By: Jonathan Kwan
April 20, 2018
If you are familiar with APH Networks, you would have realized we typically publish articles on Fridays. Now, I typically do not write about the date of which a review is published in its introduction, but how can I not if the date happens to be April 20th? Ever since the beginning of this website, there has been two times where April 20th fell on a Friday. A bit of background information, 420 is informally known as Weed Day, and is also Adolf Hitler's birthday (Coincidence? I think not: Say no to drugs, kids). I tried searching around to see what reviews were published here at APH Networks on this date in 2007, but I could not find any. Fast forward to the second date in 2012, I found the NZXT Switch 810 and SilenX Effizio EFZ-80HA3 reviews. What a long way we have been. In an age where we have the far superior NZXT H700i to the totally lit CRYORIG H7 Quad Lumi, not only are computer components much more interesting to look at, they are also RGB-infused everywhere. Do not believe me? Check out the GAMDIAS ASTRAPE P1-750G 750W, an RGB power supply. As we dawn on another 420 and think about how people get high on weed and hallucinate rainbows, my recommendation to you is to lay off that stuff and find joy in looking at some real rainbows instead. A few months ago, my colleague Aaron Lai reviewed the HyperX Alloy Elite. The HyperX Alloy Elite is an excellent mechanical keyboard sans RGB. Well, fear not, my friends: On this 420, I have a rainbow-spiced HyperX Alloy Elite RGB sitting on my desk for you guys to check out. And this keyboard is exactly what its name suggests.
Our review unit of the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB arrived in a medium sized, brown corrugated cardboard box from the company's American headquarters in Fountain Valley, California, USA. It was sealed with tamper-proof tape, but it looked like it was cut open and resealed prior to us receiving it. There was nothing that appeared to be concerning even though the box was a bit beat up. Using FedEx International Ground, the package was dropped off to us here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for our review today.
As always, our HyperX Alloy Elite RGB came in retail packaging. Like the Kingston HyperX Predator PCIe 480GB solid state drive I reviewed back in 2015, a large photo of the keyboard itself occupies a large portion of the space in front of a dark red, almost apocalyptic, themed background to give it a gaming overtone. The model and product type, HyperX Alloy Elite RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, is printed at the upper left-hand corner. An array of icons can be found on the upper right-hand corner highlighting its NGenuity software, RGB backlighting, and Cherry MX switches, followed by a sticker denoting this is the Cherry MX Red switch variant. At the bottom left corner, its product description in three different languages is found as well as a sticker indicating the keyboard layout. What is included inside is printed on the remaining sides of the box along with feature highlights presented in many different languages.
Before we move on, let us take a look at the specifications of the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
Switch: CHERRY MX
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
Out of the box, you will receive everything you will need plus a few things on the side. Securely placed inside the box is the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB keyboard itself contained in a clear plastic bag, while its detachable wrist rest is wrapped inside a separate plastic bag. For some reason, a bunch of keycaps were detached from its stem out of the box. Popping them back on was easy enough; there were no worries after that. Four additional titanium-colored textured keycaps, labeled 1, 2, 3, 4 and W, A, S, D are included. A keycap removal tool is present to make your life easier. On the product literature side, a quick start guide, product promotion card, and support information card are found. The HyperX NGenuity software can be downloaded from the company's website.
The HyperX Alloy RGB, as its name suggests, is the RGB version of the company's excellent HyperX Alloy Elite my colleague Aaron Lai reviewed in September of last year. As it was with keyboards like the Corsair Gaming K68, if you are looking for a keyboard that fits the definition of APH Networks' design philosophy, the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB will have to be the one. In fact, this keyboard finally replaced my Fnatic Gear RUSH Pro Silent. You may question the fact that I got the RUSH Pro Silent as recent as June 2017, but I tend to think of it as more of an iterative change to the Func KB-460 (Cherry MX Red) that has been sitting on my desk since December 2013. This makes it a completely different narrative.
What is the definition of APH Networks' design philosophy? The way I see it, the keyboard must have a clean, practically reference layout -- meaning no crazy designs -- with OEM Cherry MX keyswitches, media buttons on the side, LED backlighting, and a detachable wrist rest. The HyperX Alloy Elite RGB checked all the boxes and a few more. The HyperX logo can be found at the top right corner with an extended bar the whole way across for media and keyboard control functions, which I will discuss in more detail in just a moment. An eighteen-segment translucent light bar, where each segment has its own independently configurable RGB LED, separates the top bar and the top of the keyboard for some sleek lighting effects. Meanwhile, the dark colored, matte finish exposed steel backplate is great to look at, but fails to hide fingerprints completely. The sides, bottom, and top bar are all made out of quality plastic. Overall, I am a big fan of the looks, and the steel backplate is rock solid. There is no perceivable flex in the keyboard, and feels substantial in everyday use.
Speaking of the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB's wrist rest, it is fully detachable from the main unit. It is designed to be connected to the keyboard via two plastic clips. The tabs on the plastic clips appear to be of reasonably good quality. The entire wrist rest is made out of plastic, but it is separated into two distinct sections. The section on the left side underneath the letters has a diamond plate floor texture for improved grip, while the rest of the wrist rest has a smooth plastic finish. Its protrudes comfortably for my average sized hands. When placed on the table, the wrist rest does not move from side to side, and has a limited slip rotation angle when lifted off the table.
The HyperX Alloy Elite RGB measures in at 444mm width, 169mm depth, and 36.3mm height. Adding the wrist rest increases the depth to 226.8mm. This is slightly deeper than a standard QWERTY keyboard due to the top bar. To go along with its medium footprint and medium profile, the keyboard weighs about 1.5 kg according to the manufacturer. This is pretty heavy even for a mechanical keyboard, but it does feature a solid steel plate, after all.
Once you turn off the lights and activate the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB's backlit keys, the keyboard really shines -- no pun intended. The font is clear and legible. The Alloy Elite RGB features full independent key RGB backlighting. Backlight intensity can be adjusted on the fly by a dedicated button located in the top bar to cycle the brightness. The other two buttons cycle between one of three saved profiles on the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB's internal memory and toggles Game Mode on and off. Game Mode 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?
The backlight can be turned off completely, or activated in three different brightness levels. I am a big fan of fully backlit keyboards, and I am happy HyperX designed the Alloy Elite RGB with this feature. My only complaint is the color of the eighteen-segment translucent light bar is not very consistent. The right four segments have better color saturation than the remaining segments, causing uneven coloring. This may be an isolated issue with our particular unit, however.
The laser-etched acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic keycaps are of average quality. Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) keycaps such as the ones found on the Cooler Master MasterKeys L PBT are stiffer, harder, and has better color retention, but the ones found on the HyperX Alloy RGB are smooth and feels nice on the fingers despite showing a bit of oily marks.
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 HyperX Alloy Elite RGB. 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.
Above the number pad and productivity keys above the translucent light bar are four media keys, which includes previous, play/pause, next, and mute. All media keys are RGB backlit. You can use the metal volume scroll wheel to adjust volume. I love having a volume scroll wheel, and this one feels solid to touch with little play. Three indicator LEDs corresponding to Game Mode, Num Lock, and Caps Lock, respectively, can be found adjacent to the HyperX logo. They glow white when activated and its color cannot be changed.
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 HyperX Alloy Elite RGB costs the most, because each keyswitch is an independent part.
Surprisingly, the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB with Cherry MX Red mechanical switches is pretty quiet during operation, even though it is not the Silent variant. In fact, it is quieter than the SteelSeries Apex M500, but slightly louder than the Corsair Gaming K68. The HyperX Alloy Elite RGB produces slightly higher pitched tone when actuated compared to the K68. Cherry MX Red, like the 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 HyperX Alloy Elite RGB will feel very different than other non-mechanical keyboards. 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 may not appeal to everyone. It is rated for fifty million operations like other Cherry MX switches. The base is rock solid and among the best I have seen as aforementioned, so you will not get any keyboard flex, which is excellent.
The HyperX Alloy Elite RGB 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 HyperX Alloy Elite RGB 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 HyperX Alloy Elite RGB is the USB cable lead out. It comes out in the center, and is not detachable. This braided rubber cable is very thick, and extends 1.8m in length to connect to your computer via two standard, non-gold-plated USB connectors. There are two USB connectors to supply extra power to the keyboard, as well as supporting a USB 2.0 port located 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; 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. The lack of a gold-plated USB connector will not have any performance impact on the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB.
At the bottom are four rubber pads to help the Alloy Elite RGB stay in place during intense gaming sessions. The two flip-out risers at the front tilts the keyboard up for those who prefer it, and are rubber lined to maintain traction. You can see how the wrist rest is attached to the keyboard by a pair of plastic tabs in the photo above. Three additional rubber pads on the wrist rests are used to increase the grip of the keyboard on your desk.
The HyperX Alloy Elite RGB works along with the latest version of NGenuity, which is a 217MB download from HyperX's website at press time. This program unifies all your HyperX peripherals into one application. After selecting the profile you want to configure, the graphical user interface is basically separated into two sections; the left side allows you to select the configuration category, while the right side displays all options. Up to three profiles can be stored on the internal memory of the Alloy Elite RGB. The software is used purely for configuration purposes. The keyboard can function without software otherwise.
The Lighting tab is where you can play around with the lighting effects of the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB's keys, as shown in our screenshot above. Every key can be independently controlled, including the media keys. The first tab is Effects, where the keyboard can be configured as one zone. With regards to the lighting effects, there are seven options. This includes solid, breathing, wave, trigger, explosion, HyperX Flame, or none. Although most of these options should be self-explanatory, HyperX Flame is a special animated effect that triggers from the actuated key up to the translucent light bar. Zones allows you to configure the keyboard in multiple zones rather than one, while every key can be independently controlled in Freestyle. The user interface is generally pretty simple to use, although the color application system was a bit confusing to use at first. You should be able to figure it out after some trial-and-error, however.
Game Mode is where the game mode options are configured. You can also disable Alt+Tab, Alt+F4, Shift+Tab, and Ctrl+Esc key in addition to the Windows key if enabled.
Lastly, the Macros tab is where you can control the function of the buttons on your keyboard. Options include default, keyboard function, mouse function, multimedia, recorded macro, Windows shortcuts, open, or disable. The recorded macros option allows you to select from previously recorded macros, which can be done in Macro Library. The macro recording function is pretty standard fare.
Overall, I found HyperX NGenuity to be generally straightforward and easy to use. It is still new and basic with some minor usability quirks, but graphics are otherwise appealing to look at, and the experience is generally positive.
It was absolutely no surprise to me when I got an email saying the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB was a winner in the 2018 Red Dot Award in the product design discipline. The company took the excellent HyperX Alloy Elite and lit it up to be one of my favorite keyboards of all time -- literally. Its clean, practically reference layout and attractive looks was enhanced by the full RGB backlighting. The well-designed detachable wrist rest is comfortable to use, and it even has dedicated buttons for brightness adjustment, profile switching, and game mode activation. On the other side, the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB features multimedia keys -- backlit too, should I say -- with a metal volume scroll wheel that is satisfying to touch. If what is above the surface is not convincing enough, just look beneath and you will find a package that can only seal the deal for you: Genuine Cherry MX switches, onboard memory for storing custom profiles, and a rock-solid steel plate that flexes to nothing. With all this glowing praise in mind, there are a few minor things I would like to see HyperX improve upon. Firstly, using PBT keycaps would be a big improvement in user experience over the current ABS keycaps. Secondly, the color of the eighteen-segment translucent light bar should be improved. Thirdly, make the steel plate less of a fingerprint magnet by modifying its finish. Fourthly, although the new NGenuity software was reasonably powerful and easy to use, further refinements will only make it better. Lastly, even though the Cherry MX Red switches on mine were relatively quiet even for an MX Red based keyboard, having an MX Silent variant available to those who prefer it would be nice. Are any of these major complaints? Not really. For about $170 at press time, the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB is not a cheap keyboard. But it is certainly one of the best fully featured mechanical keyboards money can buy today.
HyperX provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH:Renewal Award | 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 7.7/10
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 HyperX Alloy Elite RGB is one of the best fully featured keyboards money can buy today: Genuine Cherry MX switches, stunning full RGB backlighting, and attractive looks.
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