Last week, we took a look at Tt eSports’ Shock Spin HD
headphones and walked away impressed by its simplistic design and excellent stereo performance. For this week, we have equipped ourselves with the MEKA G-Unit, a mechanical keyboard from Thermaltake that promises to be “armed for battle”.
The G-Unit is an upgraded model of the MEKA G1, which was a simple, non-flashy mechanical keyboard much like the SteelSeries 7G. The G-Unit, however, has all the bells and whistles that a proper, all-fuss gaming keyboard should – more macros than your fingers, backlit keys, profiles, and separate media congregation (we do not like F1 keys, please, laptop manufacturers.)
Like the Shock Spin HD headphones, the MEKA G-Unit (MEKA from now on) does not go overboard with styling, and I fear I am more than chumming up to Thermaltake’s simplistic ways. I am supposed to like flashy stuff.
Without its palm rest, the MEKA is surprisingly compact, although wide enough to run your mouse off the table if you are limited in space. Finished in black built-like-a-tank hard plastic, the keyboard’s only color comes from the small red ‘Tt’ logo and two red stripes that cut into the sides. With the palm rest attached, the keyboard sizes up a bit more, and adds another dash of red with a neat little dragon tattoo. The palm rest may not look much, it certainly isn’t as big as the Roccat Isku’s, and while my palm does slip out of the general area of the rest it should easily accommodate slimmer hands. The keyboard does feature backlit keys, but instead of lighting up everything, Thermaltake has gone with a more economic, or focused, route. Only the WASD, control, space, shift, arrows and Numpad arrow keys are lit, with caps lock and Numlock having their own LEDs to display their status.
The focused lighting does seem limiting, even though it’s a lot easier on the eyes in dark. For example, whoever uses arrow keys anymore? In fact, who uses arrow keys on the Numpads, at all? I would rather have the ‘R’ and ‘G’ letter lit, along with the macro keys, which are surprising MIA considering they are the highlight of the keyboard. Moving on to the additional functionalities of the keyboard, you have the profile switchers on the left along with a utility key that disables the Windows button completely. On the right you have a bunch of basic media keys, such as play/pause, mute, volume +/-, stop, etc., and a backlit strength controller.
Also, like any good high-end keyboard, the MEKA features two USB ports and a headphone and a mic jack. However, unlike most keyboards, the MEKA does not use additional USB wires or sound cables. Everything just runs through a single USB cable, which is ridiculously wonderful. And it works. The USB ports cannot run external hard drives, no, but it can easily hold up two flash drives at once. The headphone jacks work well, too, with decent sound quality for what it is.
The bundled software allows complete control over the functionalities of the keyboard, and is surprisingly easy and robust to use although it may feel otherwise due to the seemingly complex and unintuitive interface.
The entire keyboard is macro’able, however most users will want to limit their macros to the 12 dedicated buttons, which can be tripled if they wish, thanks to the three presets available. The keyboard also has an Instant Shift System (ISS) where it allows users to switch to a different profile, on-the-fly, for a brief moment, giving them access to a different set of macro presets, as long as the dedicated ISS button is held. The ISS can be assigned to Shift, Control, or Alt keys and can be made to either switch to Profile 2 or Profile 3. Annoyingly, I haven’t found a way to disable it; so now whenever I press the left Shift key, it changes my profile for that brief moment I have the key held. The on-screen notification for it has popped about a gazillion times while writing this review, and it has started to get on my nerves.
Keys can be assigned to any other single key press or to launch a program. For macros, a single key press can be made to repeat multiple times, or when it’s held, or only function until it’s pressed for the next time. The macros are quite flexible and Thermaltake has left no option unattended to help users create macros tailor made to their liking.
The software also allows you to adjust the strength of the backlit keys, offering four of such presets. Alternatively, the lights can be made to ‘pulse’ adding a cool little effect to your fragging. This can be done without the software of course, using the dedicated button the keyboard.
In use, MEKA felt nothing remarkable, and does nothing to alleviate the hateful feeling for mechanical keyboards when shifting from a membrane-based one. It does take time to adjust to the ‘crunch-crunch’ of the mechanical keys, and it easily takes up to a week to truly appreciate the satisfying feedback of a mechanical keyboard.
The only annoyance that I have faced with the MEKA is that it fails, sometimes, to register key presses, resulting in a lot misspelled words even though my mind tells me it has moved the fingers correctly. The keys are also not sensitive to touch like the SteelSeries 7G’s, and require quite a bit of force, while typing at least, to register a key properly.
Another minor quibble is the slightly adjusted keyboard layout. Actually, it’s only a button. Thermaltake for some reason decide to bring ‘backward slash’ key besides the ‘question’ key, effectively screwing up years of practice of quickly hitting shift and question.
At $130, the Tt eSports MEKA G-Unit is a fantastic buy for its price. It competes directly against Razer BlackWidow, and features almost everything the Razer does except full backlit keyboard. But MEKA’s one-cable-to-rule-them all is a huge bonus, which not only reduces cable clutter, but frees up valuable USB and headphone jacks. It’s solidly built, and besides some minor hiccups, is a champ of a performer.