By: Aaron Lai
January 6, 2017
Welcome to the first published review here at APH Networks of 2017! To think Christmas is only one day of the year, and yet it seems like we have gone through a month of the holiday season already. By now, you have probably gone back to your regular music, all tired of the Christmas tunes. In addition, the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, decorating, entertaining, and partying has now become something to recover from. However, with all the cheer and glee, it is easy to get caught up in the moment, and forget the real reason of Christmas. We may think we are celebrating this holiday in the best way possible by getting prepped for everything, going out lots, and partying, but we end up losing track of the things and people we care the most about. To me, I love Christmas, because there is a bigger meaning behind the holiday than just giving gifts and things, which is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But for others, it is also a moment in the year to settle down and spend time with your family or friends. Sure, you may need to prepare some things, but I think it is important to be with the ones you care for. In essence, I much prefer a return to the simpler times of just having company over to catch up with while building more memories. With this in mind, today we have a Kingston keyboard, which is actually their first time at making a typing instrument. However, rather than throwing everything and the kitchen sink into this mechanical keyboard, the HyperX Alloy FPS is a stripping down of the unnecessary extras or distractions and instead going back to the basics. With a return to the foundations of a solid mechanical keyboard, is it any good? Read on to find out!
Today’s shipment of the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS mechanical keyboard arrived from the company's offices in Fountain Valley, California. Traveling with FedEx, the shipment arrived in a relatively good condition to our Calgary, Alberta location. There are a few black marks around the box, but otherwise it is pretty good. Surprisingly, the box they fit the keyboard in is actually quite form fitting, as the retail container fits precisely inside, with no room for extra packing material. Normally, this would be bad news bears, as external forces would easily make an impact on the product box. Thankfully, this has not affected the inner contents, as you can see in the next photo.
Out of the corrugated cardboard box is the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS' retail container. On first glance, you will notice there is barely any mention of Kingston, as they are moving more towards just having HyperX as their gaming brand. This trend has also been going on for quite a while now with all their HyperX products. In the gaming world, HyperX is quite well known for sponsoring many different esports teams around the world. As for the box design, despite this being Kingston's first go at a keyboard, it actually looks quite attractive for a first go at things. This is not surprising either, considering Kingston's reputation in the peripherals market. The front shows off the Alloy FPS from the left side with a glowing red backlight. The front has the product's name in the top left corner, and the HyperX logo in the bottom right. As you can see, Cherry MX branding is also on the front. The HyperX Alloy FPS is only available in Cherry MX Blue at the time of review for North America. According to the HyperX though, Cherry MX Brown and Reds will be available soon at the same price.
On the back and sides of the retail box are more features about this keyboard, but as you cannot see this in the picture above, we have grabbed this for your perusal below:
- Switch: Cherry MX
- Type: Mechanical
- Backlight: Single color, Red
- Light effects: 6 LED modes and 5 brightness levels
- Connection type: USB 2.0 (2 USB connectors)
- USB Passthrough: Yes (mobile phone charging only)
- Polling rate: 1000Hz
- Anti-ghosting: 100% anti-ghosting
- Key rollover: 6-key / N-key modes
- Media control: Yes
- Game mode: Yes
- Type: Detachable, braided
- Length: 1.8m
- Width: 441.65mm
- Depth: 129.38mm
- Height: 35.59mm
- Weight (keyboard and cable): 1049g
Along with the keyboard itself, we have a few nice accessories with the HyperX Alloy FPS. For one, there is a large HyperX branded mesh bag to store the keyboard, a keycap puller, several keycaps, and the detachable braided cable. We will take a closer look at these accessories later on in the review. However, as this keyboard is intended to be moved around more, these accessories are definitely nice to see. The keyboard is held in a foam bracket to ensure no damage is done to it when in transit. In addition to the above extras, there is a small Quick Start guide, covering the different features and functionality of the HyperX Alloy FPS. It should be noted, the keyboard is covered with Kingston's two year warranty, which is pretty standard, and in line with other companies like Cooler Master and Fnatic Gear. Unfortunately, no wrist rest is included in this package, although it is understandable considering this keyboard was meant to be relatively portable.
Rather than putting in flashy styling and odd angles, the Kingston approach is about simplicity, with slight signs of pizzazz. As seen with the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS keyboard, it may not necessarily turn any heads around when it rolls through the doors, but it definitely is a clean and minimalistic design. Even the font on the keyboard is just neat and tidy block lettering. Much like a lot of the keyboards we have seen recently, the HyperX Alloy FPS throws off the border design with a more island-style look. In fact, not only have they removed the border, but there are barely any margins around the keys, making for a slim and sleek look. The Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS is black in color, with translucent keys, and some white font near the top right corner for the indicator lights.
As for measurements, the keyboard is 441.65mm in width, 129.38mm in depth, and 35.59mm in height. Despite looking so slim, these measurements are not as small as I would have expected, especially for a keyboard intended for traveling. Even so, it is still pretty thin on all dimensions. In terms of mass, this keyboard weighs in at an expected weight of 1.049kg. Most mechanical keyboards are at this mass, and the HyperX Alloy FPS is no different. In terms of build quality, despite its slim profile, the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS is very solidly built. There is zero flex or bend in the keyboard or the body, even when I intentionally try to bend this keyboard out of shape. There is a bit of key wobble in some of the larger keys such as the Right Shift, but it is not too bad. In terms of materials, you are looking at a nice metal alloy plate and a steel internal frame. The backing is plastic, but again, it feels very solid.
The Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS came to us with a standard 104-key QWERTY ANSI layout. This is pretty normal, and is practically the same as every other keyboard APH Networks has reviewed recently. One thing I should state though is that I would have actually expected this keyboard to be available in an 87-key variant, especially since Kingston has been marketing this keyboard to have a "space-saving layout". While this still holds true for a 104-key size, I think it could still be good to see an even smaller layout by removing the number pad altogether. Otherwise, the sizing on the keys are about as expected, with about 1.25x keys for all the modifier keys. Three red LED indicators exist on the top right hand side beside the HyperX logo. The first one is marked by a G in a crosshair like shape, indicating when the keyboard is in gaming mode. In this mode, the Windows key is disabled. It also indicates when you switch between the 6KRO and NKRO modes. The next two LEDs are for Num and Caps lock, respectively.
As for secondary functions, the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS has an adequate amount. These can all be activated by pressing the Fn key prior to pressing the secondary function key. F6 to F8 are media controls, including Previous Track, Play/Pause, and Next Track. F9 to F11 are made for volume controls, including Mute, Volume Down, and Volume Up. Finally F12 is used to lock the Windows key. There are a few more function keys, including Insert and Delete, which are used for switching between 6 and N for key rollover. However, these were not actually marked, and were only found on Kingston's website. Personally, it is not a huge deal, since not everyone really cares to switch, but I still think they should be showing this secondary function. The last set of secondary keys are located on the arrow pad, and these are used for changing the lighting conditions. Up and Down are used to increase and decrease brightness, while Left and Right are used to switch between the multiple lighting modes. These modes will be covered in detail later on in the review.
From this angle, you can see the kind of profile the keycaps have. As you can see, this follows a concave curve, with the bottom of the curve in the middle. This is a pretty standard OEM profile. As for the keycaps themselves, these are full-sized keycaps, which are about the same as every other keyboard. Here you can also see the island-style keys more obviously, with the keycaps floating above the Cherry MX switches underneath. This sort of gap makes cleaning the keyboard easier, since there is a less obstructed airway in between each row. Speaking of the keycaps, the font on them is also very simple and clean. They are very easy to read and this block lettering makes for a more professional look. The majority of the font is located on the top of the keys, besides the secondary functions on the function row, the arrow keys, and the number pad.
As aforementioned, the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS is capable of both 6KRO and NKRO mode over USB. NKRO is abbreviated for n-key rollover, and it 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. Practically no modern keyboards suffer from this type of ghosting nowadays.
Before continuing on, one of the main selling points of the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS is its 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 HyperX Alloy FPS, 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 Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS features Cherry MX Blue switches. These keys are rated to last up to the standard fifty million keystrokes. Blue switches are what I would call a typist's switch, as they feature nonlinear travel. They feature low resistance to typing, low actuation force of around 50g to trigger them, and an audible ‘click’ on every key press. They have an actuation distance of 2mm, with a bottoming out travel of 4mm. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily the best for gaming in general, due to the nonlinear bump, although some gamers are okay with it. Preference of which keys will come down to consumer opinion.
From here, you can see the back of the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS, with really only two things to take note of. One is the mini USB input, and this is where the included cable will plug in. The other is a full-sized USB. This provides a 5V 1A output, although it can only be used for charging, as indicated by the mobile phone and lightning sign. It would have been nice to see data capable transfer as well, but this is not the case. Personally, even if it did provide data transfer, I would not recommend using it for anything other than USB sticks and things, due to how cumbersome the wires may look. Even so, this is a pretty handy way to recharge your device right by your computer.
From underneath the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS, you can see there are very few surprises overall. In fact, what bothered me the most was the fact the HyperX sticker was actually upside down in relation with the keyboard. On the other hand, this is not a huge deal, and it makes sense if you were to flip your keyboard over so the bottom faced you. In the four corners we find four rectangular textured rubber grips holding the keyboard in place. Underneath the top two corners are kick stands to help prop up the HyperX Alloy FPS. Thankfully, these feet are also rubber padded. These traction pads, in addition to the weight of the keyboard, easily keep the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS from moving around.
As I have mentioned while unboxing the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS, this keyboard comes with quite a few handy accessories included. First is the braided cable, measuring 1.8m in length. On one end is a mini USB connection, which connects to the back of the HyperX Alloy FPS. On the other end of the cable are two full-sized USB plugs, with one stemming out from the other. The main plug is for connecting the keyboard to the computer, but the additional one ensures the port on the keyboard has enough current to output the specified 1A. The braid on the cable is a black and red combination, which looks subtle, but distinguishes itself from others nicely. The next thing to point out is the large black HyperX branded mesh bag. This drawstring bag is large enough to fit the Alloy FPS in the main pouch, albeit a tad snug. It has quite a bit of cushioning, which will protect the Alloy FPS while in transit. The pouch also has a Velcro sealed back pouch to help you hold all your other accessories. It is not necessarily large enough to fit other peripherals like a mouse, but it should be more than enough to carry the cable and the additional keycaps.
Speaking of which, the last set of accessories are eight extra keycaps, marked in red for a gamer look. This includes the WASD keys in addition to the numbers 1 to 4. These keys make quite a bit of sense, especially as these are commonly used keys in first person shooter games. The keycaps themselves are red in color, and textured nicely to easily distinguish them from other keycaps. They are also raised just slightly compared to the already installed keycaps, again making it easier to tell where the keys are. Personally, I did not use these, as I type more than I game and the slight difference in height was noticeable enough for me to not like them. These keycaps are also accompanied by a plastic key puller to aid in removing them.
After plugging the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS into my computer, I tried it out in several games, and used it on a daily basis. Using the HyperX Alloy FPS was a breeze. This is not the first time I have ventured into Cherry MX Blue switches, but I have not always liked them, and they are probably ones that stay on my table for the shortest period. It is not like I have anything against the keyboards, but I just do not like the clicky nature of these switches. Even so, it definitely makes a great typist keyboard, and all sorts of typing has been made even more enjoyable. I actually wrote practically all of my last three reviews and articles with the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS, as it was definitely a joy to type on. The Cherry MX Blue also provides great feedback and just feel great under my fingers. Playing games like Overwatch or League of Legends was not bad, although it was pretty different, especially moving from Red and Brown switches. All in all, I still do not like the Cherry MX Blue for gaming, but this is a preferential thing.
Lighting effects are good, although there is only red backlighting. This includes a standard glow, breathing mode, few reactive modes, left-to-right wave, and finally, a "gaming" mode, which highlights the commonly used keys including the WASD keys, numbers 1 to 4, Left Ctrl, and Space bar. The numerous reactive modes include a single key trigger and a wave trigger. I think these are quite adequate, although I would have liked to see some customization in terms of allowing you to set what lights you want to turn on and off. Even so, I really enjoyed the lighting on the HyperX Alloy FPS. It may not be as vibrant as some like the Tesoro Gram Spectrum, but the island style keys combined with the red lighting makes for a nice effect, especially in darker environments.
When I take a look at Kingston and their HyperX Alloy FPS, I think they did an excellent job for their first mechanical keyboard, keeping all the essential things in what makes a good keyboard. With the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS, we have seen a great build, with excellent material choices throughout. In terms of design, I really like the minimalist and clean layout, without being too gamer-fied. In addition, we have quite an encompassing set of accessories, including a large and protective mesh bag for traveling purposes. The extra keycaps are also a plus here. When it comes to features on the keyboard itself, it has everything I would expect for a keyboard of this price point, and maybe even more. Full NKRO, genuine Cherry MX switches, and backlighting are all here, and they rarely are seen simultaneously in this price range. On the other hand, there are some feature requests I would like to see for future versions of Kingston keyboards. For one, I would want to see some things like adding custom lighting profiles, so users can change the layout for other games. Secondly, if a tenkeyless version of the Alloy FPS came out, I would be all over it, as one of the selling points of this keyboard is mobility. Otherwise, it would be nice to see some more features found on more expensive keyboards, such as RGB lighting. I understand things like the RGB lighting command their own price premium, but it would be nice to see it in the next keyboard they make. Normally, I would also recommend adding in a wrist rest too. However, considering the portability factor, I think it is fine they did not include it. In the end, this does not feel like the first mechanical keyboard produced by Kingston and the HyperX. They have consistently shown their ability to dive into new areas of products without struggles, and the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS is another fine example. It may not be the fanciest or most full featured, but it hits all the right
keystrokes, making for a solid choice. At $99 USD, there are other competitors, like the Fnatic Gear Rush G1, although they trade blows in the feature department throughout. This is a competitive price overall, and it should match up nicely with other mechanical keyboards out there.
Kingston 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 7.3/10
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 Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS can be added to a growing list of things Kingston can do well on its first try.
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