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Posted by Rob Jiang on Oct 5, 2011

Review – Steelseries Shift Keyboard

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Steelseries has redesigned the Ideazon Zboard with its newest keyboard creation, the Steelseries SHIFT. GamerFront was able to grab a hands-on review of this one-of-a-kind keyboard. Specifically, the core feature of the Zboard (which has now been discontinued) that has been brought to the SHIFT is the ability to switch out the key layouts for various games. You are physically able to remove the keyset and lay in a new one that you can purchase from the Steelseries website.

First Impressions

The keyboard is very attractive. Right away, the clean design of the keyboard really pulls through. The black, sleek keyboard feels powerful in the sense that the it does not give off the vibe of being light and cheap. The keyboard has a USB hub along with additional microphone and headphone inputs on the top of the right-hand side. On the bottom is the ability to have two different heights for the feet, something that really has been overlooked in many keyboards.

Two tests that I do for fun when testing keyboards include first, the slip test. When you are in an intense battle, the last thing you want to do is worry about your keyboard moving around. Sure, slipping keyboards are not much of an issue for pure typers, but we are gamers. Along with having two heights, the keyboard feet are also rubberized so that they help make the keyboard even more non-slip. Overall, slipping does not seem to be an issue for the SHIFT.

Secondly, you should always test the keyboard for the “bendability.” For me personally, I like to test it because I travel a lot, and I always bring a keyboard – usually it’s placed between my laptop, mouse, and clothes. I want to make sure that my keyboard can survive trips via plane or car. If you place your hands on both sides of the keyboard, and try to bend it, it will give you a good idea of how it can react when traveling with the board. The SHIFT passes this test superbly. The bottom of the keyboard has troughs that provide structural strength to the board, which can be very important for traveling gamers like myself. I have never seen such design in any other keyboard.

Features

On the keyboard itself, there looks to be 8 macro keys, 3 profile settings, and a record button to save a profile. Additionally, on the left hand side, there are the standard media keys that include play, pause, volume up, volume down, etc. The keyboard does not have anything unique with regards to the keys.

It is important to note that the keyboard is not mechanical. When typing on the keyboard, I must say that it is not as enjoyable to type on, compared to a mechanical keyboard; however, that would be fully expected. Relatively comparing to other non-mechanicals, the SHIFT feels pretty decent. Because of the ability to switch keysets, the keys are not low profile, so really it is one of the very few non-mechanical keyboards that does not have the low “laptop-esque” keys.

The changing of the keyset is very easy and convenient. Literally, there is just one clip on the right hand side of the keyboard, and the entire keyset comes off. Additionally, to install a new one, all that you would need to do is to lay down the keyset, and re-attach via the clip. I was looking for a way to clean the keyboard easier, too. Unfortunately, it seems that the keyset remains attached, so there is still the same pains of needing canned air to dust through.

Conclusions

As always, my reviews will try to incorporate the price tag as part of the consideration. The Steelseries SHIFT with a $89.99 price tag can be a hefty obstacle to overcome. For only $20-$30 more, you will be in the range for some of the top mechanical keyboards. Unfortunately, while I do think the SHIFT is a great product, the relative comparison to other keyboards in similar price ranges hurts it greatly.

Also, when looking for the pricing of the SHIFT, I also tried to find additional keysets for the board. Unfortunately I was not able to find much more than the original, a Medal of Honor set, a Starcraft set, and a Warcraft Cataclysm set. For making the changeability in keys a top priority, Steelseries does not offer nearly as many keysets for someone to purchase this keyboard specifically for that feature. And at $25 a pop, buying just one puts this purchase well over the $100 mark.

Overall, the keyboard gets 3 out of 5 stars. The keyboard itself is very well-designed and looks great. Unfortunately, the keyboard’s price makes it so that comparing it to mechanical keyboards is fair, and frankly a non-mechanical versus a mechanical is an uphill battle. Also, the lack of keysets really nullifies the SHIFT’s core competitive advantage.

The Good

  • Sturdy design.
  • Plenty of extra macro keys
  • Multiple height adjustments

The Bad

  • Limited number of keysets available.
  • The price with additional keysets doesn’t make it a good value.

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