Single page Print

With eyes closed and foam earplugs dampening the slight difference in sound, it's difficult to distinguish between the feel of the two Mekas. The G-Unit is very much a different keyboard outside of the tactile characteristics of the MX black switches, though. To start, it has a bigger footprint, measuring 71 mm wider and 7 mm deeper. The G-unit rides 6 mm lower, and its lift kit is 1 mm shorter. Alas, there's no button activating hydraulics that bounce the keyboard at stop lights—or while you wait for the next Battlefield level to load.

The G-Unit needs to be wider to accommodate a cluster of macro keys, but there's also some wasted space here. Along with slightly wider gaps between each of the main key groups, the left and right borders are several times thicker than on the G1. There are four keyboards on my desk right now, so I prefer them to take up as little room as necessary.

Like the G1, the G-Unit's otherwise traditional layout is marred by a single, annoying flaw. This time, it's the double-height Enter key, which forces the backslash to be relocated to the lower right-hand corner. To make room, the right Shift key is shortened. These two changes really throw off my mojo, since I use both backslash and right Shift with great frequency over the average day. Also, double-height Enter keys are just wrong.

The G-Unit's angular lines stand out next to the G1's more old-school body shape. Since this is the Meka Pimp My Ride Edition, there are fancy LED lighting effects, too.

First, there's the red Thermaltake logo, which fades in and out and is surprisingly unobtrusive. A fade option exists for the back-lit keys, as well, plus three constant brightness settings and the ability to turn everything off completely. Even at their dimmest, the glowing white letters are easy to pick out of the darkness.

Rather than blanketing the entire keyboard in LEDs—there are individual ones for each lit switch, which gets expensive—Thermaltake highlights a few key areas. The problem is, they're mostly all the same area. Each of the "Lock" keys gets its own backlight, as do the spacebar and the left Shift and Ctrl keys. The rest of the LEDs are spread across what amount to three sets of directional keys: the holy WASD triangle, the inverted-T arrow keys, and whatever that diamond in the numpad is called. Odds are you're only going to use one, which means the rest have much more limited utility. The LEDs shine brightly enough to illuminate the surrounding area, but I still found myself hunting for unlit keys while gaming in the dark.

The G-Unit could really use some more LEDs to highlight its macro keys, which are at least arranged in groups of four for easy identification by feel. More on macros in a moment, but first, behold the cheesy red racing stripe. Also, check out the buttons in the top left in the picture above. There are buttons for three macro profiles and a "game mode" that remaps the Windows key to a duplicate left Ctrl.

Over to the right, a line of media keys uses the same low-profile buttons. The volume, mute, and LED brightness keys get mechanical switches, just like the rest of the keyboard. And, yes, there's a palm rest included in the box.

Flipping the G-Unit reveals an interesting approach to cabling. The keyboard's detachable cable plugs into a Mini USB connector, and you're supposed to route it through a groove in the base for extra security. I don't know about you, but I'd prefer an easily detached MagSafe-style connector if I thought anyone was going to trip over the cable.

Although the number of expansion ports is the same as on the G1, the G-Unit offers a lot more space around each one. The audio implementation is completely different, too. There's actually a USB audio device inside the keyboard; it shows up as "Holtek USB Phone" in the Windows device manager, and the sound quality is predictably poor. Even worse if the fact that Windows wants to make it the default audio device. I can see using the built-in audio for quick Skype sessions but nothing more. The distortion is palpable when listening to music, and you won't want it muddling in-game audio.

Everything in the G-Unit shares a single USB connection to the host system, but I didn't detect any lag during a file transfer to a thumb drive connected to one of the keyboard's USB ports. Perhaps because it would render several built-in functions useless, there's no PS/2 adapter—and no accompanying n-key rollover, either. However, Thermaltake claims the G-Unit can track up to 46 simultaneous key presses without skipping a beat.

Maybe I'm not hard-core enough, but I don't imagine ever reaching the limits of the macro support built into the G-Unit. Along with the 12 fixed macro keys on the left, eight of the standard keys can be tied to macros. With three profiles, that adds up to 60 macros in total. There's even a way to combine different profiles, effectively allowing one profile to invoke macros stored in another without manually switching between the two.

Thermaltake's software takes care of macro programming, and the interface is reasonably intuitive. Key combinations can be tuned with more precise timing than one would ever think necessary. Users have control over whether macros execute once, a set number of times, while the key is held, or continuously until the key is pressed again. Any of the macro keys can also be configured to launch a specific application, although this functionality requires the Meka software to be running in the background. The rest of the macros can run entirely from the keyboard's 64KB of memory.

We'd be remiss not to point out that the G-Unit comes in its own bag, but it's nothing to write home about. The pocket for the USB cable is too shallow, there's no handle, and the whole thing exudes cheapness. Thermaltake would have been better off leaving it out of the box.