Mercenary for Hire
By Kenny Yeo
SteelSeries has come a long way from its early days as a two-man outfit in Copenhagen back in 2001. They are now a bonafide worldwide operation with offices in the U.S., Denmark and Taiwan. Specializing in professional gaming gear, SteelSeries has made a name for itself by sticking with its philosophy of listening to the needs of gamers. The Merc Stealth is its latest gaming keyboard and we check it out to see if it is indeed what gamers want.
On first glance, the SteelSeries Merc Stealth gaming keyboard is a clean looking keyboard. Decked in black, the Merc Stealth might look unassuming at first. But once you plug in the USB connector, the Merc Stealth's backlit keys begin to emit a warm glow of red. If red is not your color, there's a color switch key that lets you swap between purple and blue as well - the purple is drop dead funky. Admittedly, the ability to change backlit lighting is more of a gimmick than anything else, but it really ups the cool factor for the Merc Stealth gaming keyboard that certain users may appreciate.
The Merc Stealth has keys that are neatly labeled. It also has 34 gaming-dedicated keys located at the far left. These keys are specially designed to let gamers get on with their business more efficiently, making it easier and quicker to turn, select and reload weapons, or even crouch. That aside, we noticed the Merc Stealth is unusually long due to the extra gaming keys, which could be an issue if your table space is cluttered or limited. It could also mean quite a stretch for your hands since the mouse is presumably at the other end of the keyboard.
As we got used to the exceptional width of the SteelSeries Merc Stealth gaming keyboard, we found ourselves thinking that this is one of the best gaming keyboards we've played with all year.
A key factor to that - the keys, which have a very nice tactile feel, making gaming and even typing a real joy. Additionally, the movement keys even have special rubberized surfaces for an even better feel. Furthermore, these gaming keys are placed where you'd expect them to be.
That aside, the Merc Stealth gaming keyboard can be fully customized using SteelSeries' bundled Z Engine software. By default, the Merc Stealth comes with pre-defined profiles for over 150 games, but with the Z Engine, you can customize and remap the keys any way you want and even create your own user profiles and macros. However, given that the gaming dedicated keys are not symmetrically-placed, it is unlikely you'll be able to customize it for left-handers. In fact, this keyboard is hardly suitable for lefties.
The SteelSeries Merc Stealth is a spanking gaming keyboard, delivering everything that a gamer could hope for. Once we got accustomed, the special dedicated gaming keys definitely played a part in upping our gaming prowess, while the bundled Z Engine allows for added flexibility.
At its recommended retail price of S$139, the Merc Stealth is reasonably priced for a gaming keyboard, and our only complaint is that it won't work well for left-handed gamers. If you are right-handed, the Merc Stealth is definitely worth a look or two.