Back to School Review: Thermaltake MEKA G1 Keyboard and Dasher Mouse Pad
8/11/2011 by: Ryan Glovinsky
When it comes to gaming keyboards there are dozens upon dozens of various keyboards that claim to be for gaming and claim to sport some of the best technology out there. The truth of the matter is, many of them simply opt for a cheap and flashy design that ultimately isn’t any more functional or useful than the next gaming keyboard. Thermaltake has gone out and attempted to remedy this issue by creating an entire line of gaming keyboards based off of their Tt eSPORTS series of gaming products. In the case of today’s keyboard Thermaltake created the MEKA G1 which is a mechanical gaming keyboard which in theory makes it good for gaming as well as typing. They’ve also released a gaming mouse pad to make gaming easier for those that don’t have smooth surfaces to game on, or prefer a softer surface for gaming. As such, today, we’re taking a look at a Tt eSPORTS (by Thermaltake) Combo of the MEKA G1 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and the Dasher Gaming Mouse Pad. We’re going to evaluate their effectiveness as gaming peripherals and determine if they’re worth getting.
On the Thermaltake MEKA G1, the extra connectors route the audio directly to the PC, and the extra USB output allows the USB ports on the keyboard to have sufficient power to be consistently effective. Also, using the PS/2 adapter rather than using straight USB allows the keyboard to bypass the USB controller when reporting key presses. This is because on USB ports, polling rates affect the frequency at which the CPU checks the device for a change in status. This is significant because it can be delayed by other programs taking up CPU resources. Using PS/2 however, requires no polling, as it applies a hardware interrupt which instantly reports key presses without wasting CPU resources, although the difference between a PS/2 and USB connection is negligible at best. PS/2 also provides the benefit of when there are issues with the USB drivers and the keyboard then becomes useless and one must search for a PS/2 keyboard. Having a keyboard that does both is definitely helpful.
Also, most keyboards that interface using a USB port would limit the keyboard to only being able to report six key presses at any given moment, while going through a PS/2 port allows for an unlimited amount (this is known as Key Rollover).
Another noticeable aspect of the keyboard is the type of mechanical switches it uses. Not all mechanical keyboards will feel/act/respond the same. There are five types of switches made by Cherry (which is the most widely used manufacturer of mechanical keyboard switches).
There are Black switches which are considered ideal for gaming. This is because they have a smooth and linear key press. A very small amount of force is enough to register a key press, and since there is no “clicky” feel, it allows the user to very easily and quickly double tap keys.
Blue switches are almost the exact opposite of the Black. They require the user to completely depress the key in order to register the key press. However, there is a very satisfying and distinct click when the key has been fully depressed, which makes for very accurate typing (no accidental presses). Blue switches are considered ideal for typing, although some people enjoy gaming with them. However, due to their tactile/clicky nature, it becomes difficult to easily/effectively double tap keys, and the time required for a full press may slow down gamers.
Although the Black and Blue switches are the most common, there are still three other switches produced by Cherry.
The Brown switches are considered a middle ground between the Black and Blue switches. They have a tactile feel, but no click like the Blue switches. The tactile feedback occurs about halfway down to let the user know the key press has registered.
Clear switches are very similar to the Brown switches, although many people consider them to have a stiffer feel and have a more distinct tactile feel. However, Clear switches are rather uncommon and difficult to find.
Red switches are essentially a lighter version of the Black switches. However, they are extremely rare, and were at one point listed as out of production although some sources say Cherry has begun production of them again. Keyboard enthusiasts can create the same feel/performance of a Red switch by combining a spring from a Blue or Brown switch with the stem of a Black switch. The Red switches are less popular than the Black because there is so little pressure required to register a key press that most typists often hit keys accidentally.
For more information about mechanical keyboard switches, click here.
The MEKA G1 is equipped with Black switches which have proven to be highly effective and responsive for gaming.
Packaging and Accessories
The MEKA G1 keyboard came in a very durable, thick cardboard box. The keyboard was separated from the cables it came with by a segment in the box as well as the detachable wrist rest, and each was wrapped in a foam cover. The keyboard also comes with a simple little manual detailing the use of the keyboard as well as the warranty information. There is no software included with this keyboard due to its own design. We will detail later about why it doesn’t need any software.
The Dasher came in a very simple box with a little window to show the mousepad inside. It comes rolled up in a drawstring carrying case and with a Velcro tie holding it shut.
Design and Construction
The first thing that becomes apparent is the thickness and sturdiness of the cable that comes out of the keyboard. It is extremely heavy duty and covered in a type of cable wrap that protects it well, but the actual cabling inside is malleable and not too stiff.
The cable splits into 4 connectors: a male microphone connector, a male headphone connector, and two male USB connectors, one of which has a USB to PS/2 adapter attached. The reason for this becomes apparent when you look at the jacks included on the keyboard. It has an input for headphones, a microphone, and two USB ports.
Most keyboards which include these jacks only have one connector to the actual PC; a single USB connector. In those cases, the keyboard is dependent on USB drivers to handle the headphone jack and microphone jack properly. Also, USB ports on the keyboard are usually underpowered since both the keyboard input and the added USB device are limited to one USB connector for both power and data transfer. This often causes issues for charging devices using the USB ports on a keyboard, or transferring data from an MP3 player or flash drive.
The Keyboard itself also has a very rubberized feel to it as it has one of those coatings that prevents finger prints and feels very smooth to the touch.
As for the Dasher, once unrolled, it measures 400 x 320 x 4 mm (approximately 15.75 x 12.6 x 0.16 inches). It is a fairly large mouse pad, taking up a solid portion of the desk. Here it is for a comparison of size with a copy of Halo: Reach and a G9X gaming mouse alongside it.
Games tested have been Starcraft 2, Portal 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and Duke Nukem Forever. Adjusting to the keyboard for typing takes very little time, and noticeably increases the speed at which one can type. Since key presses are not as distinct as on a keyboard which uses Blue switches, there is a higher rate of error due to accidental key presses, but no more than on any non-mechanical keyboard, and the linear feel of the key presses on the Black switches is vastly superior to typing on any non-mechanical keyboard.
A few concerns/potential improvements for the keyboard are as follows: Considering that the MEKA G1 is a $140 (MSRP) gaming keyboard (although the market price is $99), there are certain standard features lacking. There are no programmable macro keys on the keyboard. While this allows the keyboard to be completely plug and play, requiring no software whatsoever, it limits the potential of this keyboard for gaming, as macro keys can very often improve gaming ability (especially in games like Starcraft 2).
Lack of left Windows key with Fn key in its place
Another issue is the lack of media keys in conjunction with the lack of a left Windows Key. The user still has access to media functions with the use of an FN key that replaces the left Windows Key in conjunction with the F1-F7 keys at the top of the keyboard. Adding media keys would solve both the lack of the left Windows Key as well as the use of an FN modifier which requires two fingers to operate vs. a media key which requires just one finger.
Multimedia Fn keys in blue
A possible change, although it is not an inherent design flaw, would be a larger overall size for the keyboard, with slightly larger spacing between keys that the current configuration, similar to other gaming keyboards currently on the market.
The Tt Dasher is ideal for players who prefer low sensitivity on their mouse while gaming because it allows the player to move the mouse over a large area. It has a rubberized bottom which helps prevent it from moving around on the desk, and a “silk clothing compound” surface (as listed on packaging). This ensures the mouse moves smoothly across the mouse pad and there are no issues in terms of detection when using a laser, optical, or mechanical mouse.
After some use, we have decided that while it’s a great mouse pad, it simply takes up too much real estate on the desk. We played Starcraft 2, Portal 2, and Left 4 Dead 2 using the mouse pad. However, our preferred mouse sensitivity is extremely high, which requires very little movement to manipulate. We simply didn't find a situation that took advantage of the full extent of the mouse pad considering the sensitivity.
We spent some time playing at lower sensitivities to see how the mouse pad would affect play, and in that case it was very convenient to have such a large area to move the mouse across. The movement across the pad is smooth and consistent. It is easy to tell when a boundary of the mouse pad is reached, although it is a rare occurrence.
At $99, this keyboard provides an extremely high level of quality and performance. However, a gaming keyboard at that price point should address the issues listed above. A lack of media keys and macro keys provide a diminished user experience for what should be a fully decked out keyboard. Lacking these features which keyboards that cost half as much include is simply unacceptable at that price point. On the other hand, mechanical keyboards command a much higher price than their non-mechanical counterparts, even though certain extra features may be lacking. In the range of mechanical keyboards, it is well worth the price, and a great design and solid overall user experience for a mechanical keyboard provide an attractive option at a reasonable price.
This mouse pad is a good value at a price of $20, considering the size of the pad and quality of material.
The Dasher is a great mouse pad for anyone who prefers a large area over which to move their mouse and has the required desk space.
Overall, the MEKA G1 is a great keyboard. With some minor modifications/additions, it could easily be one of, if not the best keyboard on the market. These additions would provide added value to distinguish it from its competitors. However, if you just need a basic keyboard that has exceptional performance and durability this is definitely the keyboard for you.
In this case, we would have loved to give the MEKA G1 an editor's choice award, but it just slightly fell short of what would've dictated an award. If they were to make these minor changes to this keyboard, we'd be glad to come back and give it an editor's choice award.
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