It seems that the Korean company Zalman is seriously interested in the topic of gaming peripherals for a long time. In the last year alone, it has doubled its range of mechanical and membrane gaming keyboards. And she did it not for show, but was able to produce quite worthy and, in some ways, even unique products. For example, its mechanical flagship ZM-K900M, at first glance, is a completely ordinary keyboard with RGB backlighting, of which there are already more than fifty varieties on the market. But not everything is so simple. This is the first such device in my memory, which is completely without software. But how then to adjust the colors? Let’s take a closer look.
|Polling frequency, Hz||1000|
|Number of keys||104|
|Keystroke resource, mln.||50|
|Switch type||Kailh RGB Blue|
|Changing the angle of the body||+|
|Built-in memory, KB||+|
|Ability to record macros||+|
|USB cable length, m||1,7|
|Removable palm rest||–|
|Dimensions (L x W x H), mm||440 x 140 x 35|
|Weight, g||1 250|
|OS Compatibility||Windows / Mac OS|
|Peculiarities||5-way cord routing, hardware
macros and backlight control that does not require a driver,
character input speed adjustment, on-board
key assignment profiles
|Average cost, $||140|
Contents of delivery
The keyboard box looks quite nice, but is not particularly informative. The name and type of layout are indicated on the front side, and information about the main advantages is drawn in the form of small icons in the lower left part of the cover. On the back side, short characteristics of the product are indicated and a story about the charms of the ZM-K900M is duplicated in text form in 11 languages. Internal protection against damage — a plastic bag and two polyurethane dampers on the sides.
The package contains only instructions and nothing more. It’s a pity. A key for dismantling the caps of mechanical keys would be very useful here.
Appearance and design
The design of the Zalman ZM-K900M went out of its way to keep the concept of minimalism. The case is made of matte plastic without a frame, that is, as small in size as the layout of the keys allows. The only elements that catch the eye and hint at the gaming purpose of the device are the wedge-shaped indicators on the upper right side and the silver metal inscription Z-Machine Gaming Gear. In addition, all groups of buttons are visually divided into blocks by small grooves.
This version of the keyboard does not have Cyrillic engraving, so it is not possible to evaluate its quality. The thickened Latin characters are applied by burning the keycap onto the black paint and look distinct, however, only when the backlight is on. Without illumination, they are distinguishable, but have a very faded appearance. The left Shift key is long, the Win button is in its rightful place. The F1 key is located exactly above the number «2», as it should be. No additional time is required to get used to touch typing on this layout. It is worth noting that the inscriptions on the keycaps turned out to be too much (half of the buttons have a dual purpose) and they look overloaded with information.
The right side is normal. Long single-row Shift, Enter and Backspace cannot but please the eye of a conservative user. The most commonly used key here is the Fn button, which is used to configure the backlight, multimedia functions, record macros and switch device profiles. Three columns of keys on the right are involved under the macro buttons, as evidenced by the unambiguous inscriptions on them. And it’s hard for me to imagine how it is possible to correctly apply Cyrillic engraving to these buttons, because there is actually no space left for it.
The mechanical switches in this keyboard are Kailh MX Blue, which are characterized by non-linear travel, tactile feedback and a loud ringing click when triggered. They have a transparent case, in the upper part of which a massive LED is installed. The stabilizers of the long keys are especially well made. Although in fact these are not separate switches, but the same wires, only carried out behind a metal substrate, they provide the buttons with a uniform pressing without rattling and distortions. The keycaps are single-layer, made of transparent plastic coated with black paint.
The set of keys of the digital block is completely standard. Three Lock-indicators are white, the fourth LED for blocking the Win key and disabling the buttons glows red, and the last, fifth, blue, signaling the enabled Z-Key mode and macro recordings.
The sides of the keyboard are flat in the vertical plane. The characteristic bevel of the keyboard unit can be further increased by lifting the folding legs. The keycaps will then be in a horizontal position. If the legs are folded, the three front rows of buttons will look backwards, which is not very convenient for me personally. Both on the left and on the right side of the keyboard there are small holes for the cord to go out in these directions.
There are no additional external ports on the back. The keyboard cable does not have kink protection because it enters the keyboard case not from the back, but in the middle of the bottom. And from the back panel there are only three exits — in the middle, on the right and on the left. The cable can be output through any of these holes, depending on how it will be convenient for the user to place it on the table.
The braided USB cable is quite soft and flexible. The position is not remembered. Closer to the connector, a ferrite ring is put on it. The total length of the cord is only 1.7 m, which in some situations may not be enough.
The back side of the keyboard is absolutely flat and without frills. Five small rubber feet are glued in strategically placed places and securely hold the keyboard on the table without letting it slip. There are no waterways here. One of the nine mounting screw holes is covered by a warranty sticker. The sticker with the serial number is located in the center of the bottom, and immediately after it there is a signal cord entry into the case.
The two fold-out feet have rubberized support surfaces and increase the height of the keyboard by 15mm when unfolded into a single locking position.
Multi-color backlighting is implemented in the keyboard is very nice. The user has the opportunity to individually select any color for each individual key, or admire the many lighting effects. All colors except white are displayed juicy and correctly. White looks faded, with a deviation in the violet spectrum.
This keyboard does not have software, but all its functions can be configured in hardware. We will consider them in detail.
As mentioned earlier, Zalman ZM-K900M does not have software. But it has built-in memory, in which backlight settings, key assignments and macros are stored in four profiles. In other words, having once configured this device, it can be connected to any PC and it is immediately ready to work with pre-set parameters. On the one hand, this is a unique opportunity in its segment. But on the other hand, the initial development of advanced keyboard functions will require a lot of time to memorize and master the basic commands. Therefore, I decided to include an excerpt from the instructions in this review and comment on some points. Let’s start with the simplest — media management. By the way, the main key that is involved in assigning and executing all commands is Fn. And to use it, you often have to remove your right hand from the mouse.
The most interesting combination that occurs here is Fn + Esc (calling the My Computer menu), and when you press the Fn and F1-F8 keys, you can launch a browser, search, email client, minimize all windows by opening the desktop, launch the player or adjust the sound . Fn+Pause toggles keyboard modes. Z-Key is a more advanced option, while 6-Key is an older option to maintain compatibility with all systems. By pressing Fn + Ctrl you can lock the keyboard completely (excellent child protection). And Fn + Win blocks the operation of the Start button (to prevent its accidental operation in games. In this case, the fourth red indicator will either blink or stay on, respectively. Well, the last function will be especially appreciated by those who work with numbers. Double tap on Num Lock brings up the standard Windows calculator applications.
Commands to quickly navigate to Google search, Bing, or the official Zalman website are unlikely to be useful to anyone seriously. Moreover, they work in the form of macros through the command line. Therefore, if any keyboard layout other than English is enabled, pressing these combinations will only cause the command to fail.
To set one color for all keys at once, you need to press Fn + Ins. The text key diodes will display the available color palette. There are four palettes in total, you can scroll through them in this mode by pressing the «Space» button. Then click on the selected color and all 104 buttons will be repainted in it. This solution seems very convenient to me when compared with setting through the driver, since the color shade is visible live and there is no need to guess what it will look like in reality. Fn+Del changes the color of only selected buttons (the choice is made through Fn+Select) in a similar way.
To save your backlight settings to one of the four profiles, press Fn+Home, End, PgUp, or PgDn. First, select all the desired color and brightness settings, then hold down the combination for 2 seconds. If the indicators blink quickly after releasing the keys, the save was successful. To call up a setting, quickly press the combination again without holding it down.
The Fn+F9–F12 combination controls the repeat speed when entering characters. This is relevant only when the keyboard is connected to the PS/2 port. When USB is enabled, the input speed is always set to Normal.
The keyboard allows you to record eight macro commands. To do this, press and hold Fn and one of the buttons below for a couple of seconds. The blue indicator will blink. Then dial the combination and press Fn again to end the recording. To play again, briefly press Fn and one of the required buttons. The command is recorded taking into account time intervals. If you need to speed it up or slow it down, press Fn + Left or Right while playing the current macro. To add left, right, or middle mouse button commands to a macro, you can use the PrtScr, ScrLk, and Pause buttons, respectively.
Two more macros can be recorded using the Auto or Loop function. In the first case, one press will be constantly at high speed. In the second, the command will be repeated completely without stopping, but taking into account the recorded time intervals. To stop playback, press the key combination again.
Now let’s look at options for more advanced backlight and key control. Most of them, of course, serve more for entertainment than there is a real need for them, but still. So, turning off and on the backlight — Fn + Led, adjusting the brightness Fn + 1-2, adjusting the brightness of the keys in K-Effect mode — Fn + 3-4. Key Effect is controlled by Fn+5. The lighting effect that the keyboard shows when you press any of the keys is cyclically selected, there are six options in total, from changing color and fading to multi-colored splashes. Fn+6 will help you create a disco atmosphere on your keyboard. A total of 13 varieties and directions of color waves. People with epilepsy will definitely appreciate them. Fn+Speedometer is another very useful feature. All backlighting fades and gets stronger as the user types faster. There are three effects in total. To whom and why it can be useful — do not ask. Fn + 7 (Key Led) allows you to select the color of the illumination individually for each key. Pressing order: Fn + 7, then Fn + Select, then press the desired buttons, Fn again and select the desired color (a set of four palettes is selected using the «Space»). Fn + 8 (Key Mask) — essentially the same as Key Led, however unselected keys are disabled and nothing happens when you press them. Fn + 9 (G-Profile) — allows you to select one of 10 preset key illumination profiles for various popular game genres. And finally, Fn + Select — is responsible for selecting the desired keys for backlighting or turning off.
In addition, this keyboard has a «breathing» backlight option (Fn + 0), in which the glow of the keys gradually flares up and fades away, or rolls in the form of a wave to the right or left side. But the most intriguing thing that we have already encountered earlier in the ZM-K700M review is the equalizer mode (Fn + EQ). It turns out that the ZM-K900M also has a built-in microphone and is able to wink its keys in time with the sounds around it. In total there are seven options for highlighting a similar effect.
And this is what a pre-installed set of backlight profiles for different genres of games looks like. Selected by cycling Fn+9. You can add or change colors in the layout, but changes to the profile itself will not be saved when switching. To remember them — use one of the four keyboard memory cells, for example Fn + Home.
Let’s move on to testing the keyboard.
Ergonomics and testing
Ergonomics Zalman ZM-K900M is absolutely standard for this class of keyboards. It does not have a wrist rest, so not everyone may like the height of the body and keys. I personally felt comfortable using it with the rear legs extended and the keys arranged horizontally. And someone may like the option with folded legs and buttons that lean back. The case of the device, thanks to the built-in metal plate, has a solid weight and good bending strength. Rubber feet prevent the keyboard from slipping too much, although they do not provide absolute grip on the surface. The standard key layout will not require any period of getting used to. What can not be said about the sonorous Kailh MX Blue tactile switches. If the user is a fan of this kind of switches, then there is no problem. But for the first time, it will take some time to get used to a similar effect of an old typewriter when typing. The ZM-K900M is best suited, of course, for high-speed blind typing, since in games the moment of operation of such switches is not clearly felt. The lack of software for configuring the keyboard and the possibility of its hardware adjustment pleasantly pleased me. Even though most of the backlight options will never come in handy for me, but there is the ability to quickly record macros on the fly and a couple of pleasant little things, like an instant call to the calculator. The quality of the backlight is at a high level. The bold Latin font is well distinguishable, but what will happen to the Cyrillic alphabet is still unknown. The keyboard supports full anti-ghosting (NKRO). All keystrokes are read at the same time, although in practice this situation almost never occurs.
I love the direction Zalman is taking their line of gaming peripherals. They gradually moved away from budget models of keyboards and seriously set about more worthy products. The version of the flagship mechanical model ZM-K900M with RGB backlight considered today is in no way inferior to similar products from the leaders in the peripheral market and can easily become a decoration for any desktop or gaming table. And even surpasses competitors in that all its functions are easily configured without the participation of software. This model has no obvious flaws and is made very soundly. The only thing I would like to see in it is more variety in the choice of mechanical switches, since the Kailh MX Blue is still poorly suited for gaming applications. In addition, the use of additional keyboard functions will seem difficult at first, because not everything becomes clear after reading the instructions. However, a visual demonstration of all the functionality can be seen in short video clips posted on the official product page.