Building keyboards specifically designed for gaming is a great idea for PC players. I have used the standard mouse/keyboard play style for many years playing Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft. Getting the chance to review the ZBoard Burning Crusade Limited Edition was really my first step away from a regular keyboard into a board designed strictly for gaming. Please understand, when a player has put five years into a play style; it is very difficult to ask them to change. What I found is that the ZBoard helped my game play a lot. It made things faster and easier in certain instances, however I am still adjusting after three weeks of using the new hardware. It is hard to break old habits after five years.
The Limited Edition Burning Crusade ZBoard is definitely a sturdy item. When you hit keypads as fast as most PC gamers do, they need to be able to take a beating. Also this keyset came with multiple parts. The main board is set down, and then adjustable with different keypads which link in across the top. This was a great feature although some of the keysets had a split keyboard. I call it a split keyboard, but basically it means the letter menu is split in half for users who type in a professional style. While I had to learn to type on my own as a reporter for many years, I never adopted a set style. So seeing the letters split in half immediately turned me off to the keyset. Fortunately, ZBoard had included a keyset with the typical full letter and number menu that had no breaks in it. It also had the Burning Crusade logo on it, so I was ready to go.
Overall, the quality of the product was very good. A quick download of the software and the hardware worked very easily. It did not take any time to set up macros for specific keys or anything, all the keys worked as labeled. I must admit, when I first saw all the adjustable parts, I got a little nervous about the hardiness of the product. I was glad to see that it worked very well.
The functionality of the keyboard definitely helps gamers. Having the ability to put raiding or group features on a single button is great. Every player looks for any advantage when running a major raid dungeon, and the ZBoard does make it easier. That is not to say that you couldn’t run it with a regular keyboard, but the enhancements of the ZBoard do help.
I Think the only real piece of functionality I was unhappy with is that the movement keys remained on the right side of the keypad (where they normally are). In looking at ZBoard’s other design, the movement keys are on the left, and clearly defined. I would have liked to have seen this feature on the Burning Crusade board. Don’t get me wrong, having the keys where I am used to them was fine; it just looked much cooler to have the larger keys on the left side of the set. At least the keys were in the spot I was used to.
My only real complaint about the keyboard was that the set I received had a smaller Shift Key on the left side of the keyboard. This was a pain, simply because, as a player, you are always hitting the Shift key for certain things. With a smaller Shift key on the board, it was very frustrating. I know this may sound minor, but think about how fast you have to do certain things in Warcraft, and then think about not hitting the right key because the keyboard set up is differently. It is very annoying. Fortunately, the key set in the advertisement on the ZBoard site is shown with a normal sized Shift key. It may have just been a flaw in the model that was sent to me.
The Other stuff
You'll also want to make sure you have working drivers for things like mice, keyboards, and other add-on cards you may use. This sounds obvious, but some companies don't have a working driver yet, and it's hit or miss with XP driver compatibility.
For instance, Zboard does not yet have a driver that allows its keyboards to function under Vista. My action keys now drop me out of game and do things like open IE7 or Windows Media Player, and that's not too fun when you were just engaged in a little PvP. My Razer Krait, however, runs just fine on its old XP drivers.
When it comes to hardware, as a player, you want every advantage possible. Super gaming computers are the way of this industry, especially when you throw PvP into a game. Players look for every advantage to best others and hardware plays a major part. After using the ZBoard for three weeks, I have not switched back. I don’t think I will at this point. The keyboard makes game play easier and adds a bit of flare to your computer with the Burning Crusade logo. That being said, I definitely think there can be improvements made on game play keyboards. ZBoard is taking steps in the right direction by continuously improving their products and making keyboards for specific games. If you don’t have one yet, I recommend at least looking into it. While it may take a little time to adjust, the advantage overall will pay off in the end.
For durability, enhanced game play, and overall functionality, I give this product a 4.5 / 5.