Hands-on: EpicGear DeFiant Gaming Keyboard and Zora Mouse

My friends have always told me that a mechanical keyboard is the way to go. Every time I play games with these friends, I can hear the clickity-clack of their keyboards coming over voice chat. It lets me know that they are actually doing their job – bringing reinforcements while we are playing some Starcraft 2. It's a comforting sound.

So when I got sent home to play with the new EpicGear DeFiant Gaming keyboard and Zora Mouse I was more than a bit excited. Now I would finally get to delve into the world of mechanical keyboards myself.

Switches

Let’s start with arguably the most important feature in a mechanical keyboard – the switches.  The DeFiant keyboard comes with the EG MMSswitches. There are three types you can use with the keyboard in any combination: the EG Grey, Orange, and Purple.

Each type of switch has the same specifications. They have an actuation force of 50g, which is slightly higher than the common and popular Cherry Red MX switches. Each EG MMS switch is also rated for a life span of 70-million strokes, longer than many of the other switches out there today.

The keyboard came set up with the EG Grey switches, so I played around with those for a while. The EG Grey switches are the linear option out of the three that EG offers. Since I’ve been using a membrane keyboard for a long time, the EG Grey switches were extremely easy to use and to get used to. They aren’t too loud either, so you could easily use the keyboard in an office setting to do your word processing without annoying everyone around you.

Eventually, I decided to switch over to the EG Purple switches that were provided. These are the tactile and clicky ones according to the EG website.  If nothing else, they do deliver on giving you that click sound as you type and button mash away. They are loud enough that you will easily be able to hear them with a headset on and game sounds running. Which is great, as long as you don’t have someone nearby that will hate you for having a loud keyboard.

In the end, I had a mixture of the grey and purple switches, creating a custom layout for myself. Which brings me to swapping switches. As I said before, EG provided us with a pack of 24 extra switches and they come in a box that has padding that will last through any apocalypse. Each of the 24 switches has a designated spot, so they'll stay secure. Also included with the extra switches is the 2-in-1 puller that made swapping out each key a simple and (mostly) painless process.

Before I move onto the software, I want to talk about a major problem I had with the keyboard. The left shift key kept getting stuck every time I depressed it almost anywhere on the right side.  t got so bad at one point that I had to swap back to my regular keyboard in the middle of a match.

The other problem I had is with the Windows key. There is no way to disable it entirely on the keyboard or as part of the downloadable software. So if you don’t want to accidently hit it, you’ll have to simply pull the key off.

The Zora Mouse

I also had the opportunity to test the EG Zora gaming mouse.  When I initially picked up this mouse and started using it, my immediate reaction was that it was far too heavy for me.  Luckily, I read the manual and found out that the mouse comes with four five-gram weights that you can use to change the weight. Once I had removed two of them, I was much happier with the feel of the mouse.  And to top it off, removing the weights was dead simple to do.  You simply pop the top of the mouse off and pull/insert the weights by hand.

The other feature on the mouse that I liked is the multiple profiles that you can create.  Each profile is capable of storing its settings (without the software) and they are easy to switch between. You can have a total of five different profiles with varying sensitivity.  I made a few of them and toggled through them while I was gaming to test each one out. Each setting is varied enough that everyone should be able to find something to his or her liking.

Once you have found that perfect mouse sensitivity, you simply lock the mouse into that profile by holding down the DPI button for about three seconds. The mouse’s LED lights will quickly flash letting you know that your settings are indeed locked. 

Unfortunately, if you are left-handed this may not be the mouse for you. Your forward and back browser buttons are not on both sides, making this better as a right-handed mouse.  Aside from that detail, the mouse is shaped to be used by both hands comfortably.    

Software and Keycaps

Both the mouse and the keyboard have software that you can download from the EG website. Both downloads are less than 20MB and install quickly and without any problems.

Each one has a separate interface that you use to adjust the settings. They both allow you to customize each of the profiles or reset them to the default. One thing I would have liked was for the software to be an all-in-one package instead of separate items.

You’re also able to create your own macros. The macros are stored locally so the import/export function they provide is essential if you’re going to take your peripherals to another computer to play on.

The last item I got was the EpicGear Full Keycap Set. There isn’t much to really say about it that isn’t self-explanatory. The keycaps are white and the packaging is solid, just like it is for the extra switches. It all comes down to your color preference.

Final Thoughts

In the end, the sticky shift key was the only real issue I had with this keyboard. Hopefully this is an isolated incident and won’t hold true for the rest of you, if you decide to pick up the DeFiant.

I had no problems with the EG Zora Mouse and I would definitely use it in the future and recommend it for people who want simplicity and reliability.