Mountain Everest Max Review – IGNDecember 15, 2020
Mountain Everest Max – Design and Features
The Everest Max is out to impress from the get-go. It arrives in a large box designed to be used as storage instead of being thrown in the trash, complete with a pull-out drawer to store all of the accessories it comes with. I’m not one to put much stock in unboxings, but this was definitely one of the best I’ve experienced.
Taking the keyboard out, I was impressed by how sturdy it felt. Its case is made from two metal plates broken in the middle by an LED diffuser for 360-degree RGB lighting. The underside is molded plastic with plentiful cable routing channels to keep your desk looking tidy. Since most high-end gaming keyboards only feature a single metal plate under the switches, the Everest Max has a nice weight to it and a rigidity that felt great when I was hammering away at the keys.
On its own, it’s a standard TKL gaming keyboard with an above average attention to detail. You have your Cherry MX switches, available in Red, Blue, or Brown, as well as Speed Silver and Silent Red for an additional $10 each. It features programmable per-key lighting with a number of preset effects, as well as the diffuser ring around the sides to create the everything from a rainbow light show to a subdued static light for typing in the dark. It’s also available in two colors, Gunmetal Grey or Midnight Black, which are fairly standard – but Mountain has gone the extra mile to apply different finishes to the bezels and under-key area for a neat, multi-faceted appearance. All of these are small touches, but they come together to make a keyboard that doesn’t look quite like anything else on the market today and I quite like it.
What really sets it apart is its modularity. The Everest Max is the top-of-the-line version of the Everest keyboard and includes a modular numpad, media dock, and magnetic wrist rest, as well as a kit of accessories to further customize the board. Mountain also sells the Everest Core ($149), which lacks the dock and numpad, and the Core Barebones ($129), which further removes the switches and keycaps for gamers who would rather choose their own. Given how transformative the numpad and media dock are, it’s hard to justify buying into this keyboard without them, unless you plan to add them down the line, which seems to be the Everest Core’s reason for being.
Both accessories connect to the Everest via USB-C and a pair of magnets to hold it in place, but in a cool twist can be connected to either the left or right side. Mountain also includes a USB-C extension cable in the box. I used it for quickly disconnecting the whole keyboard, but if you’d rather have your numpad floating off to the side, it can easily be used there. Having the option change locations is great, especially if you’re a lefty, but even as a right-handed gamer, I liked being able to move the number pad to the left for a quick macro key set. The same is true for the media dock and its large-and-in-charge control wheel. When I was gaming, I liked it on the left, so I could adjust volume without taking my hand off the mouse. Working in Photoshop, it was reversed. It’s quick, easy, and a genuinely cool option to have at your fingertips.
Being able to change positions is one thing, but that’s not all that sets these peripherals apart. The number pad also features four display buttons that can be used to trigger commands and launch shortcuts. Like the Elgato Stream Deck, each features a tiny screen underneath for a full color picture. It’s a visually striking and practically useful addition that I now use every day to launch my most used programs. The only downside is that the screens can be a bit hard to see if you don’t use the keyboard at an incline, so I wish these had been mounted at an angle.
The other cool accessory is the media dock. It’s made entirely of plastic, so does feel a bit cheaper than the rest of the keyboard, but still seems sturdy. It houses dedicated controls for volume and playback, as well as indicator lights indicator lights for the keyboard’s different lock functions. The star of the show is the dock’s large 40mm Display Dial. As the name implies, it features a full color IPS display, complete with a selectable menu for the media dock’s different functions.
The media dock is another visually striking add-on to the Everest that saved me from having to turn to software or fiddle around with key combinations to do things like change my lighting. By turning the dial, you can choose from a variety of settings, from allowing the screen to display a clock, timer, or stopwatch, to controlling the keyboard’s lighting, swapping between the five onboard memory profiles, adjusting volume, monitoring APM for RTS games, or even monitoring basic system info. You can also set your own screen saver to really make the keyboard uniquely your own.
Turning to the keys themselves, the default kit is both a high and a low. The high is that the Everest supports hot-swap, which means you can change your switches and completely change the feel of your keyboard whenever you like. It also comes with Cherry MX switches, which are the gold standard in gaming keyboards for their reliability. On the other hand, the keycaps are about as basic as they come. They’re thin, laser-etched ABS plastic that show finger oils almost immediately. Mountain sells PBT keycaps starting at an additional $24.99 and going all the way to $69.99. At this price, Mountain really should have included a higher quality set of keycaps. Even if most users won’t know the difference, better premium keycaps make for a better all-around experience.
The keyboard also has several other neat features, including USB passthrough for easily connecting a headset or gaming mouse. It’s USB 2.0 only, which is a bit disappointing, but puts it in line with the majority of other gaming keyboards that still offer passthrough. It also does it with a single detachable USB Type-C cable, so the Everest is completely compatible with aftermarket cables and won’t take up two ports on the back of your PC.
I’m also a big fan of the magnetic feet. Unlike most gaming keyboards that use plastic tilt feet that inevitably break after years of use, the Everest Max uses magnetic discs to achieve its angle. I was initially worried they wouldn’t stay in place well, but the magnets are strong and wouldn’t budge when moving the keyboard on my desk.
It wouldn’t be a gaming keyboard if it wasn’t programmable and the Everest Max absolutely is. Using Everest’s Base Camp software, you can perform all of the expected functions: programming macros, shortcuts, keymaps. You can customize the lighting presets and set your own static layouts. This is also where you can assign the shortcuts to the numpad’s display keys and set your custom wallpaper on the Display Dial. For Everest being such a small team, Base Camp is surprisingly polished, but don’t go into it expecting Corsair iCue levels of Photoshop-like lighting customization. Still, I was impressed at just how well done and easy to use it was.
Mountain Everest Max – Performance
The Everest Max is an innovative keyboard, but what really matters is how well it works for gaming. Given how well considered the rest of the board is, you probably won’t be surprised when I say it’s great. Like the heavy hitter keyboards from the Razers and Logitechs of the world, the Everest features a 1000 Hz polling rate and reports your key presses one thousand times a second. If that weren’t enough, it also packs N-Key rollover, so it doesn’t matter how many keys you press at once; the Everest will register every single one of them, completely free of ghosting.
The Everest Max never skipped a beat. No matter what game I played, it was responsive enough to easily stand alongside my Corsair K100 or Razer Huntsman Elite: Watch Dogs: Legion, Call of Duty: Cold War, Warzone, Apex Legends… if there was an error, it was because I made it, not the keyboard.
The unit I was sent was outfitted with Cherry MX Red switches. These are lightweight, linear switches without a smooth press straight down to bottom out. For gaming, they’re great: smooth enough to be reactive but not so sensitive that I found myself running from cover by mistake. I’m not sure which was more to blame, the switches or the case itself (probably a mix of both), but the board did have very noticeable pinging when pressing keys. The arrow keys in particular had a lot of spring noise. When pressed slowly, they would creak the entire length of their travel. This wasn’t consistent across all of the keys, which made it stand out all the more when I used the keys that did.
Mountain also did an outstanding job with the stabilizers, opting for official Cherry stabs and going the extra mile to lubricate them at the factory. The spacebar on many keyboards is a major source of noise, but not here. The keys sound and feel uniform, which makes for a much nicer tying experience.
I loved the modularity of the numpad especially when gaming. For World of Warcraft, I was able to map all of my skills to the numpad, and having it right by my left hand made accessing them faster. In shooters, mounting it on the left side allowed me to have more mouse space for big sweeps. Likewise, moving the media dock to the left side allowed me to quickly change profiles without taking my hand off the mouse. I won’t say it made me a better gamer, but anything that allows me to keep my aim while also accessing different controls is a good thing.
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Mountain Everest Max – Purchasing Guide
The Mountain Everest Max is available for $269 direct from Mountain’s website.