OCZ Elixir Gaming Keyboard Page: 1
Introduction
 
A short while ago we got to look at OCZ's latest mouse in their peripherals line up. Next under the microscope is their keyboard. A new product range has been dreamed up for the keyboards going by the name of the Alchemy series, and consisting entirely of the Elixir and the Elixir II. The latter being a slimmer, cut down version of the former. Today I'll be taking a fine tooth comb to the more feature-filled Elixir.
 
So on to the official blurb from OCZ's very own site:
 
Alchemy Gaming Peripherals / Elixir Series Keyboards

Featuring a wealth of user-friendly features combined with an ergonomic and sturdy design, the Elixir keyboard will deliver a unique combination of performance and vale to gamers as they blaze through the latest PC titles.

The Elixir is a high-quality keyboard featuring the necessary features such as 10 tri-mode programmable macro keys, mode selection, a pop-up menu shortcut, and Windows® Media Players optical controller. The sleek design of the Alchemy Elixir Series will maintain your comfort throughout long gaming sessions with its membrane tactical keys made from 100% rubber-coating for no-slip comfort and ergonomic design. The Elixir features an extremely reliable lifestyle of 5 million cycles. The Elixir series is compatible with Windows® XP (SP2 or later) and Windows® Vista™.
 
And the specifications list on the same page:
 
Dimensions: (W)20”x(D)7.87”x(H)1.14”
Weight: 1.85 lbs
Travel Distance: 3.8 +/- 0.2mm
Operating Force: 55 +/- 12g
Connection: USB 2.0
Membrane Tactile Switches
Rubberized Coating on all Keys

Features:

10 Blue Macro Keys with 3 User Defined Profiles
7 Internet Hot Keys
8 Keys for Media
Mode Selection: Switch between standard PC Mode or customized gaming mode
Lifespan: 5 million cycles
One-year warranty
 
 
Packaging
 
The Elixir comes in pretty much what you would expect a keyboard to come in: a long, thin cardboard box only just bigger than the keyboard itself. The front shows off a large image of the keyboard inside and the product's name and Alchemy branding. Of course, there is also a sentence advertising some of the more prominent features. The back of the box gives a map of the keyboard complete with a key showing what all the extra fancy buttons do, next to the specifications in multiple languages and a bunch of certifications. Also, you will notice that the keyboard suffers from being a US layout. No UK layout has yet been released, but it is on the books.
 
Box1 Box2
 
Box3
 
The inside isn't really very imaginative, but it doesn't need to be. It's a keyboard. A protective polyethylene bag protects your Elixir from scratches but I don't feel it offers much protection from bumps, knocks and ham-handed couriers. A simple upgrade to a bubble wrap pack would suffice to give that extra piece of mind, but it's by no means a massive quibble.
 
 
Package
 
Maybe a bit ambitious giving this an entire heading as it's a keyboard; and that's pretty much all you get. Or is it? The Elixir doesn't come packaged with anything overly exciting, but it does give the user two packets of spare buttons, containing what OCZ must think are the most used buttons by gamers. Namely the WASD, arrow key, space and shift buttons. Quite a thoughtful addition to the package. Alongside them comes a quick start sheet and the driver CD.
 
Package
 
Next we take a look at the board itself...


OCZ Elixir Gaming Keyboard Page: 2
 
The Board
 
I must admit I cheated a little here. The Elixir was the keyboard given to the clockers to use in the recent MSI European Overclocking Challenge, as one of the companies that sponsored the event was indeed OCZ. So I already had a quick play with and view of the board before unpackaging this one.
 
BoardOverview BoardClose1
 
BoardClose2 BoardClose3
 
Upon opening the box you get struck with a classy looking, albeit rather large keyboard, finished in mostly matte black with gloss strips down each side where the media controls reside. The lower portion sports a textured wrist rest. The most striking thing I found was the bright blue function keys that lined the usual QWERTY layout. It's also worth noting that the key layout of the QWERTY section is slightly different to the standard we see used on a lot of boards, mostly around the arrow keys area.
 
Flat Feet
 
Underside
 
The board sits quite flat against the surface it's resting on with the feet up. Flicking them down angled it to a much more user-friendly position. The underside shows off four rubber grips to keep the board from sliding about, as well as the feet tucked away.
 
Wire Back
 
Nothing particularly fancy protrudes from the rear of the keyboard. A plain USB plug on a reasonable length wire is all that is present. However, I did notice that there were unused holes for other plugs on the back of the board. Maybe for future revisions or perhaps used on the Elixir II.
 
On the next page we take a closer look at the board's features and the software it utilises...


OCZ Elixir Gaming Keyboard Page: 3
 Features
 
There are a fair few fancy tricks that the Elixir presents us with to set it apart form the average joe of keyboards. The most prominent is its bright blue function buttons. The board boasts 10 of these total, placed strategically down the left and right sides of the main key set. These are then referred to (quite logically) as L1-5 and R1-5.
 
LR Buttons 
 
Next up are the media buttons, placed parallel to the function keys along the glossy edges of the board. These provide the user with the usual start, pause, stop, skip, volume etc. that you would expect. Obviously the appeal is going out to gamers who like to listen to music while they play here.
 
Music Keys
 
The last of the features listed was the '100% rubber coated' buttons. This was a little concerning, as you are more than likely aware that rubber wears down. After a fair bit of use, we could see letters fading away. Of course OCZ have provided spares of the WASD keys, and who needs more than them really!
 
 
Software
 
The software installation was a very standard affair. Pop in the disk, click yes and OK until it prompted a restart, job done. Upon starting again, the Alchemy logo makes an appearance in the task bar and from there you can double click on it and bring up the main control dialogue box.
 
Software1 
 
From here, you can set the binds and macros assigned to the L and R function keys. Programming the macros is incredibly easy as you can see: simply click in the 'New Macro' box and type in the key sequence you want. It also allows you to chose various options, including how many times you want the macro to be performed on a single keystroke and the delay between the keystrokes.
 
Software2
 
 
Lastly we see the Mode assignment, allowing the user to customise three separate profiles for different binds.
 
Software3
 
The software boils down to be very user-friendly. You don't need a masters in programming to assign effective macros and it even gives you the ability to change what happens when you press other keys on the board besides the L & R buttons.
 
With the board installed and software installed, it's time to move on the the testing...


OCZ Elixir Gaming Keyboard Page: 4
Test Set up
 
Now we move onto the section which could make or break a keyboard: the testing. First of all the specification of the machine it was tested on:
 
Intel Xeon 3070 @ 3.6Ghz
Abit IP35 Pro
Crucial Ballistix PC-5300 2GB kit @ 900mhz
Sparkle 8800GT 512Mb
WD Raptor 150GB
Dell 2407WFP & V7 L22WD
 
On this machine, the Elixir was put through its paces with the help of a few friendly programs. First up, it's marketed as a 'Pro Gaming' keyboard, so naturally a whole bunch of games were needed. These took the form of the following:
 
Counterstrike Source
Painkiller
Crysis
Spore
World Of Warcraft
 
After the games, of course, a good keyboard needs to be comfortable to type with. To test this out, from the next section of this review on was typed with the Elixir. And lastly, the all mighty (*ahem*) Windows Media Player was called into combat to give the media buttons a spin.
 
 
Results
 
In a similar way to the OCZ Dominatrix I reviewed a while ago, summing up how a keyboard performs can be a tricky task. They aren't quite as personal as mice, but then each individual has different tastes. So once again, all I can do is sum up my experience.
 
To make a start, the keyboard is quite low profile. Not to go as far as saying it's laptop style, but it's close. I found it quite comfortable to use for the everyday things such as surfing about and posting. To start with the, wrist rest felt a little in the way after years of using a very standard keyboard layout, but after a couple of hours I adjusted. The keys were just about right; they clicked up and down with just enough travel to let your brain know that you've hit it.
 
The biggest gripe I could level against it was the fact that it suffered from possessing a US layout. The shrunken enter key was quite frankly a pain, and typing the wrong symbols all the time is a tad annoying. But this comes down to the the fact that OCZ keep providing the same answer of 'they're on their way' when questioned about the UK layout. If you live in the US or an area which uses their keyboard layout, then this will obviously be a positive point.
 
Gaming on the Elixir was a pleasant affair. After adjusting to the shape and key position, I wasn't hindered from playing any of the games listed above. The bindable keys came into use in CSS, where they took the role of buy binds, allowing me to set up long macros from the Alchemy software that would buy everything I could afford that I needed for that round, in order of importance. There was, once again, only one major flaw I found here, and that was the Elixir crippled my ability to crouch-jump. I have no idea why, but it would just ignore one of the keys when hit at the same time. This could probably be overcome with more tweaking of the software to bind space to both ctrl and space, and then assigning it to a separate mode to the usual one.
 
Oh and the media and browsing keys do exactly what it says on the box. Not much more I can really say about them...
 
Flip the page for the conclusion...


OCZ Elixir Gaming Keyboard Page: 5
Conclusion
 
So coming to the end of my time with the Elixir, it's time to look back over the last four pages and try and sum it up in a few paragraphs. From the start, it lays itself down as a pretty raw affair. No fancy LED screens or back lights here. But then you have to bear in mind that it's a keyboard. Do you really need it to sing, dance and bring you your slippers in the morning?
 
The extra features it presents us with are useful and don't feel unnecessary or too gimmicky. Sure, the media and browsing buttons can be done with global hot keys, but with the Elixir you simply don't have to spend the time setting them up. Typing on the keyboard was comfortable even for elongated periods of time, and it was responsive and accurate in games. The only real glitch we encountered was they keyboard not registering the CTRL+Space keys when pressed simultaneously.
 
Due to there being no UK layout available, no British store has the Elixir in stock currently. But looking over stateside, I came across the same board as the review sample at Newegg for a very reasonable price of $29.99. Translating over to circa £17, the board could be a budget gamer's dream, or for those among us who can't bear the thought of spending £50 on a keyboard, but still want a good looking, practical keyboard.
 
 
The Good
• Comfortable
• Responsive
• Functional
• Cheap!
 
The Medicore
• Hitting Ctrl+Space simultaneously didn't work on our keyboard.
 
The Bad
• UK Layout not yet released.
 
 
 
 
Thanks to OCZ for providing the Elixir for review.
 
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