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Got this with my latest gaming rig.  I happened to see a Doom 3 keyset at the store.  Since I was buying that machine largely to play Doom 3 I decided to splurge and get this keyboard, also.  It appeared to be something I'd like.

I do like the general idea of the keyboard.  Dedicated gaming keyboards are among the things I was most looking forward to when USB was introduced.  And the quick-change nature of this keyboard is very clever.

But I'm not sure the implementation works all that well.  The location of the keys ends up too tightly constrained.  Because of that, keysets with custom layouts on the left (basically, FPS games) end up smashing the stock keyboard keys to the right.   The keys on the right end up grouped into orthogonal grids.  So there's no chance of a complete QWERTY arrangement.  That makes chat essentially impossible (well, very difficult) without having another keyboard in your lap.

While I found the layout of the left hand keys to be Good Enough, it wasn't ideal.   Partly because someone else did the layout, and I probably would have done it differently.  I would have made them a straight line or an arc that followed the movement of the pinky better.  But also becaues some of the pinky keys turned out to be an uncomfortably long reach.  And I have longer than average fingers.

Also, since many of the keys are identically round and separated from each other, I would sometimes get confused about which key I was pushing.  It would have helped to have shaped at least one of the keys a little different from the others.  That way, you could tell which key your pinky was on without looking.  Then you could move from there.  Or maybe a better idea, put some distinctive bumps of some kind on the flat surface around the keys, to help my pinky navigate around.

DOOM3_Keyset_Left_50.jpg (27860 bytes) zboard_gamingkeyset_inbase_Left_50.jpg (18235 bytes)
Doom 3 keyset Generic FPS keyset

The Doom 3 keyset is tied pretty tightly to Doom.  There aren't enough keys under the left hand for a lot of FPS games.  The generic FPS keyset that they ship with the unit has more.  But I've never used it to play a game.  I've toyed with the idea recently.  But the current driver doesn't allow user-defined key remapping.  So I would have to alter any games I have to play with their mapping.  That's a bit more work than I'm interested in right now.  (Their FAQ says that remapping should be available in their driver Real Soon Now.)

I'm wondering how well it would work with an RTS game.  The glances I've taken at a couple of the RTS selections don't impress me.  It's basically just a keyboard with very small lettering on the keys to indicate their special function.  I think I would prefer the special function get the main focus, and the letters be small and inconspicuous.   Even then, the ergonomics are identical to a standard keyboard.  There's just not much advantage.

The Civilization III keys are at least shaped differently.  And some appear to be visually grouped somewhat by function.  But again, it appears that it would be hard to navigate by feel.

The unit also ships with a plain ole keyboard.  But the action of the standard keys isn't really all that good for typing.  I'm not all that picky about my keyboards.  But I think this one would bother me with its sloppy feel.

I found the action of the FPS keys on the Doom keyset to be okay.  I think maybe my Baby Brother might find the throw to be too long for his taste.  I do remember getting a little fatigued after using it for a long session.  I think because they keyboard is flat.  I'm finding I like the shape and feel of the N52 better.  I sure wish the Ergodex DX1 Input System was less expensive.   That looks like the ultimate gaming keyboard.

I suppose I'd rate this at about 75%.  An innovative idea.  But probably not for everybody.

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