack this keyboard (this is an unboxing video done by someone else http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pw19XbP0QU&feature=player_embedded). The packaging would probably catch a lot of shopper’s eyes if it was sitting on the shelf of the retail shops, and it would certainly be something that shoppers could consider purchasing over gaming keyboards from Logitech or Razer, etc, but many of them would probably be turned off by the PRICE and the lack of eye candies that $100+ keyboard usually comes with (i.e. full backlit key, LCD screen, shortcut buttons, etc). For gamers whom don’t know what n-key rollover and mechanical switches are, this keyboard would seem to be an overkill compared to say a regular 50 to 60 dollars keyboard from Logitech, Microsoft, etc.

SteelSeries 7G Keyboard 4SteelSeries 7G Keyboard 2

Picture 3. SteelSeries 6Gv2 (top) compared to 7G (bottom) (taken from SteelSeries website) [2,3]

Prior to purchasing the SteelSeries 7G keyboard, i did not really educate myself to the different types of Cherry MX mechanical switch keys. I wrongly assume that all were created equally and they should give similar tactility and audio feedback, but boy was i wrong. After 2 minutes of using this keyboard, i already start to regret that i should of done a bit more researches on the tactility of the different Cherry MX switches. The black Cherry MX switches are very different to the buckling spring switches that the Unicomp keyboard uses, there is a very different tactility and auditory feedback between the two. As a typing keyboard, the Unicomp 104′s inherent Model M design still beats all other mechanical keyboards on the market. However, since this keyboard is aimed at the gaming market, i will probably not dwell on this point too much. Prior to purchase of this keyboard, i did not really look into the various features that it has, i was more attracted to the fact that it has the mechanical switch side of thing. After procuring it and using it for a week or so, i started to get curious on what features it have to command such a premium pricing.

SteelSeries 7G Keyboard 6

Picture 4. Marketing pamphlet on the SteelSeries website. [1]

So i went to the SteelSeries official website and looked through their specification and marketing information listed for this keyboard model. Basically, the SteelSeries website list the 7G as having:

  1. Gold plated mechanical switches
  2. 50 million key presses which should last around 20 years of continuous use.
  3. Steel backed plate for added durability
  4. Choice of usb or ps/2 (the later allows for n-key rollover)
  5. Anti-ghosting (6 keys + modifier when used with usb or unlimited key when used on ps/2)
  6. Audio and USB hub port (usb port 1.1 only)
  7. Gold plated connectors
  8. Nylon braided cable for extra long durability, as rubber or polymer casing tend to crack as they age.
  9. left windows key replaced with SteelSeries multimedia controller key (the right windows key is still there).
So from pure marketing hype, there is quite a lot going for it as a gaming keyboard, but in reality there is not much real features that would it make this a better gaming keyboard as compared to the 6Gv2, which looks exactly the same from the outside minus the gold plating on the cables (the mechanical switches on 6Gv2 are also gold plated), braided line and various extra useless ports that the 7G have. If i was to place the 6Gv2 and 7G next to each other, it is almost impossible to tell them apart, also the key tactility are the same, since they use the same gold plated Cherry black MX key switches.
SteelSeries 7G Keyboard 7
Picture 5. Marketing pamphlet for the 6Gv2 (taken from SteelSeries site).

For some reason SteelSeries use a ultra bright white LED light for the Status LED, they are so bright that they can be used as reading light or tactical light on hand guns (probably that is to make up for the lack of keyboard backlight).
SteelSeries 7G Keyboard 8SteelSeries 7G Keyboard 9
Picture 6. LED status light on the SteelSeries 7G keyboard.

Conclusion

If i was to make the purchase decision again, i would chosen the much cheaper 6Gv2 as my typing keyboard, since i don’t have use for the extra features that the 7G have. The removable palmrest on the 7G is a nigh useless contraption, not only is it too big and takes too much desk space, it is also poorly designed for ergonomic use. The height of the palmrest on the 7G is designed more for use with membrane dome keyboards rather than the mechanical keyboard, and can cause finger fatigue when used for extended period of time. I had to resort to using an aftermarket palmrest (the leather Filco palmrest is better designed) to stop my finger from fatiguing when typing up long reports, another reason to get the 6Gv2 instead. I would probably get the Brown MX Cherry switch version of the Filco Majestic 2 tenkeyless keyboard, since they come with the Brown MX switches with the distinctive click sound and in a much smaller form factor (they don’t have the keypad). The brown switches also require lot less force to type on, as compared to the black switches, which require somewhere between 60 to 70 grams per click (and that is a lot). The 7G and 6Gv2 are aimed at gamers rather than typists, so if you are interested in mechanical keyboards and never used them before, please read the following guide, it has pretty much all the information you would want about the different mechanical switch keyboards on the market. http://www.overclock.net/keyboards/491752-mechanical-keyboard-guide.html

References

[1] http://steelseries.com/products/keyboards/steelseries-7g

[2] http://steelseries.com/products/keyboards/steelseries-7g#pictures

[3] http://steelseries.com/products/keyboards/steelseries-6gv2#pictures

[4] http://steelseries.com/products/keyboards/steelseries-6gv2

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