The Zboard Review – With Guild Wars: Factions Keyset

With a smirk I replied, “OK… OK… we’ll do it your way.” I looked for the CD, I sat through a software install and I restarted my computer. Even after all that, it still didn’t work. I thought, “WTF, stupid keyboard!” There was a little trick I had to do to get everything working… “REFRESH” There’s a system tray icon, with the refresh command. That basically activated the keyboard.

The design behind the Zboard is really smart. You can almost hear the thinking that was involved. As a sign of respect, I decided to take my Zboard apart. Err… well… more apart than intended. I noticed that there was a piece of electronics on the back of the keyset. This device tells the Zboard base which keyset is in use. It wasn’t too hard to remove the chip. With a simple nail file, I unscrewed the circuitry. A nasty practical joke popped into my head. What if you switch the circuits on the keysets? “Hey, why does my World of Warcraft keyset think it’s Guild Wars?!”

While I was fumbling around with the hardware, I also noticed a significant addition – there were two USB ports on the back of the Zboard. I don’t know why I didn’t spot this feature in the Zboard glamour shots. I was completely surprised to see the jacks on the back. The two-port USB hub supports low voltage devices (up to 100mA), which is ideal for a mouse, memory card or a joystick.

Amazing! Somehow that says, "Guild Wars Keyset!"
Amazing! Somehow that says, “Guild Wars Keyset!”

At $50, the Zboard is not a cheap keyboard. Yet, when I look at the detail that goes into this thing, it doesn’t feel like a rip off. They didn’t have to add 10 Hot Keys. (Nine keys are programmable and one is dedicated to the Ideazon Zboards Settings window.) It just seems like Ideazon is obsessive about space. Instead of having a blank area, they put buttons everywhere. The Zboard does lots of little things to make your life easier.

Keyboards are designed for typing. Controllers are design for games. Yet, PC games are wedged into a hybrid mentality. While playing Guild Wars, I use my keyboard to type and to play. I never really thought of the limitations this creates. With a console game, you can kick back and relax. Awkward button configurations are rare on a Nintendo. Yet, with PC based MMORPGs, the play control can be way too technical. You need the typing skills of an Administrative Assistant and you need the hand-to-eye coordination of a Paladin. This can make MMORPGs less entertaining. That’s the greatest strength of the Zboard. It helps create the ambiance. This is not your office or school keyboard. A Zboard says it’s game time. The Zboard maintains the basic functionality of a standard keyboard, while bringing out improved control for your games.