When peripheral manufacturer SteelSeries bought out Zboard creator Ideazon in 2008, everyone wondered what would happen to the Zboard. The SteelSeries Shift is what happened to the Zboard.
Ideazon's Zboard was a keyboard with interchangeable keysets tailored to different popular PC titles. If one wanted to play EverQuest 2, they would slap in the EverQuest 2 keyset, gaining access to special game-specific buttons. It was a lovely idea with two major flaws: It was terribly clunky, and it didn't always work.
I went through three Zboards. One of them simply died on me. Only half of the space bar worked on the second, a problem unique to a device with a folding space bar. The third worked fine barring some software issues, but was soon replaced by something that looked better on my desk.
SteelSeries refines the Zboard concept with the Shift gaming keyboard, giving the Zboard a sleek new look and improved functionality. Every button is customizable. Each key supports up to three levels of on-the-fly macros. Users can define keystrokes that set off a full sequence of commands, including time delays.
The Shift is also a much higher quality product overall than the Zboard. Both the keyboard base and new keysets are constructed of premium plastic. The older keysets will still work but will likely feel like children's toys sitting inside the Shift.
"With the introduction of the SteelSeries Shift, we're able to bring another unique and powerful gaming tool to consumers, said SteelSeries CEO, Bruce Hawver. "The Shift greatly expands the functionality and concept of the original Zboard, which joined our product line in 2008 as a result of our acquisition of Ideazon, with new SteelSeries features that will provide gamers with a keyboard experience that can be customized for all types of games. As we bring the SteelSeries Shift to market, we are continuing to work with the best developers and publishers in the games industry to offer player's unique layouts and functionalities that will enhance their entire gaming experience."
Of course with great quality and better features comes a higher price tag. The Shift alone will retail for $89.99, $40 more than the original Zboard, while new keysets will cost $24.99.
The Zboard was an excellent concept that stumbled in its execution. Does the SteelSeries Shift perfect the formula? We'll find out when it goes on sale later this year.