Updated Wed, Feb 27, 2008 by Xerin
by David "Xerin" Piner
Items Reviewed: zBoard Base Unit, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Limited Edition Keyset
Click here to pre-order the WoW: Burning Crusade keyset now!
The zBoard is a keyboard designed especially for PC gaming. The keyboard comes with an interchangeable set of keys that you can change out depending on the game you’re playing. You get two keysets right out of the box, one that is a standard keyboard and another that is for gaming. Special keysets designed specifically for games are also available, like the World of Warcraft and the upcoming World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade keyset.
The keyboard itself is quality, made of dense plastic and with all the features you can expect out of most mid-range keyboards. Programmable quick keys, media controls, and volume adjustment is built directly into the base. The keysets swap in and out in about 30 seconds. The keys are somewhat firm, providing some resistance, but after an hour of use you won't even notice.
The standard keyset and the gaming keyset are wonderful. The standard keyset works as well a standard keyboard. There aren’t any bells and whistles involved but it does what it needs to do, which is to allow you to type. As a matter of a fact, this review was typed with ease on my zBoard!
Then there is the gaming keyset which is the highlight of this keyboard. The left hand side has all of your prime gaming keys (especially for FPS games) within reach of your left hand. When applied to WoW, it makes a major difference in how you play; especially if you rebind enough keys to access your entire hotbar (it provides a ctrl key that will let you bind hotbar 5 to ctrl 1).
The only complaint is that you can’t really chat using the gaming keyset. The keys are all out of place and using it in situations where you need to use slash commands or communicate with others would be very difficult. That doesn’t stop it from being viable, since it makes playing A LOT easier, but it can hamper your experience when it comes to chatting.
The TBC keyset is nearly identical to the standard gaming keyset with only a few changes. Artwork from the expansion is placed along side the keyboard giving it that authentic World of Warcraft merchandise. The numpad is replaced with quick launch commands that take away the need for most slash commands and it comes with the ability to quickly use emotes.
The slash commands, located where the numpad usually is, makes this keyset complete. The ability to switch from party to say with one button is a major time saver and the ability to /random 100 at a whim is something that is very useful. Raid commands and PvP commands may not be quite as handy as the aforementioned keys, but it’s a good use of the space.
Along the top is a list of emotes, that when combined with the emote button, allow you quick access to such popular emotes as /spit. This brought up a question in my mind. Do you use /spit so often that it needs to be a hotkey? Maybe not, but it’s pretty cool nevertheless.
The artwork sprawled along the keyboard is very pretty, but the labeling isn’t. Each key is labeled for your generic WoW commands, making the keyboard look cool, but in a dark room you can barely see them. For newer players it may be helpful, but it’s not something that will change the game experience.
It’s my opinion that, the TBC keyset is useful for general playing. Anytime you’re raiding, in an instance, or casually PvPing it has many uses. The numerous WoW related hotkeys can take a lot of effort out of things and makes gaming in WoW easier. However, for times when you’re just out grinding away at enemies I would recommend using the gaming keyset. It really makes combat more fun and for someone like me it is really useful.
Overall, including the base unit, the standard keyset, gaming keyset, and expansion keyset I would rate the entire package with a 4 out of 5. It’s useful, reasonably priced, and makes playing easier. Rarely do you find gaming peripherals that can make such a claim.
Bottom line? If you like to add some style and substance to your gaming, pick up a zBoard. I'd suggest preordering the expansion keyset (these things will sell out quickly, they are only a limited number for sale). When you preorder, you'll get some extra goodies as well, so that makes the deal even sweeter.