By: Ben Joubert (Debut Review)
December 4, 2015
I always see something new and fun from my friends. On one occasion, my friend introduced me to mechanical keyboards. I had just moved here from South Africa, and I had a terrible laptop with an even worse keyboard. One time, my friends organized a LAN party, and one of them had a nice mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches. Everyone got annoyed at him, since he was the only one making lots of clicky noises while we played StarCraft. But I really enjoyed using the keyboard because of the satisfying click. Every time he left to go get some food or get a drink, I would launch Super Meat Boy on his computer, and start playing away. On his return, I would be pushed away, even though I thoroughly enjoyed playing with that keyboard. Since then, I have tried different keyboards with different types of key switches. I enjoyed Cherry MX Red switches the most, as it requires very little force to actuate, and it is not as loud as Blue key switches. I did attempt to use Black keys, but I did not like them because of how hard it was to push each key. On the other hand, I have another friend who really enjoys Black key switches, which are completely on the opposite end of the spectrum of key sensitivity. Personal preference plays a huge role in the keyboards we end up choosing, and what we feel comfortable using every day. Other different aspects also come into play when picking a keyboard such as the size of the keyboard, and most importantly, what are you going to be using it for. For the review today, we have the Ozone Strike Battle, which employs Brown key switches (Other variants are available). This is a new experience for myself, but I must say it is also a welcomed experience. In addition, if you enjoy the smaller tenkeyless design, then the Ozone Strike Battle keyboard might be just for you. Let us see how this plays out as we start our review!
The Ozone Strike Battle arrived here in a relatively small brown corrugated cardboard box. It was shipped with UPS Standard, and arrived in okay condition here at the APH Networks offices in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. There were some dents, and the corners were a bit beat up, but nothing to complain about. The inside box was not damaged at all, which is always a pleasant experience when opening packages like these.
Pictured above is how you will find the Ozone Strike Battle mechanical keyboard in retail stores. The box shows off the red theme of the keyboard, since it has red backlit LED lighting effects. The front of the box displays the keyboard with a red and silver background. The name Ozone Strike Battle is found in the top right, with the font looking a bit "rugged" to accentuate the Battle aspect of its name. The bottom left advertises the key features of the keyboard, such as the tenkeyless design, aluminum top case, macro capability, and red LED effects. These features are great for anyone who likes to move around a lot and wants to take their keyboard with them, especially since it does not include the extra bulk of a wrist rest or number pad. The top left of the box states Cherry MX mechanical switches are used, and placed in an English US layout. The box also has red splotches and the top left of the box, which I am guessing is to further show why it has the name "Strike Battle". I would say just from the box, despite its no-frills design, has gaming in its roots thanks to its macro functionalities. Hopefully your games will not involve the number pad though.
Here are some specifications that are found on the box, but I obtained these from the manufacturer's website:
Key Switch type: CHERRY MX Blue, Red, Brown, and Black
Connector Cable: 1.5m Braided Cable, USB, not removable.
Backlight: Red LED on all keys, four brightness levels, with one lighting mode (pulsating).
Key Rollover: N-Key
Polling Rate: Adjustable polling rate 125 Hz - 250 Hz - 500 Hz - 1000 Hz.
Top Case: Aluminum
Keycaps/bottom case: ABS 94HB
On-Board memory: 64KB
Media Keys: F5 through to F8 using the function key.
Gaming Mode: Deactivation of Windows Key, "AWSD" & "Arrow keys" function swappable, Macro function through software.
Size: H: 34.59±1mm x L: 351.00±1 mm x W: 123.00±1mm
Weight: 685 G
Adjust Keys effective time in 7 speed transmissions: 1ms - 2ms- 4ms - 8ms - 12ms - 14ms - 16ms.
The Ozone Strike Battle was placed in a little white foam bag to ensure its safety during transportation. Other than the keyboard and the cable that is attached to it, there is only a six page quick start guide, and an Ozone branded sticker. The quick start guide has easy to follow instructions for installation, driver downloading, and changing the different lighting effects. The booklet also tells about all the features packed into this portable keyboard. There is no wrist wrest included, which I do not normally use anyway, but for anyone who likes to use a wrist rest, you will have to take that into account. There is no key cap puller included, but I will dive into a related issue later on in the review. For any average user, I believe the instructions are sufficient to find the necessary driver for the software. The quick start guide also leads to a user manual, which explains the added functions of the keyboard, and how to use them.
Right out of the box, the Ozone Strike Battle is very simple. The keyboard has a very clean and compact design. It is very simple, and takes up very little space on my desk. The keys span from side to side, and there is no additional plastic rim on the any of the sides, again emphasizing its minimalist design. As well, it is very easy to see the bottom of the key caps. All of these factors gives the keyboard a very compact look and tight feel, and it is, in no ways, distracting. The finish of the aluminum at each corner and on the sides look nice, and it is evident a sufficient amount of attention was put into designing the Strike Battle. Overall, the design really works for my uses, since I do not use the extra keys on full size keyboards, and I am quite happy. The Ozone Strike Battle's small size also means I have plenty of desk space open for snacks and drinks. Of course, I am always very careful not to get the food or liquids on my peripherals.
The keyboard has dimensions at 350mm in width, 123mm in depth, and 34.6mm in height. It tips the scale at a relatively featherweight 685g; well, featherweight for a mechanical keyboard, anyway. These two dimensions make for a light keyboard and keep Ozone's aim of making the Strike Battle portable. Thanks to the aluminum top, the keyboard feels solidly built. The bottom of the case is plastic, however; causing a slight flex at the bottom. I think a full aluminum enclosure would be better here, as it is light while maintaining its rigidity. On the other hand, I understand they chose plastic to keep the cost of the keyboard low. Despite this, I would say it is still well built overall. Although some corners were cut to keep the price down, I think the build quality is still solid.
The Ozone Strike Battle has the standard ANSI QWERTY layout. There is one Windows key on the left, between CTRL and ALT. On the right side of the spacebar, you find the Function key, which, in this case, has been branded with the Ozone logo. The one thing that confused me in the beginning was a little padlock symbol on the Windows key. It made me think using the function key and the Windows key would lock the Windows key. I was wrong, as the lock indicates you can prevent the Windows key from being actuated during intense gaming sessions. The key caps do love fingerprints, and they are visible upon close inspection. However, I did not notice it very much, since from where I sit, there is no light directly on my keyboard. But be warned that the keycaps do attract fingerprints, so I would recommend keeping cloth close by to clean them off if you are picky.
The top Function row has some secondary functions when used in conjunction with the Fn key. F1 and F2 decreases and increases the effective key response time, respectively. F3 and F4 lowers and raises the polling rate, respectively. I have not found these very useful personally, but this does allow users to change it on the fly without having to go through software. The effective response time is useful if you have games where you would like to increase these functions and decrease your finger fatigue when you have to spam different keys.
F5 to F12 has your media controls covered. F5 to F8 is Play/Pause, Stop, Next, and Previous track, in that order. F9 launches your default media player, so these keys can come in very handy to you if you do not want to minimize your game or program you are running to engage those functions. These functions are pretty standard on keyboards today. F10 to F12 changes your volume. Print Screen's alternate function is your Windows lock key, or as Ozone calls it, "Gaming mode". This will allow you to press your Windows key as much as you like while in game, and not cause your game to minimize. I must say before having a Windows lock function, I had trouble with accidentally pressing my Windows key in session. It caused numerous deaths, especially when I used the ever so sensitive Red switches. Next to Print Screen is the Scroll lock, which controls your brightness levels as its alternate function. It cycles through the different brightness levels, and the one lighting mode, which is pulsating. The different brightness levels are 10%, 30%, 70%, 100%, and off. However, when all the LEDs are off, the Scroll Lock LED acts as the indicator for Scroll Lock, and the Print Screen button acts as the indicator for Ozone's Gaming mode. The Caps Lock LED also behaves in a similar way for its respective function. The six keys just above the arrow keys act as macro keys, and they can be programmed through the software, as you will see later on.
The Ozone Strike Battle features N-key rollover, or NKRO, which is also known as anti-ghosting. This function addresses how many keys can be pressed at the same time and still be recognized by the hardware. If you play games where you require high actions per minute, or if you can type really fast, I can see this becoming an issue. N-key rollover allows for up to twenty different keys being pressed at the same time. On an aside, if you are able to press more than that while typing or playing a game, I will be very impressed. NKRO is more than enough for the most intensive of games or the proficient of typists. For the general case, gaming keyboards are good enough with 6KRO, which allows for up to six keys to be pressed at once. Only some rare situations will require more than six keys to be used concurrently.
In case you have not realized by now, the Ozone Strike Battle is a mechanical keyboard. I love mechanical keyboards, but that might just be because my experience before a mechanical keyboard was a cheap membrane keyboard. There are three main types of keyboards in the market today. The first is the membrane keyboard. These are the cheapest and easiest to make, so they are usually found in low end products. Next is the scissor switch keyboard, which has its own independent key switch mechanism for each key, and delivers improved tactile response and typing experience compared to a pure membrane keyboard. Finally, in the case of the mechanical keyboard, each switch is an independent part. This makes mechanical keyboard more expensive to manufacture, and thus increasing the price. Mechanical keyboard switches generally boast a life cycle of 50 million keystrokes or more.
Within the mechanical keyboard, there are different sorts of key switches, all varying in types of feedback and actuation force. Cherry MX Red, Blue, Brown, and Black are the most common switches from the largest manufacturer of key switches in the world, and all of these can be found in different versions of the Ozone Strike Battle, depending on your personal preference. Blue switches are aimed at typists, while Black and Red switches are aimed at people who enjoy to spend more of their time gaming instead of typing. The differences between these switches come mostly from the actuation force required. Black switches have the highest actuation force at 60cN, meaning they are the stiffest. RTS gamers have found these switches the best, because they will not cause any accidental key presses. Black switches also have a stronger spring, meaning the key is ready to be pressed again much quicker, allowing for it to be repeated more than other key switches. Due to the high actuation force, however, fatigue becomes an issue during long gaming sessions. Meanwhile, Red switches have the lowest actuation force at 45cN. The light actuation force also means that the key can be pressed repeatedly in a short amount of time. Both of these switches are linear switches, meaning they are the simplest, and they will not have the loud tactile bump Blue switches have.
For the Ozone Strike Battle we have, the Brown switches do not have the loud clicky noise of Blue switches, but they have a bump, which lets the user know when the key has been actuated. They are a middle ground between Black and Red switches. Blue switches are also tactile switches, but they have a loud clicky noise to also tell the user the key has been actuated. This makes them great for typists, but these switches will annoy everyone in your working environment. Blue switches have an actuation force of 50cN, however, they are harder to double tap, which means they are not as suitable for gamers. My personal favorite are Red switches, but the Ozone Strike Battle that we are reviewing has Brown switches, and I must say I really enjoyed using these as well. The quality of the switches are great. Unfortunately, it seems like the Ozone keycaps come off easily, which would make me worry especially if I moved my keyboard around a lot. They do still require some force to pluck them off, but while traveling, they could easily snag on something and pop right off. It is a bit of a drawback, since the Strike Battle is aimed at portability, and the minimalist design allows for the keys to be easily caught on something in your bag. I do not think anyone would enjoy having to replace lost keycaps, and Ozone should take a closer look at the stems and keycap fitting.
On the back of the Ozone Strike Battle are three rubber feet spaced out. The bottom left, right and center each have a rubber pad. On the top, there are two extendable feet with rubber at the ends to make sure your keyboard does not slip. The keyboard is light, but with the rubber feet, it will stay in place. If you do not use the extended feet, however, then it can easily move around, as there are no rubber feet at the top. The three feet on the bottom do not help much once the keyboard is completely flat. I do, however, always use the extended feet, so this does not inconvenience me much, but for those of you who do not like using the extended feet, then you may have to use the Strike Battle on a non-slip surface. With the absence of rubber feet at the top, I would assume the keyboard was designed to always be used with the feet extended.
The cable leaves the keyboard just a little bit off center, and pokes out about one centimeter from the keyboard. The cable is permanently fixed to the keyboard. As the Ozone Strike Battle is aimed at portability, I would expect the cable to be detachable. On the positive side, the cable has been rubberized around the side to make sure it stays in place. The rubber protecting the cable at the connection point can get in the way when carrying the keyboard around, but the cable is braided, so it should not break easily through all of its use.
The lighting effects are simple. As I have mentioned earlier, the Ozone Strike Battle has four different brightness levels at 10%, 30%, 70%, and 100%. These can be changed with the Fn + Scroll Lock key combination. The one LED effect it does have is pulsating mode. The LEDs go from almost completely off to 100% in the course of a few seconds. The lighting effects can be distracting, since the LEDs can get pretty bright, depending on the ambient lighting in your environment. I found myself distracted while typing and gaming, and chose disable pulse mode. They are only red LEDs, and the color cannot be changed. It would be nice to have an RGB spectrum and make wave effects as you push each button, but to keep costs down, here is what we got. If you happen to have a computer setup with a red theme, I am sure this keyboard will look great with it.
Heading to the manufacturer page and finding the right download was easy to do. The page to download the software from was nicely organized by product name, as well you can view the entire user manual online or download the PDF. The software was quite easy to use. On the first tab, you will find the keyboard layout, and you can change each key individually to match any previous gaming configurations you have. There are five profiles, so you can switch between different profiles when playing different games where you need different key combinations. However, the profiles cannot be switched on the fly with any of the keys on the Strike Battle, so you will have to go into the software and change the profile to suit your game manually. The Macro Settings tab is for organizing and recording your macros. The Adv. Settings tab houses the lighting effects, polling rate, and response time. Each of these can also be changed by using the function key in conjunction with F1 to F4. All of them are very simple to use and easy to understand. Throughout using the utility, I did not find any issues in the software.
After I received the Ozone Strike Battle, I had tons of opportunities to use it for work and for some gaming. Many essays were written on this keyboard, and the overall typing experience was enjoyable. After I got used to the smaller design, I was able to use the keyboard to its fullest extent. I had never used MX Brown key switches before, but I enjoyed the change, and the Ozone Strike Battle got me to enjoy Brown key switches more than my previous keyboard's Red switches. The key actuation throughout the keyboard was consistent. I like tenkeyless keyboards more than ones with number pads, but this is a personal preference. My desk area is not too big, and I have not used the number pad much even when I did have it. The only time I would use the number pad is when I had to input long numbers, but I am more than happy using the number key row to do this if I get the extra desk space. Overall, the Ozone Strike Battle with MX Brown switches was a pleasure to use.
In conclusion, I found the Ozone Strike Battle to be a good product. It is a good looking keyboard with its minimalist design. The build quality is solid and functional. It does what it is designed to do, and it does it well. For everyday use, I really enjoyed the experience, as it suited my needs and was easy to use. Typing on it was great, and this Ozone Strike Battle actually replaced my old keyboard. Its tenkeyless design fits nicely on my desk, and even though it was small, it was packed with functionality. The MSRP comes in at $80 USD at press time, which is a great price for something with mechanical key switches. It is also nice and small, making it easy to carry around. In addition, the build quality affirms me so I will not be afraid of anything breaking while carrying it around. The key caps do come off easily, which will have to be considered due to its travel size form factor. Possibly just covering the keyboard in the white foam it came in will stop any keys from coming off while you have it in a bag. The polling rate and response times are easy to change within a game, as well the LED effects. I would definitely have appreciated the ability to swap between profiles on the fly though. Generally speaking, the software worked well, and it displayed everything in a very intuitive design. Recording the macros was simple, and allowed for any delays between pressing the keys and to loop the macro command. The lighting effects were sufficient for the price tag that the keyboard carries. At this price range, it is not expected that the keyboard would include RGB LED lights and dazzling lighting effects. The Strike Battle does not come with a wrist rest, which was acceptable, since adding either a detachable or built in wrist rest would take away from its compact design, as well as the ease of traveling with this keyboard. Some cost reduction methods were used, such as the plastic bottom case, no included wrist rest, and only one LED color with one lighting effect. But I found the drawbacks are insignificant at this price. If the price went up enough to include a full aluminum base, I think the build quality would be exceptional, but I am unsure how much of a difference that would make in how easy it is to move this keyboard around. The Ozone Strike Battle does what it is designed to do, and with the $80 USD price tag it carries, it is a great tenkeyless keyboard.
Ozone 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 6.7/10
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 Ozone Strike Battle is a portable, minimalist mechanical keyboard at a competitive price.
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