It may seem like I wasn't giving any attention to Thermaltake and its keyboards since I took on the role of peripherals editor here at TweakTown, but that really wasn't the case at all. The issue is more based on our review criteria. By that I mean that while the Challenger and original version of the MEKA keyboards were reviewed here by my predecessor, since then there has been little outside of the range of color combination changes, and other small additions not worthy of a full review.
While I missed out on the Challenger series of membrane switch keyboards that offered fans on them to keep your hands cool, as well as fancy lighting schemes, you all know how I feel about rubber dome keyboards, so maybe that was a good thing. I also missed out on the MEKA and G Unit series where Thermaltake stepped into various color options and offered mechanical switches. Now we are talking my language. Mechanical key switches, backlighting, no software needed to use it - all the things that pique my interest when looking for things to review. I try to keep my eye out on what consumers are looking for, and I think today might be the day you switch out your current keyboard.
In fact, by missing the previous released version, I know Thermaltake has had a fair amount of time to work on the design and layout, and is now delivering a more refined product. From what I can tell just in images on its website, as well as looking at various reviews, I have to say, for my personal tastes, it was well worth the wait to get a hold of this new Tt eSPORTS MEKA G1 Illuminated keyboard that sports Cherry MX black switches behind every key, as well as individually illuminated keys.
Even as far as the styling and the way the features work, it is just so simple to use and attractive - you are going to be impressed with Thermaltake's latest mechanical keyboard offering.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The MEKA G1 Illuminated keyboard is aesthetically pleasing with the two piece frame and keycaps all receiving a rubberized coating that leaves all of the surfaces with a matte black finish. The keycaps are molded in an opaque plastic, then shot with the coating, leaving the legends being the plastic underneath. Under each and every concave keycap you will find a Cherry MX black switch, and that each switch has an individual LED attached to it to allow for the various illuminated patterns that this board is capable of showing. This is a 104 key layout with a full number pad, but it also offers multimedia keys on the F-Keys, and a pair of lighting buttons further up the F-Keys.
Outside of the realm of basic layout and components, the MEKA G1 Illuminated offers a military grade cable that comes out of the back that offers the keyboard USB connection, but also a second one to connect the two port USB 2.0 hub on the back of the keyboard. On top of that there are also two 3.5mm jacks in the back of the keyboard for audio, and the cable has jacks to plug directly into the rear I/O or a sound card that is 1.5 meters long. If you look at the chart, I think the guys making X's and O's were having some fun. The keyboard has no fan, doesn't have programmable memory, no profiles, and no Macro capability either. Although it does not have software, it does have audio jacks, and it does not offer cable management. It does have gold plated ends, but the cable does not detach. Other than that, the chart is pretty spot on.
I am surprised to see that the MEKA G1 Illuminated is already widely available. Starting at the high-end of the pricing scale, there is Xoxide that is asking $139.95 plus another $9 to get one to my house. Then I jumped over to Newegg where they are asking $119.99 and $6 for shipping. If you then go over to Amazon, you will find that the MEKA G1 Illuminated sits for $119.99 and is eligible for free shipping at the time of writing.
For the purposes of this review, I will be judging my opinion on the Amazon $119.99 pricing, but right up front you can see this will cost you a bit more than other offerings we have reviewed previous to this, and it may be the one thing holding the MEKA G12 Illuminated mechanical keyboard back.
The MEKA G1 Illuminated comes is a box that is made to look like metal with the reinforced corners and diamond plate behind the naming and image of the keyboard. At the bottom it shows off features like the set 1000Hz polling rate, the backlighting, the two port USB hub, and the pass-through audio jacks.
Both of the smaller thin sides look like this above with the company and keyboard name, along with the battle dragon logo at the right. The longer thin sides show the company name, the phrase "solid to conquer", and the keyboard naming on top of more diamond plate.
The back of the box starts off showing what was on both of the longer sides, but as you move down, you can tell that similar text is being repeated in 15 languages, and things finish off with a Windows 7 certification icon and the model and serial number in the lower right corner.
Moving in much closer you can now tell it is a features list that is on the back of the box. Thermaltake cover the polling rate, the 50 million clicks of each Cherry MX black switch, the added USB and audio ports, the multimedia keys, and finishes off talking about the detachable palm-rest.
Upon first lifting the top of the box open, you will find that this keyboard comes with a cardboard insert that denotes all the keys with multiple functions, as well as showing the lighting modes and where to adjust the lighting. It also covers some features and the system requirements over to the right side.
If you lift the insert out, you will find the keyboard is placed in a foam bag and set into the box. The cabling is tucked in at the back, but the front section holds the palm-rest, and you can also see the folder with the paperwork inside it lying on the keyboard.
Thermaltake eSPORTS MEKA G1 Illuminated Mechanical Keyboard
Now that the MEKA G1 Illuminated is fully visible, what you may notice first is the matte finish, the 104 key layout, the bright logo at the top right corner, and you may also notice the monster sized cable.
Looking at the left edge of this MEKA, you will see that the frame does adjust the back of the keys to be a bit higher than they are on the front edge, but the key caps are slightly laid back. You can also see there are no rough corners on the frame, as the front edge has a large curve and the back is rounded, even at the corners.
The left side of the keyboard offers 74 keys with a US QWERTY layout. You will also notice in the bottom row, to the right of the space bar, you find the only Windows key, and the key next to it acts as a right click.
At the top of the left side you will find the row of F-Keys. Painted in blue, you will also see that the F1 through F7 keys are also used in conjunction with the FN key for multimedia controls.
Further to the right you will find red paint on the F11 and F12 keys, and these also work with the FN key. The G-Key will switch between the WASD illumination, the Arrows being illuminated, or the 2, 4, 6, and 8 on the keypad, or full on illumination. The light icon button allows you eight levels of intensity, including them being off entirely.
That leaves you with the 30 key layout of the number pad and various command keys. You also have the bright red Tt logo at the top of this section, right next to the trio of lock activity LEDs.
Looking at the MEKA from the right side with the feet now extended, the extra half of an inch in the back now makes the keycaps all lean slightly forward and offers a better angle of attack.
Moving around the back of that same right side of the MEKA G1 Illuminated, you can see the extra connectivity options offered. There is a pair of USB 2.0 ports, and you also get two 3.5mm jacks to plug in some headphones and a microphone here, rather than at your PC itself.
MEKA G1 Illuminated Continued
Dead center on the back edge, you find this half inch diameter plastic wire retainer with the white and black braided cable coming out of it.
Flipping the keyboard onto its face, you can see there are four large pads to keep the keyboard in place, and there is the pair of feet that will adjust if desired at the back. There is a QC sticker just above the main product sticker that holds all the information needed for support purposes.
The feet in the back will flip out to offer a much more ergonomic angle to use the MEKA G1 Illuminated. You can also see that the rubber pads are so soft that they have every bit of lint on the table stuck to them, even so they still grip well even on the glass top used for all my images.
Just inside the set of rubber front pads, you will find a rectangular hole inside of a sectioned off area on both sides of the front edge. These are designed to easily accept the clips from the palm-rest that is included.
To make the connection of the palm-rest and the keyboard, just line up the latches on the palm-rest, and push down on them; they snap right into place. To remove it, you will need to squeeze the tabs together to allow them to "let go" of the keyboard.
With both components now together, the palm-rest does help raise your hands off the desk top a bit, and for some it will fix the fact that the front edge of most mechanicals are high, but here that edge is rounded to help to alleviate such problems.
Then of course there is the other end of that large cable coming from the keyboard. There is a huge ferrite choke used as the braid ends and the individual USB and audio wires come out in black rubberized coating to allow flexibility and easy connectivity to the rear I/O panel.
Accessories and Documentation
In the front of the inner packaging, under some folded cardboard and inside of a dense foam bag, you will find this palm-rest. It is made of plastic, has a rubberized coating applied to it and then has the battle dragon painted in red right in the middle, and has a pair of clips to connect it to the keyboard.
Along with the clips seen here, there is another at the other end, and as you can see they go into the holes and lock the little tabs into the frame of the keyboard. You also are given four smaller feet across its length to help keep it from shifting since there is a lot of arm weight there.
Inside of the black folder found on top of the keyboard when it was in the box, you will locate the warranty policy and what is covered for the first two years you own this. You are also given the installation guide that is on the right.
The guide starts off congratulating the buyer on their purchase, delivers the system requirements, package contents, and how to connect the device. It then continues with a list of eight key features, which we have covered to some extent already.
The next page of English information provided offers a caution list. Thermaltake also offer a bit of a comfort setup guide to align you, the keyboard, and the monitor all correctly for the "healthiest" way to operate the MEKA G1 Illuminated.
Inside the MEKA G1 Illuminated
Of course I had to remove a few keycaps to verify that these were in fact Cherry MX black switches used here, and they indeed are. You will also notice that each of the switches have an individual LED which allows for the four lighting modes.
The PCB is very clean, and QC was very good about making sure all of the flux was removed and that the solder dobs were all level and the tabs cut very short. The steel plate between this and the keycaps is painted black and is thicker than most, contributing to its overall heft.
This is part of the reason Thermaltake doesn't want you tearing into this keyboard. This 44 pin connector holds the controller that is in the lower section of the frame and the PCB together, and without gentle persuasion, this can get messy really quickly.
Behind the USB and audio ports is where the main controllers are found on this PCB and nestled into the bottom of the keyboard. Thermaltake used a Genesys Logic GL850G controller with its 8-bit RISC processor to control the USB, the lights, the keys and audio.
This TMU3130 IC I do believe is used for the basic necessities of keeping the light settings and any other information about the driverless functionality of this keyboard.
Once the MEKA G1 Illuminated was back together, it was time to see what the illuminated name is all about. The first time you press the FN+F11 combination, the WASD keys light up. Using the FN+F12 combination will allow for seven brightness settings, as well as turning the lights off completely.
If you use FN+F11 combo again, the WASD keys turn off, and the arrow keys next to the number pad light up. You also have the brightness and off features here too.
Using that G-Key combination one more time allows the arrows to turn off and are then replaced with the numbers 2, 4, 6 and 8 on the keyboard. So, no matter what you use to move around, this keyboard has most gamers covered.
If you then use that combination for the fourth time, the MEKA G1 Illuminated lights every keycap on the board and gives you no reasons why you couldn't write or code in the dark, for those of you who stare at the keyboard. For touch typists, it still looks cool, even if you only see it when walking up to your desk.
I am going to just get right down to it here. Are there a couple of things missing from this Thermaltake offering that other companies may have bested? Sure, there is a lack of software, a lack of profiles, a lack of Macro ability, but let's be serious for a moment here... so what? From my perspective, I am a typist first and a gamer second, but that really has no bearing to where I am going with this here. The lack of software to me is a plus, as I don't have to fiddle around with anything - I just get a mechanical keyboard that is all it can be, right out of the box. I don't create a lot of Macros for my keyboard and I don't need profiles, to me that is where all these feature rich mice come in. What you get here is a simplified way of life. There are multiple light settings and brightness levels to suit anyone's needs, and the bright red lighting plays very well against the matte black finish of the rest of the keyboard. For a keyboard that lacks features you may not even need, the MEKA G1 Illuminated and its Cherry MX black switches have made a believer out of me.
Considering the week of use that I have had this keyboard going through has already written five other reviews, I have ridden this keyboard pretty hard, most keyboards outside of my Trigger from Cooler Master don't see that much time under my hands, when it comes to writing multiple reviews. Even with the lack of a tactile click, the smooth and almost silent nature of these switches makes me ponder my favoritism to the green switches. One thing you will notice is that the actuation pressure is about medium strength, and for a guy like me who is used to the springs on greens, it took me some time not to clack the key caps on the steel plate, but after the switches loosened up and I stopped trying to kill the keys, I found my time with it to be very enjoyable and mostly quiet, but I still get a hollow clank when the space bar returns to the top.
As for the rest of the keyboard, the USB ports have plenty of power. I was able to run both the mouse and a headset via USB without any static or any sort of issues with reading the signals from the mouse. I also used a 3.5mm headset to see if that functioned, and it does, but the audio is only as good as what the PC offers - don't expect miracles because it is operated through this keyboard.
The only factor about the MEKA G1 Illuminated that could be a concern is the pricing. Mechanical keyboards are now swarming the market, and many of those offerings are considerably cheaper. I used to think that if you could get a mechanical at $150, it was a good deal - but that was over a year ago now. Since then the average mechanical keyboard offerings seem to be in the $80 to $90 range, and with a $119.99 price point, the MEKA G1 Illuminated may have priced itself out of some customer's hands.
While I am sure the price will drop some over time, the question is, will it be in time for the MEKLA G1 Illuminated to be a big player? I will just say I hope so, as this is a really sturdy mechanical offering that I would say is in my top five Cherry MX based keyboards, which I have ever had the pleasure of using.
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