By: Preston Yuen
January 7, 2011
When it comes to gaming, most of the time, the first thing that comes to my mind are consoles like Nintendo 64, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360... and the list goes on and on. Back in the days, I did not have the opportunity to ever think about computer gaming, as I was always left in the dust with a piece o' crap Pentium II machine (Just for clarification, I currently own two Core i7 based desktops, and a handful of other high performance laptops). And when it does come down to computer gaming, while I own a vast collection of high performance peripherals from well known manufacturers such as Logitech, Razer, and Microsoft, I always thought it was purely my skills that counted -- everything else like computer hardware and peripherals were second in line. While the companies as aforementioned are probably the first and only ones to come to mind for many consumers and enthusiasts alike, our Editor-in-Chief Jonathan recently asked me if I would like to review the Gigabyte Aivia K8100 gaming keyboard. Yes, that's from the same company that makes motherboards and video cards. All of a sudden, my world of gaming peripherals just stood in awe. The first and only thing that came to mind when I looked at the photos on the product page was, "It looks like a Lamborghini!" Pulling it out of the box when it arrived a week later, I had to take a moment to admire such a keyboard, the likes of which I had never owned before. Has Gigabyte pulled a bunny out of the hat to surprise us all? Or is this keyboard like any other so-called 'gaming keyboard' on the market that the big boys in the market have nothing to worry about? Read on to find out!
The fairly large package to show up at our Calgary, Alberta, Canada office is a brown corrugated cardboard box. It arrived from Gigabyte's offices in California, USA using FedEx International Priority with next to no damage at all. Since Jonathan will be reviewing the Gigabyte Radeon 6850 1GB next week, this review sample as transferred to me internally. Packed inside a large quantity of peanuts to ensure that both products arrive safely in our hands for our review today.
Gigabyte's Aivia K8100 came in a subtle yet mysterious looking black retail package. The company name is printed in glossy silver on the top left hand corner of the box, while the product name is printed in the middle in shiny gold -- proudly stating that this keyboard is part of the elite group of gaming peripherals. Embedded in this retail package are various carefully selected artillery and military icons as its background, used to surround the dark bronze product name placed over a solid black background. It doesn't take very much to catch someone's eyes, and Gigabyte's retail package is a great example of such. Flipping the box over highlights the main innovative features Gigabyte implemented on this keyboard of which they believe are essential for hardcore computer gamers. These features include an enhanced ergonomic gaming keyboard design, twenty anti-ghosting keys, touch and slide volume control, as well as what the company calls the GHOST macro engine.
Gigabyte incorporates the usual contents-in-a-box retail package. There are flaps on both sides of the outer protective shell, while the inner box has an integrated flap tray in conjunction with with extra protective foam. Gigabyte also provides a plastic bag to cover up the keyboard itself during shipping. Out of the box, you will receive the following:
- Gigabyte Aivia K8100 Gaming Keyboard
- Driver/Software installation CD
- 4 additional rubber keys: W, A, S, D
- Keycap puller
- Silicone keyboard protector
"Rubber keys?!?! Since when do I ever need to interchange my keys?" -- That was my first and most surprising reaction when I opened up the box. Nevertheless, if you think about it, hardcore gamers like me would be able to make use of such features, and I will be touching upon this topic in a short moment.
Like all normal QWERTY keyboards, Gigabyte retains a standard layout with the Aivia K8100; added on are macro keys on the side, multi-mode change button, as well as its touch and slide volume control. These are the additional buttons that enhances the Aivia K8100, and defines Gigabyte's gaming keyboard on a physical level. I will be going into further detail on these features shortly.
The back of the keyboard doesn't feature anything special in particular. It does, however, have two keyboard risers that simply click outward in a convenient manner when you decide to reach back there for some extra height. Gigabyte also tacks on a silicon protective cover for your keyboard for prevention of dust accumulating between your keys, as well as being a good preventive measure against liquid spills -- assuming you remember to keep it on when you are not using your keyboard. The Aivia K8100 also incorporates a semi-permanent palm rest. If you haven't noticed by now, this palm rest could be easily detached if necessary via four Philiphead screws at the back holding it in place. The logo is also incorporated into the center of the palm rest. Taking a step back and looking at the overall design of this keyboard, I found many elements are reminiscent of a Lamborghini supercar, especially with the Aivia logo being the same shape as the Lamborghini logo too. Speaking of which, the Aivia K8100 measures to 49cm in length, 26.3cm wide, and 3.28cm in height, which is larger than the conventional keyboard due to additional macro keys, volume control, multi-mode button, and USB ports on both sides.
Gigabyte designed the Aivia with a solid black matte color scheme throughout the whole keyboard, with a hint of gun metal on its logo, and some titanium silver on the top right corner of the volume control indicator. Gigabyte also utilizes semi-transparent key labels, so that they are able to implement a backlight. The backlight can be turned on by a button on the back side of the top right corner. The color of the backlight is not changeable. This technique is also implemented in the volume control indicator on the top right side. To match the backlit keys, Gigabyte decided to use a very subtle gray to label the lock indicators and the macro keys, as well as to print their company name on top of them.
The Gigabyte Aivia K8100 has an array of macro keys placed just above the ESC and F1 through F4 keys. There are only five of these keys, which, I believe, is more than enough for most gamers, since this works along with the Mode button located at the top left corner. These macro keys and Mode button is programmable via its included software/driver package. Having said that, placing the macro keys placed above the ESC and F1 through F4 buttons makes it somewhat inconvenient, because you may accidentally hit one of those keys instead of your macro keys. This is one key flaw (No pun intended), especially when you are playing games like Starcraft or Warcraft where rapid key presses are necessary.
I have mentioned the overall design being Lamborghini inspired. If you still do not see it, we actually have some solid evidence -- the volume control LEDs. They are actually identical to the Lamborghini Reventon's LED tail lights. The top middle section is a touch pad that you can slide your finger right or left to increase or decrease the volume, respectively. Also provided is the mute touch button; obviously to mute the sound output on your computer. On the right side is a backlit volume indicator matching the Reventon's red/orange tail lights, as aforementioned. These lights are used to indicate changes in volume adjustments. One thing that I did not like about the volume control, however, is when you are changing your system's master volume, it does not stay on to specifically tell you what your volume level is; it simply flashes in the direction of volume adjustment. If Gigabyte were to implement software drivers so it stays lit to sync with the system volume, it would be much more convenient to figure out what the volume is, so you would not have to go deaf.
There is not much to say about the rest of the keyboard itself, so I'll touch on this topic briefly. Besides implementing extra features as already discussed, the Gigabyte Aivia K8100 incorporates standard layout of the same keyboard design used worldwide. Oh yeah, one more thing to add -- there is the addition of the 'Win Lock' key. This key can be enabled while in game, so in any case that you were to press the Windows key by accident, it would not minimize your game to activate the start menu, and thus, you can continue enjoying your game without getting owned right at that crucial moment.
In comparison with most keyboards I have owned in the past, I must say each keystroke has a surprisingly crisp feel to it. Unlike the Arctic Cooling Arctic K381 keyboard I have reviewed a short while back, the crisp feeling in the keys do not come with the stiffness, which I greatly appreciate, especially from Gigabyte's first gaming keyboard. This makes typing an absolute pleasure, as the response is just right. I invited a few others to have a try at the Aivia K8100, and they were quite impressed -- despite some of them being firm believers in Logitech products.
Gigabyte places one extra USB 2.0 ports on both corners of the Aivia K8100. This allows you to attach other USB peripherals to your computer without having to reach behind your computer. This may come in handy if you do not have any free front panel USB ports on your computer. I do not see this as a necessity since most gamers should have enough USB ports on their gaming rig anyways. Additionally, its usefulness is limited because the K8100 does not have its own power supply -- so equipment that requires juice solely from the USB port may not work correctly.
What I did find interesting is the Aivia K8100 has an added touch of a durable braided cotton cord along with a gold plated USB connector. Having a braided cord gives it some extra protection, reduces resistance on your desk, as well as giving a good feel rather than tacky plastic cables found on lower end peripherals. However, is the gold plated USB connector really necessary? If we are talking about the actual pins, then possibly -- since gold offers better conductivity than other metals. This theoretically establishes a better connection with your computer -- but on a digital signal level, we must understand it is a discrete one or zero; so if anyone tells you they can tell the difference, you can definitely defeat their theory with a double blinded test. Additionally, if you are referring to the gold part of the connector you see in photos, I would like to point out it actually does not make any physical contact electrically with your computer. In other words, it is nice to have, and it is pretty to look at, but it is not anything significant on a practical level.
Gigabyte also provides four additional WASD keys, and these keys are tacked with an extra rubber feel to it, making it easier for gamers to differentiate from the regular keys as well as establishing better grip during intense gaming sessions. This is especially true for gamers who like first person shooter games. Gigabyte includes a key remover out of the box, so that you can safely remove the regular key caps without damaging your keyboard.
As mentioned before, the Gigabyte Aivia K8100 has backlit keys for those who like to play games in the basement drinking Mountain Dew while their parents are sleeping, or simply want just to show off to their friends. Again, as aforementioned, this can be turned on and off by a button on the back top right side of the keyboard. However, some keys are somewhat unevenly lit when looking down at the keyboard at an angle. This is a very minor issue, but we are not going to pretend this problem does not exist. The Mode button is also lit up for convenience of in-the-dark typing. If you do decide to turn off the lights in your room, I suggest not using the macro keys, since those are the only keys that are not backlit -- this does not make much sense in my opinion. Having said that, as with the 'F' and 'J' keys on the home row, Gigabyte does implement an extra bump on the G3 key for typists to differentiate between keys in the dark with an appropriate reference.
The Gigabyte GHOST macro engine driver/software suite is in our screenshot above. It is quite simple and relatively straightforward, so I won't go into much detail. The left side provides you with a click-and-drag menu of icons for the different functions you want your macro keys to do, as along with the multiple 'M' modes on its right side. The top left corner tells you which mode you are on, drawn out like a tachometer. Once you start dragging the function icons over each slot, the little fuel-like gauge starts to increase, and if you ever decide to change your mind, there are clear buttons on the bottom right hand side, which in turn, will decrease the 'fuel gauge'. The right side is where the macro script editor resides, for you to record input from your keyboard and mouse, right down to the delay times of certain keys and the like.
I understand many gamers are very picky when it comes down to gaming peripherals, especially in the world of computer gaming. In many cases, generally speaking, more expensive means loaded with more features and functions to use. But before you take out your wallet and give your money to companies like Logitech, Microsoft, or Razer, the Gigabyte Aivia K8100 is definitely worth a look for $80 MSRP at press time. First of all, before we get distracted by all the features, let's focus on what the Gigabyte Aivia K8100 is made for: Its typing quality is top notch. Stuff like good looks, cool Lamborghini inspired volume control LEDs, five programmable macro keys, and backlit keys are also a part of the package. However, as always, there comes a few minor but worth mentioning flaws on the Aivia K8100. First of all, the backlight is a bit uneven, and the color is not customizable. Secondly, the macro keys should not be placed above the ESC and F1 through F4 keys because they are not convenient to press. However, with these relatively minor problems, I have no other reasons to complain over such a great quality keyboard for such a great price. Like what Jonathan has done in his Logitech G19 review, I have also typed up this review on the Gigabyte Aivia K8100. It is absolutely a pleasure to use. It is no doubt much better than a lot of Logitech, Razer, and Microsoft keyboards I own!
Gigabyte provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that aren't likely going to matter to the end user.
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.9/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
The Gigabyte Aivia K8100 is a great intermediate to advanced gaming keyboard for only $80 MSRP at press time.
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