Mechanical keyboards have become increasingly sought after over the past year, with more and more manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon, oftentimes producing gamer-oriented hardware that features mechanical Cherry MX switches. Going mechanical has a lot to offer both the seasoned typist and the serious (or even semi-serious gamer), and we've gone over those benefits in our reviews of Rosewill's RK-9000 keyboard (with Cherry MX Blue switches) and Corsair's Vengeance K60 and K90 keyboards (with Cherry MX Red switches).

For a little while we've also had on hand a trio of Thermaltake's Meka keyboards (along with their Black Element mouse), and all of these keyboards feature Cherry MX Black switches. So we have a few questions to answer here: what's with all these colored switches, what has Thermaltake made out of them, and which one is going to be the best for you? And as a substantial sidenote, in a world dominated by Razer and Logitech mice, what is Thermaltake bringing to the table with the Black Element?

Thermaltake Meka in Three Flavors

With the Thermaltake Meka we have not one but three keyboards on hand, which sounds more onerous than it is. All three of these keyboards feature the same build materials and the same Cherry MX Black switches; they differ only in size, layout, and additional features. In order from smallest to largest, we have the Meka, the Meka G1, and the Meka G-Unit.

The smallest of the three, the Meka (no suffix) has the most condensed/compressed layout. The document navigation key cluster is gone, with the Insert and Delete keys moved to above the number pad while the Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End keys relegated to the number pad. More perplexing is the reverse-L-shaped Enter key, which forces the "\" ("|") key to share space with the Backspace key. And probably the most unforgiving change is moving the "? /" key from the left of the Right Shift key to the right of the Up Arrow. Mechanical switches or no, the Meka's bizarre layout makes it a poor choice for many typists, particularly those who routinely switch between keyboards. If Thermaltake wanted to save space they would've been better off looking at notebook keyboard layouts featuring keypads rather than putting together this chimera. On the good side of things, note that the Meka also features two USB 2.0 ports at the top, which is always a welcome touch.

The next keyboard, and my personal favorite, is the Meka G1. The G1 features the most standardized key layout of the three; the only hiccup is replacing the Windows key with an Fn key and then moving the Windows key over to the right of the spacebar. I'm not personally a fan of that change, but gamers who've had to get used to avoiding the Windows key will probably be happy to see the move. The G1's massive cable bundle includes two USB 2.0 connectors (one for the keyboard, and one for the two USB 2.0 ports at the top of the keyboard) along with passthrough cables for the headphone and mic jacks on your tower that connect to the jacks on the top of the keyboard (next to the USB 2.0 ports). Users who prefer PS/2 connectivity also have that option, and Thermaltake includes a removable plastic wrist rest. The one thing I don't like is that the lock LEDs are all very bright red; I actually found the Num Lock to be slightly distracting.

Finally there's the Meka G-Unit, the largest of the three. My only complaint with this one is the reverse-L-shaped Enter key, but the dedicated media keys, volume controls, macro keys, and control of the backlight are all appreciated. That white LED backlight is tough to capture in photos, but you can see that it's selective: Thermaltake only backlights the keys they expect gamers to use. That means the WASD cluster, the arrow keys (also on the number pad), the spacebar, the Left Shift, and the Left Control keys. The backlighting can also be disabled if you're so inclined.

One major point where the Meka G-Unit does differ from the Meka G1 is that it uses a single USB 2.0 cable as opposed to a bundle, and that cable powers the two USB 2.0 ports in the top of the keyboard. Not just that, but the G-Unit also features a built-in audio chip to handle the microphone and headphone jacks in the top of the keyboard. Installing the drivers will have Windows default to using the G-Unit's audio jacks, unfortunately, but it's easy enough to switch back to your normal speakers.

Of course, that's the other major point where the G-Unit differs from the others: it actually has driver software due to having macro keys. We'll take a brief look at the software on the next page.

Thermaltake Meka and Cherry MX Black Switches in Practice
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  • SilthDraeth - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    It is supposed to fix the repeating key bug. But it doesn't entirely.

    Does this keyboard work with a ps2 adapter?
  • Googer - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    Im using an old Mechanical Keyboard on PS/2 on an ASUS AMD A75 APU motherboard and have no keyboard issues what so ever.
  • daar - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    I've never had any key repeating problems on Logitech keyboards using the USB interface on a variety of systems. My bud uses a Razer BlackWidow and never has had an issue either. Looks like I'll wait for the next revision before springing on a Corsair keyboard..
  • SilthDraeth - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    Cooler Master CM Storm QuickFire Rapid SGK-4000-GKCL1-US USB or PS/2 Wired Gaming Mechanical Cherry Blue Switches Keyboard

    Uses Cherry blue switches, looks well made. I almost bought one, but the K60 was on sale for $20 less.

    Still not sure I made the right decision.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    Honestly it looks like it'd basically be comparable to Rosewill's RK-9000 with the same Cherry MX Blue switches we reviewed. It looks almost identical, just without the number pad.
  • canontk - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    There's a lot more to a keyboard than looks and having the same switches. One could argue that my Leopold tenkeyless with MX Browns is exactly the same as my Filco tenkeyless with MX browns, but they feel almost completely different.

    The build quality and it's components (plate mounted, key caps, etc.) are what make the difference.

    If you really want a nice Cherry MX keyboard then I recommend Filco, yes it's worth the price difference.
  • althaz - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    Dustin, you need to test a keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches. They are most people's ultimate choice for a gaming and typing keyboard. Reds are a frequent runner-up as, like you mentioned, they are basically a lighter Black switch.
  • joel4565 - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    Yeah according to the link TheEye's posted they do recommend MX Brown as the best compromise between typing and gaming. Looking on newegg though, it looks fairly uncommon with only 5 listings. Two by Daskeyboard at ~ 150 a brand I never heard of as well as a Rosewill and Coolermaster.

    The Coolermaster actually looks like a pretty nice keyboard on paper at ~ 100:

    Dustin, any chance you might be able to test the Coolmaster SGK-4010-GKCM1-US?
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    Agreed. I've got the Zowie Celeritas with MX Brown and find them much better than any MX Black I've tested (not many, though).
  • jigglywiggly - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    only cherry mx red is good
    i even think it has slightly too much resistence
    i want super cherry mx red
    i couldn't imagine having more resistence
    but then again i type at like 140wpm

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