Thermaltake’s Tt eSPORTS gaming brand has been getting a lot of attention from the company over the last few years. They pulled up their socks quickly a few years back with some of the original Meka products, and now they’re as strong a brand as Corsair and Cooler Master when it comes to peripherals. Today I’m reviewing the Poseidon Z RGB, an older keyboard from Tt eSPORTS that’s been around the block, but one that’s never found its way to NAG until now. I’m also looking at both the Blue and Brown switches used in the Poseidon Z family, so this forms a round-up of sorts as well.
Over the last two weeks I’ve been going back and forth between the Brown and the Blue versions of the Poseidon Z and there’s a clear difference – and a clear winner – between both. Encased in a black plastic shroud, both look like regular, run-of-the-mill mechanical keyboards. The fit and finish is quite good, and there’s no noticeable flex in the chassis when I try to twist it. The 1.8m USB cable feels a little on the flimsy side, and it isn’t braided, but this isn’t much of a deal-breaker personally.
The keycaps are painted plastic with the letters left as blank spaces, but the finish is slightly tougher than what you’ll find on cheaper keycaps in the market. These, I feel, won’t suffer wear as quickly, though it would have been nice to see these laser-etched instead.
The switches are made by Kailh (aka Kaihua in China), a Taiwan-based switch manufacturer that got their big break making Cherry MX clones for Razer. The Blues and Browns are not too far removed from the original switches offered by Kailh, so these are similar to what you’ll find from Razer’s Green Switches. They’re pin-compatible with Cherry designs too, so replacing them with Cherry switches is possible, although the RGB pin-outs won’t match. Speaking of, each key is individually lit by an RGB LED, and Thermaltake uses a glossy metal backplate to reflect the light up between the keys, giving them a neat floating effect and outlining the keys nicely in the dark.
On paper, both switches look similar. The Blue switch has a 50g actuation force while the Brown sits at 45g, and both have 4mm of travel with 2mm of pretravel to register a keypress. The Blue switch has a click collar to give you the expected and clearly audible “click” when depressing a key, while the Brown switch lacks the collar and instead has a more muted mechanical click, along with the sound of the key bottoming out on the tray. Both have very linear travel and good response and both offer excellent typing and gaming experiences. It was a shock to me, then, to learn that the Blue switches in the Poseidon Z feel superior to my own mechanical keyboard in just about every way.
And I mean it when I say that. I own a keyboard with original Cherry Brown switches. My Cooler Master Storm Quickfire Pro has had abuse hurled at it for years, and it still feels better than the Poseidon Z Brown. The Blue switch on the other hand feels better than both. Not only is the feedback better, which lends itself to a more enjoyable typing experience, but the key response is better as well. The Browns feel like they take an agonisingly longer amount of time to get a response when pressing a key, while the Blues just sink in without any trouble. Without taking the switches apart, my gut tells me that the Brown switch probably has something acting as a dampener inside
I went into reviewing both these keyboards with the express intention of finding the Brown switch to be better, and I personally don’t see a need for it. It feels less tactile and responsive than it should be, and the extra actuation force is noticeable. Even when handing it to my family in a blind test, they can still discern that one is clearly better than the other. So, we’re a little over halfway into this review, and I can already tell you how it’s going to end: buy the Poseidon Z Blue and don’t look at the Brown switch unless it’s on sale for a good amount less. It’s nice, but it’s not what I’d recommend someone buy.
Software-wise, it’s a different story. While the hardware is there, Thermaltake’s choice of OEM for the Poseidon Z uses a RGB controller that is currently incompatible with syncing software like ASUS Aura or Gigabyte RGB Fusion. You have to use the bundled software from Thermaltake’s website, and it’s functional, but buggy in parts. For example, changing the lighting mode to be more reactive, or use the arrow flow pattern, will require that you click “Apply” and then restart the app. After restarting it, you need to go back into the lighting software, choose the one you wanted, click “Apply” again, and only then does the function work. Despite a recent firmware update, this behaviour still continues.
The reason for this, I suspect, is that Thermaltake’s driver for the Poseidon Z has to reset and reapply settings to the microcontroller’s firmware each time you make a change. Because the lighting profiles are stored on the keyboard and not the drivers, you have to rewrite these changes to the flash memory each time after additionally unhooking the driver and re-initialising it. This might be an annoyance to anyone who likes fiddling with their colour profiles often, but the upside is that once you configure the lighting and colour profiles that you want, you never have to do that again.
For Linux and Mac users, this becomes the only annoyance to owning this keyboard – setting up the lighting profiles requires a Windows machine or a virtual machine running Windows with a USB controller passed through to it. There is also one major UI annoyance: the window can’t be resized or minimised, and it will always take up 1200 x 800 pixels on your display.
I think that one of the best impressions a mechanical keyboard can leave on a person is “how much does it cost to get my own one?!” My mom is a trained typist, with a per-minute score that would eclipse mine even on a bad day for her. Handing her the Poseidon Z Blue for an evening eventually ended in a long discussion about peripherals and why mechanical keys are finally taking over. To her, it felt like a proper tool that actually worked for the purpose it was designed for. Membranes, butterfly switches, and steel-backed rubber domes have all been on her desk in the last ten years, and the Blue switches on the Poseidon Z finally flicked that switch that took her beyond the point of no return. Keyboard enthusiasts know this well – the satisfying “crack” factor in hearing that click, and having feedback from a peripheral from the first time. You can’t go back after that.
Thanks, Thermaltake. My mom is addicted to mechanical keyboards now.
80Thermaltake’s Poseidon Z RGB family features great build quality and good RGB features, despite the lacking software. The only thing I’d change is the RGB microcontroller, so that it syncs up with other software from third-party vendors like ASUS and Gigabyte.