Ideazon’s previous product, the ZBoard, sported interchangeable $20 keysets with custom labels for different games. The company’s latest effort, the Merc, eschews that approach in favor of a customizable one-size-fits-all design.
Ideazon relegates the main gaming controls to their own compact area on the left side of the keyboard. Red directional keys take up a butterfly formation in the center, with other action keys surrounding them.
The keys come prelabeled with commonly used commands. Spacebar, for example, reads as Jump, R key as Reload, and so on. The keys are easy to remap, but you’re stuck with the default labels no matter how you configure the keys. It’s not a huge flaw, however, since you won’t have time to look down at the keyboard in the heat of battle.
Using the Merc requires Ideazon’s ZEngine software. It includes printable profiles for several popular games with predefined controls, and you can find more profiles at Ideazon’s website. We’re bummed we can’t create our own, but selecting the generic Windows profile and mapping keys in-game the old-fashioned way is still effective.
For everyday typing, the Merc is acceptable, but not great. We’re thrilled that the numerical keypad was spared, but our enthusiasm is tempered by the inclusion of cursor-control keys in the numpad. To hit the Delete key, for example, you have to hold down Shift and press 1. While not ideal, we can live with this drawback for a better gaming experience, which Ideazon delivers.
We still haven’t found the perfect keyboard that blends work and play into a single design, but Ideazon’s Merc comes close.
Month Reviewed: August 2006
+ FLORIDAY KEYS: Sports three programmable hot keys, and the preloaded profile keys are nifty.
- LOST KEYS: Begs for a backlight, and lacks the USB hub found on the original ZBoard.