Steelseries 7G: Heavyweight Keyboard
When I first looked at mechanical keyboards I almost fell out of my chair. I mean why would anyone drop over $100 on a keyboard. Well once you have used one a few weeks you no longer need to ask that question. Mechanical keyboards have a great feel to them, a nice tactile response that lets you feel what you are typing. They are super durable as well, I am not just talking the longer life of the switches, the general construction seems more rugged. Now I will not use a membrane keyboard, I am spoilt to mechanical.
When Steelseries sent us their little review care package I insisted that we get a keyboard to look at. They did not disappoint and sent us their top of the line 7G. Priced at $150 this is not a keyboard for the budget meek. Armed with Cherry Black switches the keyboard has a solid metal backplate and laser etched keycaps. This results in a very durable, heavy duty feel to this keyboard. This is further enhanced by a very solid braided cable that comes out the back. The overall construction gives the impression of strength, but that strength is very real and not just cosmetic.
The 7G does not come with a lot of frills, it is all business. You get a manual, sticker, Steelseries catalog and a PS2 to USB adapter. Yes you read that right, most adapters are for going from USB to PS2 but the 7G has a stock PS2 adapter on it and comes with an adapter to use USB.
The reason for this is in the way the keyboard gets the key presses to the computer. Remember this is geared toward professional gamers so the key is to get the data in fast. USB devices require a polling to take place, this requires some CPU cycles to be used to read the keyboards data. The PS2 port does not poll, you press a key and it is in the system, no middle man.
The rest of the cabling includes a USB connection and the headphone and mic jack. The USB connector is not for running the keyboard itself but is used to provide data connections for the two USB ports on the back of the keyboard. The headphone and mic jack are there as well. This offers the option for a close set of connections if your case is not near enough to make the front access ports of the case a viable choice.
Wrapped around the keyboard is an entire wrist support bracket. Remember what we said about solid, heavy construction, well it did not stop at the keyboard. This hefty frame gives the most solid wrist rest I have ever used. At the bottom of the keyboard we do not have the tractable legs to give the keyboard a lift, instead there is a molded ramp that gives the keyboard a nice angle and lift. This ramp also has a design that makes it really easy to set the keyboard on your lap and use.
If you want to work with a smaller keyboard the wrist rest comes off with no tools, in fact it does not even snap on. The entire assembly is just a large piece that sits around the keyboard, lift it off and away to get a smaller more streamlined unit.
Steelseries makes no qualms about what they where trying to achieve with the 7G. They were shooting for a heavy duty keyboard that would take abuse and keep coming back for more. It is no frills, just solid construction ready for a gamer to abuse it. After using this keyboard for a while I can safely say they hit their mark.
The attention to detail shows not just in the construction but some neat extras. You know that hated Windows key on the left side of the keyboard, well Steelseries killed that sucker dead and replaced it with a special function key that is used to make use of their multimedia control keys. This means when you accidently hit the key in gaming your game does not vanish to be replaced by the desktop. Steelseries also made sure the key switch and the connectors are all gold plated, helping add another level of durability to this beast.
When you read the literature on this keyboard you will see that Steelseries is proud of the fact that they did not backlight the keyboard. I understand the reasoning, they wanted the 7G to be about the substance of the keyboard and not any glitz. They achieved this in spades. The 7G has a classic elegance that is refreshing in the gaming world. Underneath that simple look is a brute of a keyboard that will take any abuse you throw at it and comeback for more. The laser etching and the fill in paint is very crisp and neat, resulting in easy to read keys.
The 7G has a lot going for it and is an amazing keyboard however at the end of the day when I consider the price the lose of the backlit keys to be is a ding. In fact I will go so far as to say I would gladly lose the USB and headset ports to get the backlighting instead. For me the backlit keys are not about glitz. I like playing my games in a dark room to let the screen pop more at me and thus increase my immersion, this means a backlit keyboard is a big deal for me. Especially since I do not touch type and need to look at the keys. The good news on this front however is the USB ports I mentioned. You can buy small LED reading lights on flexible mounts that you can use to get the keyboard light you might desire.
With the exception of the backlighting I absolutely loved this keyboard. The simple design is something I really like. I never understood all the various extra keys that so many keyboards use. The multimedia keys are nice but they larger go ignored after a few days when the novelty wears off. Since macro-keys are not permitted in professional gaming the lack of them here makes sense. Personally I never use the macro-keys so again the lose does not hurt me at all and in fact I prefer having the smaller design that results from not having the extra keys. The large wrist rest design is a great idea and well executed. This is just one of many small thoughts that where put in the design I really appreciate.
The $150 price tag however at the end of the day just seems a little steep, however good news, the 6G is the same keyboard without the USB/headset hookups and the large wrist rest, coming in at $100.
What I take away from the 7G is the design philosophy of Steelseries. They set out to build a part and they do it to make the part functionally at the top level with a durability to match and then cut out the flashy looks for that solid construction. At the end of the day the 7G impresses me and shows me what the people at Steelseries are all about. This is a great keyboard that is worth of the title, Heavyweight.
Review Segment Aired Live 3 December 2011