Capsule Review: Thermaltake Meka Keyboards and Black Element Mouseby Dustin Sklavos on June 28, 2012 2:00 AM EST
Conclusion: The Pieces are Here
Since we're really dealing with four different products and two different categories in the space of one review, it makes sense to break things down. Before we do that, though, it must be said that Thermaltake has produced some fairly solid products. They're not exceptional and need a little work, but they're certainly worthy of consideration and the software is in much better shape than I'm used to seeing.
Of the keyboards, the base Meka model can easily be ruled out. While one can appreciate the desire to produce a compact but still usable keyboard, the layout is so mangled that it's going to be of little use to anyone but gamers. Basic typing with that layout is more of a chore than it needs to be, and instead of reinventing the wheel Thermaltake's designers would've been better served simply porting over a standard notebook keyboard layout and calling it a day. The price tag of $89 is just the final nail in the coffin.
The Meka G1 model, on the other hand, is pretty much where it's at. While I can't stand the red LED for the lock toggles (especially when the other Mekas use a pleasing white LED highlight under the lock keys), the layout is best of breed and the wrist rest, though chintzy, is comfortable. That said, the $110 asking price is a bit steep steep, especially when you can get a Corsair Vengeance K90 with arguably superior Cherry MX Red switches for the same price. Corsair did cut costs by putting membrane switches under the macro keys, function keys, and document navigation keys, but it's a fairly minor sacrifice in exchange for what's a more attractive and frankly better built keyboard.
Finally, the Meka G-Unit is a mostly excellent keyboard with all the bells and whistles. The MSRP of $139 would be difficult to stomach, but thankfully you can find the Meka G-Unit starting at $98 (around $110 with shipping) which is even lower than the G1. Again, the problem is that it's competing in a universe where the Corsair Vengeance K90 exists. One place where the Meka G-Unit does beat the competition is in including sound hardware that allows you to plug a headset and microphone directly into the keyboard instead of your tower, so for some users that may be a solid selling point.
Between the three keyboards, I'd really like to see the Meka G1's layout on the G-Unit, and have the G-Unit's macro keys either recessed or somehow differentiated by touch from the rest of the keyboard. Across the board, MSRPs are a bit high, but online prices are better; I'm also still not sold on using Cherry MX Black switches for gaming. I've been using the MX Reds for a while and have found them close to ideal.
As for the Thermaltake Black Element mouse, that's a bit of a happier story. While I'm not a fan of how chintzy the programmable buttons can feel, the LED lighting is soft and appealing, the software works well, and more importantly, it has a surprisingly good feel to it. Mice are in many ways even more subjective than keyboards, but the Black Element's adjustable weight and relatively easy (and flexible) programmability coupled with its excellent handling should make it a strong candidate for most. You can pick it up starting at $55 online (or $65 at Newegg), so the price is pretty much in line with other gaming mice. I'd personally recommend it over Corsair's Vengeance mice, but my trusty Logitech G500 is still cheaper and I prefer that to both the Thermaltake and Corsair mice. If you need a good mouse that's more ambidextrous, though, the Black Element is worth a look.