By: Jonathan Kwan
May 6, 2016
Are scores always perfect indicators of competence? A few years ago, I met a guy whose academics were just phenomenal. His grade point average was high, and if you ask him a textbook question, he can give you a textbook answer in no time. However, beyond what is written in a textbook, he really has no idea. How can it be? Personally, I would say someone who is book smart does not necessarily always mean they are also smart in the real world. Being a reviewer here at APH Networks for the last decade and a bit, I would say our scoring system has similar limitations to some extent. Although the number at the end of each review is usually a pretty good indicator of how good a product is, there are rare times where hitting all the right notes does not mean I actually want the product, and on the contrary, there are times where products that do not score very high somehow makes out to be a great daily driver in the real world. In December 2013, I reviewed the Func KB-460 (Cherry MX Red) keyboard, which scored a rather average 6.4/10. For $130 at the time it was released, the Func KB-460 did not have RGB lighting, had primitive macro key implementations, and the way the wrist rest was attached was flimsy at best. However, in the real world, I loved the keyboard. In fact, I liked it so much, I have three of them. The only problem is it was a bit expensive for what you get, but for a no-nonsense mechanical keyboard with a smooth rubber coating, it is a real joy to use every day. Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks that. After Fnatic Gear bought out Func, they simply incorporated the KB-460 into their lineup by changing almost nothing, and called it the Fnatic Gear Rush G1. Call it my fourth KB-460 with a different name, will the Rush G1 rekindle my love for a good old mechanical keyboard? Since I already reviewed the MX Red and MX Blue version of this product in the past, I took in a MX Brown variant to complete my collection.
Our review unit of the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 with Cherry MX Brown switches came in a relatively large, brown corrugated cardboard box from the company's offices in the United Kingdom. If I recall correctly, this is the first time anything came from the UK for review. If not, then it sure is a rare occurrence that I have trouble remembering, haha. Using FedEx International Economy, there were a few bumps and bruises that hit the box as it landed on our doorstep here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Thankfully, nothing was damaged, so there is no need to be concerned about. It also came with the Flick G1 optical mouse my colleague Aaron Lai reviewed last week, along with the Focus G1 XL mousepad to be covered on this website in the coming weeks.
Our Fnatic Gear Rush G1 came in retail packaging. It is physically the same box as the Func KB-460, except the retail packaging art has been redesigned to fit in thematically with Fnatic Gear's lineup, such as the Flick G1 as aforementioned. I find Fnatic Gear's design to be unusually clean for a gaming company, and I like that. As you can see in our photo above, the predominantly white box is filled with a light grey fade of the company's logo in the background. In the foreground, a profile shot of the Rush G1 keyboard occupies majority of the space, while Fnatic Gear's logo is printed at the top left corner. At the bottom left corner, the product name and description, "Rush G1 Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard", is found. Lastly, a Cherry MX Brown sticker is placed at the bottom right corner to indicate the switch variant inside the box. A description paragraph and feature highlights is at the back of the box. Overall, I like Fnatic Gear's retail packaging design.
Before we move on, let us take a look at the specifications of the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 with Cherry MX Brown switches, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
Product Dimensions: 448x198x33 mm
Net Weight: 1275g / 2.81 LBS
Switch Type: Cherry MX
Anti-ghost: Full N-Key roll over
Backlit: individual LED's on each key
Memory: Onboard 128Kb
Connect-Through Ports: 2 x USB 2.0
Cord Length: 1.8m (Braided)
Connector: USB 2.0 (Gold Plated)
The first sentence you will see on Fnatic Gear's website is "No BS eSports equipment by Fnatic", and I would say their product packaging is no BS either. Out of the box, you will receive everything you will need, and nothing more. Securely clipped between two Styrofoam brackets is the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 keyboard itself contained in a clear plastic bag, while its detachable wrist rest is wrapped inside a separate piece of white foam. Two plastic clips used to attach the wrist rest to the keyboard are located inside a resealable plastic bag; more on this later. On the product literature side, a color manual is included. A driver CD is nowhere to be found, but this is okay. If you do not have internet, as always, please send me an email, and let me know how you came across this review, haha.
At first glance, like the Func KB-460, the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 is as down to earth as it gets. If you are looking for what the definition of a traditional keyboard is, look no further than this. With straight edges, no dedicated macro keys, and a practically reference layout, you will have to look pretty closely to see what sets the Rush G1 apart. Indeed, the devil is in the details. Its platform beneath the keys is colored red to give it a little more style, while the entire surface of the keyboard -- sans the keys, of course -- is finished with a smooth rubber coating. Just to note, all switch colors, even our Cherry MX Brown version of the Rush G1, has red accents. The rubber coating is soft to touch, fingerprint and mark resistant (Unless you have super sweaty hands), and provides a good sense of grip. The detachable wrist rest is covered with the same rubber coating as well. The best part about this is it is very comfortable in every day usage.
Speaking of the Fnatic Gear Rush G1's wrist rest, it is fully detachable from the main unit. As I have mentioned earlier on in this review, it is designed to be connected to the keyboard via two plastic clips. While it is reasonably intuitive to use, I am not a big fan of this design. I was rather disappointed Fnatic did nothing to change this. For one thing, the friction grip on the wrist rest from the plastic clips is not secure at all. This means the wrist rest will fall off easily if you were to move the keyboard around. Secondly, due to the way the plastic clips are designed, there is a lot of off-axis play. Thirdly, when the keyboard is flat, there is a sizable gap between the wrist rest and the keyboard itself. If there is one thing that Fnatic Gear has not done right with the Rush G1, this will have to be it.
The Fnatic Gear Rush G1 measures in at 448mm width, 198mm depth, and 33mm height. This is as compact as a standard QWERTY keyboard will go. To go along with its medium footprint and medium profile, the keyboard weighs about 1275g according to the manufacturer. This is pretty heavy, but this is expected from a mechanical keyboard. If you do not know what a mechanical keyboard is, there are three main types of keyboards in the market today. The cheapest is the membrane keyboard, which is the easiest to make, but also has poor typing feel and response due to squishy keys. A scissor switch keyboard has its own independent keyswitch mechanism for each key, which delivers improved tactile response and typing experience. Modern scissor switch keyboards can be very good for everyday office use. Mechanical keyboards such as the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 costs the most, because each keyswitch is an independent part. Like all mechanical keyboards, the Rush G1 with Cherry MX Brown mechanical switches is quite audible to type on, but certainly not the loudest. The Rush G1 is also available with Blue or Red switches. Cherry MX Brown is like a silent MX Blue. It still has a small tactile bump, but it is much lighter than the Blue for extended periods of typing. In gaming, you can hold the switch above the actuation point, which can be beneficial. The maximum key travel distance is 4mm, with actuation at 2mm. With an actuation force of 45cN with a light tactile bump, our Fnatic Gear Rush G1 variant will feel different than non-mechanical keyboards, but not as drastic as going to linear switches. Personally, I think this keyboard is an absolute pleasure to type on. If you are looking for a mechanical keyboard that will not completely change the way you type, Cherry MX Brown is a great choice. It is rated for fifty million operations like other Cherry MX switches. As expected, the base is rock solid, so you will not get any keyboard flex, which is excellent.
The Fnatic Gear Rush G1 is a full NKRO keyboard. NKRO stands for N-key rollover. If you have used keyboards with limited NKRO capabilities, you may have experienced ghosting issues in the past -- where when too many keys are pressed at the same time, your system unable to register any more strokes. A full NKRO keyboard like the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 overcomes this by independently polling each key, making all inputs detectable by the hardware, regardless of how many other keys are activated at the same time. This mean in the event you have every other key on your keyboard depressed, it will still register the last stroke. While this is a highly unlikely scenario, since you have only ten fingers, but this is as good as it will get.
Once you turn off the lights and activate the Fnatic Gear Rush G1's backlit keys, the keyboard really shines -- no pun intended. If you look closely, the font of the key labels has been changed from the Func KB-460; the Fnatic version is a little bit bolder. The Rush G1 features full key backlighting, but in only one color, and that is red. Backlight intensity can be adjusted on the fly by hitting the Function key along with the labeled '8' and '2' buttons on the number pad to increase or decrease the level, respectively. The backlight can be turned off completely, or activated in three different brightness levels. If you increase the brightness to maximum, and increment it up once more, the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 will enter into a special backlight mode, where the backlight will fade in and fade out continuously. I am a big fan of fully backlit keyboards, and I am happy Fnatic Gear designed the Rush G1 with this feature. On the other hand, while I do not expect SteelSeries Apex M800 kind of light show, a few more user configurable color options would be nice. My primary concern is red light is the most attention grabbing color, so some users may find the Rush G1 particularly distracting at night. Obviously, you can turn off the backlight at night, but what is the point?
The Fnatic Gear Rush G1's key illumination distribution is reasonably even for the most part. The area between the keys are also backlit, which is pretty rare, and I like it. One thing to point out, for keys with more than one line of text label, you will notice the top half is significantly brighter than the bottom half. This is probably due to physical design limitations, as you can see in our photo above.
The F keys at the top converts into specialized feature keys when the Function key is depressed at the same time. Starting from F1 and ending in F12, in that order, we have Mute, Volume Up, Volume Down, Play/Pause, Skip Back, Skip Forward, Profile 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and Fnatic Mode. All keys are designed to work out of the box, and do not require any software -- software is required only to modify settings. All settings are stored on the keyboard's onboard 128KB memory. The profile selection keys allow you to switch between macro layers, while hitting the Fnatic Mode key when a profile is active will take you out of it, and return the keyboard back to normal. Hitting the Fnatic Mode key with no profile active will return the keyboard to the last active layer. We will talk about this more in detail later. Basically, the gist of it is the Rush G1 has no dedicated macro keys, but any key other than Windows, Fn, and F7 through F12 can be customized to function as the user wishes. For example, if my "W" key is set to do something in Profile 1, deactivating Fnatic mode will return my "W" key to its default function.
Almost everything here is pretty standard in terms of layout, with a few additions. I am a big fan of the single row Enter key layout, as present on our US QWERTY Fnatic Gear Rush G1. Keyboards with a double row Enter key usually means the "\" button is moved to the left side of the right "Shift" key; reducing the size of the latter. I am more used to having a full width Shift on the right, and a half height Enter. Obviously, this is more or less personal preference, but having a half height Enter key makes a lot more sense to me.
Two standard plus one custom indicator LED corresponding to Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Fnatic Mode, respectively, can be found at the upper right hand corner. They glow red when activated, just like its backlight color. When Fnatic Mode is on, the Windows key is disabled. This is an important feature in any gaming keyboard, because let us face it: How many times have you tried to duck in your favorite FPS while engaging an enemy, only to be killed instantly, because you missed the "Ctrl" key and your game was minimized? My only complaint is there is no way to tell which macro layer is active just by looking at your Rush G1. All it tells you is Fnatic Mode is engaged or not. Some keyboards show the current active profile by having customizable backlight colors, while others use dedicated LEDs. That said, the keyboard retails for $100 on Fnatic Gear's website at press time, making it a moderately priced for the amount of features you get.
At the back of the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 is the USB cable lead out. It comes out biased to the right, and is not detachable. This nicely braided cable extends 1.8m in length to connect to your computer via a gold plated USB connector. Two USB 2.0 ports are present at the back. When we bring about the question of whether gold plated connectors are actually useful or not, let us just say if it was 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 on the plug, 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.
At the bottom are two rubber strips at the back and two hard plastic strips in front to help the Rush G1 stay in place during intense gaming sessions. The front hard rubber strips on the riser edges provide very little traction, but it is not a deal breaker, since you will be concentrating most of your forces at the back anyway. This is not to mention this Fnatic Gear keyboard is pretty darn heavy by itself. Two flip-out risers at the back tilts the keyboard up for those who prefer it. Once flipped out, the same hard rubber is still making contact with your desk. No keyboard drain holes are available, so be sure to keep your Mountain Dew far away.
Fnatic Gear's software can be downloaded from their website directly. The latest version is 1.5e, and it is a rather small download at 3.6MB. As I have mentioned earlier on in this review, the program is required only to customize functions. Otherwise, the Rush G1 can function independent of any software, as any user programmed functions is saved on the keyboard's onboard 128KB memory. Functionally, it is the same as Func's software designed for the KB-460.
While the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 has no dedicated macro keys, up to any ten keys across five layers -- with the exception of Windows, Fn, and F7 through F12 -- can be customized to function to do almost anything you want. To start, select a profile at the top, then hit one of the M keys on the left side of the screen. Next, select one of the non-grayed out keys on the keyboard layout you wish to change, and select a function from the drop down menu. You can either select a preset function (Such as copy, paste, or save), launch a program, or record a macro. Personally, I found the macro recording function to be quite primitive, as it cannot record delays. Furthermore, if you select "Launch", you cannot run a command line function like you can on other keyboards I have used in the past. For example, I can make it run shutdown.exe, but I cannot do it with arguments like "shutdown.exe -s -t 00". In the future, it will be great if Fnatic can make some improvements in this regard. Also, I am having some issues with the program crashing every time I try to adjust some macro settings.
Although the numerical rating at the end of each review here at APH Networks is usually a pretty good indicator of how good a product is, there are rare times where hitting all the right notes does not mean I actually want the product, and on the contrary, there are times where products that do not score very high somehow makes out to be a great daily driver in the real world. The Fnatic Gear Rush G1 is an example of the latter. Like the Func KB-460 -- which was really the same keyboard since Fnatic Gear acquired the company -- the Rush G1 is the kind of product that does not have the properties to score very high (and rightly so), but it somehow makes out to be an excellent daily driver in the real world. Ask the guys in my office at the university. I even purchased one on my own accord, even though a hundred bucks directly from the company's website is a bit hefty. I got one because, despite its poorly designed wrist rest plastic clip, no active macro layer indicator, no backlight customization, and somewhat unrefined software, this keyboard is still my favorite since I got my first KB-460 in December 2013. Simply put, the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 is a down to earth, no-nonsense backlit mechanical keyboard with full NKRO capabilities, and, get this -- a smooth, comfortable rubber coating -- I love it. I can overlook all its glaring flaws all day long, because despite its lack of auxiliary features, it is intrinsically an excellent keyboard with genuine Cherry MX mechanical switches. I not only have one in my office. I have one connected to my main computer at home. Heck, I even got one connected to my spare PC in the basement. And today, with the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 with Cherry MX Brown switches, I am finally able to complete my collection of all three switch variants. Call it a Func KB-460 or Fnatic Gear Rush G1, whatever its name may be, whatever the numerical score I may give, this keyboard will always have a place on my desk, wherever I may be. I just wish they would fix up those issues listed, because in my opinion, these are sacrifices that do not need to be made, and I do not believe they are that hard to fix.
Fnatic Gear provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
6/10 means A product with its advantages, but drawbacks should not be ignored before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 6.8/10
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 Fnatic Gear Rush G1 is a no-nonsense backlit mechanical keyboard with genuine Cherry MX switches, and it is a real joy to type on.
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