Dark rooms and video games just go so well together. You know what I mean. I mean, how many all-nighters have you pulled with just a keyboard, a mouse, and a game? Of course the mouse and game part is good, but sometimes those long gaming sessions are a just a little hard on the hands. A separate keypad that has all the required keys would come in handy, now wouldnt it? How about one that lit up, you know, so you could at least see what you were poking at?
Well, Thermaltakes got one for you, the Flare Board. While it isn't unique anymore, it is what youd expect, a gamepad for them more sophisticated PC gamers. Consoles have gamepads for console games, why not PCs have game boards for PC games?
The Flare Board has all the keys youd expect for a game pad to need for your game of choice. Its got 44 keys, in fact, big and mushy, like I know you like keys, and they travel far with a nice solid thunk to reward your efforts.
While it is difficult to tailor a keypad for all games, the key layout is the probably the Flare Boards best feature, though. The large and familiar WASD layout is prominently in the center, with red keys, and the rest of the fluff keys around it. Move and reload, what else do you need?
Well, alright, it does have a jump key. And the crouch key, walk/run key, use, tab, console, volume, weapon/number keys, and the all essential printscreen key. There is a conspicuous absence of the 'v' key, which does get used in Half-Life engined games (TF2, HL2, et all).
And there's also the F-keys:
But you don't get all of them, just the first 10. I wouldn't mind having larger keys here, but it's true that the F-keys don't get used much outside of quick-save and quick-load.
The Flare Board is also USB connected, and in fact, gets all its power from the USB bus. This is also why I tried to mod the Flare Board (to get some more flare), but failed horribly. Since it is USB, Windows detected it as another keyboard, and there weren't any drivers to install to get it working.
The Mac (OS X 10.5), on the other hand, didnt know what it was and asked for the key to the right of the Alt key. This was not a question I was in the position of answering (on the Flare Board its the b key, I think). This is a Windows keyboard, thanks.
Now the keys are not the clickey-key types that you find in the famous old IBM Model-M, or on the modern feel-alikes, like the Unicomp. No, Thermaltake went with the standard membrane type keys, which rely on a squishy membrane to mash conductive patches together when you press any key.
Speaking of any key, the Flare Board seems to have 4-key rollover. That is, you can press up to four keys simultaneously, and they will still register in the application. 3-key rollover is the bare minimum for touch typing, and the Braille alphabet requires 6-key rollover. The Logitech G15, for example, can do 6-key rollover, while this here elcheapo Dell I'm typing on right now can do 4-key rollover.
What did he just type? Well, the implication for games is that sometimes youre mashing keys all over the place, left and right, strafing, running-reloading, crouch-walking its nice to know that the Flare Board won't trip up when you're smashing keys. So, try this out: open notepad, and press, and hold, sdfjkl. There are some tricks, though. Pressing df and then g, at least on this Dell keyboard, results in only df being registered. The thing beeps at me if I press and hold asz too long.
Thats entirely too much time on the regular keyboard. Moving along.
Thermaltake Flare Board Thermaltake's take on a gaming keybpad results in the Flare Board, a 44-Key, USB plug & play, keypad with a comfortable layout tailored for games. It's easy to use, but it feels a little mushy and we wish the LED's lit more of the keypad and less of the desk.
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