Ideazon Zboard Review
Reviewed by: Admin
Reviewed on: June 18, 2003
Price: $39.99? USD +/-
I have seen many gaming devices come and go, over the years that promise gamers easy game play and quick weapon selections. One of the best gaming devices that I have seen was a device that looked like a mini keyboard with about 20 keys on it. The device allowed you to map the keys to different functions within your favorite game titles. These type of devices seem like they would work well but it looks like it would be very awkward to play with. The Zboard from Ideazon is like no other gaming device that I have ever seen. The Zboard allows you to interchange the keys on the board. That sounds very strange and might sound intimidating to do but quiet the opposite.
The keyboards snap into the base that connects to your PC (via PS/2) and instantly turns your keys in to the ultimate customized gaming interface. Gaming interfaces aren't the only thing that Ideazon creates. They also have application interfaces for programs like Windows/Internet Explorer, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Word, Excel, Office, Flash MX, and Dreamweaver to name a few.
The Zboard is very sleek and stylish looking with the black/silver color scheme, which gives it that high-tech look. Along the very top of the Zboard there are seven keys to adjust your sound volume and to control your multimedia playback. I find these keys very handy while I'm gaming to switch songs in winamp without having to switch to the desktop and do it manually. There are also ten more keys along the top of the Zboard that launch applications like email, Internet, calculator, My Computer, and more. All of these keys can also be re-mapped to launch the applications of your choice. I really wished that these keys were lighted so you could easily find the in the dark. I noticed that the buttons are clear so adding a few LED's behind them wouldn't be that difficult. Maybe I'll tear open the Zboard one day, and do just that! :)
The interface in the picture below is called the Windows / Internet Explorer interface and it's designed to help speed up your productivity while surfing the web or doing everyday tasks in Windows. I found that most of the hotkeys labeled on this interface were hotkeys already built-in Windows & Internet Explorer! All of the hotkeys can be accessed on a regular keyboard, except for the ones found the numeric keypad. There's a total of 16 hotkeys on the numeric keypad and some of them includes: Show Desktop, Search, My Computer, Task Manager, Control Panel, Display Settings, and Add to Favorites.
The cord on the Zboard is very lengthy and if I had to guess, its about 7-8 feet long! Several weeks ago my keyboard broke and I had to go out and find a new one. I searched every computer store in town for a black keyboard that had a cord atleast 7 feet long, but I found no such thing. I ended up buying a PS/2 cable extension so that my keyboard would reach the back of my computer. With the Zboard I no longer require the PS/2 extension cable. I just wished I had heard about the Zboard before I bought the PS/2 extension cable.
The underside of the Zboard appears to be made very well. The back is reinforced with three thin pieces of plastic running from side to side, with a peg in the middle that has a rubber on the end of it. On the front you will find two more rubber feet that helps prevent the Zboard from moving around on your computer desk.
The two feet located under the Zboard extend to make the Zboard taller and easier to type on.
Swapping out interfaces is really simple as pulling this lever and snapping it back down in place.
Once the interface is unfastened you can take the interface out of the base very easily, and the interface folds "Z" shaped for storage.
One thing I noticed when I folded up the interface is that the keys are flush with the edges of the interface to prevent the keys from being damaged.
This is what the Zboard base looks like without an interface installed. The rubber buttons shown here is what makes contact with the buttons on the interfaces, and also makes contact with the PCB inside of the Zboard base. When you push a button on one of the interfaces it pushes the rubber in to the Zboard base and strikes the PCB (Printer Circuit Board). The PCB then sends a specific signal that corresponds with the key you pushed to your computer. The Zboard driver (software that you will see later in the review) captures the signal, processes it, and then sends it off to the operating system.
In the top right hand corner of the Zboard there's a wire socket that comes in contact with the Zboard interfaces.
If you take a look at one of the Zboard interfaces you will see where it comes in contact. This appears to be a PCB which probably has a computer chip behind it.
Being curious I just had to open it up and see what was hidden behind it. I quickly found out that my assumptions were correct because it did have a computer chip behind it, along with some resistors. I'm sure that this computer chip is what tells the Zboard software what type of Zboard interface is in the Zboard base.
Before going on to install the Medal of Honor interface, we must first install the software that is provided on CD. The software on the CD installs a system driver (that captures the data received from the Zboard) and also some software that detects when you switch interfaces so it can remap the keys. The installation only took a couple of minutes, but the installation requires you to reboot after the installation. Once your computer boots bback up you will notice the Zboard software sitting in your system tray. If you double click on it, the Zboard settings will be displayed. From the main screen you can edit the hotkeys for the specific interface you have installed (Shown in the picture was the Windows/IE interface settings).
Under the interfaces tab you'll find a setting, when turned on, that will automatically launch the game that is associated with the interface you install in the Zboard base. I thought this was an excellent feature! Also on this screen it shows what interface you have installed.
Lastly, on the General tab you will find information on how to register, online user guide, and check for updates button (which simply takes you to the Ideazon website). I really wished there was an update feature built in the software that would automatically install the required software to support interfaces that you buy and plug-in. Also on this screen is two buttons, Zboard mode and Standard mode. When in Zboard mode then the interface is active and will respond normally to the hotkeys that are labeled. When in Standard mode the Zboard will act as a normal keyboard.
Everglide just sent me two interfaces to review with, but I checked out the Ideazon website and found that there are many more interfaces you can buy, or soon can buy. Two gaming interfaces on their site caught my eye, Unreal Tournament 2003 and Delta Force BlackHawk Down. I would possibly consider buying these two, depending on the prices of them. If your a graphics designer then you may want to look at the Adobe Photoshop or Flash MX interfaces. Below is a full list of the avaliable interfaces.
Lets take a closer look at one of the game interfaces that Everglide provided us, the Medal of Honor interface. Medal of Honor has become one of the most popular first person shooter games and I can see why Ideazon has made a interface for this game. This interface works with Medal of Honor and also the Medal of Honor expansion pack, Spearhead.
The layout of the interface is made so that you can easily reach different weapons and functions of the game. Most all of the keys you'll ever need is only a finger away, which is great for when you're doing close combat.
A few of the labeled keys are; Objectives, Holster, Reload, Crouch, Jump, Use, Binoculars, Vote, Chat Team, Chat All, and six different weapon keys. There are also four extra keys (labeled with a star) which can be programmed for other things you want to have quick access to. The forward, back, strafe left and right keys are much bigger and closer together than the regular keyboard keys (WASD or the Arrow Keys). This makes playing Medal of Honor much easier on your hand and allows you to play much longer without any cramps :)
The layout of the keys were great, but the small jump button took a few minutes to get use too. I believe that this interface would be excellent for new users who are wanting to learn how to play the game but also great for the experts to tune their skills.
Age of Mythology:
I don't own a copy of Age of Mythology so I could not test this interface. However, I will provide some pictures of the layout for those of you that are interested in it.
The Zboard is a very cool product, but it did fall short of receiving our OCC Recommend Award for a few reasons. First off, while I was using the Zboard over the past few days I have noticed that some of the keys will stick. The enter button on the Numeric keypad especially had this problem. The shift button on the right side of the Zboard would require slightly more force for it to work. These problems didn't happen all of the time, but when they did it was very bothersome. Secondly, their aren't many interfaces to choose from yet. I'm sure this will change as time progresses. The price of interfaces seems a little on the pricey side. They're going anywhere from $19.95 - $29.95, with gaming interfaces being $19.95. I think $14.95 would be a much better price for gaming interfaces, and $19.95 for some application interfaces.
Price and sticky keys aside, I really loved the Zboard. The Medal of Honor interface is really what hooked me on the Zboard because I loved the layout and oversized keys. Also the background design of the interface is really cool looking! I'm looking forward to buying the Zboard Half-Life2 and Doom3 interfaces when they come out later this year :) If you're a new gamer that gets confused with all of the controls in games, then the Zboard is your ticket to being a pro gamer. If you're already a pro gamer, then you can boost your skills by having quicker access to weaponry. Business individuals will also like the Zboard for its application interfaces such as Adobe Photoshop and Flash MX. I really can't comment on the application interfaces since I have not used one, but they look like they would be helpful.
- Interchangeable Interfaces
- Customizable Keys
- User Friendly
- Hot swappable
- A couple of my keys would stick every so often
- Interfaces are pricey
- Limited Interface Availability