Let’s be completely honest here: despite what companies want you to believe an expensive keyboard will not magically make you better at gaming, and you can do just fine with a relatively inexpensive model. But, they do make typing and gaming feel so much better. It’s a bit like a nice bike or car: you don’t need that Nissan GTR or Yamaha MT-01, but damn they’ll make things so much more fun. Enter the HyperX Alloy FPS from Kingston, which represents the company’s first foray into the world of keyboards.
Sadly you don’t get a wrist-rest with it, though. Obviously, you can just head on to Amazon or Ebay or something and purchase one, but it would have been nice if the Alloy shipped with a detachable one of its own so that there’s not such an awkward angle between your wrists and the keys. Yup, we’re kicking off this review with a criticism. Maybe it’s just me, but I like having somewhere to rest my weary wrists after a tiring day of writing utter bollox on the Internet.
You do, however, get a lovely padded carrying bag for when you want to head to a LAN party or something of that ilk and a key-pulling tool. What’s that for you ask? Well, that needs us to ask another question: exactly why is the Alloy is marketed as being specifically for the FPS gamer? It is a bit of a tough question to answer, because really, what does an FPS gamer need that the rest of us don’t? According to Kingston the answer is bright red, textured keycaps! Inside the box you’ll find W, A, S, and D keys that are colored in a bright and are textured, with the idea being to provide extra grip and a way of quickly locating the keys by feel. There is also four non-textured plastic keys done in red that replace the standard 1, 2, 3, and 4 keys as well. Yes, their bright red visage does somewhat ruin the otherwise sleek stylings of the keyboard as a whole, but I found myself quite liking the textured W, A, S and D keys. I’m not usually in the habit of losing my place on the board mid-game, but their textured tops provided a little extra reassurance. As for the number keys, I could have done without them, to be honest.
What lies beneath these black and red keycaps? Clack. Clack.Clack.Clack. CherryMX Blue Switches are not the quietest beasts on the market, but they might just be my personal favorite. Blues is exactly what the HyperX is sporting underneath its regular keycaps, and that gives it a pleasingly clicky, tactile feeling when typing with absolutely no doubt as to whether you’ve activated them. You press down on the key and it hits the bottom with an absurdly satisfying sound which announces to the world that this key was damn well pressed, and pressed good. It’s a little sexual, to be honest. With that said, traditionally the Blues aren’t so favored for gaming among the die-hard audience due their activation point and reset point being in different places. What this means is that when you activate the key and then release it, it has to travel upwards a reasonable distance before it will reset and can be activated again. In practice, this means that performing a very quick double-tap can potentially lead to the key failing to register the second press because it didn’t have time to reach its reset point. I can’t say I’ve ever had a problem with them, though. With that said, I don’t spend much time each day on fast-paced multiplayer games like other people might, so I’m not the best person to judge. However, a quick Google search does reveal that lots and lots of people game on Blues. Of course, it would still be nice to see the Alloy being sold with a choice of switch type.
Under the hood there’s everything you’d expect from a mechanical keyboard; a 1000hz polling rate for great response times, anti-ghosting and 6-key N-Rollover, meaning that six keys can be pressed at the same time and all six will register correctly.
That’s all very well and nice, but in the real world actually testing keyboard performance is tricky, especially among top-level mechanical offerings where the differences tend to be rather small. Typically I use a Logitech G810 everyday as my standard keyboard, so swapping over I was curious to see if my typing speed would get any slower or if I’d notice any changes in quick-paced games. The answer was no and no. After getting accoustomed to the CherryMX Blues I was typing just as quick and noticed no difference in game performance either.
The only real notable flaw wasn’t even a question of performance. As much as I enjoy the Blues there is no denying that they are rather loud, so if you like to game in relative silence or even if you do a lot of typing at night they could present a problem. It’s a tradeoff; one the one hand the distinctive noise of the Blue switches somehow manages to make you feel like a true author, tireless slaving away to write something beautiful and amazing. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that if you have a late-night session of Overwatch your significant other is going to murder you.
Visually Kingston went with a very clean look for their keyboard, sparing no extra space for dedicated macro keys or anything flashier than the LED lighting which comes in one color and one color only: red. By holding down the function key F6-F11 can be used to as media controls while using the function key in conjunction with the arrow keys will adjust the LED brightness, turn it off entirely or cycle through a few different modes. There’s a wave of red that rolls across the board, a trail effect that turns the key you just pressed red before fading away and a pulsating breathing. You can also get an explosion of red light radiating from whatever key you pressed. There’s another which simply highlights the most commonly used keys during game, too. As for the quality of the light it’s pretty good, with plenty of space between the bottom of the keys and the metal backplate allowing for a nice red glow to illuminate the entire keyboard. Of course, you can’t see it particularly well in the pictures.
The lack of RGB lighting or other gimmicks means that the Alloy requires no special software, so it is truly plug and play. It does remember whatever you set it too, though, presumably thanks to some form of sorcery.
On the back of the Alloy you’ll find the reasonably lengthy detachable USB cord, a feature that’s not useful to a lot of people but is appreciated nonetheless.The cord is braided for durability, which also means it can occasionally prove to be a pain in the backside as it snags on things. Next to that there’s also a USB pass-through that Kingston says is for charging mobile devices only. To use it you’ll need to connect a second cord from the keyboard to your computer so that it can draw the required power. It’s nice to have the option to charge up a phone or even a tablet through the keyboard, but why it’s incapable of passing data as well is beyond me. It seems like a wasted opportunity to have a handy slot for drivers or anything else.
While the keys and the little feet on the bottom for changing the angle of the Alloy are plastic, the main body matches it’s namesake. Kingston opted for a weighty, solid plate of metal that makes the Alloy feel like it could be used as a shield against enemy tank fire or as a particularly useful tool for hammering in nails. Or, y’know, for smacking your mate upside the head when he beats you in a LAN battle, that smug little basta…sorry. Got a little off-track there. The point is that I think the Alloy looks mighty pretty, and is a nice break from the angular designs and madness that so many companies seem to believe gamers want. And that chunk of metal doesn’t make the Alloy too heavy at just a shade over 1KG.
Bring it all together and you’ve got one very, very nice piece of kit. The metal base gives it strength without making it weight too much, the design is simple yet appealing and those CherryMX Blues are almost orgasmically satisfying to type with. Uh, take that how you will. The point is the Alloy might just replace my G810 as my current keyboard of choice, especially since I do spend a lot of time typing.
The Hyper X Alloy is Kingston’s first foray into the world of keyboards, so I’m a little shocked that they nailed it so well. There’s little to find fault with in its looks, build or performance. The only real mistake Kingston have made is failing to include a manual which actually explains how to use the LED effects. It took me ages to discover that by holding the function key and pressing CTRL you can actually program custom lighting. And I suppose one could argue that given the price tag full RGB LED lighting should have been included. But at the end of the day if you want a straightforward keyboard that doesn’t concern itself with fancy frills then this might just be the one for you.