Keyboards are pretty simple things. They're basically a bunch of keys on a board, right? Some are more fancy than others, of course, but that's really just flashy lights and complicated pieces of mostly superfluous software, and massively over-engineered keycaps and switches. Why would you spend money on a mechanical keyboard when there are dozens or hundreds of cheaper alternatives out there? The answer is more complicated than you might think.
What Is It?
- Keyboard Type: Mechanical
- Keyboard Size: 80 Per Cent (Tenkeyless)
- Mechanical: Yes
- Switch Type: Tactile, 'Clicky' (Kailh Blue)
- Backlighting: Yes (Blue, 4 levels)
- Warranty: 5 Years
The $99 Tt eSPORTS Poseidon ZX is long-time gaming and PC peripheral company Thermaltake's latest and greatest mechanical keyboard for gamers, featuring Cherry MX Blue-esque tactile mechanical switches, although made by Kailh — the combo of mechanical and tactile that is creme de la creme of clicky keyboard buttons, if you so happen to be the kind of weirdo like me who is into that kind of thing.
On the face of it, there really isn't too much to talk about when it comes to the Poseidon ZX; it's an 86-key keyboard in the 'tenkeyless' format. That means it cuts off at the right-hand edge next to the four-way cursor keys and the six-key block of insert, home and delete keys, getting rid of the numpad to cut down on space. At 80 per cent of the size of a regular desktop computer keyboard it's significantly better for smaller desks and for workspaces where space is at a premium. (I'm a big fan of the TKL format; I have a couple of mechanicals in that size that I use regularly already.)
The ZX is a fully backlit keyboard, with a blue LED under each and every keycap to equally and consistently light up keys when you're writing or gaming. You can set four levels of brightness, from dim to reasonable to wow to oh-god-my-eyes. There's no per-key illumination adjustment, though, so you can't create specific setups like W-A-S-D and a couple of function keys for FPS gaming, or whatever you might want.
As you'd expect of any modern keyboard, the Poseidon ZX connects over USB, and that cable is hardwired to the board itself so there's no changing it out for a shorter- or longer-length variant. In the box you get half a dozen red keycaps that you can switch out with the standard black keyset using the included keypuller, although that's about it for included accessories.
What Is It Good At?
Being a mechanical keyboard, the switches for each key on the Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS Poseidon ZX are supremely well constructed and solid and well weighted. The benchmark Cherry MX Blues are the easy choice if you're a full-time typist or gamer, with a tactile feel and an obvious (and loud, more on that later) click in that old IBM Model M fashion. The Poseidon ZX's switches are made by Kailh as a low-cost Cherry alternative with the same design, and I'm no expert but they feel nearly identical to the MX Blue on a more expensive keyboard like the Filco Majestouch 2 I have at home. Typing swiftly on this keyboard makes you feel like the king of the world, and gaming on it makes you feel like your Starcraft 2 APM must be through the roof. It's that kind of sensory feedback that makes mechanical keyboards worth the dollars.
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The feel of typing on the Poseidon ZX, as with most other mechanical keyboards, is supreme. The keys are very well weighted, the slightly concave keycaps accomodate the tap of a finger well, the travel of each key is just the right amount to get a tactile response to type without bottoming out. If you're using it for gaming, this means fewer accidental double-taps and a more realistic simulacrum of what you see happening on-screen. In fast-paced FPS and those APM-heavy MOBA and MMO games alike, having an accurate keyboard may sound like a minor thing, but it really does make a big difference to how you play and the precision of your actions.
There's a sense of absolute longevity, too. The Poseidon ZX doesn't have the metal backplate of some other mechanicals, but its plastic construction is incredibly solid and there's nothing I can think of during regular use that would kill it before its time. A mechanical keyboard is a lifetime investment, and as long as USB exists on PCs I'd be confident in this 'board's ability to keep typing or tapping away.
Some mechanical keyboards for gamers are gaudy, there's no other word for it. The blue lights on the Poseidon ZX may be bright and very, very blue, but they actually look pretty good against the black background of the keys and the matte black plastic of the rest of the keyboard. There's one red Tt eSPORTS logo above the directional keys, and a stylised outline logo that looks slightly griffinesque on the centre of the Space bar, but apart from that it's actually quite clean and professional. It's no Dell or Lenovo for generic conformist design, but it wouldn't look out of place on an office desk.
The Poseidon ZX is pretty cheap for a mechanical keyboard, too. When you're looking around for mechanical 'boards, you'll find that a lot of the time, they're $120-plus. When the ZX is $99, that actually makes it surprisingly affordable. Don't get me wrong, that's still a lot of money for a keyboard — it's a peripheral for typing and tapping away during games, not a monitor or a pair of headphones that give you measurable feedback and have a measurable effect on your word processing or typing.
What Is It Not Good At?
The Poseidon ZX is a clicky tactile mechanical keyboard, with a blue LED backlight on every key. That's an interesting combo, to be honest — I would have expected a white LED option as the default, to be honest. No option for Cherry's other mechanical keyboard switches, like the MX Red or Black or Brown or Clear, is a bit disappointing, because its utility is then restricted to those that don't mind loud and clicky typing. It is a very distinctive sound. I'm typing this review on the ZX in the Gizmodo office right now, and I suspect Kotaku editor Mark Serrels may actually want to kill me for all the noise I'm making.
The backlighting is great to see on a $100 keyboard, but it is just about the most basic kind of backlighting possible. I would have liked to see the lighting start at a lower minimum brightness and have slightly more adjustability, because at the moment the brightest setting is overkill even in a bright fluorescent room. Having the ability to set per-key brightness and per-key lighting would have been doubly ideal, and I would have liked to see different colour options available to match different customers' gaming PC and desktop computing designs.
Should You Buy It?
Do you make a living in front of your computer? Do you spend your days and nights gaming? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then there is a legitimate reason to pick yourself up a mechanical keyboard. It doesn't need to be this particular one, or one with especially clicky keys or a flamboyant gameresque design. It's the same rational decision that leads us to buy high quality clothes, a well-crafted wallet or belt, or a precisely engineered European sports car.
Mechanical keyboards are much more sturdily built than your average $10 Dell rubber-dome clicker. The Tt eSPORTS Poseidon ZX sets itself apart with a great 5-year warranty, blue backlighting, it's one of those nifty tenkeyless models, and it's surprisingly affordable for a mechanical model. It's not the most sturdy mechanical I've used, and it's not the most attractive, but it does hit both those points pretty near full on.
If you're looking to dip your toes in the warm and wonderful water that is mechanical keyboards (yes, I just wrote that), the $99 Tt eSPORTS Poseidon ZX is a great place to start. If it's the only mechanical you buy, you won't be disappointed, but if you use this as a starting point to see what the world of keyboards has to offer — and it's more than you think — then you should definitely give it some serious thought.