Kingston and their gaming-centric HyperX brand expanded into the mechanical keyboard market with the Alloy FPS last year and the reception was wholly positive. The slimmed-down board was designed in conjunction with professional gamers and it firmly had them in mind when crafting a product that was sturdy, reliable and portable. Now, HyperX have taken things in a slightly different direction with the Alloy Elite.
What Is It?
The HyperX Alloy Elite is a 104-key keyboard and successor to the Alloy FPS, released last year. It is a fully mechanical keyboard that comes with Cherry MX switches, either Brown, Blue or Red, 6 LED modes with 4 different brightness levels, 100% anti-ghosting and N-key rollover. It makes obvious improvements on the Alloy FPS while adding on additional weight and bulk but make no mistake, this a desktop keyboard designed for playing video games. It’s built to sit on your desktop, under your monitor and it’s built to last.
There are a lot of similarities to the Alloy FPS, which is a good thing – it was one of the best value-for-money mechanical keyboards you could find last year but there were a few gripes. The USB charging port was a point of contention for many, including Mike Fahey at Kotaku US, and the lack of programmable macros also disappointed. So how have HyperX faired this time around?
What’s It Good At?
The USB cable that connects the Alloy Elite to your PC is huge. It’s a thick, braided cable that’s honestly quite cumbersome, but the Alloy Elite isn’t designed for portability. It features two USB inputs – one that powers the keyboard and one that powers the extra USB slot, situated at the top of the keyboard. This is one major change from the Alloy FPS which featured a USB port that was only good for charging. This USB port (though only USB 2.0) can power a mouse, headset, HDD or any other device that you may want to connect to your desktop setup. I also appreciate that, straight out of the box, it’s plug and play.
The Alloy Elite has maintained the high-end design of its predecessor with a solid steel frame that feels like it can take a beating. However, the clear difference between the Alloy Elite and the Alloy FPS is its footprint. Like the Alloy FPS, it's a full 104-key keyboard but the Elite is much larger, largely owing to the fact that it has a bar for media controls and lighting effects above the function keys plus a plastic wrist rest at its base. The wrist rest attaches to the bottom of the keyboard by two plastic connectors, which isn’t quite as impressive as some more expensive competitors, though at least it feels sturdy enough and the texture is certainly comfortable to rest on.
The quick access media controls are my favourite feature – and the defining feature to make it a worthwhile purchase ahead of the Alloy FPS. On the top right hand side of the keyboard you have previous, next, play/pause and mute buttons, plus a volume slider. It was the slider that I found myself using religiously – not just for gaming, but in the office for manipulating volume on the fly. It’s certainly something I miss when switching from my desktop to my laptop.
What’s It Not Good At?
The biggest gripe that mechanical keyboard enthusiasts and the gaming crowd will have is that there are no programmable macros. This is a function of its design no doubt – the fact that it’s plug and play and requires no software to get going means that macro programming isn’t really on the list of things HyperX are trying to tick off, but it would have been nice to see a few extra keys, considering the keyboard will be aimed more at the MMO/MOBA crowd.
From a customisation point of view, the keyboard only offers red backlighting, as opposed to RGB (the next Alloy model, the Alloy RGB, will include this). Furthermore, in the box, the Alloy Elite comes with 8 extra keys you can switch out from the matte black finish to a metallic silver finish – the W, A, S, D keys and F1 through F4 – so customisation options are limited. Again, not a huge issue, just one that shows HyperX are more concerned with how well the keyboard operates and less about how it looks.
Should You Buy It?
Like the Alloy FPS before it, the Alloy Elite is designed with gaming in mind, but it still remains a good typists keyboard if that's what you're after. Our review unit contained the ultra-responsive Cherry MX Reds, which are commonly used in gaming keyboards, and the keys feel great under fingertips after sustained use throughout an 8-hour work day of pure typing or extended gaming sessions. Though, if you're looking for a board purely for typing, I'd look at the Elite with Cherry MX Blue switches instead because the slightly higher actuation force increases efficiency and reduces typos.
If you were looking at the Alloy FPS and don’t need a keyboard that you can lug around with you, then there’s no reason not to go with the Elite. At only $10 more ($149) than the FPS, it’s exceptional value for the features you get and taking the media controls and lighting options away from the function keys cleans up the face of the keyboard well. It's a solid choice as a mid-level mechanical keyboard whichever way you cut it, but if it's programmable macros that you really need, you're going to have to look elsewhere.
Mechanical keyboards are all the rage at the moment, and for good reason. Improved reliability, durability and that beautiful clack you get whenever you press a key are features that are just too hard to resist. You might be looking to buy a new mechanical keyboard but you don't know where to start. Well, start right here! We've rounded up some of the best reviewed mechanical keyboards you can find - with links to buy.