Monday, March 24, 2014

SteelSeries Merc Stealth Gaming Keyboard Review & Photos

Released: January 2010
Original MSRP:$90
Current Average Price: $60
Product website:  SteelSeries Merc Stealth

The Good: innovative game pad design, 3 illumination colors at 4 levels of intensity, 2 USB 2.0, media hotkeys, gold-plated mic and headphone jacks and gold plated USB connector, easy to use drag&drop macros, mapping and programmable keys.
The Bad: manufacturing flaws, "Delete" key tied to "Num Lock"
Would I buy it again: Yes, as a gaming/media-only keyboard

There are a lot of gaming keyboards available these days and the selection, while good, makes it even more difficult to choose.  Each brand must do something intriguingly different that sets it apart from other offerings, while maintaining enough familiarity to be accessible.  Enter: The SteelSeries Merc Stealth Gaming Keyboard.

The Game-Pad

The Merc is an odd-looking peripheral with one feature that sets it apart: its unique gaming pad.  Set at an 11° angle, it is a comfortable solution for gamers.  I used this keyboard to play World of Warcraft and it was, indeed, more comfortable than using the WASD keys on a regular keyboard.  It did not take long to become accustomed to the slightly new layout and feel.  The numbered keys are indented, some keys are domed, and the directional and jump buttons are rubberized which give a comfortable grip.


The Keyboard

 The keyboard itself felt a little cramped but was otherwise fine.  The buttons are slightly indented.  The number pad had a huge issue for me, however. The "Delete" key doubled with the "1" key which means I had to switch Number Lock every time I wanted to delete while using the number pad.  This was a huge inconvenience for me as a writer, so I ended up switching to my wireless keyboard when I knew I'd be blogging etc.  I would not recommend this keyboard if you are an online writer and need an all-in-one keyboard. 



A feature I most needed in a new gaming keyboard was backlighting because  I often game or watch video in my blacked-out media room.  I also wanted something that had adjustable intensity so I could keep it on a dim glow if I were to be watching a movie but wanted my media buttons visible, or a brighter glow if I were to need it.  While this keyboard does have 3 colors (Red, Blue, Purple) with 4 intensities (Off, Low, Medium, High), I didn't like that it lit the entire area under the keys, not just the keys themselves.  This made it difficult to distinguish between the keys at a glance and produced more overall light than I liked. 

Manufacturing flaws-

After reading lots of other reviews and comments about this product, I have determined that the keyboard I received had a couple of manufacturing flaws, that while worth noting, were not a design issue.  The left Shift key needed to be depressed a bit longer than usual before a letter I wanted to capitalize.  It did not have to be pressed harder, but the extra time it took at hold it down before capitalizing was an annoyance and I constantly had to edit anything I had written for capitalization errors.  I also had a problem with the "Jump" key on the game pad sticking.  It would occasionally stay down when depressed and I'd have to quickly tap it several times to get it unstuck. That's not something  that is acceptable when gaming.  Both of these errors occurred right out of the box, so the user is not at fault!

I did try to get a replacement keyboard from SteelSeries, but as they no longer had any in-stock they worked with me to get another keyboard to replace it.  Even though my correspondence with them about this issue took months, I was very pleased with their customer service in the end.  They really stand behind their products and want each customer to be happy with their purchase.  I think they are really building a reputable company and I'd be happy to buy a SteelSeries product again.

See my post about how I got great customer service!

Want more? You can read my review about it on Amazon.
My Amazon Customer Review of the Steel Series Merc Stealth Gaming Keyboard

You can even buy this keyboard that I tested for review on eBay!