The gaming keyboard market is fairly packed. Due to all the competition, companies are constantly coming up with new ways to get gamers to part with their hard-earned cash. With the Manticore’s promotional material and box touting “mechanical key simulation , Genius appears to be aiming right for the droves of gamers looking to switch to mechanical keyboards on the cheap.
Can this keyboard combine the satisfying feel of mechanical key switches with the cheaper price of membrane set and still deliver a potent package worthy of its namesake? Lets find out.
Inside the 32″ by 10″ box the Manticore ships in you will find the keyboard, driver software, a manual, and….that’s it. It’s a keyboard. What did you expect?
Along the top of the keyboard you will find a button to adjust the backlight, a play/pause button, volume controls, and the master record button. Eight programmable “G” keys line the left side of the keyboard. While this may be a small set of keys compared to something like the G510’s 18, it’s probably more than enough for most. The slightly angled G keys are laid out in a staggered pattern that keeps you from having to reach over other keys to hit the one you’re looking for. This, combined with the programmable keys being lower profile that the rest of the keys, should result in fewer match ruining screw-ups.
Besides that, you get a fairly standard key lay out. You get a cluster of 20 anti-hosting keys on the main buttons used for gaming, so, unless you’re looking to type with your face, you should be good to go. For the most part, I found the slightly closer than usual keys pleasant to use. I say mostly because instead of going with the usual key sizing for the enter and backspace keys, Genius has given the Manticore an unnecessarily large, L shaped ENTER key. This pushes the forward slash key up to the top row, leaving little space for a properly sized backspace. While obviously not a problem during gaming, It’s pretty damn frustrating to find that you have repeatedly hit the forward slash while attempting to fix a typo. Finally, to the right of the main keys we have your plain old directional buttons and a full number pad. There’s nothing to write home about here, so lets move on.
Jumping down an inch or so from the space bar, you have your three profile select buttons. Given their position directly below the space-bar, I assumed I would end up mistakenly switching profiles at a hilariously bad times. After my usual amount of typing typing, playing-through Metro 2033, and putting an almost embarrassing amount of time into CS: GO, I can happily tell you that fear was totally unfounded. This is due to the keys being almost level with palm rest, making them fairly hard to hit with anything but a deliberate move your thumb.
While most back-lit keyboards only allow you to change the color of the keys as a whole (if even that), the Manticore has three customizable back light sections. This means you can to adjust the color, intensity, and even level of pulsation for the main, navigation, and number keys separately. This allows you to do things as simple as matching the color scheme of a particular game’s HUD, or something more exotic like setting up the number pad to flash at different rates to remind you of which keyboard profile you’re using.
A two port USB hub can be found on the top right of the keyboard. While it should work fine for things like thumb drives with only the single USB connector taking up a port on your system, you’re going to need to plug in the second connector to charge something like an MP3 player.
The Manticore is mostly black with two cherry red strips down both side of the keyboard. It’s a good-looking product without taking on a look that would limit the builds it would fit in with. Unlike some other keyboards, the six rubber pads (four on the base and two on the raised feet) on the Manticore keep the keyboard right where you want it. Even though its mostly made of plastic, The Manticore has a build quality that other keyboard in its price range can’t match. The Manticore should stand up fine to whatever abuse you have in store for it.
What about those claims of “mechanical key simulation”, you ask? Yeah…I have no idea what they’re talking about with that. While I do have a somewhat limited experience with mechanical keyboards (I’ve only used the cherry red and brown switches on the Corsair K70), I can tell you that typing on the Manticore feels nothing like using a mechanical keyboard. That’s not to say that typing on the keyboard is bad experance– it’s not. It’s just that those looking into the Manticore because of Genius’ claims of “mechanical like keys” should look elsewhere.
One other small gripe I have with the keyboard–and this may just be a problem with the particular unit Genius sent me–is the uneven backlighting. Half of the left lighting section is noticeably dimmer than the rest of the keyboard. While it is fairly subtle in most places, the “P1″ and “G6″ are much brighter than the surrounding keys. I personally don’t find it that big of a problem, but I could definitely see it driving some of the more detail oriented people out there crazy.
The included software is easy enough to use. Setting up key functions for the three available profiles was dead simple. And while customizing the backlights was as easy as pointing our mouse at the desired bit of a color wheel, there is a 5 to 10 second delay that might limit your experimentation (assuming you’re as impatient as I am).
Overall, the GX Gaming Manticore is a decent choice for someone looking for a gaming focused keyboard with a ton of lighting options. And, while it doesn’t live up to Genius’ claims of simulated mechanical key switches, the GX Gaming Manticore comes packed with a number of neat features that make that easy enough to ignore. Factor in the MSRP of 79.99, and you have yourself a pretty good deal.
This review is based on review unit of the keyboard provided by GX Gaming.