By: Aaron Lai
September 8, 2017
Last Friday, after harmlessly using my phone placing it down on my desk to continue working, I noticed the phone was rebooting. Thinking something was strange, I picked it up and the phone showed a pure blue screen. Unfortunately, this was the death of my G3. After some research online, I found multiple people with the same issue with the hardware failing either due to a short or something else. No matter what, I was back on the market for a new phone. It has been two years since I purchased the G3, so it felt a bit too soon to be looking for another one. When you look for phones, you may be looking for new features, a fancy design, unique differences, or a better software experience. I personally just look for a solid device, usable specifications, and a decent track record for clean software. I know this sounds like common sense, but I also have friends who legitimately look for a new phone because they think new is always better or just because they are bored of their current one. Thankfully, my search ended quickly and I will update you audience later on when I receive this device. In a similar sense, when I look for a mechanical keyboard, I look for a solid board with features I am used to and a proven switch underneath. Today, we have the Alloy Elite, the newest mechanical keyboard from HyperX. Building on their Alloy FPS, a straightforward keyboard with few bells and whistles, the Elite beefs up a few extra features. However, is this a compelling keyboard to be had, or will I be looking elsewhere? Read on to find out!
Today's review unit of the HyperX Alloy Elite arrived from Kingston Technology's offices in Fountain Valley, California. As you probably already know, HyperX is Kingston's gaming sub-brand, but all of their products recently have forgone the Kingston name. Traveling with the good people at FedEx over their International 2Day service, the HyperX Alloy Elite arrived in relatively good condition. The corrugated cardboard box has a slight dent in the corner, but it is not a big deal overall. Inside, the team at HyperX also packed the keyboard with some plastic bubble bags to prevent any damage to the product inside.
Removing the Alloy Elite from the shipping container, you can get a pretty clear shot of the retail box here. The mechanical keyboard is shown on the front, fully illuminated. The product name can be found on the top left corner, with a description of "Mechanical Gaming Keyboard" below. As you can see, they sent us the English (US) layout, with Cherry MX Red switches underneath. However, additional layouts and flavors of Cherry MX switches are available, including Cherry MX Blue and Brown. You will also notice a silver sticker on the top left corner with the words "Evaluation" on it. This is a review unit, but I can assure you the product inside is the exact same as their retail units. Some minor differences may include missing designs of boxes inside, but otherwise the product is the same. On the sides and the back of the box are some specifications of the keyboard.
If you are interested, we have grabbed the specifications from the manufacturer's website, for your perusal:
Switch: CHERRY MX
Backlight: Single color, Red
Light effects: 6 LED modes and 4 brightness levels
Connection type: USB 2.0 (2 USB connectors)
USB 2.0 Pass-through: Yes
Polling rate: 1000Hz
Anti-ghosting: 100% anti-ghosting
Key Rollover: N-key mode
Media control: Yes
Game Mode: Yes
OS compatibility: Windows® 10, 8.1, 8, 7
Type: Attached, braided
Weight (Keyboard and cable): 1467g
I quickly whipped off the outer shell and opened up the black cardboard box to get to the contents inside. Packaged in a clear plastic bag, the HyperX Alloy Elite and a wrist rest can be found inside. A small separately sealed bag holds eight extra keycaps to replace your WASD keys and the numbers 1 to 4 on the keyboard. They are textured differently to ensure users can find this area without looking at the keyboard. A plastic keycap is also provided. Otherwise, there is some quick documentation about using the keyboard and warranty information. Unfortunately, there is no carrying case with the Alloy Elite, but this is as expected as this keyboard is meant to be less mobile compared to the HyperX Alloy FPS. As per usual, HyperX is providing a two year warranty for the Alloy Elite, which is pretty standard for keyboards.
After seeing HyperX's first keyboard and their Alloy FPS, the Alloy Elite can be seen as an extension on the original keyboard. The Elite is definitely not meant to be the successor to the FPS in anyway, but there are a lot of similar design choices between the two. Both feature an exposed black steel backplate. The HyperX logo can be found again on the top corner. However, what they have added is a bit of extras with an extended bar at the top holding more keys. There is also a translucent bar existing between the top bar and the top of the keyboard. This is to allow light to pass through, as you will see soon enough. The aesthetics of the Alloy Elite are not necessarily a minimal look, but it is pretty sleek. There is a bit more thickness here in terms of the sides, making the whole keyboard seem more substantial. The whole surface is covered with a matte finish, which unfortunately does not do a lot in hiding the smudges and marks from your fingers. The keyboard is made with the exposed steel, but the sides, bottom, and top bar are all plastic. Overall, I think the design is nice, but I am rather neutral to the looks.
One feature I am quite glad we see with the HyperX Alloy Elite is the wrist rest. While it is such a basic thing, many manufacturers have neglected this helpful addition. As for the one included with the Alloy Elite, it is plastic but the design is different from the rest of the keyboard. With a rubbery matte finish, there is a bit more grip to the surface of the wrist rest. It protrudes out enough so you can actually rest your palms on it. There are two sections to the palm rest, with a grittier finish on the left side where the letters are located and a smoother right side. Otherwise, the wrist rest connects via plastic tabs to the keyboard and it stays connected quite well. Lifting up the keyboard will allow the palm area to swing about, but it does not fall off. On the table, the wrist rest integrates well with the keyboard and does not move side to side.
As for dimensions, the keyboard is 444mm in width, 36.3mm in height, and about 169mm in depth. The depth increases to 226.8mm when you connect the included wrist rest. Compared to the recently reviewed Creative Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08, these dimensions are quite similar, with the HyperX Alloy Elite being smaller in width and height, but deeper. This makes sense especially considering the additional top bar. In terms of mass, this one is pretty hefty at just under 1.5kg. From this weight and the previous paragraph, you can tell there is a steel plate to keep the keyboard sturdy. This translates to practically zero keyboard flex or torque, which is great to see. The wrist rest has a bit more give, but this is not surprising considering the plastic construction. Overall, the HyperX Alloy Elite feels solid in build quality.
As we read from the box, the HyperX Alloy Elite came to us in a standard 104-key QWERTY ANSI layout. As such, most of the keyboard is laid out in the same way as every other keyboard sent to APH Networks. Thankfully, all of the secondary functions have been removed as you will see soon enough, which means the Fn key on the right side has been replaced with a second Windows key and a menu key. The keycaps are average in quality, with the letters being translucent to allow the backlighting through. These are laser-etched ABS keycaps. ABS, which is short for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, is a commonly used plastic for keycaps. They offer decent quality, but are also seen as inferior compared to PBT, or polybutylene terephthalate, which are stiffer, harder, and keep their color better. Thus, fingerprint staining will be seen with these keycaps. These keycaps show off a bit of oily marks, but I have also seen worse. Font of the lettering on the keys is clean and legible. The surface of the keycaps is smooth and it feels nice on the fingers.
As you may have noticed, gone are the secondary functions. Instead, all of those are now placed on the top bar with their own dedicated keys. From the left side, we have a switch for brightness, backlight effects, and game mode. The brightness keys allow you to cycle the brightness of the HyperX Alloy Elite's backlight, while the effects switch cycles through multiple lighting modes. I will cover these in detail later on in our review. Finally, the game mode switch allows you to disable the Windows keys. An indicator on the right side will light up when this mode is active.
Moving to the right side of the top bar, we have the multimedia keys. This includes Previous, Play/Pause, Next, and Mute. Then we have a volume scroll wheel to quickly change volumes. While more and more keyboards are getting this scroll wheel, I find it really handy to quickly and easily change the volume without having to go through on screen menus or hitting multiple keys. The metal wheel feels solid and does not jiggle about. The rest of the keys on this top bar feel solid and offer nice feedback, even if they are not mechanical switches. Finally, to the far right, we have three white indicator LEDs, each with their own purpose. The top one is for Game Mode, which lights up when it is active, while we have Number Lock and Caps Lock underneath. One feature missing here is the implementation for macro keys, which is a bit of a shame for a gaming keyboard.
As for key rollover, the HyperX Alloy Elite offers NKRO, or more specifically twenty-six key rollover, over USB. NKRO is abbreviated for n-key rollover, which refers to the number of keys independently scanned by the hardware. In essence, this fixes ghosting issues found in cheaper and/or laptop keyboards. While ghosting is a marketing term, there are cases where keyboards will not be able to recognize more than one keystroke at a time, causing for missed keys. This can be frustrating when you are playing games, or even if you are just a very fast typist. On an aside, the original usage of ghosting in keyboards actually referred to a third key being registered when two other keys were pressed, which thankfully is not a problem with most modern keyboards.
Before continuing on, one of the main selling points of the HyperX Alloy Elite is the mechanical key switches. There are three main types of keyboards in the market today. The cheapest but most common is the membrane keyboard, which is the easiest to make, but also has poor typing feel and response due to squishy keys. Next is a scissor switch keyboard. This can be thought of as an enhanced rubber dome with two extra interlocking plastic pieces connected to the key and the keyboard. This creates a better tactile response and typing experience in comparison to the aforementioned membrane. Mechanical keyboards, such as the Alloy Elite, cost the most, because each key switch is an independent part. These switches are generally composed of a base, stem, and spring, with varying degrees of tactile and audible feedback.
Our unit of the HyperX Alloy Elite features Cherry MX Red mechanical switches. These keys are rated to last up to fifty million keystrokes. Red switches are what I would call a gamer switch, as they feature a quiet typing experience and a relatively low actuation force of 45g to trigger them. The Reds also feature a low resistance to typing with a linear travel. Fortunately, if Cherry MX Red is not your flavor, you can also grab this keyboard in Browns and Blues. It is nice to see the standard three covered, though I would also like to see some newer Cherry MX variants, such as the Silver switches.
Moving on to the back, we have two things to point out. First, we have the USB 2.0 output port. This port allows for both power and data transfer through your computer. While I would have liked to see something faster than USB 2.0, not many other keyboards have anything better here. The second part to point out is the braided cable protruding out the right side of the keyboard. This cable measures about 1.8 meters in length and it is quite thick. It would have been nice to see a thinner or removable cable, though this is not a huge deal considering the Alloy Elite's purpose is to be kept stationary. Otherwise, the cable splits off at the end into two USB plugs, with one plug to connect the keyboard and one for the extra USB port. Unfortunately, there is no visual indicator to tell which plug is for which, and I wish HyperX would add these cues to make it clear to the user.
Taking a peek at the bottom of the HyperX Alloy Elite, we are greeted with some familiar faces. For one, directly in the middle is the manufacturing sticker with serial number and contact information in the case an RMA is required for the keyboard. You might think the sticker is upside down, but this placement makes a lot of sense if you think about how you flip your keyboard to view the sticker. On the four corners, you can see four rubber pads to ensure the keyboard does not slide around while sitting on the desk. The two feet at the back can be flipped out to make the keyboard stand higher. Thankfully, these feet are also rubber wrapped to prevent slippage. You can also see how the wrist rest is clipped in with plastic tabs on both sides. There are three more rubber pads on the wrist rest to increase the grip of the keyboard on your desk.
Unsurprisingly, the HyperX Alloy Elite maintains its essential status by not including any RGB LEDs, but rather keeping a standard red and black theme with the red backlighting. It may not fit into everyone's build, but it definitely follows along with the gamer like color trend. As they also do not provide any software, all of the lighting and effects can be changed directly from the keyboard. There are definitely pros and cons for both sides, but I personally like not having to have another application to install. The brightness of the lights can be cycled between three levels, or can be turned off completely. There are also several effects including static, slow pulsate, single key reactive, water drop reactive, wave, and a gamer mode. Most of these are pretty self-explanatory, with the last gamer mode only illuminating commonly used keys like the WASD, 1-4, Spacebar, and Left Control keys. It would have been nice to allow for custom key illuminations so the user can change what is lit. You can also see the single red bar illuminated at the top of the keys. This is the translucent bar I referred to previously. It lights up with the other effects and it adds a subtle effect. Overall, the lighting is solid and all of the keys are very evenly lit. Obviously, keys with two rows of font, like the number pad, have areas on the key with less lighting underneath, but this is an issue plaguing almost all keyboards with Cherry MX switches.
After using the HyperX Alloy Elite as my daily driver keyboard for about two weeks, I have to say I really have missed Cherry MX Red switches. I personally have not used them for an extended period of such since my first mechanical keyboard review, the Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Pro. Red switches are personally so comfortable for gaming, though some may not see eye to eye with this me on this. While using the Alloy Elite, these genuine Cherry MX switches felt sharp and crisp. As stated previously, these Cherry MX switches have a fifty million actuation lifespan. The typing experience offered by HyperX and Cherry MX is satisfying. There is some slight key wobble on the keys, but no more than I have seen on other keyboards. There are also no annoying squeaks or sounds when using the HyperX Alloy Elite and most of the metal reverberation you might have expected from the exposed metal backplate is absent. As for gaming with the HyperX Alloy Elite, the Cherry MX Red switches are the cream of the crop for me. The Alloy Elite delivered an enjoyable experience, though I quite like this flavor of key switches and preference will come down to the user. It has been a while since I last used a Cherry MX Red keyboard, and thankfully the HyperX Alloy Elite has not muddied my positive memories of this linear switch.
If I were to sum up HyperX and their keyboards they have delivered so far, I would say they have delivered the essentials. The Elite today definitely adds a few nice extras compared to the FPS, but the same philosophy of including the right amount of features is seen in today's HyperX Alloy Elite. Starting at the top, HyperX have kept the right things, including the similar design and build quality. You might call the aesthetics a bit uninspired, but I think it looks clean and the actual build of the keyboard is very solid. Moving to the features, this keyboard is packed with the great stuff like dedicated media keys, a separate volume wheel, a detachable wrist rest, genuine Cherry MX keys, full NKRO, USB pass-through, and backlit keys. The keyboard feels crisp in use and all the keys are consistent in feel and response. To me, I think HyperX has done an excellent job in providing a keyboard with the right feature set. However, there were a few things HyperX did leave out. Macro recording is missing in action and so is RGB lighting. Some people may also be looking for a software suite, but again I think it is not a huge deal. Small refinements I would have liked to see is to decrease the thickness of the cable, add custom lighting effects, and add an indication on the USB plugs to differentiate between the USB pass-through and the keyboard. Even so, at a retail price of $110 USD at press time, this is only ten dollars more than the original HyperX Alloy FPS. By trading portability for dedicated multimedia keys and a wrist rest, I think the HyperX Alloy Elite is well worth the extra money, assuming you do plan to keep your keyboard in one place. If you are looking for solid keyboard with a competent feature set, I think the HyperX Alloy Elite should be on your list to check out.
HyperX 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 are not 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 7.6/10
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.
With a solid set of features and a reasonable price, the HyperX Alloy Elite delivers in offering a satisfying typing and gaming experience.
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