Today we have a review of the Guild Wars Factions Zboard keyset. Ideazon, the makers of these keysets, specializes in custom keysets that plug into their own keyboard. These are designed to swap in and out and work specifically for each game. Our own JR Sutich had a chance to review one.
You can also get a chance to win your own World of WarCraft: The Burning Crusade keyset and Zboard in a contest we're holding.
Onto the review:
Article by JR "Razor" Sutich
Do one thing and do it well. The Zboard is a great example of that, as it chooses to focus on being a great custom keyboard layout for various videogames. The specific layout I had the chance to use was for Guild Wars Factions.
Setting up the keyboard was a fairly simple operation, once I had figured out that the newer keysets were not compatible with older Zboard bases. After installing the drivers, it was only a matter of plugging in the USB Zboard in and letting the system detect it. The Zboard application was immediately able to show what keyset had been used, with a graphical representation of the Guild Wars Faction layout.
I didn't have to do anything after that as the default settings were applied. The only thing left to do was fire up Guild Wars and log in my character. A quick test showed that all the buttons were functioning as labeled, with the exception of the Strafe Left and Right keys, which I had previously remapped to A and D, respectively. After about 30 minutes of play, I realized it would take a bit of getting used to since I managed to die a few times in the Canthan Marketplace. But after another hour the problems were gone and I started to realize how well the setup was working.
The placement of the buttons is well done, as is the clear labeling of them. Some of the more useful buttons, especially in PvP are the "look behind 180" and "turn around 180" ones. These are easy to find and press in the heat of battle. Another great addition is the "Call Target" button. In PvE it helps to focus your NPC henchmen or Heroes on a single target, and for PvP, it's an easy way to call a primary. As PvP is my main activity when playing online games, I have to question including an entire row of keys for nothing but emotes, but for the socializing role-players this makes hugging and smiling much easier.
Focusing on doing one thing well hinders the Zboard, however. It functions poorly as a regular keyboard, due in part to its design. The tri-fold design means that the space bar is broken into 2 keys, with a metal hinge protruding from between those parts. This is annoying in that for many, the hinge is sitting right where you would hit the Space Bar with your thumbs when your fingers are in the home position. Also, the Numpad is not present, so all the spreadsheet junkies are completely lost.
If you play several games and would like a custom keyboard layout for each one, labeled so you don't forget which game you are playing then the Zboard is for you. Just don't expect to type any reviews on one.
Pros and Cons
- Easy to install, change and use
- Normal typing motions hard
- Well-designed game key layout
- Custom mapping means mislabeled keys
- Default mapping is intuitive
- No number pad
- Swapping keypads is simple
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