Today we're doing something a little different. Normally I review peripherals one at a time, and they each get their very own write-up. This time though, I've got two items from the same company: One a keyboard, the other a mouse. You need both to play games, right? (Unless you're one of those people. You know, the ones that use...controllers...) So, we're going to send 2007 out and welcome 2008 in with a one-two punch - Shoryuken!
The Hardware – Giving my Merc an Edge
The Merc Stealth is a USB keyboard with dedicated gaming keys. It features a full QWERTY key section, a full number pad, 34 gaming keys - with rubberized movement keys, and full backlighting. It also has two USB 2.0 ports, a mic and headphone jack, and multimedia keys.
The Reaper Edge is a USB mouse featuring a full-speed interface, a 3200 dpi laser sensor, on-the-fly dpi switching, and 5 programmable buttons.
Appearance – Super + Awesome = lame joke³
The Merc Stealth looks like a keyboard that had the Insert – End keys chopped off and a big old gaming pad attached to the left side. The number pad doubles as the Insert key group with the press of a function button. I imagine that this was done to save a little desk real estate, as the Merc Stealth is already larger than a normal keyboard.
The gaming keys are arranged around a central movement keyset of AWSD. The movement keys are large, rubberized buttons, and the rest of the gaming keys are placed so that you can get to them without taking your fingers off of the movement keys. The whole gaming section is tilted slightly down and slightly to the left to position your hand more comfortably.
The whole keyboard is done up in shades of black and grey, and looks fairly sharp when you take it out of the package. When you plug it in, however, it really starts to look good, as all of the keys are backlit. Not only are they backlit, but you get to choose what color and level of lighting to use. The Stealth gives you a choice of red, blue, or purple backlighting, and there are also three different brightness choices. (Or, if you prefer, you can turn it off completely.)
The Reaper Edge is also a good looking mouse. The top is covered in a faux-metal print, and the sides have rubberized material for a better grip. There's a glowing, red Ideazon logo, and some Knight Rider style LEDs that also show what level of dpi you are at when you press the dpi button below the mouse wheel.
Like a lot of newer Logitech mice, the left and right mouse button are actually just flexible parts of the one piece top section of the mouse. This is great for all you Cheetos fans, as there are fewer cracks for your cheesy powder to fill in. The mouse wheel is more rubbery than I am used to, but it still works and looks just fine.
The whole mouse is tilted to the right for some ergonomic goodness, but it also gives the design more room on the left for buttons. Ideazon went with a different design than the usual side by side buttons, instead opting for one large button on the bottom left, and one smaller button above it. Between the buttons is a comfortable, rubberized zone in which to rest your thumb when you're not jamming on the buttons.
Performance – Will all those lights blind me?
As always, I put the Merc Stealth and the Reaper Edge through their paces with a variety of MMORPG games and other applications.
The Merc Stealth, like the plain old Merc keyboard before it, performed flawlessly. The gaming key section makes playing games much easier. I can hit the entire row of number keys while still using the movement keys. Try casting that spell assigned to the 0 key while running backwards on a normal keyboard. Yeah, you have to use two hands.
The other great thing about the Merc Stealth is that – like its predecessor – you can depress several keys at the same time, and the Stealth can transmit all of the key-presses to the game without losing any information. This isn't usually too big a of a deal when playing a MMORPG (although it will be in the upcoming Age of Conan), but when you want to duck, change movement speed, move forward and to the right, swap your pistol with the C4, and transmit voice commands all at the same time in a FPS game, this is wonderful.
The Reaper Edge also did a great job. The high dpi setting is great if you turn down the sensitivity a bit. It's very accurate, and very smooth. The only issue I ran into with the Reaper Edge was during a non-MMORPG game. Specifically, Crysis. Whenever I would use the middle mouse button to switch weapons, the viewpoint would spin 180°. I never did figure out what caused it, but there are no readily apparent settings in either the mouse software or the game that would bind the mouse wheel to both change weapons and spin my character. As it didn't happen in any other game, I chalked it up to a weird glitch and moved on.
Both the Merc Stealth and the Reaper Edge held up well ergonomically. I was able to game on both for multiple hours at a time without wrist pain. The Edge is tilted slightly to the left to allow your forearm and wrist to rest comfortably, and the Merc Stealth's gaming section is sloped to allow your wrist to rest comfortably on it. I would suggest, however, a nice wrist-rest for the QWERTY section, as one is not included.
Conclusion – Send in the Stealth Reapers and give them Merc Edges!
I've said it before, and I will say it again: Plenty of manufacturers throw on some pretty lights, add a couple of macro keys, and call it a gaming keyboard. Ideazon actually designed a keyboard for gaming, and then called it a gaming keyboard.
As for the Reaper Edge, Ideazon seems to have looked at what works and what doesn't in gaming mice, and then they added their own take. How does it all work out? Great!
What I think of them:
I reviewed the original Ideazon Merc keyboard, and I loved it. It's great for MMORPGs and shooters. I did, however, ask Ideazon to consider revamping it a little. Maybe throw in some backlighting, a little texturing on the movement keys, and some dedicated macro keys.
Ideazon listened to me and many others, and answered with the Merc Stealth. It's actually my favorite keyboard ever. Of course, I still would have liked some dedicated macro keys. Oh well, there's always the Stealth II.
I was a little more skeptical of the Reaper Edge. I've used the original Ideazon Reaper mouse before, and it wasn't really my cup of tea. (Or coffee, or even cola.) Therefore, when the Edge arrived at my door, I was pleasantly surprised with the mouse. It's very comfortable to use, and also a great gaming grade mouse. In fact, I literally have dozens of mice lying around my house, and I keep using the Reaper Edge. It's not that much better than the Razer Death Adder or the Logitech G9, but I just like the feel and the side-button arrangement more.
Who I think can benefit the most:
Any gamer can benefit from a great gaming keyboard like the Stealth. If you already own a Merc, it may not be worth it, but otherwise this is the best gaming keyboard out there right now.
As for the Reaper Edge? If you already have a great gaming mouse, you're not going to need to buy another. The Reaper Edge isn't that far above other really good gaming mice that you'll want to consider laying down more money for it. If you need a great gaming mouse, however, the Edge can easily fill that need.
Ideazon continues to impress me. They listen to feedback from their customers (and even us freeloading journalists), and use it to improve their products. I hold here two fine examples of that willingness to improve, and believe that we can expect more gaming goodness from them in the future.
As for the Merc Stealth and the Reaper Edge? I'd go as far as to claim that they are the gaming keyboard/mouse combo of 2007.
Overall, the Merc Stealth earns 9 backlit Ninjas out of 10, and the Reaper Edge gets 9 bloody backstabs out of 10.