SteelSeries has long been known as a developer of high-end gaming peripherals and their ‘7G’ gaming keyboards keeps to this tradition well. It is the most solid and well-made keyboard I have ever had the pleasure of using.
Looks/Design: The 7G features a flat black-metal (for the most part) construction which, at first look, is actually a bit underwhelming. It comes in two pieces, the keyboard itself and a metal wrist rest unit that attaches to it. You will not find any lights or LCD screens or any other bells and whistles on this unit.
What you will find, however, is a very effective braided cable system which almost entirely eliminates any ‘tangling effect’ as well as the possibly of fraying normal plastic insulation. This feature alone should be standard on all new gaming keyboards or mice out there as I cannot tell you how many times I have had a cable start to pull out of a device because the plastic connection got worn down. No such possibility here, thanks to some ingenious thinking.
One special feature that SteelSeries would have been smart to add is some sort of lighting system. Unlike the LCD screens and the other ‘bells and whistles’ found on gaming keyboards these days, lighting is definitely the most useful, especially when gaming in a dimly-lit tournament environment. The keyboard features a USB pass-through cable, so why not draw power from it for on board lighting?
The included wrist rest is quite large and does a good job of keeping your hands at a comfortable angle. However, it is an all-metal design and can chafe if used for long periods of time. While SteelSeries has told us this design decision was made for durability purposes (gel rests can puncture and decay), and this makes sense, we recommend you put a soft barrier between the rest’s metal and your wrists for your own comfort.
The 7G’s key layout is fairly standard, save for the Windows key being replaced by a key with the SteelSeries logo on it. Once held down, it enables the ‘secondary media feature’ on keys F1-F6. So, you want to mute your PC’s volume, just hold down the SteelSeries key followed by F1 – simple! SteelSeries has also chosen to use an L-shaped enter key, which we find comfortable and familiar. The only real issue we have with the key layout is the small backspace key. It takes some getting used to if you have been using wider variants on other keyboards for a while.
Then we looked at the 7G’s output cables. SteelSeries has attached a gold-plated USB cable (for the on board pass-through ports), speaker and headset cables, and a PS/2 connector! That’s right: PS/2! Why would such a premium keyboard use an ‘old’ technology like PS/2? Well, we asked. Our answer was fielded by Kim Rom, VP of Marketing at SteelSeries. Kim told us that the reason for the PS/2 connector (a USB adapter is included, by the way) is two fold: First, when gamers take their 7G’s to various tournaments, many tournament machines can have no available USB ports to plug their keyboards into. Second: The PS/2 interface (while actually has more dedicated access to the motherboard. This can be seen pretty much anytime your USB ports ‘freeze up’. While the PC processes what is going on, if you had a PS/2 keyboard installed it would still be able to pass on your key presses. Also, this allows the 7G to be used during your PC’s booting period where a USB keyboard might not have been detected yet. We would like to thank Mr. Rom for his helpful answers.
Usage/Features: Using the 7G is a very pleasant experience, with the keys providing a smooth glide. They call them gold plated with ‘no-click’, however we found them to be extremely loud, so this is not the keyboard to use if you are trying to type in secret. Aside from the noise, the keys have a great action. They feel very solid, and you can feel friction in the glide which makes for an experience we liken to ‘squeezing’ the trigger of a semi-automatic pistol as opposed to ‘snapping’ it back. If all this sounds very ethereal and new age, you will just have to try one of these keyboards yourself, as the typing experience is quite unique among all the keyboards I have tried. This translates extremely well to gaming, with the only problem being that I miss having the macro features other keyboards provide. With the PS/2 anti-ghosting feature, I never ran into a keystroke overload even once. Also, the heavy weight of the unit keeps it staying put during intense gaming sessions. I just hate it when I end up pushing my keyboard about the desk while in a flurry of typing.
Conclusion: If you are looking for the best ‘functional’ gaming keyboard possible, the SteelSeries 7G gaming keyboard is exceptional and well-worth its $150 dollar price point in that it very well could be the last keyboard you need to buy until the apocalypse, maybe. Even then, the thing might just hold-up fine. Unfortunately, nuclear testing was not part of our review regiment. Also, we cannot say what the value of the beast will be in bottle caps. Sorry, we have been playing Fallout 3 too much. The biggest complaint we can find about this keyboard is the lack of back-lighting. If you can get over not having the ‘bells and whistles’ and are able to afford it, the 7G is easily the keyboard for you.