Any PC gamer should be familiar with the proliferation
of the various game pads and accessories that are meant
to make gaming a lot easier, but unfortunately most of
them have their flaws. Luckily, the Zboard from Ideazon
is a customizable keyboard that can be used for hardcore
gamers and everyday PC users alike. Its unique keyset
system allows different keyboard layouts to be switched
in a matter of minutes, easily allowing anybody to have
the setup that is perfect for them.
Out of the Box
• Zboard Base (7 Multimedia Controls and 9 Hotkeys
• Standard Keyset (Traditional 108 key layout)
• Gaming Keyset (Designed for Shooter/Action games)
• Detachable wrist rest
• Installation CD
• Instructions Manual
We also received a Battlefield 2 Keyset (sold separately).
Setting up a Zboard isn’t difficult at all, and
there is even an instructions manual and on-screen flash
tutorial for those who wouldn’t consider themselves
tech-savvy. Instead of using the typical keyboard port,
the Zboard first needs to be hooked up to a USB port.
From here, you simply insert the CD into a CD drive and
all of the drivers will install automatically. After a
reboot, the flash tutorial will popup and guide you on
proper Keyset installation.
For those of you who haven’t seen a Zboard before,
you’re probably wondering what exactly a Keyset
is. As the name implies, a keyset is a complete keyboard
layout that can be placed over the Zboard base. Switching
between keysets is simplistic; to install a keyset you
simply lay it out over the base until everything snaps
in properly. After that, a lock needs to be pushed down
to make sure everything stays where it is supposed to.
If the drivers are installed properly, the Zboard program
will instantly detect a change in keysets and will be
ready to go. Easily being able to switch comes in handy
when you’ve finished gaming and want to surf the
web, or vice versa. Taking a keyset off is just as simple;
once you lift up the lock on the side, the keys will lift
right off. The best part about the keysets is that they
take up hardly any space when you aren’t using them,
making them easy to carry around. They have the ability
to fold over three times due to hinges, allowing them
to easily fit on a desk.
In short, it will be only a matter of minutes before
the Zboard is up and running with the ability of adjustable
keysets. The detachable wrist rest snaps right on to the
bottom effortlessly as well, making the entire setup process
Aesthetics / Appearance
Aside from being an outstanding performance keyboard,
each keyset carries its own sleek design that is sure
to turn some heads. The two keysets included with the
Zboard are the gaming and standard layouts. The gaming
keyset has an effective first person shooter layout on
the left panel. The red keys have smooth inward curves,
while the other buttons have a convex build. The silver
background contrasts the keys to create a vibrant appearance.
The standard keyset may be basic, but it still looks sharp.
A silver bar is lain out to demonstrate different key
functions, such as the browser or calculator activation
keys, so you won’t be stuck pressing random buttons.
The only LED lights are for the num lock, caps lock, and
scroll lock keys, but anything extra would be too flashy.
While the gaming and standard keysets work well for games
in general, keysets made specifically for a game carry
a unique design. The Battlefield 2 keyset (pictured below)
has a background consisting of various character, airplane,
and tank models. Again, the left panel here is designated
for the gaming specific keys, and even though it doesn’t
vary too much from the gaming keyset’s layout, the
buttons are laid out just right to create a comfortable
Battlefield 2 atmosphere.
Performance – Zboard Base
Before we jump right into the performance of each keyset,
the Zboard base deserves some special attention. As mentioned
previously, 7 Multimedia keys and 9 Hotkeys are lain out
across the very top. These buttons are built into the
Zboard and will be there no matter which keyset is in
place. These keys have miniature icons to show their function,
so checking your email or opening up a word processor
can be done in a flash.
The base is roughly the same size as a standard keyboard,
and of course adding the wrist rest makes it slightly
bulkier. The rest is certainly comfortable, and if you
have enough space on your desk than there really isn’t
a reason to not attach it. The Zboard is resilient to
sliding, and the gentle slope of the wrist rest can make
the latter hours of your gaming experience as fresh as
Performance – Gaming Keyset
Instead of being specifically designed for one game,
the gaming keyset has a basic layout configuration that
is compatible with most first/third person shooters, and
it can even be used with some platformer and racing games.
The red keys are used for movement, and the surrounding
keys are the most vital gaming functions, including reload,
use, and switching weapons. Surely enough, if you aren’t
comfortable with the special gaming design, chunks of
the keyboard can be found in the middle and right panels.
The middle panel has the traditional W,S,A, and D keys,
as well as the other nearby keys for crouching, running,
and reloading depending on the game. The right panel has
the remaining keys and a few other functions, including
return and arrow keys. If a game comes along that doesn’t
fit this keyset 100% to your liking, you can remap the
keys just like a standard keyboard to fit your liking.
We tested the gaming keyset with games such as Counter-Strike
and Doom 3, and we noticed hardly any problems. Instead
of having to jump around the keyboard for the right key,
everything is fit closely together. Newcomers to the first
person shooter scene will also find this helpful; for
instance, the ‘R’ key has reload captioned
beneath it, as most games use that same function. If you
have enough control of your pinky finger, then you shouldn’t
have any trouble reaching the keys in the lower left portion
of the gaming panel. Adjusting to the different setup
takes a little bit of time, but a 10-15 minute practice
round should be enough to get used to the different setup,
and in no time you can be fragging away on your favorite
Performance – Standard Keyset
The standard keyset, while not designed for gaming in
particular, is still impressive as far as keyboards go.
The 16 keys at the very top are convenient for everyday
use, as are the alternate keyboard functions. Green icons
are placed on the keys which can be activated by using
CTRL. For example, the ‘C’ key has copy in
green over it, so CTRL+C will copy the highlighted objects.
These features are available with any keyboard, but the
Zboard won’t make you scramble around searching
for the right shortcut. The Zboard’s special macros
allowing for easy application access put it a step above
any regular keyboard, making even the Standard Keyset
a permanent solution for everyday users.
Performance – Battlefield
Overall, the Zboard with the two included keysets are
perfect for typical gamers and PC users, but Ideazon also
makes keysets specific for today’s hottest titles,
allowing you to fully unleash the power of the Zboard.
We got our hands on the Battlefield 2, and to be frank,
it made everything a hell of a lot easier. Considering
the complexity of Battlefield 2’s control system,
we found this Zboard to be especially helpful when trying
to become familiar with the title.
The four arrows depict the movement keys, and what one
would imagine to be the ‘Q’ and ‘E’
keys are the communication rose and enter/exit buttons.
The captions make this keyset worth every penny because
without it you can expect to spend a lot of time fumbling
around for the right button. Each weapon type is displayed
correcting over the corresponding number, allowing newcomers
to easily switch weapons in a hurry. Air controls are
also shown in blue, such as bombs, missiles, and after
burners for aerial vehicles. The sprint, prone, and crouch
keys can easily be reached with the pinky or ring finger,
as can the ‘deploy smoke’ key that is now
much more accessible. Various map and camera keys are
nearby, and even the console key can be found in a familiar
position. Just like with the gaming keyset, a standard
keyboard can be found broken across the center and right
panels. Above the standard keys are new buttons for actions
such as squad and vote commands. Switching from panel
to panel can be tricky during a firefight, but once your
hands have settled and you’ve become familiarized
with the layout, you will come to realize that there is
simply no better choice for Battlefield 2 then the Ideazon
Keyset for the Zboard.
Click above for high resolution picture
In conclusion, the Ideazon Zboard should be the one stop
solution for active gamers today, and even the standard
keysets can make this keyboard recommendable for everyday
use. While the two standard keysets are certainly enough
on their own, Ideazon has a wide variety of keysets available,
including Doom 3, Civilization 3, and even a layout for
the World of Warcraft fans. When folded up, the keysets
take up hardly any space, making them both portable and
easy to store on a desk.
If you find yourself playing a lot of first person shooter
games, then the Zboard will obviously allow for an unsurpassed
feeling of control. Having a game with a specifically
designed keyset will make even the most advanced control
schemes feel simplistic.