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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Table Of Contents:
Introduction & Part One - LED Placement and General Internal Layout
Part Two - Changing the "Lock LEDs"
Part Three - Changing the backlighting! (to be added!)

Introduction

Thanks to DAE_JA_VOO and his thread on his modded Logitech G15 keyboard, I decided that after a full years usage that I would dismantle my Merc Stealth and see how everything's wired up.

To my knowledge this is the only guide that details the internals of this keyboard. Tom's Guide has an article on various backlit keyboards, but to my extreme disappointment, there were NO pictures of the inside.
... So I thought, why not open mine and take the pictures for myself? (Tim's Guide, anyone?
).

One thing the Tom's Guide article said that I did not agree with at all was how difficult it was to reassemble this keyboard. It was hands down easy. I could reassemble it with one hand. It's nothing like a slim PSTwo.. Those are hell first time around, trust me.

At this current point in time I am only covering a general overview of the insides and the replacement of the Caps/Scroll/Num Lock LEDs. When I have the SMT LEDs I want for a new backlighting scheme, I will be adding a second section detailing replacing those as well.

Originally I did not intend on sharing this, so excuse a little inconsistancy across a few pics (such as the main upper PCB being removed in the first photo
). Regardless, this should all be very informative for those looking to fiddle with their own Merc Stealth.

Part One:
LED Placement And General Internal Layout


Photos should be self explanitory (if they aren't, I'll add additional notes), but feel free to ask any questions.





By this time I started to notice that every three LEDs has a removable connector between them such as this one:



The only place this slightly varies is near the gamepad. Three LEDs are on three separate PCBs connected by wires (FYI: the wires are fairly stiff, so they stay in place w/o problem). Even so, there is no removable connector until you get past the third LED. Also, if you haven't guessed by now, R = Red, B = Blue, and G = Ground. On that note, I decided to take a closer look at these LED PCBs and unscrewed one.



As Tom's Guide described, there were indeed black tabs that covered each LED's spot. I assume this is to direct the LEDs a little better. Additionally, yes, these LEDs are a bit non-standard, but these days they're becoming a bit more common. These particular ones are Blue/Red bicolor SMT leds. Two normal SMT LEDs could replace one of these bicolors easily. I should also note that these bicolor LEDs are not the same used in an Xbox 360... It's a little trickier to replace both colors in those.



Notice how one of the traces is shared all across the bottom edge. As the negative sign should make obvious, this is the ground ("G"). From my observation, it seems the top left of the LEDs in that image are "R", and the top right is "B". When both are on, this is clearly how the purple color is obtained. As I've thought about what colors I'll eventually want to put in.. It makes sense why Ideazon just went with Red and Blue. The combination makes purple. I've considered Red/Green, Blue/Green, Red/Yellow.. Aside from maybe Red/Green, I imagine the other combo colors are fairly subtle. Plus, Blue and Red are the "safe" and seemingly most accepted colors.





As you can see, that is a shot from the main PCB. I can see the resistor for the "B" LEDs, but I don't think that other resistor is for the "R" ones? I'm thinking maybe surface mount resistors were used for those... Which is a little inconsistant, but I guess it works. At least the PCBs don't seem frail or cheap.



These USB ports seem to have modding potential. If one wanted to add a backlight to the ports, it could be done fairly easy. Pry back the side tabs on the shielding, and bend it up. If you're not familiar with USB pinouts, look a few up. Solder a resistor and 3mm LED to each and plant it under the bent up back.

I would recommend applying electrical tape to the top inside of the bent up shielding if you go for backlighting these ports. Might even want to lightly sand the domes of the LEDs with low grit sandpaper to give it more of a "glow" than a "beam". If you're at a LAN party and the LEDs can be seen by the guy across from you.. He'll thank you




With the main PCB removed, you can see the purpose that metal bar had: press down the contacts on the PCB to the rest of the keyboard. There's nothing too interesting here in my opinion.. So I just screwed it back on and moved on to the "Lock LEDs".





This keyboard has the thickest PCB traces I've seen in a while. Not necessarily a bad thing, I just had been expecting thinner. Too used to game console internals and motherboards I guess.



When I got to this point, I couldn't help myself anymore. I REALLY had a craving to mod something, and since I had some 3mm LEDs laying around.. I went to work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Part Two:
Replacing the "Lock LEDs"


First of all, you'll need a few materials:
  • 3mm LEDs of your choice (I used 5000mcd LEDs)
  • 15w Soldering Iron (anything up to 30w is acceptable, but NOT recommended)
  • Lead-free solder (thinner is generally better-- easier to work with)
  • Copper desoldering braid (alternatively: desoldering pump/solder sucker)
  • Electrical tape
  • A few old rags (nice to have under what you're soldering to, in case some solder falls off your tip)
  • Flux (optional, but recommended)
  • LED tester (optional, but recommended-- you can make these easy. read on.)
  • Respiratory mask (recommended whenever soldering is involved)
Continue at your own risk.

Before I dove in, I tested my LEDs. If you don't have a way to test LEDs, grab an old set of toy walkie talkies (they don't have to be working) and rip out the 9v battery connector. My LED tester was bought for $1 from some site (now closed) that I was buying Xbox parts from a while back. I'm not too keen on resistor color codes, so I'll just show you the resistor.



Solder it on to the red wire like so. If you have alligator clips, you can one up me and solder a wire between the resistor and an alligator clip, then insulate the resistor. Goes without saying, but you should probably put an alligator clip on the black wire too. Obviously not having these clips didn't set me back any. Just makes things easier.



Also, if your 9v battery has a protective cap like mine did, don't be the one in a million idiot who forgets:





Time to test some LEDs. Keep in mind these first two are 5000mcd.. Note how bright they are in comparison to the originals.





...And to my surprise, the UV LEDs I had bought 3 years ago... Weren't UV LEDs. I think I know which ones I want to use.


Now then, let's get started. First thing's first-- We need to desolder the old LEDs. Plug in your soldering iron and let it heat up (5-10 mins, usually). While you're waiting, take a toothpick or something similar and wipe some flux on the solder holding the LEDs to the PCB, and heat up the flux a little. If you don't have any flux, go ahead and skip to the next step.. But this will make it easier to solder to and desolder from. As you can see, I got a little ahead of myself and already desoldered one of the legs.
... Here's a shot showing how to use the braid:



I generally wrap it around a leg and tuck it down.. But it's not so much wrapping it around the leg as it is wrapping it around the solder-- remember that. Now take your iron and press it to the braid while watching the solder on other side of the braid. IF you're using a 15w iron, only let it keep contact for 3 seconds max! Anything more is dangerous, and you'll see why later. If you're using a 30w iron, i'd say 1.5 seconds max. Let the braid/solder cool for 3 seconds inbetween heating. A good tip is to make sure your iron and the solder is sandwiching the braid.. Not your iron and the LED leg. If you did it right and you're lucky, it'll all come out in one heating. Repeat process for the second leg.





BAM! You're the man now, dog! One LED down, four more to go!.. But to Be safe, we should probably put at least ONE of our new LEDs in before desoldering the rest. See, if you haven't noticed by now there's a distinct difference between the two LED legs.. Trace them up to the LED's dome and you will notice the longer leg has a smaller piece of metal in the dome. The shorter leg will have a larger chunk of metal in the dome. The long leg/small chunk is the positive side (power), and the short leg/big chunk is the negative side (ground).

As you can see in the last photo, Ideazon marked the positive side (on the left) under each LED's spot. Slide the long leg into the left, and the short into the right. You'll want to secure the new LED in place with some electrical tape (we want it to stay flush with the PCB while soldering).







First trim the LED legs to a similar length as the old ones (don't trim after soldering).. Add a little more flux if you'd like-- I did.

Now you're ready to solder. The traditional method people will tell you is to heat the object you want to solder to and not the solder. If that's what you want to do, you can do that. But there's other ways.

Often times these people will tell you not to "paint" the solder on with your iron. They'll also tell you not to push solder onto the iron while it's heating. Instead you will be typically told to heat the object on one side, and feed solder on the opposite side... I'm telling you to do what works best for you.

What works best for me is to place the iron's tip at a 45 degree angle to the 90 degree that the LED leg and the PCB makes. I feed the solder between the PCB, LED leg, and the iron tip. Typically i have to tap the solder to the iron to start the melting, but be warned that the hole will fill up fairly quick. Another thing to remember: Bigger blob does not equal better job. You need to find an inbetween.

Once one leg is fully soldered in (it should look similar to the factory soldered LEDs), you may remove the electrical tape... Or you can play it safe and keep it on til the second leg is in too.



Beautiful. Continue desoldering and soldering in new LEDs in a repeat process, or desolder the rest of the old LEDs and resolder in the new ones later.

But oh noes! What if the unimaginable happened? What if you *gasp*.. Held the soldering iron on a bit too long? You may have burnt the trace on the PCB and lifted it. If this happens, don't panic. Sure, it sucks, but it can be fixed. Look what happened to me:



It's sad, but it's no problem. Still an easy fix. You have two options:

1) Solder a wire from the LED leg to the leg the trace leads to, or
2) Take a knife, scratch off a bit of the trace's green protective coat and solder the LED leg to the bare trace surface (this is what I did)



Now that I have surface to solder to again, I'll slide my next LED in. In this next picture, you'll see I bent the leg toward the scratched off area. It looks like there's just one leg in this picture, but I assure you the second is there.. The LED just isn't pressed flush to the PCB yet because I needed to bend the leg and trim it before I applied the tape to hold it).



Just add solder. Kinda like a chia pet, but different.



All better
. Take note of how my solder is nice and shiny. This is good! Don't let the factory soldering fool you; shiny is what you want. When it looks grey and dull, it means that something was moved while soldering. This is referred to as a "cold" soldering joint. If you have any cold joints, you'll need to stop hittin' the table and try again.. It should be fine either way, just try to avoid cold joints.

Now that you've probably got this soldering business down, continue to finish up the rest of the LEDs and soon enough YOU TOO can own a Lock LED PCB like this!



Don't forget to clean off the flux residue.


Now before we get too content with out work, let's test this out!



As you can see, my Macbook caught the dumb. That's alright. I can at least test the Caps Lock and Num Lock keys
. Most of the other keys on the top of this keyboard don't operate normally.. Mac machines will identify the media control buttons as F keys (perhaps there's drivers somewhere? dunno).. Yes, that means I can't cycle my backlighting colors..
.. Oh well, at least it was just those Lock LEDs for now. Testing here on this mac will be good enough.

If all went well, give yourself a pat on the back and congratulate yourself on the jorb well done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
(Reserved for Part Three - Changing the backlighting!)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you very much.


The third part will be added as soon as I have the LEDs I need. To replace the backlighting LEDs, you will need 0603 SMT LEDs (0603 is the size).

Current problem I'm having is finding a reputable store that sells bright ones in Red and Yellow (to match my project, Hollow). Another problem is.. I want green too.
..

Should I be ambitious enough, I do have an idea how I can have all three with a little extra work and wire. We'll see how that goes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
First of all, thank you both.


As for an original Merc.. Well... As for backlighting goes, I wish I could give a solid answer on that, but it's certainly difficult to do so. There are many things that would rely on. To name a few:

1) Keys using a clear plastic
2) An LED diffusing piece of plastic/acrylic inside the keyboard, under the key circuitry (or enough room to add your own)
3) Making your own switch (and maybe a dial to adjust brightness?)

Now say you couldn't find room for a sheet of acrylic/plastic to fit in the keyboard, and say the keys were not of clear plastic.. You technically could make incisions on the sides of the keyboard's "bed" and string up some leds that way.. If you were to do that, I'd reccomend painting the keyboard's "bed" with a reflective paint (silver, chrome, etc). The letters on the keys certianly wouldn't light up, but the area around them would probably glow (very similar to the Wolfking Warrior Xxtreme. i plan on covering LED replacement for that too eventually).

Because of my indecisiveness on color I want for my backlighting, I may be installing extra backlight LEDs on a switch. I won't cover cutting the keyboard bed (as mine won't require it), but wiring would be the same or else very similar.

For the "Lock LEDs" and backlit USB ports.. There shouldn't be any problems with it on an original Merc. I'm sure you can mod those without any issue whatsoever. In my experience replacing LEDs in my electronics, hardware manufacturers tend to install resistors well above what's needed in their products (you will need at least an 100 OHM resistor for USB port backlighting though).

I don't remember ever calculating the resistors in my Xboxes, Gamecube, etc before I swapped out the LEDs. I checked the ones on my Merc, but I figured 5000mcd would be fine as 100 OHM resistors are usually used on those with a 5v power source (what I assumed they were powered by).

Edit: as of current, this thread is the first result for a google search on "mod merc leds" and sixth for "mod merc led". w00t!
 

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hmm i seem to recall seeing somewhere (on this forum, i could find it if i looked lol) some guy laying EL wire around the keys and powering them via a molex cable that ran along with the keyboards USB... so that knocks out the power issue.

but as for clear keys... do you mean the actual keys themselves? or the contact pads behind them? Don't recall seeing the merc stealth with see through keys...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by T3h_Ch33z_Muncha View Post
hmm i seem to recall seeing somewhere (on this forum, i could find it if i looked lol) some guy laying EL wire around the keys and powering them via a molex cable that ran along with the keyboards USB... so that knocks out the power issue.

but as for clear keys... do you mean the actual keys themselves? or the contact pads behind them? Don't recall seeing the merc stealth with see through keys...
You certainly could take that route, but I'm sure you could also just tap into the 5v power that the USB is already feeding the keyboard. EL and LEDs hardly take up all that much power if I remember correctly. I know LEDs don't but i'm uncertain on EL. EL isn't very bright though, so I'm leaning toward low power consumption.

And actually I did mean clear keys, because the Merc Stealth's keys are indeed a frosted clear, except they're painted (the paint for the letters is a very thin white layer). If you really wanted clear keys, maybe camp ebay for a broken merc stealth and swap the guts or keys? Though, swapping the guts wouldn't work if it's the main green PCB that's fubar..
 

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O.O

one of the big points with the mercs is the swappable keys though... you know those $20 "keysets" for battlefield 2 etc...

isn't EL wire basically a bunch of low powered LED's on a wire though? tbh i'm pretty much a complete noob when it comes to modding and wiring...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Actually, the keysets are for Ideazon's Zboards. The Merc keyboards are not compatible with them, but they still use the Z Engine (allows you to edit any key to do anything; gamepad on left side is treated as independant).

As for EL Wire, nah, it's a bit different:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroluminescent_wire

Here's a good place to start for LED wiring:
http://www.llamma.com/xbox360/mods/H...20an%20LED.htm

It's where I started, and it explains the different ways you can wire them, resistor general rules of thumb, and of course a nifty resistor calculator.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks Anier.


As a small update, I am about to order my SMD LEDs to continue this three part guide of mine, and have gone with quite an eccentric combination.

There are 9 bicolor LEDs in this keyboard, correct? To replace them I would need 18 single color LEDs. For the longest time I was stuck on trying to figure out what colors I wanted.. I couldn't decide between giving up blue and red or adding green and yellow... well.. Eventually I decided I'd do something completely outside the box-- use all four colors!

Color setting A will be an assortment alternating in green and blue (GBGBGBGBG), and color setting B will be an assortment alternating in yellow and red (YRYRYRYRY). This means that I will get green, blue, and the product of their mix in setting A, and yellow, red and orange in setting B. When in setting C, the yellow and the green will mix, and the blue and the red will mix.

This is about to get really interesting!

I'm buying my LEDs from a member on Xbox-Scene, and am waiting for a reply for a shipped price. As soon as I get them I can go to work and document everything.


EDIT: It has recently come to my attention that Ideazon has been aquired by Steelseries. I'll edit my first post to reflect that soon, but if someone could add a Steelseries tag to this thread, it would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Indeed.


Steelseries apparently decided to keep all the product names the same, it's just wherever you'd typically see "Ideazon" would be replaced with "Steelseries". So yes, they still call the software for the boards the Z Engine.

So far the only change that has annoyed me was the removal of Ideazon's forums, as Steelseries hasn't currently bothered to replace it with one of their own. Perhaps they're working on this in the background though. I really don't know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Well, all I know so far is that the current latest is much better than it was the year the keyboard was released. I forget where exactly they changed their UI, but it was somewhere in the macro editing feature.

I strongly suggest that anyone who has owned a Merc or Merc Stealth for over a year or so should download the latest driver.

EDIT: Perhaps they've already improved the drivers! It's also possible this UI update I spoke of was by their hand. Last I downloaded the driver, they had just acquired Ideazon within the month.

Check this out (taken from their downloads page):

Quote:
SteelSeries Merc Sealth

Version: 2.5.0.29
Released: June 8, 2009
 

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Finally, somebody else with the guts to crack open his Merc Stealth!

My grand plan is to install a little onboard memory (maybe 128Mb EEPROM) so my Merc can "remember" default backlight settings and a few profiles. This would allow using programmed keys/profiles on different computers - even without running Z Engine (or Windows), even after being unpowered.

This involves reworking the main logic.
The downside is that I'll need to reprogram the keyboard MCU from scratch (I'm still considering ways to read the firmware burnt onto the original Holtek HT82K94 part, though it's probably codelocked).
The upside is that I'll be able to choose whatever specs I like. I plan to improve the anti-ghosting (which I've tested extensively; it does not live up to the SteelSeries advertised spec of "up to 7 simultaneous keystrokes"). I might even attempt something analogous to the "APM-Lighting System" that will be used on the Razer Marauder.

Before reading this thread I'd never thought about changing the (now suddenly unacceptable) plain red status LEDs. They could be replaced with 2-colour red/blues (you describe the process quite well), and with just a tiny bit of rewiring draw their power from the "RGB" lines on the rest of the backlighting. Final result: they would always match the colour (and even intensity) settings used on the main backlighting.
 
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