SteelSeries Shift Keyboard and Keyset Review
Published: 7th April 2011 | Source: SteelSeries | Price: £75 |
Testing and Conclusion
So how is the Shift in action?
As someone who isn't the most amazing StarCraft II player ever I found it heightened my game tremendously. The labelling of each key and colour-coding, alongside the extra keys on the right hand side made everything very easy to find and within reach. No longer are you limited to either the lengthy mouse-based solution or pausing and checking the manual. Something which obviously doesn't work in Multiplayer.
You aren't limited to whatever SteelSeries have defaulted the keys too either with the SteelSeries Engine software giving limitless possibilities for assigning keys, macros, combination presses and just about any trick you can think of.
This is equally true of the keyboard in its standard dress. With the additional SteelSeries logo'd key giving yet further customisation for each key the possibilities are near infinite. Everything from a simple program launch to a multi-level macro with delays are possible.
It would be a pain if the switching out of keysets was a long-winded affair but it is a literal 10 second switch. Unclip the keyboard, fold it up, place the new one in, unfold it, clip it back in and you're good to go. Even on my first go it only took 20 seconds and by the end of the review it was actually quicker to install a new board than it was to switch to a game specific profile.
There are a couple of little niggles. SteelSeries make a big point of the keyboard weighting with the keys you use often taking less pressure to activate than those less common ones. This seems both pointless, (why would you want less common keys to be harder to press?) and annoying.
As a touch-typer the shift (actual shift, rather than the name of this keyboard) keys fall under my little-fingers. I lost count of the amount of times I typed a / instead of ? or had a lowercase letter because the shift keys require more pressure than the standard letters. The other little issue comes with the split spacebar. That break is exactly where my right thumb hits.
However, if you are looking at the Shift as a pure keyboard then you're missing the point somewhat. There are plenty of keyboards available if all you plan on doing is typing, not least the awesome 7G from SteelSeries themselves. It just does take a little of the gloss off the multi-purpose nature if pure speed typing is greatly slowed because of an unavoidable design element, the spacebar split, and a curious design decision, the different weighted keys.
As a product it will live and die by the support that the developers and SteelSeries give it. If Medal Of Honor, StarCraft II or World of Warcraft are the only sets available and you don't play those games then it becomes a harder initial purchase, and certainly if no new keysets are on the horizon you might be better to hold off a little. Personally speaking a forthcoming game like The Witcher II or Duke Nukem would be an ideal use of the potential we have here and we can't wait to see what appears.
But they are both little issues that are completely overwhelmed by the many great elements that the Shift has to offer. Unlike the previous zBoard it's almost bomb-proof. It's very easy to clean. The keysets are fantastic, as is the SteelSeries Engine software. Swapping between them takes way less time than we thought possible and doesn't compromise the build quality of the Shift at all.
All in all if you play the games that have keysets currently available then you should take a good long look at the Shift as it will improve your gaming experience whatever level you reside at and we're happy to award it our OC3D Silver Award.