Steelseries Zboard Gaming Keyboard Review

Fans of StarCraft II are likely to be tempted by the offering from Steelseries; a Zboard custom designed with beautifully crafted artwork from the game itself. But is it worth the expense of a new keyboard specifically for the game? Could a keyboard actually help to improve your gaming experience? Or is this just something of an attractive toy? Let’s find out.

Opening the Box

Your beautiful new keyboard will be presented to you from the moment you tear through the wrapping to open the Steelseries box. The StarCraft Wings of Liberty artwork will instantly grab your attention, as the theme runs through the backdrop of the keyboard, and even over the keys themselves with matching colours for named keys and shortcut options.

Once you can bring yourself to place the keyboard to one side you’ll find a few other bits and bobs inside the box. An instruction and installation guide will take you through the process of mapping the keys of your new keyboard and includes a disk containing the Zboard software, and a rest for your wrists can help to reduce the risk of RSI after a gaming stint of many hours. The other item that you will find in the box may initially confuse you if you aren’t familiar with the Steelseries Zboards, as it looks like a standard keyboard, but one that you can fold away. This standard keyboard is actually just a button set that you can replace the StarCraft button set with should you desire more of a standard key set for everyday use.

The Keyboard

As already mentioned, it is easy to customise your keyboard from Steelseries simply by peeling off the current button set, and replacing it with another. There are key sets out there for a range of different games, so once you are finished with StarCraft you can easily adjust your keyboard to be more suitable to another game, for example World of Warcraft. There is no other gaming keyboard quite like this, with the option to instantly change your desk environment to specifically suit the game, or everyday task, in general.

The keyboard itself is wired which may reduce some freedom of movement, but with a cable of a reasonable length you aren’t going to feel overly restricted, and there will be no more running out of battery power at a key moment in your gaming.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the StarCraft II limited edition keyboard and your everyday model is the incorporation of a number of special buttons to the right hand side, especially designed for the game. You’ll lose the space that would normally contain the number keypad on a standard keyboard, but you’ll gain specially crafted shortcut keys that will help to make your StarCraft II gaming more productive. Buttons featured include Home, Insert, Delete; the usual useful shortcuts, but also nine individual macro buttons that can be completely customised for your own gaming experience. Would it be useful to select all workers that aren’t currently engaged in a task at the click of a button? This keyboard allows you to do just that.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the Steelseries Zboard also comes complete with two USB ports so that you can plug your headset or gaming mouse straight in. No clambering around the back of your PC to find the right ports, everything you need is right in front of you once this keyboard adorns your desk.

The Software

Although you can operate your Steelseries Zboard as a keyboard just by plugging it in, to work the special StarCraft II keys you will need to install the included software. Not only does this automatically map the appropriate keys, but it also provides you with the ability to create your own key mapping for either a specialist gaming key set, or for the normal one. The software is intuitive and very easy to use so before long you’ll be operating both Starcraft II and other programs on your PC all from the keyboard.

Conclusion

You won’t find a keyboard as customisable as the Steelseries Zboard anywhere, unless you checkout Steelserie’s new Shift keyboard, which takes the crown. And with the beautiful artwork included on the StarCraft II limited edition version, along with the functionality buttons that will increase your in-game productivity, this accessory really is a must for anyone spending time in the StarCraft galaxy.

8 / 10

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