Date: January 17th, 2006
Article by: Mike Carter (Hardware Reviewer)
Edited by: Nathan Glentworth (Owner / Head Editor)
<--SHOP FOR A COMPUTER KEYBOARD HERE
Normally, I would start with a walkthrough of the specific features of a product, but in this case, the features won't make much sense until you actually install the keyboard, so let's get right to it.
The Z-Board comes in two flavors: USB and PS/2. I got the USB model, which would be preferable for most people. Before you plug it in, though, you must first switch out the keyset. As I mentioned earlier, it comes packaged with the Gaming Keyset inserted. A large label on the inside of the box lid warns you to change the keyset to the Standard Keyset first. While I found that to be mildly annoying, it's a good crash-course in learning to use the main feature of this keyboard.
Once done, you simply plug the keyboard in. That's it. Windows will automatically recognize it as a Standard Keyboard.
Your next step is to install the software. Now, here's my next nitpick. An insert in the manual states that drivers older than version 440 conflict with XP SP2. Unfortunately, the CD comes with a much older version. You need to go to Ideazon's website to download the latest driver. Not a huge deal, but it's a time-waster.
Installing the software is a no-brainer. The package installs the Z-Board drivers and the Configuration Utility, as well as a taskbar widget. Once installed, you'll be presented with a configuration screen.
Notice you only have one option to check, so do so, and click OK. There's a handy Quickstart Guide that you can view, if you choose.
That's it, you're ready to play! Now, let's stick the Gaming Keyset in, and fire up a good game.
PRODUCT WALKTHROUGH AND OPERATION
Obviously, the key feature of this keyboard is the Gaming Keyset, and it's simple to install. If you followed the instructions, you would have already changed the keyset once, so you get the basic idea. While we have the keyset off, though, let's take a look at the guts of the keyboard.
In this picture, you can see the naked base. The nubs that the keys rest on are rubber, and provide a nice feel. Ideazon opted for a sheet-type construction, which helps keep the keyboard nice and quiet. Keystrokes take a bit more effort, but not a whole lot, and overall, I like the feel.
Here, we see the “heart” of the keyboard/keyset marriage. A set of contacts on the base mate up with a small chip on the keyset of choice. This is the magic part that allows the keyboard to map itself to whichever keyset you insert. The cool part is it can be done on-the-fly, no need to shut down and restart.
Here we have a full view of the back of the Gaming Keyset. Some of the buttons have polystyrene (Styrofoam) stuffed into the retaining posts. I have to assume this is to keep some of the bigger buttons quiet, but I'm not sure.
Inserting the keyset takes a few seconds. Going slow, it took me 5 full seconds to snap it into place. Now, we have what the Ideazon was designed to be, a fully remapped gaming keyboard. Let's take a few moments to look over the features of this keyset.