The GoodSeparate game pad area isolates keys in a game-friendly (first-person shooter) design; improved rubberized keystroke feedback; software lets you tweak key mapping as much as you want.
The BadGame pad keys take some getting used to.
The Bottom LineThe SteelSeries Merc Stealth gaming keyboard updates an already innovative design by adding lights and a USB hub. Though the design may not be for everyone, the Stealth Merc should satisfy gamers who want more than just a unique key layout.
The SteelSeries Merc Stealth gaming keyboard is nearly identical to one we looked at back in 2007, the Ideazon Merc Gaming Keyboard. SteelSeries has since updated the product--rebranding it as the Merc Stealth--and added tricolor LEDs and a handy two-port USB hub.
The keyboard features a separate game key cluster that essentially doubles standard QWERTY keys to the left of the board. However, since the bunched-up key layout impedes accuracy, it may require an adjustment period and with enough time we'd imagine getting used to the layout. The downloadable software allows for complete customization of the board, so if all you're interested in is tailoring your keyboard to your favorite titles, the Merc Stealth is probably worth a try.
Jeff has been at CNET for more than five years covering games, tech, and pop culture. When he's not playing ice hockey or pinball, you can catch him live every day as the host of CNET's infamous daily show, The 404 Show and every Friday in CNET's first-ever tech comic, Low Latency.