The past 18 months have been unprecedented for eSports and gaming in general. In that short amount of time, we've seen Amazon and Google get involved in live game streaming and publishers like Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts create competitive gaming divisions. Even ESPN launched a dedicated eSports vertical a little over a year after its president, John Skipper, said competitive gaming was like chess and checkers -- a competition, not a real sport. Now that we're on the brink of a virtual reality revolution, the future of gaming has never looked brighter.
The meteoric rise of eSports, and the fact that high-end gaming desktops and laptops represent the fastest-growing PC segment in an otherwise stagnant market, has spawned a surge in gaming peripherals from both established players and newcomers. One of the more well-known companies now catering to gamers is Metadot Corporation, makers of the Das Keyboard.
Metadot today is launching Division Zero, a new brand and product line developed specifically for the pro gaming and eSports community. Its debut offerings include the X40 Pro Gaming Mechanical Keyboard and the M50 Pro Gaming Mouse, both of which we'll be looking at today. Metadot also sent over a sampling of accessories to check out.
Division Zero X40 Pro Gaming Mechanical Keyboard
The Division Zero X40 mechanical keyboard features a standard 104-key US layout with five programmable macro keys laid out vertically on the far left. Media controls, sleep, brightness adjustment, gaming mode and macro recording keys reside across the top of the board as function keys.
The board is offered in your choice of Alpha-Zulu Linear (Olive) switches or Alpha-Zulu Tactile (Mustard) switches, both of which were developed by Metadot with gold contacts. The Alpha-Zulu Linear switches are said to provide a soft, tactile bump halfway through the key press while the latter switch type is described as non-tactile to provide a quieter, smoother feel when depressed. Our review sample arrived with the tactile switches.
Each feature a total travel of 4mm, pre-travel of 1.7mm, a tactile force of 45 grams, a bounce time less than or equal to 5ms and an operating life of 60 million keystrokes.
The black key caps are constructed of thermoplastic with white laser-marked inscriptions that I'd best describe as having a smooth, rubbery feel. Hardwired to the board is a 6.5 ft. braided cable that terminates with dual gold-plated USB connectors as well as 3.5mm audio and microphone jacks.
Playing up to its intended market, the X40 features individually backlit keys (red) with five levels of brightness (or no lighting, if you choose). Do note that there is only one zone -the entire keyboard - and just one color, red. The board is in full N-Key rollover at all times meaning every keystroke will register every time no matter how many other keys are simultaneously depressed.
The board also employs an interchangeable top panel that offers four different colors (red, olive, mustard and silver) in multiple designs. To swap them out, you'll need to remove eight hex head screws on the surface of the panel. The X40 keyboard comes with the original top panel - which is the Stryker silver model. The other top panels are sold separately, each at a cost of $39.
There are two stationary rubber feet on the bottom lower section and retractable feet near the top. Given the board's heft at 3.26 pounds and the grippy feet, it'd take an awfully intense gaming session for it to budge at all.
You'll find headphone and microphone jacks along the top edge of the board just above the number pad as well as a single USB 2.0 pass-through port.
Division Zero M50 Performance Gaming Mouse
The Division Zero M50 Performance Gaming Mouse is a wired, ambidextrous pointer with nine programmable buttons including the primary left- and right-click buttons, two thumb buttons on each side of the mouse and a metal "4D" clickable scroll wheel that also tilts. The M50 is plug-and-play although you'll likely want to pick up the accompanying software to get the most out of it.
The M50 mouse is accented with red LEDs on the scroll wheel, mouse body (Division Zero logo), bottom plate and DPI indicators. The primary left and right click buttons utilize Omron switches rated for up to 300 clicks per minute with a lifespan of 20 million clicks. Lift distance / lift tracking, meanwhile, is rated at 1-5mm while the Avago Technologies' DNS-9800 LaserStream 4G gaming sensor offers on-the-fly DPI adjustments of 800 / 1600 / 3200 / 6400 and a maximum acceleration of 30G.
Metadot tells us the palm area of the mouse features a hydrophobic coating in addition to the textured side grips. On the bottom, you'll find four large low-friction Teflon feet, a large aluminum baseplate and a centrally-located sensor.
Like the X40, the M50 uses a braided cable - this time, in red - that's a bit longer at seven feet. It terminates at a gold-plated USB connector that's much larger than it needs to be. In terms of responsiveness, the M50 features a polling rate of 1,000Hz (1,000 reports per second).
As is the case with most gaming mice these days, the M50 is loaded with 128KB of internal memory that allows you to save up to six separate profiles complete with macro support.
Like the keyboard, the M50 mouse has optional software that I'd highly recommend installing. Once installed, you'll be able to adjust things like sensitivity, pointer speed, scroll speed and double-click speed in addition to modifying the LED lighting system. The Button Settings menu is where you'll likely spend most of your time as it includes the macro manager, button mapping and polling rate options.
Metadot introduced three mouse pads as part of its new Division Zero gaming line, each constructed of a different material.
The 47W-Flex, which was sent along with our mouse review unit, uses a specially textured woven microfiber material that's said to offer both speed and control. It measures 280mm wide by 340mm long with a thickness of 2.5mm. It's primarily dark grey and black in color with a series of Division Zero logos that fade in from the sides.
The bottom of the pad has a grippy, rubbery feeling which kept it in place throughout testing.
Usage impressions and findings
I've been using the Division Zero X40 keyboard, M50 mouse and 47W-Flex pad exclusively for the past week. Coming from a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX blue switches (the clicky, loud kind that many associate with a mechanical keyboard), I was concerned that I wouldn't like the new Alpha-Zulu Tactile switches. I was wrong.
Metadot's new switches aren't nearly as loud or clicky as the Cherry MX blue switches but they aren't entirely silent, either. It typically takes me a while to adjust to new input devices but that wasn't the case with the X40. Typing felt natural while gaming was, well, gaming. I couldn't help but notice some of the subtle touches as well like the use of arrows on some keys (Shift, Caps Lock, Enter, Backspace) instead of written descriptions.
The 104-key layout was more-or-less standard; the only complaint I have here is the fact that the column of macro keys on the left is pretty close to the main set of keys. More often than not, when reaching over with my pinky to press CTRL, I'd ended up hitting the M5 macro key.
I had no problems recording and using macros via the optional software package. Metadot kept the UI nice and simple, just as it should be. I was even able to remedy the above CRTL button situation by simply assigning the M5 macro key to CRTL.
The individually-lit keys were also a welcomed addition, especially the ability to dim and turn them off entirely. While red is no doubt a popular color, it certainly won't be for everyone. The option to change colors would have been nice but it's not a deal breaker.
I was initially worried that the exposed screws used to hold the X40's top panel in place would be a bother during use but those concerns were unfounded. Being able to radically modify the look of the board with a simple plate change is pretty clever and will no doubt appeal to younger gamers. It also makes general maintenance and cleaning much easier.
I've grown accustomed to having two USB 3.0 ports across the top of my keyboard and to see that the X40 only offered a single USB 2.0 port was a disappointment, especially considering it utilizes two USB ports of its own. What's more, I really would have loved to have seen the X40 come with - or even offer as an optional accessory - a wrist rest. Again, this isn't a huge deal breaker as my 3M gel wrist rest gets the job done but for the price, it would have been nice.
The M50 mouse and 47W-Flex pad, however, didn't quite do it for me.
The M50 mouse looks larger than it is. I was worried that it'd be too large for my smallish hands but that was not the case. The primary mouse click buttons felt great and the on-the-fly DPI adjustment buttons / indicator was as advertised. I also liked the textured side grips and never felt as though my palm was getting too sweaty from use.
The red braided cable is a nice touch even though it does contrast the black cable the keyboard uses. Its USB connector, however, was far larger than it needed to be. When plugging the connector into a computer alongside other ports, you'll find that the large connector intrudes on the space of nearby ports. In this case, I was just barely able to squeeze the plug in alongside another USB device.
I've run into this issue before and have had to go as far as shaving down the plastic connector to get it to fit alongside others. Fortunately, I didn't have to do that here but again, it was a tight fit.
I also wasn't a huge fan of the scroll wheel as it didn't offer very much tactile feedback as you scroll. That's more of a personal preference than anything else as it functioned just fine in terms of scrolling, clicking and tilting.
While I did appreciate the two thumb buttons on each side, I found them too close together and too similar to easily differentiate them during use. Perhaps a larger gap between them or a steeper drop / different feel would have helped but I found it harder than it should have been to tell when one button stopped and the other started.
In terms of overall comfort, there's not much to complain about with the M50. It doesn't contour to your hand quite as aggressively as some mice but that's largely a result of it being ambidextrous.
The 47W-Flex mouse pad is one that I'd simply have to pass on. As a cloth pad, I noticed several times that a loose strand of fiber would catch the mouse sensor just the right way, resulting in all sorts of erratic behavior. It wasn't uncommon to let go of the mouse completely and watch the cursor seemingly develop a mind of its own and slowly drag itself across the screen. This behavior only got worse over time as the pad wore down.
The material itself was soft and the pad stayed put just fine but something else I didn't care for was the edges of the pad. They're raised just slightly, likely as a way to indicate that you've reached the edge of the pad. I found this more annoying than helpful as the aluminum base of the mouse would hit the barrier and stop cold in its tracks.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with the Division Zero X40 Pro Gaming Mechanical Keyboard and feel Metadot has done a nice job with its first full-size gaming keyboard. Its MSRP of $159 is just a hair on the steep side considering it only has a single USB 2.0 pass-through and single-color lighting but trust me, you could do a lot worse.
The M50 Pro Gaming Mouse retails for $79 which, compared to some of the competition, is a bit more than I'd be comfortable paying given its feature set and overall feel. Personally, I'd probably pass on the M50 in favor of something like the Logitech G502 Proteus Core or even the excellent Logitech MX Master.
The 47W-Flex mouse pad just flat out doesn't cut the mustard. The raised edges combined with the tracking issues caused by stray fibers are enough to rub anyone the wrong way. You'd likely be better off saving that $19 and adding another ten bucks with it for the 47W-Speed which features a hard polymer surface.
Metadot is accepting pre-orders for its new Division Zero line of products today with general availability expected in the next few weeks.
Division Zero X40 Pro Gaming Mechanical Keyboard Scorecard
Pros: Solid-performing mechanical keyboard. Audio pass-through support. Backlit. Swappable top panels let you modify the look of the board and make cleaning easier.
Cons: Only a single USB 2.0 pass-through. No option to customize backlighting color. Macro keys are a little too close to main keys.
M50 Pro Gaming Mouse Scorecard
Pros: Primary mouse click buttons felt great. Adjustable lighting (that can be turned off). On-the-fly DPI adjustments. Ambidextrous.
Cons: The USB plug was too large. Not much distinction between side buttons. Scroll wheel didn't have much tactile feedback.