Last year we took a look at the SteelSeries 7G keyboard and fell in love.
It was absolutely bombproof, made of seriously solid materials with gold-plating in all the important places and a truly glorious tactile feel when typing. With multiple USB ports, headphone outputs and a massive wrist-rest, it is among the very finest keyboards on the market.
Unfortunately for most of us that 'Rolls Royce of Keyboards' came with a suitably eye-opening price-tag.
So if you fancy all the important bits of the 7G, but in a more affordable package, what can you do?
Well SteelSeries are nothing if not understanding of all their customers requirements and they've stripped away the extraneous elements of the 7G to leave just the great keyboard itself and here it is. The SteelSeries 6Gv2.
Has taking away the additional features also lessened the pleasure of the 6Gv2, or is it everything you want, but for pain in the wallet?
Obviously a keyboards specifications live and die with only one element, the switches used. The 6Gv2 has Cherry Black MX switches which are the most robust switches in the Cherry line-up.
If you've never looked seriously at mechanical keyboards then you're probably wondering why it matters what is going on beneath the key, so long as when you press it, it works. Well to explain too much right now would leave little for the rest of the review, but suffice it to say that if you've only ever typed on those keyboards for a fiver, you'd be astounded how much of an improvement a good mechanical keyboard can have. Cherry switches are the absolute daddy in the switch line and the Black MXs are the most resilient of those.
Robust describes everything about the SteelSeries 6Hv2, built from a metal chassis to withstand almost any abuse, and weighing 3 and a half pounds, this baby wont flex or creak. Time to take a look.
The packaging of the 6Gv2 is as good as we've seen for a keyboard and right on a par with the 7G. Inside the ever-classy SteelSeries packaging there is a very sturdy cardboard box surrounding the 6Gv2.
Once the keyboard is out it feels very similar to the 7G, which is still used as the keyboard on our P67 bench rig. It's got some serious heft to it, and not an inch of space is wasted around the keys. The centrally mounted cable ensures that the 6Gv2 maximises its usability regardless of which side your tower is mounted. Rather than some flimsy feet the 6Gv2 is raised with two seriously wide platforms, helping to maintain the general sturdiness of the keyboard.
The only concession to features that go beyond the pure typing experience are the media controls on the F keys. A SteelSeries logo'd key is on the left hand side where one would normally find the Windows key, and this combines with the F keys to control your media player of choice.
Differences between 6Gv2 and 7G
Purity of typing definitely is the theme of the 6Gv2. No lights nor program launchers to be seen. Just acres of none-more-black typing joy.
So what are the changes between the 7G and 6Gv2? The most obvious is that the 7G comes with a full-cover wrist-rest which is absent on the 6Gv2. This is a tall enough keyboard that one would be advisable, but they're cheap enough. In terms of actual keys the only change is the ¬ key which on the 7G is up with the backspace, meaning that you have a single-key sized backspace key and a full size right shift.
On the 6Gv2 this is moved down the right shift, so you have a full size backspace and a 2/3rds right shift key. This is a preferable layout as for typing it doesn't really make a difference, and when gaming you're focussed on the left shift anyway because of the WASD left-hand dominance.
The other change is round the back. The 6Gv2 doesn't have either the audio ports or the USB ports that the 7G comes equipped with, so both the back of the keyboard is sleek, and the cable only has a single USB cable, rather than the PS2/USB/Audio affair on the 7G.
So now we've established what the visual differences are between the 6Gv2 and the 7G, what are the differences in the typing experience?
None. Absolutely zero. Nil. Nothing whatsoever.
We've spent plenty of time behind the SteelSeries 7G and it is as crisp and glorious to type on as it was the first day we had it. The 6Gv2 felt exactly the same the moment we took it out of the box and got typing.
Every key is weighted the same and the quality of the Cherry Black MX switches is emphasised by the consistent actuation pressure needed across the whole layout. This also is a cute segue into the main selling point of the 6Gv2, namely its 50 million keystroke durability.
Going back to our first page we mentioned the importance of a mechanical keyboard in giving a quality typing experience. There are many ways that manufacturers go about the whole business of transferring a key press into a letter appearing on your screen. The cheaper varieties rely upon a rubber membrane which, as rubber isn't the longest lasting product in the world, very quickly starts to degrade so you end up with the very undesirable situation in which some keys require much larger pressure to activate, assuming they still work at all.
Mechanical keyboards such as the 6Gv2 get around this as every key has its own switch, and in the SteelSeries they are made by Cherry who are famous for the quality of their switches. Now the differences between the types of switch are in the pressure needed to get a key press recognised otherwise known as the actuation weight, whether you get an audible click upon each key press, and if there is a noticeable bump beneath your finger when the key is depressed.
The Cherry Black MX used in the 6Gv2 are referred to as 'non tactile, non click'. Which is to say that the key doesn't make a noise when you press it, and feels the same at the start of the key stroke as it does at the end. Whilst it would be easy to assume that by virtue of the amount of travel available, it will be slower and more strenuous to type upon this style rather than the flatter, scissor switch laptop keyboard style. This absolutely isn't the case as you'll obtain a successful key press about halfway down. So the combination of the excellent gold plated switches, and standard key layout, actually means you quickly end up typing faster, and with more accuracy than you'd expect.
Of course speed is useless if you have a keyboard that suffers from ghosting. Thankfully the SteelSeries 6Gv2 has such fearsome anti-ghosting technology that you cannot get it to miss a key press.
If you don't think your keyboard has ghosting either and so this is a pointless feature, hold down both shift keys and then type the alphabet. Go on, I'll wait. Exactly. Anti-ghosting technology is a seriously important thing.
If there are a couple of little niggles, and they are little, it's that you'll need to invest in a wrist rest if you plan on doing any serious typing and that at just under £70 it's still quite expensive if you look at a glance. However this will last for 10 times the length of time of any standard keyboard, and when compared to most other Cherry equipped typing behemoths (Das Keyboard, the 7G etc) it's actually cheap.
So all in all we have a keyboard that is every bit as good as any keyboard available today, including its bigger brother the 7G. It's a keyboard distilled to its purest essence, and that's delivering a flawless typing experience under any circumstances. Sure it's not the prettiest girl at the dance, but she can mambo with the best. In the event of a nuclear explosion the only things left will be cockroaches, and the SteelSeries 6Gv2. Highly recommended if you've got even the slightest desire to give your fingertips the reward they deserve.
Thanks to SteelSeries for supplying the 6Gv2 for review. Discuss in our forums.