It’s not often we review hardware here on Gamesweasel. If truth be told nowadays most of our gaming time is spent on the consoles; PC gaming seems to have taken a bit of a back seat in recent years.
That isn’t to say we don’t still enjoy a good PC game when it comes along. For example we recently reviewed Tales of Monkey Island and Empire Total War on PC. KeySonic were kind enough to supply us with a review unit of their latest low-priced gaming keyboard and therefore here comes our KeySonic Gaming Keyboard review.
The particular keyboard we are reviewing is the ‘Keysonic KSK-6001UELX Compact Gaming Keyboard with Blue Backlight’; now that is a bit of a mouthful so for the purposes of this review we’ll just refer to it as the KeySonic Keyboard.
Considering how important a gaming controller is, it’s very surprising that most PC gamers still use the free keyboard and mouse that came with their PC. Unlike video game consoles that come with a dedicated controller ideally suited for the experience, store bought PC’s tend to come with very basic keyboards with little or no extra features besides the Caps Lock key. These free keyboards are typically suited for light word processing use only but because they so easily become a fixture on the desk, the thought of replacing it doesn’t really ever spring to most people’s mind. So as you may have guessed we’ve not had too many extra special gaming keyboards in the Gamesweasel office so we were very excited to get our hands on one at last. Let’s get the tech specs out of the way. The KeySonic KSK-6001UELX features the following (amongst the usual stuff):
- 20 Anti-Ghosting keys for simultaneous actions programmable through separate software
- Blue LED backlight for excellent illumination and to increase gaming experience
- SoftTouch membrane technology for silent stroke and tactile feedback
- Windows 7 Compatible
First impressions of the KeySonic Keyboard were rather good; the unit itself is a rather nice weight (640g), not feeling too light and cheap but at the same time heavy enough to feel sturdy and reliable on the desk. Once plugged into your computer via USB you can experience the gorgeous blue backlit LED by pressing the discrete on/off switch located in the top right hand corner.
The blue LED glow that emanates from in-between (and through the keys) feels very relaxing and makes a very surprising ergonomic difference. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to see which keys are which even in daylight, let alone the intended darkness/night time usage scenario. Even though I am a touch typist I still found the backlighting very handy for those times when you need to look down for one of the more unusual keys that don’t get used that often. The LED backlighting itself is very evenly spread so apart from the top row (the FKEYS) there is a nice distribution of light.
The keys themselves are very interesting. As mentioned above the LED backlight shines through the keys highlighting the characters. This simple yet clever trick is performed by making the characters on the keyboard out of semi-transparent plastic; allowing the blue light to pass through. Not only does this look cool but it also means your commonly used letters won’t fade over time leaving you with more blank tiles than a game of Scrabble.
The keys are also backed by the super sounding ‘Soft-Touch Membrane Technology’. Now I can’t explain the science behind it (well I could, just choose not to) but on a basic level it means the keys press down rather smoothly and quietly into the board.
Before I move onto the more advanced features of the keyboard it’s worth mentioning that it’s a slim line model. This is great for those that have a small workspace but it does have the unfortunate side effect of compressing the keys together like that of a Laptop computer. Not a serious flaw but for gamers with big fingers or those who like well-spaced out keys it may be an issue. Personally I found that the Arrow/Cursor keys being pushed underneath the Return key didn’t quite suit my personal gaming style.
Now onto the advanced features – most standard keyboards will usually only respond to three or four buttons held down at the same time. After installing the separately installed driver package (more on that in a moment) the KeySonic Gaming Keyboard can handle up to eight buttons pressed simultaneously. This feature is called Anti Ghosting and put simply means; there are 20 keys on the keyboard of which you can press up to eight at once without buggering up Windows or the game you’re playing. Personally I can’t think of many games besides World of Warcraft that require you to hold that many buttons down at once, but it’s certainly handy to know the feature is there if you want it.
To save a few pennies (and the environment I guess) the Keyboard doesn’t come packed with a driver install CD for the special features. This isn’t a problem for anyone with an internet connection who is happy to visit the website but would obviously be an issue for those that can’t. Without these drivers the keyboard just acts like any other standard USB keyboard without the gaming enhancements (but thankfully the blue LED’s still continue to work).
The driver software is a fairly hefty 40MB download but thankfully installs fairly quickly and without much fuss. You’ll only need to choose the US or UK keyboard layout and the rest of the install procedure is painless. Once installed you should notice the new Gaming Configurator icon is sitting in your system tray. From now on this will boot up with Windows automatically every time you start your PC.
This sadly is where my love for the keyboard fell a few notches. As soon as I loaded the keyboard configurator I could instantly feel that it was a quickly/cheaply produced piece of software. Whilst you can program almost every button on the keyboard to perform a certain function (such as go backwards or forwards on a website), or run a macro mouse movement, the whole presentation of it all is very poor.
When you hover your mouse over the virtual onscreen keyboard to begin programming; the Yellow silhouette doesn’t ever seem to match up with your cursor and sometimes doesn’t even appear at all. This could be a graphic driver issue or even an incompatibility with Windows 7 but regardless; a bug that shouldn’t be present.
There are no instructions as to how to program the buttons or record a macro (if that’s even possible) at all. After spending a bit of time fiddling you can work most of it out but this is a very poor solution. I can only hope the software is updated quickly because in its current state it feels like using a Windows 98 program and is pretty shoddy to say the least.
So to sum up; I really do like the KeySonic Gaming Keyboard; it looks great on my desk and it’s much better than the bad 1980’s office style one I was using before. It not only works great as a standard keyboard but is cool for gaming in the dark. I’m no gaming keyboard expert but I do think that some gamers would benefit to the backlight and advanced anti ghosting features.
The few issues I do have with the Keyboard however do actually spoil the enjoyment of the whole package. They may or may not affect you in the same way or even at all on your system, but they do need to be mentioned.
I prefer to play FPS games using the cursor keys instead of WASD; because of the unusual cursor key placement this now feels a little more uncomfortable and hitting another surrounding key is much more likely than with my previous board. This is of course related to the choice to make this a compact keyboard rather than a full sized one; now I’m all for saving space but I don’t really think any serious gamers wanting a serious keyboard will be the sort of people to worry about the space issue in the first place.
There is no way to beat around the bush but the advanced driver software (as of the review date) in my opinion is terrible. So terrible in fact I don’t want to leave it installed on my PC and potentially risk it messing something up, Windows and third party Drivers are a bad combination at the best of times in my opinion. I’d rather do without the special features until the software is updated; in the meantime the blue LED backlighting is good enough for me.
The Keysonic KSK-6001UELX Compact Gaming Keyboard with Blue Backlight is a good but flawed device. It’s a nice low priced entry into the gaming keyboard market but from the looks of it, isn’t quite up to scratch of those offered by rivals Razer. If you are on the lookout for a cheap backlit gaming keyboard (RRP £34,99) then I do recommend it; if however you have a bigger budget then I think you will find a better bang for your bigger bucks elsewhere. It’s tricky to rate a keyboard out of 10 but I’m going to do it anyway. 7 out of 10.