With OCZ’s new line of gaming hardware coming to fruition, the Alchemy Elixir keyboard has reached the market. Featuring low-profile keys, ten dedicated macro keys, and rubberized texture, we’re pitting it against two of today’s reigning gaming keyboards to see how they match up.
First off, I’ll elaborate a bit on the Razer Lycosa, one of the high-profile gaming boards available today. Razer is certainly a company known around the gaming community, creating everything ranging from ridiculously-sensitive mice to gaming headsets. While I’m not one to be impressed by packaging, Razer’s Lycosa boxing is astounding. More often than not, I get furious with packaging for uselessly getting in my way and keeping me away from my goodies. Everything about the Lycosa, however, says that this product was designed for gamers. Even if it comes off as a bit over the top, its mission accomplished. You know they’re not messing around.
The well-organized keys are slick and shiny with a rubbery tactility that feels solid to the touch. In an unusual move, the wrist rest doesn’t just snap onto the board; it actually screws into the bottom of the Lycosa. It is clear Razer puts great thought into their products by eliminating any chance that the wrist rest could fall off at an inopportune time. The mounted wrist rest also grants the keyboard a little extra stability. Razer’s dedication to gamers also shines through in the lighting options for the Lycosa. In addition to no and full backlighting, the user can also enable backlighting for the WASD cluster alone.
Both the full and WASD-only backlighting options are in a pleasant shade of blue. The various lighting profiles can be changed on the fly with a button in the multimedia control key cluster. This cluster contains global hotkeys for play/pause, stop, forward, back, and volume up/down, though a mute button is curiously absent. Amongst the multimedia keys is the Razer logo key which allows a user to change profiles when combined with a function key, or enter “game mode” if combined with the Windows key. Game mode will disable the Windows keys so you can’t be kicked out of your frag-fest by accidentally hitting one.
The keyboard connects with two USB plugs and a standard pair of headphone/microphone 1/8″ mini-jacks. The second USB cable activates a USB 2.0 port on the rear of the keyboard, while the 1/8″ jacks activate headphone and microphone outlets next door. This will allow you to plug your mouse and headset directly into the keyboard, reducing wire clutter at the back of your case.
The robust Lycosa software allows you to remap absolutely any non-multimedia key to a 16-keystroke macro, a specific Windows command (cut, copy, close window, lock PC, show desktop), a program, or one of up to ten profiles at a time. The software also records mouse clicks, permits the insertion of delays in 50ms intervals up to 200ms, or will repeat your actions verbatim. You can tell the Lycosa to only run the macro once, repeat it while it’s held down, or repeat it until you touch the next key. You can even entirely disable the key. As mentioned, key profiles are enabled with the Razor+Function Key stroke, or can be configured to load when a certain executable launches. Lastly, the software allows you to back up key sets and profiles for portability and crash-protection.
Not all is well, though, as there were four quirks that were disappointing for me. While every key that is not mapped can be a potential macro key, the lack of dedicated macro buttons irked me. Secondly, the touch panel that contains the multimedia cluster and the Razer key was often unresponsive. Thirdly, the lack of tactile response for the media cluster also makes it difficult to know if the key of choice was properly activated. Lastly, removal of the wrist rest left a peculiar notch cut in the front edge of the keyboard.
If you’re a user of Windows Media Player, you’ll be disappointed to learn that the play/pause button forces Windows to focus the Windows Media Player Client. Tapping the play/pause button forces Windows Media Player to blink on the task bar, open from a minimized state, or become the active window. This behavior is baffling given that keyboards like the Logitech G15 can manipulate media playback without ever shifting focus from the current active window. This behavior was replicated on both Windows XP and Windows Vista.