With just about every gaming keyboard I’ve tested, there’s always something missing – a feeling of “if this keyboard only had this or that, it would be perfect”. The Mountain Everest Max looks like an answer to that exact riddle. It’s as if the designers of this keyboard got tired of dealing with all the stupid oversights and omissions in mainstream gaming keyboards and decided to take a kitchen sink approach.
The result is a full-size gaming keyboard with unique modular capability. The Everest Max doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but it comes with an impressive list of features that sound like the keyboard I’d get if given a team of engineers and carte blanche to do whatever I wanted.
The Mountain Everest Max is at the higher end of the spectrum in terms of cost, but that’s offset somewhat by the ability to purchase certain parts of the keyboard piecemeal. The model I tested pulls out all the stops when it comes to amenities, and its price reflects that, coming in at $249.99. It comes with an attachment that provides media controls as well as a number pad, making it a full-size keyboard.
Mountain also offers a $149.99 model without the media dock and number pad called Everest Core, in addition to the aptly named $129.99 Everest Core Barebone, which provides you with a fully assembled shell and PCB. hot-swappable with sound deadening foam, but requires you to bring your own set of switches and keys.
However, if you order the Everest Max, it comes in what can only be described as a small dresser, with drawers for all your accessories. It only deserves a mention because it’s the first keyboard box where I didn’t immediately feel compelled to throw it away.
In addition to the accessories that come with the Everest Max, Mountain’s storefront has a fairly comprehensive list of additional accessories to choose from, ranging from different sets of keys and switches to fashionable aviator-style cables. However, the Everest ecosystem is extremely receptive to aftermarket mods and accessories. In my case, I replaced the Cherry Brown switches with a set of Kailh Silvers (lubricated and filmed, mind you) and added switches to the PCB for a bit more “shock”. I also replaced the standard ABS keycaps with a set of aftermarket PBT ghost keys from Razer, accented with pink rubberized keycaps and a cast resin escape key from Amazon.
Not being locked into a single ecosystem of accessories is hugely refreshing to see outside of the fully custom marketplace, and having a variety of price points to start with helps lower the barrier to entry and makes the whole much more accessible experience.
The body of the Everest Max is a milled aluminum top plate available in gray or black and extremely robust. The keyboard lacks the typical flip-up feet to tilt the typing surface and instead relies on a collection of magnetic discs with rubberized bottoms to support it. It’s certainly a little less convenient than the more traditional solution and takes a little longer to set up, but it does offer what feels like a more secure typing surface.
The underside of the chassis features a number of cable routing channels and a single detachable USB-C cord that powers the keyboard, its USB-A passthrough, and any add-ons you’ve attached. It was a little disappointing to see that while there are a number of USB-C ports available, they’re meant to be used exclusively with add-ons in the Everest ecosystem.
On that note, the two things you’ll notice if you opt for the Everest Max are the standalone number pad with a few extra buttons and something that could pass for a communicator in Star Trek. The number pad is pretty self-explanatory: a little switch at the bottom lets you extend a USB-C connection left or right, giving you the option of adding it to either side of your keyboard, which is secured in place with magnets. The number pad can also be wedged with its own collection of magnetic feet, identical to those of the rest of the keyboard.
You’ll also notice a quartet of buttons on top of the number pad that become LED displays when connected to the keyboard. These can be related to functions such as controlling media playback, opening specific apps, or running macros. You can even customize each button with unique icons from your own library using Everest’s desktop software. And while the Everest Max itself is compatible with Macs, the software, unfortunately, is not.
The other peripheral that comes with the Everest Max is the Media Dock. This interesting hardware plugs into the top of the keyboard on the left or right side via a USB-C connection. As you’d expect, the media dock has four buttons to control media playback and an additional button to let you navigate through the dial-based menu.
The Media Dock’s bezel features a built-in LED display that spins with a satisfying click. You’ll mainly use this screen to navigate through various functions like adjusting volume, switching keyboard profiles, or changing RGB lighting. However, the screen can also be used to show other useful information, like a clock, system resource usage, and even your actions per minute if that’s what you’re looking for. Beyond that, the functionality is somewhat limited, but it’s still neat. It’s reminiscent of what Corsair introduced on the K100, but since the Media Dock is much more intuitive, it’s something I’m more inclined to use.
The out-of-the-box typing experience is solid, and in addition to the typical Cherry MX Brown, Red, and Blue switch offering, Mountain also offers Silent Red and Speed Silver switches. The hot-swappable PCB is compatible with three-pin switches, allowing me to easily swap out the stock Browns for Kailh Silvers. If you have a five-pin switch that you hope to use, you’ll need to cut off the extra plastic tabs before it fits Everest. Acoustics without any additional changes are good thanks to the sound deadening foam, and the pre-lubricated stabilizers are a welcome addition and help combat rattle.
Mountain offers keycaps in both ANSI and ISO layouts, but these are ABS by default, not PBT. However, you have the option of adding PBT keycaps to your order for an additional $29.99. The wrist rest that comes with the Everest Max is firm and attaches magnetically to the keyboard. It wasn’t particularly bad, but I’ve yet to come across a pre-packaged wrist rest that I really wanted to use. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to remove.
The only features missing from the Everest Max that are offered by the more mainstream competition are wireless connectivity, optical switches and an absurdly high polling rate. So unless these features are high on your list of necessities in your next gaming keyboard, Max probably has you covered.
With all the good things this keyboard has going for it, it’s curious that the Everest Max isn’t more popular. The keyboard has been around for a year but has failed to carve out a niche. The only theory I’ve found is that its customization is lost on a demographic that would rather build something from scratch anyway. And the high price makes it hard to justify the cost for someone buying a gaming keyboard from Razer or Corsair that has similar specs but is much cheaper.
So what are the downsides here? Mountain’s proprietary controller software, aptly named Basecamp, clearly still needs a lot of 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 one lighting effect at a time. Basecamp is compatible with Razer Chroma Connect, which allows Razer’s Synapse app to control the keyboard lighting effect…sort of. It only works occasionally, and while it lets you sync lighting effects with other Razer accessories, it doesn’t translate more complicated lighting effects effectively.
The only positive note here is that Basecamp doesn’t need to run in the background to maintain custom profiles; all of your macros and lighting schemes are saved directly to the keyboard’s memory with space for up to five separate profiles. You also have the option of going without software altogether – the Everest range has a small handful of out-of-the-box lighting effects and can record macros without having to tax your system 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 auspicious price belongs still at the Dygma Raise at around $315). But spending $250 on a keyboard is a sizable investment for most people. Still, the Mountain Everest Max represents excellent value for gamers when considering the features attached to many gaming keyboards currently available at a similar price point. Compare it to the Corsair K100 ($250), 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 available at such a low price. Just from the care and attention given to this keyboard and its peripherals, I would have expected a significantly higher price.
“Endgame” is a term that is often used in the field of keyboard enthusiasts, the idea of a singular perfect keyboard that ticks all the boxes in terms of design and aesthetics. This is not a one-size-fits-all goal, and it may change over time. But for me, the Mountain Everest Max represents a great intersection of what I’ve wanted in a keyboard for years.
Photography by Alice Newcome-Beill / The Verge