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ZBoard MERC Review

Hardware Reviews By Jeremy Star on April 20, 2006

ZBoard MERC Review


Zboard MERC Gaming Keyboard Review


I have personally been using the old Zboard and assorted Zboard keysets for almost a year now, and I love them. I have always felt, however, that there was certainly room for improvement. Sure, having the buttons labeled so I don’t need to hunt through the manual all the time is a great feature, but it is pretty inconvenient to have to switch out the keysets all the time. Also, while it is wonderful to have the butterfly style movement keys for games like Battlefield 2 and Call of Duty, why are MMORPG games like World of Warcraft and Everquest II stuck using the traditional WASD keys? My fingers cramp just as bad from an extended MMORPG session as they do from an extended first person shooter session.

Enter the newest keyboard designed by Zboard: The Merc Gaming Keyboard.

Merc combines all of the gaming goodness of the previous Zboard and its associated keysets with all of the conveniences of a “regular” keyboard.

On the left side of the keyboard are the famous Zboard action keys, including the butterfly movement keys, number and action buttons, quick load/save buttons, and a screenshot button. Also on the left, above the action keys, are shortcut keys for controlling volume, media player interface (stop, play, etc…), the Z-Engine software that runs the keyboard, and three “blank” keys you can assign to anything you can imagine. Well, almost anything. My attempts at getting these keys to summon a genie who would grant my wishes failed miserably.

In the middle of the Merc is a genuine QWERTY keyboard layout. Although it seems to be just a bit smaller than a standard QWERTY keyboard, it functions quite nicely, even for people with bigger hands. All of the standard keys are present, including the function keys and the escape key.

The right side of the Merc is a combination number pad/arrow key area. Ideazon took the Home key and all of its friends and put them directly on the number pad, so switching between using the numerical and using the functions requires a simple push of the Num Lock key. The arrow keys are at the bottom of the number pad now, and they only function as arrow keys, which is quite convenient. Ideazon also added some common windows functions to some of the other keys, like the + and * key, so you can cut, paste, copy, and minimize with ease now.

The whole keyboard is done in an attractive black plastic, with a stylized silver strip along the top that contains a large Zboard icon. All of the keys are grey or black, labeled with easy to see white letters, except for the number keys which are labeled in an easy to read light blue. The butterfly movement keys are the only color exception, being the same deep red color that they were on other Zboard keysets. The whole thing is slightly longer than your average keyboard, even with the combined keys on the left hand side, so be aware of this if desk/tray space is an issue for you. Overall, the whole Merc Gaming Keyboard is a rather attractive addition to your gaming peripherals.


Appearance score is a 5 of 5.


Merc is a heavy duty piece of gaming equipment. I was worried when first setting it up on my desk, as the extra length has it hanging slightly over the edge of my keyboard tray, but it is heavy enough to prevent me from accidentally sliding it right over the edge to its doom. The QWERTY keys all feel great when I am typing on them, and are – in fact – much better than the keys on my previous Zboard keysets. They have just enough resistance to make them great for typing articles such as this. I must admit I thought the action keys were mushy when I first started using the Merc, but after two weeks of playing all sorts of games, I have to say Ideazon knew exactly how much resistance these should have to provide you with comfort for extended gaming.

Speaking of the action keys, Ideazon went back to the drawing board for the layout, and I have to give them kudos for the new arrangement. It is now much easier to reach all of the keys without stretching your hand out like a guitar player. Also, they moved all of the number keys so that you can now press any number, 1 – 11, without taking your hand off the movement keys. This is a feature that many Zboard users asked for, so it’s nice to see Ideazon listens to what their customers want.


Quality score is a 5 of 5.

I have tried out quite a few gaming keyboards and things meant to be used as keyboard replacements, and the clear winner in my mind is the Merc Gaming Keyboard. The sheer comfort of using the Merc in extended gaming sessions, combined with an intuitive layout, and a great look make this the keyboard replacement for any gamer. Don’t be fooled by the marketing either, because the Merc is just as good for MMORPGs as it is for action games. I prefer this keyboard hands down over my old Zboard and World of Warcraft keyset, and it was cheaper to boot. All hail the Merc, the new king of gaming keyboards.


Conclusion score: 5 of 5.


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