HyperX has recently launched the RGB version of its Alloy Elite keyboard. Read on to find out why this is one of best mechanical keyboards on the market today.
It’s been a few years since the HyperX name was exclusively associated with world class memory modules geared primarily towards gamers. After parent company Kingston expanded the range to also include SSD hard drives (enhancing not just in-game performance but also load times) it’s now been about four years since the HyperX brand really became a standalone name in the gaming hardware industry and now they have a range that includes headsets, gaming mice and keyboards.
Surprisingly, this new focus on peripherals for HyperX started with a selection of headsets that were aimed at the mid-range to budget market – a bit of a break from the ‘top of the line’ strategy they’ve always had with their memory modules. Although perhaps odd for long time HyperX fans, it was a smart enough marketing move to make sure they were able to gain a foothold in the densely populated headset market. They’ve gradually broadened their portfolio since then and now, with the release of the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB keyboard, they’re firmly back in the high performance market – fans should be pleased.
The HyperX Alloy Elite RGB isn’t a completely new product, but rather an enhanced version of last summer’s Alloy Elite. It comes – as the name obviously suggests – with RGB lighting and an substantially increased price tag, but it does allow for a better comparison to similar high end mechanical keyboards from Razer, Corsair and Steelseries.
Build, design and features
The Alloy Elite RGB makes a great first impression when it comes to build quality and design. The metal frame gives the keyboard a nice feel in terms of weight and sturdiness, and there’s a pleasant absence of features that take up tons of space but no one really uses. When RGB lighting first entered the keyboard market, I saw plenty of keyboards that looked like something out of a 1980s sci-fi TV show with an absolute overkill in terms of buttons and lights, but the approach to the Alloy Elite RGB seems to have been to get the basics absolutely right and focus on that.
This approach means that the keyboard also looks relatively small, which I found to be perfect in terms of fitting comfortably on my desk where real estate isn’t exactly abundant. There are still a few extra features/buttons available, but they’re limited to basic media controls and a handy volume dial in the top right corner and a few keyboard-specific features in the top left corner. These include a gaming mode that disables the windows button (so you don’t accidentally switch out of a game), and can also be configured to do other things using the bundled software. The other button toggles the intensity of the RGB lighting and allows you to switch between three pre-defined lighting profiles for the keyboard with the press of a button. The keyboard doesn’t have any programmable macro buttons, so if those are a must for you then you’ll want to look elsewhere. If you’re more casual about programming macros then they can be bound to any of the regular buttons though.
The Alloy Elite RGB needs two USB slots to power itself, which makes the (braided) cable a bit thicker that you might expect. This does enable USB loop-through functionality for the keyboard though, and there’s a spare USB slot on the back of the keyboard that allows you to plug in your mouse or peripheral of choice. With my keyboard relatively close to my monitor stand I would have enjoyed a USB port on the side of the keyboard, but I guess that would have created potential problems for left/right handers. Whatever the position of the USB ports, there’s only one, and it would have helped if there had been at least two. Judging from the available space on the back of the keyboard this would have been possible, and it would have definitely helped those who have a mouse permanently connected to the keyboard by having a spare slot.
The keyboard’s size can be expanded using an included wrist support/rest, which is a sturdy/hard support surface with a soft finish. Obviously a case of personal preference and one’s desired ergonomics, this worked very well for me personally although others might prefer a more “cushioned” wrist rest.
HyperX has equipped their keyboard with Cherry MX switches, and it’s available in red, brown and blue switches. We tested with the most neutral (brown) profile, but if you prefer more or less tactile feedback or have an opinion on how much “clicking” you hear while typing then at least you have options. If you have no preference or no experience with the different configurations, then you’ll either want to test them out somewhere or go for the safe brown option. Whatever option you go with, I’ve always been very happy with the Cherry MX switches and I’m glad HyperX went with them. In addition to the standard key(cap)s you’re also getting replacement ones with the WASD keys and first four numbers that have a silver finish rather than the default black – making them stand out more for those who enjoy FPS controls. To further help, these keys also have a textured feel to them, making it easier to keep in touch with them even when you can’t look down in the heat of battle.
It was no surprise that the Cherry MX-powered keys were great during in-game testing. HyperX has combined the switches with keycaps that are slightly smaller at the top and a tiny bit curved inward, which can take some getting used to when “gliding” across the keyboard while typing, but makes it easy to distinguish between keys while gaming. The learning curve when typing can be very small as well though – for me it was almost non-existent since my office keyboard has a very similar feel.
The RGB lighting is extremely impressive as well, and can be shown off using some of the included presets for lighting effects. Not very practical, seeing splashes of color travel across your keyboard certainly looks the part and gives a taste of what the keyboard is capable of. It’s not always easy to unlock that potential though….
While the Alloy Elite RGB is an extremely impressive piece of hardware that’s hard to fault unless you look at personal preferences (like the wrist rest), it does lose a bit of its shine when you look at the included software suite called NGenuity. I’m glad they didn’t go with Ntuitive as a name, because the suite’s feature set can be difficult to navigate and handle. A lot is eventually possible, right down to setting up a lighting scheme for individual keys, but it definitely takes some experimenting to get everything working smoothly.
Surely this will get better in subsequent software revisions on NGenuity, and hopefully we’ll see some additional features as well. For now, two things make life easier and that’s the inclusion of zoned lighting (setting up a color for the WASD zone, for instance) and the ability to load pre-defined lighting schemes for individual games. There are only a handful of these available right now, but they look good and they’re practical as well – highlighting frequently used keys visually by making them stand out from the surrounding area. Programming your own macro combinations is also relatively easy to do, although (as mentioned) you’ll have to map them to a regular key instead of a dedicated macro key.
The HyperX Alloy Elite RGB is an excellent piece of hardware that can comfortably compete with the best mechanical keyboards out there. The RGB lighting looks wonderful, but a downside is that the software suite that powers it feels like a work in progress. If you don’t care for the RGB lighting then a cheaper non-RGB version is available as well, which helps with the otherwise hefty price tag that the Elite RGB has. Still, it’s priced at a level that’s comparable to other high end mechanical keyboards in the market today, and shows that HyperX is still comfortable producing excellent hardware for the high end segment. Highly recommended – this will be my keyboard of choice for the next few months as I await new features and software revisions.