By: Jonathan Kwan
June 16, 2017
Although I have been driving for approximately ten years, it was not until last month that I finally decided to take my graduated driver's license exit test. Here in Alberta, the "Probationary" license -- the license prior to the full license -- can be held indefinitely with few restrictions; the big ones are it can have only up to 8 demerits rather than 15 (I have a totally clean driving record), zero alcohol tolerance (I do not drink), and you cannot accompany a learner driver (I would rather not anyway). As such, I was a bit hard pressed to cough up $160 or so to take the exit test for my full license. However, with my license up for renewal soon, I decided I might as well scrap the "GDL Driver" inscription off the top right corner of my card. On one fateful Monday morning, I was once again in the driver's seat with the examiner next to me like I was in high school. Half way through the test, the examiner decided I failed the test. To make a long story short, I decided to slow down a bit when passing a gardening truck, lights flashing, parked on the shoulder partially extending into my lane of a single lane road. This incident led the examiner to believe I committed a major error that caused an instant failure. (Apparently, she wanted me to pass the truck at full speed.) As pointless as the test was, I drove home by myself, driving privileges unaffected, which I came back a few days later with another $160 and passed the test with some minor infractions. In driving tests, you can commit a bunch of minor errors and you can still pass the test, but one major error will throw everything out the window. When products get evaluated here at APH Networks, there are minor things that will ding a product's refinement score, while major issues will render a product not recommended. With major determining principles like price, features, and performance on the line, will the Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent featuring Cherry's latest MX Red Silent switches pass the test? For about $80 at press time, I think the prospects are great.
Our review unit of the Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent came in a large silver-grey bag from the company's offices in Letchworth, United Kingdom. According to Wikipedia, Letchworth's full name is Letchworth Garden City, a town in Hertfordshire, England with a population of 33,600. It is a bit beyond me why a town would be called a city in its name; it is like naming a car that is actually a two door roadster "Truck". That aside, it transferred to Canada Post when it crossed the Atlantic to us here in Canada, where everything arrived to us safely and in great condition here in Calgary, Alberta.
Our Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent came in retail packaging. It is physically the same box as the Fnatic Gear Rush G1 (Now rebranded as the RUSH Pro) I reviewed last year, except the photo of the keyboard has been enlarged by omitting the wrist rest. The font size is also a bit bigger on the latest design. I find Fnatic Gear's layout to be unusually clean for a gaming company, and I like it. As you can see in our photo above, the predominantly white box comes with a profile shot of the RUSH Pro Silent keyboard occupying 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 Silent Backlit Mechanical Keyboard", is found. It looks like the "Pro" rebranding has not replaced "G1" on the packaging yet. Lastly, Cherry MX Red Silent and US keyboard layout stickers are placed at the bottom right corner to indicate the switch and layout 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 Pro Silent, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
Net Weight: 1275g
Cable Length: 1.8m-2.0m
Switch Type: Cherry MX Red Silent
As with other keyboards in the RUSH gaming keyboard lineup, 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 Pro Silent 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 quick start guide 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 original Func KB-460 and every variant that came after it, the Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent 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 Pro 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 regardless of it being MX Red or not, 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 Pro Silent'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 Pro, this will have to be it.
The Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent measures in at 448mm width, 198mm depth (148mm without the wrist rest), 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.
Once you turn off the lights and activate the Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent'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 Pro 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 Pro Silent 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 Pro Silent 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 Pro Silent particularly distracting at night. Obviously, you can turn off the backlight at night, but what is the point?
The Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent'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 Pro Silent 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 Pro Silent. 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 Pro Silent. 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 $80 on Fnatic Gear's website at press time, making it a quite competitively priced for the amount of features you get.
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 Pro Silent costs the most, because each keyswitch is an independent part. Unlike every mechanical keyboard I have used in the past, the RUSH Pro Silent with Cherry MX Red Silent mechanical switches is actually very quiet to type on. It definitely lives up to its name, as the noise reduction is phenomenal. This means even quieter implementations of regular MX Red switches in the SteelSeries Apex M500 are no match for the RUSH Pro SIlent. It may not be as silent as a membrane keyboard, but it is a very fair trade off most people are willing to make.
On Cherry MX Red switches, they are relatively new -- introduced in 2008 -- and are basically lighter versions of the Cherry MX Black. The Silent version was developed with Corsair in 2015, and since their exclusive licensing deal expired, other manufacturers can now buy the OEM part from Cherry. Noise reduction is achieved by using rubber dampening inside the switches. Cherry MX Red Silent, like the MX Red and MX Black, is marketed as a gaming type switch. The maximum key travel distance is 4mm, with actuation at 2mm. With an actuation force of 45g in a completely linear fashion, it is about 15g lighter than the MX Black; generally speaking, the Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent will feel very different than other non-mechanical keyboards. These specifications are identical to the classic MX Red variant, except you can feel a slight difference between them in use. This keyswitch is desirable for gaming, because you will be bottoming out all the keys anyway, but the lack of the "bump" of the Cherry MX Red Silent may not appeal to everyone. 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 Pro Silent 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 Pro Silent 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, this is as good as it will get.
At the back of the Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent 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 Pro Silent 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 1.5.1, and it is a rather small download at 3.32MB. As I have mentioned earlier on in this review, the program is required only to customize functions. Otherwise, the RUSH Pro Silent 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 with some bug fixes.
While the Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent 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.
With major determining principles like price, performance, and features, did the Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent pass the test the fourth time around? Equipped with the excellent Cherry MX Red Silent switches and commanding a price of about $80 at press time, I think so. As I have said in my Fnatic Gear Rush G1 (Cherry MX Brown) review last year, the company's keyboard lineup is "intrinsically good" -- these are down to earth, no-nonsense backlit mechanical keyboard with full NKRO capabilities and genuine Cherry MX switches. The smooth rubber coating is the icing on the cake. A combination like this with a $20 price drop since the last model we reviewed from Fnatic Gear is hard to come by nowadays, and especially with the excellent new Cherry MX Red Silent switches, the RUSH Pro Silent deserves extra points. Of course, while its price and performance is excellent, we can see some sacrifices in the features department. As it was in the past, the flimsy wrist rest plastic clip, lack of active macro layer indicator, and somewhat unrefined software -- although the latter is better than before with some bug fixes -- drops the final score slightly. That said, these are, in driving test terms, minor infractions. I have always been a big fan of this keyboard (The original Func KB-460 still sits on my desk at home after nearly four years, and I purchased a second one in my office), but today, I have finally found its replacement. The RUSH Pro Silent is still the good old Func KB-460 I have come to love; now with a new name and loaded with a silencer. I still wished they fixed those refinement issues after all these years. Either way, with its competitive price, this is still a winner if you ask me.
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.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.0/10
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 Pro Silent is an intrinsically good keyboard equipped with awesome genuine Cherry MX Red Silent switches for $80.
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