A Fancy Gaming Pad
The main appeal of the Merc Stealth is the fancy gaming pad extension located on the left hand side of the keyboard. The keys here are all re-arrayed into what Ideazon thinks is a more useful layout for gamers (the proper kind) and some of them have been repainted to their new uses.
So, even though the directional arrows on the left look like arrows, they also happen to type WASD. Handy if your main keyboard keys ever break, I suppose.
Of course, braking keys isn’t likely to happen with the Merc Stealth as the construction is frankly through the roof. The build quality for the keyboard is as fantastic as any we’ve ever seen and the whole board has a strong, weighty and solid feel to it. The downside of that though is that you’ll obviously have something a bit heavier in your bag if you’re a regular LAN gamer – personally though, I think the weight here is worth it.
The keys on the gaming pad use a variety of textures too. Some of the keys are hard plastic and rounded on the top, while others are concave instead of convex. The direction keys are made of a slightly rubbery material too.
Click to enlarge
I’m not honestly sure what the supposed benefit of these different materials is – I suppose the idea might be that the varied textures will tell you where your hand is on the pad without you needing to look, but in practice it’s not much of an issue anyway. A serious gamer puts his hand on the position he finds comfortable and then keeps the keys he needs under his fingertips at all times. Even if you move a finger away to press one of the number buttons then the other fingers stay in place and will guide your roaming digit back to its original position.
The Fun Stuff
Now we come to the fun part of any gaming review we do – the testing. There’s really only one way to test a gaming keyboard and that’s to game on it. Since playing games is an important part of my (perfectly awesome) job, me and gaming keyboard testing fit together like a glove.
Since Richard and I have been toying around building a new, yet to be unveiled, gaming PC for the office as well, it seemed the obvious step to hook the Merc Stealth up to the virgin rig.
The Merc Stealth connects to the PC through a single USB connecter, but it also has connections for headphones and a microphone that you can plug in if you want to use the keyboard as a cable-extender. We did. We also made use of the two USB ports on the keyboard to plug in a mouse – the fact that the Merc Stealth has this many connections on it already edges it out over the Logitech G11
in my mind. The G11 is my favourite keyboard currently available, but the fact that it doesn’t have any headphone or microphone ports is a serious weakness.
Click to enlarge
It seems obvious to us that the Merc Stealth is primarily marketed at FPS gamers – the WASD replica, plus the knowledge that FPS is the most popular genre make that self-evident. With that in mind, we obviously started out by testing the game with an FPS. Unreal Tournament 3
was the game we settled on testing the Merc Stealth with and doing so gave us an excellent opportunity to test the Ageia PhysX card
which we’d placed in our new gaming rig.
Like many multiplayer games out there, UT3
puts players in a situation where they live or die by how good they are with their keyboard. We gave ourselves plenty of time to warm up and get to grips with the keyboard before we properly sat down and started playing.