Tt eSPORTS: Meka G1: Old School was the Best School
As you all know I have been around computers a LONG time. I go back well before the PC era and so I recall all sorts of neat things from the early days. Something I have loved and missed the most is the old AT style keyboard. This old brute weighed a ton, it felt solid under your hands and the keys made a nice click when you pressed them. Plus pressing them was not the mushy affair of todays keyboards, they used a mechanical solution called a bucking spring to give a solid return and feel to the key presses.
Todays keyboards do not use the mechanical systems but rather use either full membrane or domed switch design. Both of these system rely on a soft membrane under the key to allow for a softer feel and quieter operation. While these work okay they lack the solid feel we enjoyed back in the day.
Enter the era of the mechanical keyboard. While they have been around for a while actually mechanical keyboards are what you would consider a luxury computer item. They are more durable than the usual fare however they also cost more as the switches are more expensive per key than the other designs.
Thermaltake has joined a small group brining this kind of keyboard to the market with the Meka G1. Using Cherry MX Black Switches, one of the heavier switch designs used for keyboards, they have set out to create what they hope is a first class gaming keyboard. The feature goes on to include 2 USB ports on the back as well as a headphone and mic jack.
First let me begin by saying I think we should throw out the gaming keyboard title. Compared to most gaming keyboards this one lacks one serious feature, a macro key set. While I personally do not make use of the macro keys on a “gaming” keyboard, they are a staple feature that sets a keyboard apart from the more basic kinds. I do however feel that the term luxury keyboard fits, when you look at the pricing and features offered.
The keyboard itself has an almost retro look from most keyboards you would buy today. Gone are the various special functions keys, like web or calculator. This is a good thing to me since I see people use these keys for like the first week they get their neat new keyboard and then ignore them after that. The only useful keys in my opinion outside the standard ones are volume control. The G1 puts these in by including a Fn key where the traditional (now) Windows key would go on the left. The multimedia functions are accessed by holding down the Fn key and then using F1-F7.
The G1 has dual USB connectors as well as a head phone and mic plug. Rather than have a bunch of flimsy cables that can be easily broken, Thermaltake took all the cables and wrapped them in a tough fabric sheath. While a bit stiffer than normal this sheath is tough enough to protect your cables from sharp edges under the desk, kids and small pets. In a pinch it could be used as a weapon to beat someone of as a garrote. This is some serious cable sheathing.
At the PC end the cable sheath terminates in a tough plastic end that allows the individual cables to come out for access. The dual USB plugs allows the USB ports on the back of the keyboard to be powered. This is a step up from other USB hubbed keyboards and shows in the fact that I had no devices that would not work correctly when attacked to this board including an external HD. There is also a USB to PS adapter. It seems you need the PS2 port connection to get the full anti ghosting effect that this keyboard offers. However even when plugged into a USB port I never experienced any issues using this keyboard with ghosting.
Okay with the features out of the way the question is how does it work? For testing I pitted the G1 against the two keyboard I current think are the best, the Saitek Eclipse II and the Microsoft Sidewinder X6.
The first think I noticed is the difference in the way the key presses feel. The G1 has a smoother resistance and there was a more noticeable feel of having pressed a key. There was also a more audible click when each key was pressed, you not only felt the key press, you also heard it. The keyboard itself has a much more substantial feel to it. It is heavier and feels more solid under use.
From a gaming point of view I would have to say I am a bit disappointed with the G1. The macro keys for the gamers is what really sets a keyboard apart in gaming. The USB ports are neat but not as big a deal as many make of them because we have had easy front PC access to USB for years. The only real use I have found for them is to use an LED light for low light PC use since this keyboard does not have backlit keys. Headphone and mic jacks in my opinion are USELESS on a keyboard. By plugging them into the back of the computer it means you need to either plug and unplug speakers when you want to use these for headphones or buy an extra switch. Once again we find front headset jacks are standard fare on modern cases making this feature not worth the trouble.
Reading this you might think I do not like this keyboard, you would be wrong. I LOVE this keyboard. For a big heavy handed guy like myself the mechanical keyboard is night and day better in typing experience than the softer stuff out there. My hammering hunt peck style leaves lesser keyboards mush at the end of 6 months but this one should hold up for years.
The problem is selecting a keyboard is not a this is best use it type of thing. It is, along with a mouse and monitor a very personal choice. These are the interfaces between you and your PC, the places you and the PC make contact. As such how they effect your computing experience varies from one person to another.
Is the Meka G1 a great gaming keyboard, no I don’t think so. While it offers the right buzz features I think it is missing a feature that is what sets the gaming keyboard aside, the macro setup. Anti-ghosting and fast polling and great but unless you are an elite gamer, and not just think you are, the odds are you will not notice any difference from keyboards without these features.
Now lets ask a different question, is the Meka G1 a great keyboard period and I would answer yes. The heavy duty feel, the great key responsiveness, the potential durability all combine to make this a great keyboard. As with most luxury type computer parts the pricing is a bit steep for the G1, but then again that is a fault with all mechanical keyboards. If you are looking for the mechanical keyboard then the G1 is not only a great choice, it is my first choice.
As recorded live 22 May 2011