Now, we're serious gamers in the bit-tech offices, playing everything from the dizzying highs of System Shock 2 to the shocking lows of Pro Cycling Manager 2007, so our keyboards see a lot of use and abuse and, as a consequence, we set our standards pretty high for dedicated gaming keyboards. They must handle well, be well constructed and easy to use – extra features are always a plus too and it's preferable if it's light enough to carry in a backpack and not needlessly massive. Very few keyboards fit our ideal specification, with only the Logitech G11 and G15 proving themselves excellent in long-term tests - though even they have flaws.
Still, there's always the chance that another keyboard can sneak in and steal the gaming keyboard crown – proving itself to be the new standard by which all other keyboards are to be judged. Will the Wolfking Timberwolf keyboard be the one to do such a thing, or will it be relegated to the pile of junk hardware which we keep in the corner and which even the flies won't even go near?
Let's find out.
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It may not immediately be to everybody's tastes, but our initial impressions of the Timberwolf were quite favourable – the thing actually looks quite good. The main body is made up of chic silver plastic, framed by slightly matted black.
The media keys along the top of the board are all reflective silver and the black and grey regular keys match the colour of the body perfectly. The keyboard is thankfully without any awful backlighting. In all the keyboards we've looked at, backlighting is a love-it-or-hate-it feature which, done well, can make midnight gaming a lot easier and more stylish but, done poorly, is more headache-making than any other single design hiccup.
The basic premise of the keyboard design is quite attractive and somewhat unique also. Basically, by sacrificing the numpad, the entire QWERTY keyboard is shrunk down and an ergonomic WASD gaming pad is added on the left hand side.
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The WASD pad is unusual design-wise in that, unlike some other gaming keyboards we've seen with a similar idea, it doesn't re-label the keys with a series of arrow buttons and 'Jump' stickers. Instead, it lists everything just as it is recognised by the computer; WASD and the surrounding letters. The gaming keypad comprises a total of forty keys, including two Ctrl keys and a vertical space bar for extra large thumbs.
These forty keys have all been re-shaped and had the layout subtlety changed to fit into a circular pattern. Some of the keys, like the numbers and ERGT buttons, have been rounded off and positioned into a curved array, while others, like O and B, have been made more massive and widely spaced so as to fall under the thumb more easily.
It's actually a very well thought-out design and even just resting a hand idly on the WASD pad made our hands slide down comfortably into place and even those gamers with extra-extra-large thumbs are catered for thanks to the well positioned O and B buttons which can be used as a replacement for the vertical space bar.
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The media keys all along the top of the keyboard provide the basic functions and are a handy, though not exactly revolutionary, addition to the keyboard. Back/Forward, Stop/Refresh, Search, Home and Email – all the standard buttons are here and the keys are kept discreetly out of the way in a manner which helps accentuate the stylish feel of the Timberwolf.
The Timberwolf has two flick-up stands on the back which elevate it an inch or two to a comfortable position and though the keyboard is small (just 20cm by 52cm), it still feels reassuringly heavy, clocking in at 1.6Kg. The weight, combined with rubberised non-slip feet, ensures it's terribly unsuited to being used as a kite. Shame, that.