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SteelSeries MERC Stealth Gaming Keyboard Review


According to SteelSeries, the MERC Stealth Gaming Keyboard “features 34 dedicated gaming terrain keys, providing gamers with the ability to adjust their macros and settings to walk, jump, crouch and move. This feature is crucial when playing fast-paced FPS games that demand a high-level of actions per minute.”

After reading that my interest was definitely piqued, but I found the MERC to have an extremely steep learning curve. I’ve been using the gaming keyboard for the past few weeks with various games (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, DOTA2, Guild Wars 2) to test it thoroughly by putting it “through the ringer” if you will. I’m very familiar with these games, but I’ve had some difficulty adjusting to the MERC’s key feature, the gaming terrain keys.

Read the full SteelSeries MERC Stealth Keyboard review after the break.

The Gaming Terrain Keys

The gaming terrain keys sound great in theory, but honestly the layout left a lot to be desired and the the keys can be a pain to navigate. When I used the typical WASD controls, my pinky could easily reach tab, caps lock, shift and ctrl, but when using the MERC Stealth’s gamepad I had difficulty navigating to about half the keys needed to play the game normally. The layout should feel fluid and natural, and I shouldn’t have to look to see what keys I’m trying to hit; with the MERC I had to do so constantly. And with the amount of trash I’m known to talk during multiplayer games, it was rather frustrating to constantly shift the positioning of my hands to and from the terrain keys, resulting with me losing my bearings on more than a few occasions.

The arrow keys, numpad, and navigation keys have been crammed together at the end of the keyboard. Toggling numlock switches between the numpad and navigation functions (7-9 = Find/Home/Page Up) made to make space for the gamepad on the other end, seriously limited the MERC’s practical applications. I would compare it’s functionality to that of a 3rd party replacement controller, (Think…MadCatz TURBO for SNES/Genesis) the kind of thing you’d only use once when you “Test Your Might” in Mortal Kombat.

It’s not a total bust though, the alphanumeric keyboard remains untouched and feels great under-finger, coupled with the amazing backlighting that made for an aesthetically pleasing display.  There are three light color options (Red, Purple, Blue), and each looks great.

Finally, while other reviews have complained about the Z Engine running on Win7 x64, I’ve encountered no issues whatsoever.  I also found creating macros and remapping keys a breeze to pull off.  The MERC also features a dual port USB 2.0 hub. It’s too bad the only peripheral I’d need to plug into it is my iPhone, and it wasn’t powerful enough to support it.

PROS

+Easy to Configure

+Amazing Backlight

+zEngine was a breeze to use

CONS

– Half the GamePad (gaming terrain keys) was a pain to navigate

– The layout of the NumPad makes it very impractical for other common tasks

In all honesty if you’re in the market for a gaming keyboard, I’d recommend the Steelseries MERC Stealth in a heartbeat. However If you’re looking for a multi-purpose keyboard, I’d suggest steering clear. The modified numpad is what did it for me, as the MERC Stealth just isn’t practical for everyday use.

For GamingRECOMMENDED

For Everyday Use – NOT RECOMMENDED 

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Posted on September 20, 2012, in Game Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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