Undeniably, the quest for the ultimate in gaming peripherals continues to present us with a plethora of new and creative ways to get your game-on. Bearing in mind that this quest often presents us with products that are flimsy, uncomfortable, or just plain have an unreasonably high learning curve, I’d like to present to the readers out there a product that has broken virtually every known stereotype I could think of.
I present to you, the Ergodex DX-1 input system.
This highly advanced input system consists of a brutally simple device that even the most complete computer illiterate can operate with ease. Simplistic in design, the DX-1 certainly isn’t going to wow the gamer who buys only those devices that look like they just jumped out of the page of a Spawn comic book, but once it has been plugged in and set up for your tastes there is certainly no turning back.
Looking into the open box, the DX-1 is hardly impressive. The unit looks like nothing more than a writing tablet with a long cord hanging off the side, a few manuals, three strange pages of stickers, and an unlabeled square box off to the side. What you won’t realize until after unpacking the unit is that the magic truly lies in that unlabeled box; 25 keys with an inexhaustible sticky surface to attach to the clear DX-1 removable top-panel.
After about 20 minutes of placing the keys where I thought I would want them, I was ready for the first test drive. As I load up Deus Ex II, I imagine myself spending another 20 minutes to get the keys configured to my liking, but much to my surprise the fun begins in only a few short minutes. I didn’t even bother with the included software for setting up the keys; the board took care of it all for me. I looked through the controls I had set up already for my keyboard and one by one I recorded them using the extremely intuitive and easy to use macro recorder built right onto the DX-1.
By pressing the record button in the upper right of the board (see images below), the DX-1 begins a metronome-like tapping to let me know I’m in record mode. I then press the keyboard or mouse key I want to use, and the DX-1 responds with a higher-pitched “tap” to confirm that a keystroke has been logged. I then press the button on the DX-1 I want to assign the command to, and the DX-1 then makes a noticeable “Pop!” sound to confirm that the keystroke was successfully recorded to the key. A few more recorded keys and “Voila!” almost instant gaming. See images below.
The real beauty here is that not only does the DX-1 manage the association with the game you’re playing and remember all your defined keystrokes, but it’s a virtually maintenance free device with absolutely no restrictions on keystrokes. Each application uses its own key mappings for each of the individual 25 keys attached to the board, completely transparent to the end user. There are no “Shift” modes, no annoying executable association programs, and certainly no learning curve. You put the keys where you want to feel comfortable and the unit takes care of everything else behind the scenes.
Now keep in mind that up to this point I have yet to even touch the software provided with the unit, save the brief installation of drivers. Thankfully the driver installation did not even require a system restart. This was fortunate because by the time I was ready to play with the unit I was practically frothing at the mouth and squirming in my chair.
After a successful (and long I might add) test run of the DX-1, I decided to check out the provided configuration software. With a clean user-friendly GUI, this device becomes that much more desirable almost instantly. Almost every function of the GUI is impressively intuitive despite the complicated nature of the device. Shown below is an image of the main form of the GUI.
Here is a screenshot of the keystroke record dialog.
It was from this dialog that the true power of the DX-1 became glaringly obvious to me:
Almost immediately a handful of macro ideas for gaming run through my head. Combinations of keystrokes that are tedious or difficult to execute flooded my brain and I could barely contain my excitement. I should say, perhaps, that I could contain my excitement only as long as it took me to try to record one of those complicated macros using the GUI.
Now obviously the GUI is necessarily complicated for truly granular macro recording, and I could understand that. It’s very detailed, outlining keystroke down and up, time between keystrokes, and pretty much every other detail imaginable for macro recording. This was way more work than I’d hoped.
So then it hit me; Why don’t I try to record a macro using the record button and save myself some time?
I venture back into my game and attempt a macro recording that would execute the following actions:
- Change to Grenades
- Wait for Grenade to arm
- Throw Grenade
- Wait required time after throw
- Change back to primary weapon.
So I set the stakes pretty high for my first macro, but this was the same thing I was going to attempt using the macro editor when I became frustrated and left to go eat a hot-pocket and regain some confidence.
I was certainly hoping that real-time recording would be possible but I had my doubts since the requirements for my macro included both keystrokes, wait times, and mouse clicks all in the same recording. With high hopes, I pressed the record button and that familiar “tapping” began and I started to record my macro, waiting the necessary time between events.
Not only did the DX-1 accurately record every keystroke, including the mouse click, but it also accurately recorded the time between the keys. I bound the macro to a button on the board and heard the distinctive “pop” confirmation. I pressed the button and low and behold it was like magic before my very eyes as the macro executed flawlessly.
The true power of the DX-1 was revealed and I was forever converted.
Now that the device was set up and I had a chance to play with it in a real scenario, I dug a little deeper into the packaging. First thing to catch my eye was the 3 pages of stickers which contained a sticker for virtually every command imaginable, pressed into clear heavy-duty plastic. Once the stickers are laid on the keys it looked as though the keys had come straight off the line with the stickers on them; Very impressive.
Here’s an image of my keyboard layout after indulging in a few minutes of sticker-frenzy. I placed a "Pentel R.S.V.P" standard ballpoint pen in the picture to help establish reference to product size.
Now I believe at this point it is important to address the “nay-sayers” out there reading this that have undoubtedly decided that this device won’t work because the keys are attached with an adhesive.
The adhesive used on the DX-1 keys is a remarkable material described by Ergodex as an “Inexhaustible” adhesive. While those two words are often considered to be mutually exclusive, it certainly is not the case with this product.
Just to test the level of inexhaustibility, I took a DX-1 key from the device and stuck it to the carpet in my office several times. After a few repetitions, the bottom of the key was covered with a fine layer of carpet fiber and would no longer stick to the DX-1. Taking the advice of the instruction manual (yes, I read the manual) I gently rubbed the bottom of the pad with a wet towel to get the carpet fiber off. Once I was certain that all the fiber was removed I was shocked to find that the key stuck right back to the board and seated just as firmly as every other key. After the adhesive test, I was compelled to try and test the strength of the adhesive. I mean, who wants a device with keys that move all over the place? Nobody!
Well that’s exactly who will get it when using the DX-1. Nobody!
Nothing short of an act of God will separate a key from the DX-1 when pulling upward or pushing in any direction. The key is absolutely affixed to the surface of the board and does not budge until a light twist to the left is applied. Once the key is twisted to the left about 45 degrees, it pops effortlessly off the board and leaves no adhesive residue behind. Now the key can be placed anywhere else on the board or put back into that unlabeled white box.
It’s also important to note here that Ergodex sells additional top-panels ($15) and an additional 25 key set for $50. The DX-1 supports up to 50 keys, and each key has its own frequency. In essence a home user could set up all 50 keys on a single top-panel, or set up any combination of keys on any combination top panels which are quickly interchangeable by simply depressing the tabs on the top of the unit and pulling back. See below for a picture.
The keys themselves also have a great feel to them, unlike many other controllers I have had the displeasure of using over the years. The vast majority of other gaming peripherals have keys that do not feel ergonomic on the fingertips, have an unusual click, or an abnormal distance to engage the key. The DX-1 certainly does not fall short in this category as each key is carefully crafted for a feel that is like no other. Just enough “Click” to know you pressed it, and just enough distance from the click that you aren’t likely to accidentally press a key by leaning on it.
The only complaint I have regarding the keys is that they are fashioned with a tapered base which makes it difficult to get top surface area of the keys really close together like you would normally have with a QWERTY keyboard. Fortunately the distance apart even when closely situated is far from uncomfortable, and just a few moments of using it and you’re likely to forget all about it.
Overall the DX-1 unit far surpassed my expectations and has become a permanent fixture in my arsenal of gaming paraphernalia. I have even extended the use of my DX-1 to include other programs other than games such as PhotoShop and Win Amp which make life a lot easier. I would recommend this device to anyone as the uses are quite literally limitless.
- Moveable keys provide for extremely low learning curve
- Macro Recording is extensive and easy to use without software
- Supports up to 50 keys that retain keystrokes whether placed on the board or on another top-panel
- Easy to use Software
- Simple installation
- Limitless functionality
- Left or Right handed capability
- Relatively high price tag ($149) as compared to other gaming peripherals
- Additional 25 keys is pricey at $49
- Large footprint may not be practical for all desk applications
- Shorter than desired USB cord
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