The Mountain Everest Max Mechanical Keyboard Review: Reaching New Heights in Build Qualityby E. Fylladitakis on November 17, 2021 10:45 AM EST
- Posted in
- Cherry MX
- Mechanical Keyboards
Mountain is a newcomer in the PC peripherals industry. The German-based company started out a couple of years ago, kicking off their business with just a single mouse model. More recently, last year the company made a bold move by putting up their first (and rather unusual keyboard) for crowdfunding. Of course, the bold move was not the crowdfunding itself – this is a tactic that many companies result in nowadays, especially when they want to weigh an uncertain market demand – rather, it was the modular nature of the keyboard.
That keyboard became the Everest. Designed with maximum customizability in mind thanks to its modular parts, the Everest has been built to compete as a top-tier mechanical keyboard, with all of the many advanced features come with the territory. And, as we'll see in our review, Mountain didn't just go for feature parity – to produce a keyboard as good as the best keyboards on the market. Instead they've seemingly gone one better, constructing one of the best built keyboards we have ever seen at AnandTech.
Ultimately, Mountain's engineering efforts have led to two different Everest products. With the modularity of their design serving as the marquee feature for the Everest, the flagship product for the keyboard lineup is the Everest Max, which is what we're reviewing today. The Everest Max is the whole kit and caboodle, as it were, offering the base tenkeyless keyboard as well as all of Mountain's additional modular components. Meanwhile, for those who only need a tenkeyless board without the modular frills – and with a lower price tag – Mountain also offers the Everest Core, which true to its name, only includes the base keyboard.
Packaging and Bundle
We received the Mountain Everest Max in a very cleverly designed cardboard box. The artwork on the box itself is minimal but it reveals tons of information once opened, and designed in such a way that will catch the eye of the user that opens it. It also provides outstanding shipping protection to the keyboard and its components. Every component comes into its own cardboard box, neatly packed inside a drawer underneath the compartment where the core of the keyboard sits.
As we received the Max version of the Everest, we also received all of its modular parts available to this date. These are but two – a Numpad and a media dock. The company also includes tilt adjustment feet, a normal Esc keycap, five testing Cherry MX switches, a quick start guide, a few stickers, and a USB cable. The USB cable is removable and it has a Type-C connector on the keyboard’s side and a USB Type-A connector on the PC side. Mountain also includes a Type-C adapter, for those wishing to attach the Everest Max directly to a Type-C host port.
The Max version also benefits from the inclusion of a high-quality, magnetic palm rest. It is cushioned and extremely soft to the touch. The magnetic grip on the keyboard is very light, perhaps too light, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how forceful users are with their wrists. The light magnetic force allows for it to be very easily removed and cleaned, without even having to move the keyboard a tiny bit – but this also means it can be unwittingly moved during a heated gaming session.
The Mountain Everest Max Mechanical Keyboard
The Core of the Everest keyboard is not unlike most tenkeyless mechanical keyboards out in the market. If not for the subtle company logo at the top of the chassis and the silver Esc keycap, it would be difficult for most people to differentiate the Everest from other tenkeyless keyboards in the market.
We received the US/International version of the keyboard. It has a typical ANSI layout, with seven 1.25x keys at the bottom row plus a full-size 6.25x Space Bar key. Mountain is using a clean, rounded fond on the keycaps. The standard keycaps are made from ABS but Mountain offers an upgrade to double-shot PBT keycaps for roughly $30 more. There are no extra buttons on the Core of the keyboard.
The top of the keyboard is made out of aluminum, with a straight brushed surround and a circularly brushed top. This creates an eye-catching visual effect but some users may find it unappealing, as it does look like someone went crazy with a wire brush on it.
The included palm rest matches the Core keyboard perfectly and is very comfortable to use. However, once the Numpad is attached, the palm rest does look aesthetically out of place. It is not necessarily uncomfortable as most people do not rest their wrists over the Numpad but it is making it seem as if the Numpad is a foreign body to the rest of the keyboard.
Once all of the modular components are installed, the Everest Max ceases to be a simple tenkeyless keyboard and its true potential can be clearly seen. The numpad has four mini-screen keys on top of it, and the media dock has an LCD with a rotating dial alongside the small media control buttons and tiny informative LEDs.
Users can configure the four display keys on the Numpad and the rotating dial LCD on the media dock via the keyboard’s software. It would not be an exaggeration to say that most (if not all) of the Everest’s advanced features reside on the modular parts.
The bottom part of the keyboard is plastic, with three wide anti-slip strips and two circular tilt feet. There are many pathways to cleanly route the cable out of the keyboard’s connector at the center, including towards the front side of the keyboard.
At the rear of the keyboard, we find two connectors, one Type-C connector, and one Type-A connector. The Type-A connector works just like a normal hub port and users can connect any USB device to it. The Type-C connector is meant as an attachment point for the media dock. Two more Type-C connectors can be found on either side of the keyboard, which are meant for the numeric pad.
Underneath the keycaps of our sample, we found original Cherry MX Red switches. Mountain offers the Everest with either Cherry MX Red, Blue, or Brown switches. This is one of the very few keyboards in existence with original Cherry MX switches that are hot-swappable, allowing the user to change the switches of the keyboard at will. The switches are the RGB variants of course, with clear bodies. Mountain is using typical Cherry MX cross-type supports for the larger keys.
The RGB lighting on the Everest Max is crisp and clear, yet not too strong. It is strong enough, especially for those who are going to use the keyboard in relatively dark rooms, but we have seen stronger backlighting with the same Cherry MX switches in the past. It is possible that this may be but an illusion, as the very dark surface of the keyboard absorbs nearly all light, negating any backlight bleed.
Opening the keyboard up reveals another surprise, as we found an exceptionally well-designed and assembled device, going beyond even what we usually see even on top-tier products. This might be the first keyboard that we have seen the manufacturer using gap-filling foam material to soundproof and enhance the assembly mechanically. There may be a downside here though, as the material may trap moisture if someone spills a lot of liquid on the keyboard.
The heart of the Everest is a Holtek HT32F52352 ARM processor. This is a 32-bit microcontroller with a 48 MHz operating frequency and 16 kB embedded SRAM. It is quite a bit of an overkill for a keyboard, yet it is always good to see some overkill on such top-tier performance devices.
Post Your CommentPlease log in or sign up to comment.
View All Comments
COtech - Friday, November 19, 2021 - linkSounds like quite a product for a first attempt. $200 is out of my budget range but not crazy for high-end boards with Cherry switches and good software.
As well as they did out of the gate, and with the report that one software issue observed has already been fixed, I'm sure they'll get the other minor things fixed in the next revision.
COtech - Friday, November 19, 2021 - linkThey are asking $70 for the media dock alone so it makes sense to get the Max package straight off rather than start with the core and build.
zlandar - Friday, November 19, 2021 - linkWish someone would make a real successor to the Logitech G15. I like having the lcd display with Sirreal applet running.
Short_Circuit - Friday, November 19, 2021 - linkFunny you say that. The original G15 is the last 'specialty' keyboard I bought prior to the Everest.
Back when the iCue Nexus was announced I was considering one of those + a K100 as a potential equivalent, but the Nexus, in the flesh, was a bit disappointing for the price (primarily for the very low screen vs bezel ratio). If/when Corsair brought out an improved version of that (or the cost of the current one reduced by a margin), I'd probably stick one on the back of my Everest for the best of all worlds.
Don't forget that there are a variety of other options for small, keyboard-mounted displays, albeit many have a DIY aspect to them. Nextion HMI displays are ideal for this.
firstname.lastname@example.org - Thursday, November 25, 2021 - linkAnandtech once again made a very compelling write up why this Mountain Everest keyboard system is top notch and worthy of purchase. As a result I ordered one as I was tired of going thru another Corsair mechanical keyboard. As I type this post I have 3 broken Corsairs all for failed Cherry MX Red switches. Sounds like a simple fix right? .... anyone who has completed a replacement Cherry switch on any of the Corsair keyboards knows it's not a quick repair but involves not only soldering but removal of dozens of tiny phillips head screws. Me, I'm tired of spending hours making this type repair versus a simple Mountain Everest keyboard switch replacement which takes only a few minutes to complete. This alone is worth this purchase.
Short_Circuit - Monday, January 17, 2022 - linkIt's with a heavy heart that I'm back to make a follow-up to previous comments praising the keyboard.
Unfortunately, six weeks of experience has demonstrated that while my opinion of the hardware hasn't changed, it remains a lovely keyboard to work on, my view of the firmware and software has, drastically - for the worse.
After the intial setup I have found a growing number of glitches with the keyboard, the most serious of which is that since a firmware update, the Media Dock refuses to wake up after system standby or hibernation - unless it (or the entire keyboard) is physically disconnected/reconnected every time.
Furthermore, it occasionally goes non-functional when the system is up, too. And when this happens it somehow interferes with communication between the keyboard and its mating software service.
The automatic, app launch profile switching doesn't work consistently, and, most frustratingly, after being advised to re-flash the firmware and then factory reset the keyboard by Mountain TS, re-importing my saved settings didn't re-import custom per-key per-app lighting profiles I'd previously set up.
The macro recording process is exceptionally cumbersome and difficult to edit too.
To be fair, Mountain support have been quick to respond to emails, but beyond asking for (and me providing) a large amount of detailed info and system logs, they haven't yet been able to make any suggestions. Since looking around, I've found a significant number of other users reporting issues too.
I have, ironically, found the keyboard is more reliable and less glitchy with the Base Camp service disabled on the host PC.
Hopefully these problems are related to the firmware and software and can be fixed in short order. If I don't hear anything back from Mountain over the next couple of weeks, it'll be a very reluctant call to the place I bought it to enquire about a refund.
dreamslacker - Wednesday, January 19, 2022 - linkHave you tried using a powered USB 3 hub to connect the keyboard and also using a USB 3 host port? If you haven't, try using a powered USB 3.0 hub and re-flash the keyboard.
Also, with regards to the media dock or keypad, do keep these connected to the main kb module before connecting the kb to the hub/ computer.
I've found that when using a USB 2.0 host port on my KVM (but keeping the keyboard powered via the hub), configuring the keyboard is extremely slow; and firmware updates are impossible (despite that the keyboard controller only runs at USB 1.1 internally).
I've the same experience with Base Camp and Mountain support as well - fast response, generally polite, but basically their only response is equivalent to "Have you tried restarting/ re-installing?".
Short_Circuit - Friday, January 21, 2022 - linkHi dreamslacker, thanks for the comment. Unfortunately I think I've got all those bases covered already.
Unfortunately I had the keyboard connected to a powered internal USB3 hub when I first got it. And ironically I think it masked some of the keyboard's problems as the hub powered down when the system went to S3/S4/S5 - and resulted in the Everest cold-booting itself every time the computer resumed.
I've since built up a new Z690 box and the keyboard is now connected directly to the motherboard's USB3.2 rear ports - and so the keyboard receives power all the time.
I'm an embedded developer too so I'm mildly tempted to sniff the connection between the dock/numpad and the keyboard to see how they communicate. I'm presuming it'll either be SPI or UART - do you happen to know anything more on that?
That said, I bought the keyboard to work with, not work *on*, and if it continues to irk me, it'll be going back. Unfortunately.
dreamslacker - Friday, January 21, 2022 - linkHi Short_Circuit, unfortunately, I do not know what kind of protocol is used for the connection between the main module and the media dock.
That said, when I did the tear down to pad the keyboard, I did notice that the media dock daugther card uses a 14 pin SMD connection to interface with the main module PCB.
Assuming the buttons (5) and encoder are using 7 pins as GPIO, that leaves 2 pins for power/ common GND and 5 pins for other communication. Since I didn't open up the media dock, I couldn't say if they had use a separate MCU with I2C internally to run the OLED or if they had use SPI/ I2C to run the display module directly (since some OLEDs will have their own display IC).
Another interesting thing I noted is that when I did the teardown on the numpad to put the poron pads, I did see that the programmable buttons display uses a single large OLED display - they simply refresh the 4 cut-out portions on the display and have to refresh the entire matrix everytime a change is made.
Short_Circuit - Saturday, January 22, 2022 - linkThanks.
The reason I intially suspected that there is a satellite MCU in the dock is primarily due to the way the keyboard behaves after the MMD fails to 'wake up'. If there was a simple electrical connection between the MMD transport control buttons/rotary encoder and the main Holtek MCU, theoretically the buttons and encoder should still function normally even when the display fails. That isn't what happens.
In my case, when the MMD fails to wake up (or seemingly goes to sleep after the system is up), the buttons and encoder fail to function and remain so until the MMD is removed/reconnected to reboot it. Looking at the logs created by the Boot Camp software reinforces this notion too.
In any case, if as you say there is a 14 pin connection (vs the 20 theoretically available via the USB-C connector), and we were to assume that the main MCU is running everything, that theoretically doesn't leave enough to have the five buttons, the encoder, four status LEDs, power and ground as well as some form of data channel to the dock's display.
Re power draw, I can see why a USB 2.0 hub wouldn't cut it. I've just put a meter on mine and though it's fine with the LEDs off, it will go right up to nudging the USB 3.0/3.1 4.5W limit with the illumination set to full white at maximum brightness.
Incidentally did you actually see enough of the numpad's display to confirm that it is an OLED device? I keep seeing people say that but Mountain don't describe it as an OLED, and from the colour shift across different viewing angles and the black levels, it looks more like an LCD than anything else.