Saturday, May 21, 2022

Mountain Everest Max review: top performance

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Shreya Christina
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With just about every gaming keyboard I’ve tested, there’s always something missing — a sense of “if this keyboard had just this or that, it would be perfect.” The Mountain Everest Max feels like an answer to this exact conundrum. It’s as if the designers of this keyboard got tired of dealing with all the silly mistakes and omissions in mainstream gaming keyboards and decided to take something of a kitchen sink approach.

The result is a full-sized gaming keyboard with a unique modular capability. The Everest Max isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but it comes with an impressive feature list that feels like the keyboard I’d make if given a team of engineers and carte blanche to create whatever I wanted.

The Mountain Everest Max is on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of cost, but that’s somewhat offset by the ability to buy certain parts of the keyboard piecemeal. The model I tested pulls out all the stops in terms of amenities, and the price tag reflects that, at a hefty $249.99. It comes with an attachment that provides media controls and a numpad, making it a full-sized keyboard.

Mountain also offers a $149.99 model without the media dock and numeric keypad called the Everest Core, in addition to the aptly named $129.99 Everest Core Barebone, which gives you a fully assembled shell and hot-swap PCB with sound-damping foam. but for which you have to bring your own set of switches and keycaps.

However, if you order the Everest Max, it comes in what can only be described as a small sideboard, complete with drawers for all your accessories. This only deserves a mention because it’s the first keyboard box I didn’t feel compelled to throw away right away.

A monumental unboxing experience

In addition to the accessories that come with the Everest Max, Mountain’s store has a fairly extensive list of additional add-ons to choose from, from various keycap sets and switches to trendy pilot style cables† However, the Everest ecosystem is extremely receptive to aftermarket mods and accessories. In my case, I swapped the Cherry Brown switches for a set of Kailh Silvers (greased and filmed, mind you) and added switch pads to the PCB for a little extra “thock”. I also replaced the stock ABS keycaps with an aftermarket PBT phantom keycap set from Razer, accented with some pink rubber keycaps and a resin molded escape keycap from Amazon.

The Everest Max is equipped with a hot swap PCB
Photo by Alice Newcome-Beill / The Verge

Not being locked into a single ecosystem of accessories is extremely refreshing to see outside of the fully customized market, and to start with a variety of price points reduces the barrier to entry and makes the whole experience much more accessible.

The body of the Everest Max is a machined aluminum top plate that is available in gray or black and is extremely sturdy to the touch. The keyboard lacks the typical flip-out feet to slant the typing surface and instead relies on a collection of rubber-backed magnetic disks to prop it up. This is certainly a little less convenient than the more traditional solution and takes a little more time to set up, but it does offer what feels like a more secure typing surface.

The underside of the chassis contains a number of cable routing channels and a single detachable USB-C cable that supplies power to the keyboard, the USB-A pass-through, and any add-ons you may have plugged in. It was a little disappointing to see that while there are a number of USB-C ports available, they are solely intended to be used with add-ons in the Everest ecosystem.

The numeric keypad can be easily removed and attached to both sides of the keyboard

On that note, the two things you’ll notice if you opt for the Everest Max are the standalone numeric keypad with some extra buttons and something that looks like it could pass for a communicator in Star Trek. The numeric keypad is fairly self-explanatory: with a small switch on the bottom you can extend a USB-C connection to the left or right, giving you the option of adding it to either side of your keyboard, which is in place. is secured with magnets. The numeric keypad can also be supported with its own set of magnetic feet, identical to those on the rest of the keyboard.

The magnetic feet allow you to support the numeric keypad and keyboard

You’ll also see a foursome buttons on the top of the numeric keypad that turn into LED screens once connected to the keyboard. These can be associated with functions such as controlling media playback, opening specific applications, or running macros. You can even customize each button with unique icons from your own library with Everest’s desktop software. And while the Everest Max itself is compatible with Macs, unfortunately the software is not.

The other peripheral that comes with the Everest Max is the Media Dock. This interesting piece of hardware connects to the left or right side of the keyboard via a USB-C connection. As you’d expect, the media dock has four buttons dedicated to controlling media playback and an additional button for navigating through the selection menu.

The detachable media dock with its multifunction display

The spinner on the Media Dock has a built-in LED screen that spins with a satisfying click. You’ll primarily use this screen to navigate through various functions, such as adjusting volume, switching keyboard profiles, or changing RGB lighting. However, the display can also be used to show other useful information such as a clock, system resource usage, and even your actions per minute if that’s what you like. Beyond that, the functionality is somewhat limited, but it’s still neat. This is reminiscent of what Corsair introduced on the K100, but because the Media Dock is much more intuitive, I’m more inclined to use it.

The typing experience out of the box is solid, and in addition to the typical Cherry MX Brown, Red and Blue switch offerings, Mountain also offers Silent Red and Speed ​​Silver switches. The hot-swap PCB is compatible with three-pin switches, allowing me to easily swap the standard Browns for Kailh Silvers. If you have a five-way switch you’re hoping to use, you’ll need to cut off the extra plastic feet before it fits into the Everest. The acoustics without further changes are good thanks to the sound-damping foam and the pre-lubricated stabilizers are a welcome addition and help prevent rattling.

Mountain offers keycaps in ANSI and ISO layouts, but these are made from ABS as standard, not PBT. However, you do have the option to add PBT keycaps to your order for an additional $29.99. The palm rest that comes with the Everest Max is sturdy and attaches magnetically to the keyboard. It wasn’t particularly bad, but I haven’t come across a prepackaged wrist rest that I actually wanted to use. Fortunately, it is easy enough to remove.

The only features missing from the Everest Max offered by the more mainstream competition are wireless connectivity, optical switches, and an absurdly high polling rate. So unless these features are at the top of your must-have list in your next gaming keyboard, Max probably has you covered.

With all the good stuff this keyboard has to offer, it’s curious that the Everest Max isn’t more popular. The keyboard has been around for a year, but has failed to find a niche for itself. The only theory I’ve come up with is that its adaptability is lost in a demographic that would rather build something from scratch anyway. And the high price makes it hard to justify the cost for someone who would buy a Razer or Corsair gaming keyboard that has similar features but is much less expensive.

So what are the cons here? Mountain’s proprietary controller software, aptly named Basecamp, clearly needs some work to keep up with other programs like Corsair iCue and Razer Synapse. Although it is a functional and intuitive program, it has very few RGB lighting profiles. Basecamp currently only supports six built-in lighting effects and offers little flexibility for custom effects, as each key can only maintain a single lighting effect. Basecamp is compatible with Razer Chroma Connect, which allows Razer’s Synapse app to control the keyboard’s lighting effect… sort of. This only works occasionally, and while it allows you to sync lighting effects with other Razer accessories, it doesn’t effectively translate more complicated lighting effects.

The Basecamp software is functional, but a little rough around the edges

The only positive note here is that Basecamp doesn’t have to run in the background to maintain custom profiles; all your macros and light schedules are stored directly in memory on the keyboard with room for up to five separate profiles. You also have the option of going without the software altogether – the Everest range has a small handful of lighting effects out of the box and can record macros without straining your system’s resources.

The other downside is that, like most gaming keyboards with such a large feature list, the Everest Max is expensive (not the most expensive keyboard I’ve gotten my hands on – that bargain price still belongs to the Dygma Raise for about $315). But spending $250 on a keyboard is a significant investment for most people. Still, the Mountain Everest Max represents excellent value for gamers when you consider the features associated with many of the gaming keyboards currently available at a similar price. Compare it to the Corsair K100 ($250), the Asus ROG Strix Flare II Animate ($220), or Asus ROG Claymore II ($262), and the Everest Max’s price is more understandable.

Frankly, I was a little surprised to see a keyboard of this caliber for such a low price. Just from the perspective of the amount of care and attention that has gone into this keyboard and peripherals, I would have expected a significantly higher price tag.

“Endgame” is a term widely used in the realm of keyboard enthusiasts, the idea of ​​a singular perfect keyboard that ticks all the boxes in terms of design and aesthetics. This does not represent a single goal for everyone, and that may change over time. But to me, the Mountain Everest Max represents an excellent crossover of what I’ve wanted in a keyboard for years.

Photography by Alice Newcome-Beill / The Verge

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