HyperX’s Alloy FPS mechanical gaming keyboard reviewed

At least one mechanical keyboard seems to exist for every conceivable taste these days. Need a clicky keyboard with key caps that look like old-timey typewriter keys? Pick one from Massdrop. Want something that lights up the room with every color under the rainbow? Dozens of options are available from every manufacturer. Want something cheap? Mechanical keyboards are available with off-brand mechanical switches for around $30 shipped from Amazon. HyperX has taken a more nuanced approach at carving out some room in this crowded market for its simple-yet-sturdy Alloy FPS mechanical gaming keyboard.

From my experience using the Alloy FPS, I gather the idea is to offer only what is necessary for a tightly-focused FPS gaming keyboard while ditching the frills. What the designers left in was the buyer’s choice of Cherry MX Blue, Brown, or Red switches, along with gamer-friendly nods like the detachable braided cable, optional red key caps for the gamer-critical WASD and 1234 keys, and a Windows-key-defeat mode.

To get there, HyperX eliminated some things along the way. The scroll lock indicator has been replaced by a light that shows when the Windows keys have been disabled. The Alloy bears no RGB LEDs, either. The integrated lighting is all red, all the time, regardless of switch choice. I suspect the red color was chosen because of its association with aggression, but part of me hopes the color was chosen as a nod to minimizing eye strain in a darkened environment.

The empty spaces around the key blocks have been winnowed away to the brink of non-existence, too, particularly near the edges of the keyboard. When the Alloy FPS first arrived, I was convinced that the spaces between the key blocks were smaller than on my personal Kailh blue-stuffed keyboard. The calipers told a different story. My generic mechanical keyboard had just about seven millimeters of horizontal space between key blocks, 10 millimeters between the function key sub-blocks, and five millimeters of vertical space between the number keys and the function keys. The nine millimeters of side-to-side space between key blocls and eight millimeters of vertical space between the number row and the function keys was actually wider than my old keyboard.

The space around the edges are another story. Both keyboards have standard 104-key layouts. My old keyboard measured 17.6″ (45 cm) wide, 7″ (18 cm) deep, and just over and inch (3 cm) tall at the highest point when the feet are collapsed. The HyperX measures about half an inch narrower, and a quarter of an inch shorter, but the depth is chopped down by almost two full inches, to 5.1″ (13 cm). The spaces between blocks were actually a little bit bigger on the HyperX, so the all of the trimming happened around the edges. For reference, tenkeyless gaming keyboards are about 2.5 inches narrower than a full layout model. Both keyboards weigh the same 2.3 pounds (1 kg), despite the steel top plate on the Alloy FPS and the aluminum top on my old keyboard.

The key switches and their circuit board is packaged inside a steel frame. The top of frame is uncovered on the top of the keyboard, though it has been either painted or powdercoated black. The frame is extremely stiff, and has the least flex of any keyboard I have used. The key caps appear to float above the exposed part of the frame, which has an elegant look and makes the keyboard easy to clean with a puff of compressed air. The bottom of the Alloy’s chassis is made or black plastic. The keyboard’s base sports four textured rubber strips to keep it in place. Two more grip strips are attached to plastic feet that lift the back of the keyboard away from the desk. The feet have a very precise feel and lock into position with a satisfying click.

The particular Alloy that sent to us has Cherry MX Red switches, with which I had no prior experience. The sound level of the keys is closer to the rubber-dome Dell keyboard I use on the PC in my garage than it is to the clickety-clackety aural assault that emanates from the Kailh blue-switched keyboard on my main desktop rig. The consistent actuation force required for the MX Reds is of course far superior to the old Dell. The actuation force is noticeably lighter on the Cherry Reds than it is on the Kailhs I usually type on. Users switching from one type of mechanical switch to another should definitely expect a bit of a learning curve. TR’s managing editor Bruno Ferreira can attest to my penchant for typos, but switching key switch types turned me into a misspelling master.

Those high-end key switches are covered by single-injection-molded keycaps with a soft-touch coating. The tops of the keys feel silky-smooth, but they seem unlikely to last the 50-million cycle lifespan of the Cherry MX switches before that coating wears off. When the keyboard comes out of the box, all of the keys are black. A vacuum-sealed plastic pouch inside the box contains a key puller tool and eight replacement keys with a metallic red finish. The replacement 1, 2, 3, and 4 keys have the same smooth feeling as the rest of the keys, but the optional WASD block keys have a diamond-plate texture that makes them a little easier to locate without looking at them. I must note that these optional keys are metallic in finish only, they have the same single-injection-molded construction as the standard keys. If something about the keys is not to the buyer’s liking, standard MX replacement key caps will fit.

Even after a week of solid use, I could not get used to the absence of haptic feedback and the lighter actuation and of the Red switches. I found that long stretches of use would leave my fingertips aching from consistently bottoming out the keys on every press. I sought aftermarket assistance with this issue via rubber o-rings that wrap around the stems of the key caps and provide a cushion when keys are bottomed out. The installation process was straightforward using the key cap removal tool supplied with the Alloy FPS. The larger keys presented challenges because of the stabilizer mechanisms underneath, but after some trial-and-error I was able to install the o-rings on all keys. It took me about half an hour to finish the job, and the result is a more comfortable typing experience. I would recommend Blue or Brown switches to anyone else with the same caveman-smash typing style that I seem to have. For those dissatisfied with an existing Red-switch keyboard, the o-rings can help the situation quite a bit.

RGB LEDs are not part of the Alloy FPS package, but the red LEDs do have a few tricks of their own. Five levels of brightness, including fully disabled, are available by holding Fn and pressing the up and down arrow keys. Six different illumination modes can be selected by holding down the Fn key and pressing the left and right arrow keys. Mode one illuminates every key on the keyboard. The second option is a breathing pattern. A third press of the Fn+Right combination selects a mode where a key illuminates when pressed, then fades back out over the course of a couple of seconds. The fourth option is a radiating mode, where each key press triggers a wave of illumination around the depressed key. The fifth mode cycles the LED illumination from left to right. The last option illuminates the 1234 and WASD keys, the left control key, and the space bar. I keep the keyboard in mode one and at intensity two almost all of the time.

Even with a single color, we still want even backlighting for the best appearance, and the Alloy FPS delivers. Key caps with non-intuitive shift characters, like ‘2’ and ‘@’, for example, have both characters right next to each other on the top part of the key cap. This approach ensures that the LED above each key switch has a good chance to illuminate both characters evenly. I have seen other key caps that place the “shift character” below the primary character, and the result is always uneven illumination. The exception on the Alloy FPS is the media functions accessed by holding Fn while pressing F6-F12. The secondary functions are at the bottom of each key cap and are barely illuminated. That one nitpick aside, the quality of the Alloy FPS’s backlighting is excellent.

The Alloy FPS’ detachable cable caused some disagreement among members of the TR staff. As a person who keeps computer parts around forever, I am not a fan of the detachable cable. My feeling is that the USB mini-B connector represents one extra way for a comparatively-expensive keyboard to be rendered useless. Fellow TR writer Zak Killian greatly prefers detachable cables because he can keep an extra mini-B cable in his LAN party bag and leave the primary cable attached to his main rig when he goes to an event. HyperX seems to have had this usage scenario in mind, because the company includes an athletic-style mesh carrying bag inside the Alloy FPS’s box. A separate velcro pouch in the included bag can hold the cord, along with a a couple other small items, like a mouse. Luddites like me can always resort to fixing the cable in place with epoxy after the warranty period is over.

The supplied cable connects to the keyboard with the aforementioned USB mini-B connector. The other end of the 6′ (1.8-m) cable has two USB Type-A terminals. One of the terminals must be plugged in to use the keyboard. The second Type-A connector is optional, and provides additional power for the USB charging port on the back of the Alloy FPS. The charge port provides just a little current when the the second Type-A port is disconnected, but not enough to charge a phone. Plugging the Alloy FPS into two USB ports fully enables the charge port. I have to say I am a bit disappointed in this approach. USB pass-through ports are fairly common on gaming keyboards, and the ability to plug in a mouse or USB dongle into the keyboard would have been a welcome feature.

Pressing Fn+F12 activates the Alloy’s “game mode.” One might expect this mode to enable macros or n-key rollover, but it simply disables the Windows key and the menu key that flank the spacebar. The mostly-useless scroll lock indicator has been repurposed to display game mode status. When the G-LED is illuminated, the Windows keys are disabled. Though game mode is off by default, one has to press Fn-Del in order to switch the Alloy FPS from its standard 6-key rollover mode to n-key rollover. The game mode LED flashes twice when the keyboard changes rollover modes. My research suggests that n-key rollover is disabled by default on this board in order to maximize compatibility with older systems.

The Alloy FPS does not sport any extra software, macro keys, or any macro capabilities of any kind. Players of MMOs, RTS, and simulation games with more complex control schemes might find the Alloy FPS a little too bare-bones for their liking. Content creators with elaborate macro settings for their favorite production packages might feel the same way. Still, the ability to plug in this keyboard anywhere without fear of critical settings being left behind in an unavailable utility has its merits.

Overall, HyperX’s Alloy FPS offers a compelling package for gamers, particularly those that need to travel light and operate in close quarters. The most compelling part of the package is clearly the choice of three different Cherry MX key switch options. These switches are the most consistent on the market, but that consistency comes at a price. The Alloy FPS’s $100 price tag is on the high side for a keyboard without fancy programmable lighting effects or handmade detailing. With that said, the Alloy FPS offers little extras, like the optional key caps and the convenient detachable cable and carrying bag that add value. We have seen the Alloy FPS on sale for around $80 in the last few weeks, and at that price it is among the most affordable full-layout keyboards with Cherry MX switches on the market. Even at $100, though, HyperX has delivered a solid, space-saving keyboard that’s built tough, and we’re happy to call it TR Recommended.

Comments closed
    • evilpaul
    • 3 years ago

    Is there a Wikipedia page that explains what the color switch stuff means?

    • Mumrik
    • 3 years ago

    “At least one mechanical keyboard seems to exist for every conceivable taste these days.”

    Nope. There’s no basic ergo split like the MS Naturals. It’s straight rectangle or deep into deluxe ergo space.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 3 years ago

      Agreed. I’ve been looking for a mechanical version of the Microsoft Ergo 4000 but nothing comes close.

        • evilpaul
        • 3 years ago

        I’m using one right now and was wondering the same having had no luck when I go looking.

    • Airmantharp
    • 3 years ago

    Still not tired of red backlighting, couldn’t try white this time huh?

    (otherwise looks great, and priced decently too for the quality delivered)

    • just brew it!
    • 3 years ago

    Looks like a decent no-nonsense illuminated keyboard.

    [quote<]My old keyboard measured 17.6" (45 cm) wide, 7" (18 cm) deep, and just over and inch (3 cm) tall at the highest point when the feet are collapsed. The HyperX measures about half an inch narrower, and a quarter of an inch shorter, but the depth is chopped down by almost two full inches, to 5.1" (13 cm). [/quote<] That's only slightly smaller than my RK-9000. It's a pretty standard footprint for "minimalist" mechanicals. [quote<]I would recommend Blue or Brown switches to anyone else with the same caveman-smash typing style that I seem to have. For those dissatisfied with an existing Red-switch keyboard, the o-rings can help the situation quite a bit.[/quote<] I vastly prefer blue switches, but I've found that I like the o-rings on them too. It reduces the noise somewhat, and (even though I don't bottom out the keys all the time) my fingers still appreciate the cushioning when I do.

    • JosiahBradley
    • 3 years ago

    <rant> Insert my usual rant about paying 100$ for a 30$ keyboard. </rant>

      • Voldenuit
      • 3 years ago

      $30 with Cherry MX switches? Where? Where?

        • JosiahBradley
        • 3 years ago

        Amazon. Who cares if Cherry makes them if they conform to the same specs and work the same and I can type on them… They are still mechanical. It’s like buying Nike’s versus New Balance. I’ll take the later without all the bling that fit better and work.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 3 years ago

          The difference being that New Balance makes decent stuff. Cheap no-name electronics tend to fail much more often.

          Edit: if shoe companies made keyboards and the Nike was $100, I’d expect the New Balance to come in around $75.

          • just brew it!
          • 3 years ago

          You’re not going to get a quality backlit mechanical for $30. Yes, you can sometimes find non-illuminated ones for that cheap.

            • drfish
            • 3 years ago

            FWIW, [url=https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01M0QEYR4//<]this[/url<] is pretty darn nice for $40. Alex (bubble guy at BBQ) has one and likes it a lot.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 3 years ago

            Damn, that’s nice.

            • JosiahBradley
            • 3 years ago

            Join the cheap knock off master race (posted from my 40$ Drevo black switches backlit w/effects 87 key)

            • Chrispy_
            • 3 years ago

            When looking for a quality key action, silly little LED blikenlights are 100% worthless.

            If you have to look at the keys still, perhaps your money should be spent on touch-typing lessons rather than a keyboard.

    • Voldenuit
    • 3 years ago

    Thanks for the review.

    Using a MX Brown Ozone tenkeyless here, previously on Rosewill RK-9000 Red. Will say that switching to Browns was uncomfortable to me. I never had a problem with sore fingers from bottoming out on the Reds, and the Browns just felt like ‘dirty’ reds with the ratchety feel of the actuation bump in their stroke.

    I’m getting more used to the Browns (either that or I’m breaking in the keyboard), but I still prefer the silky-smooth key action of the Reds. Never had a problem with missed or inadvertent actuation on the Reds, either. Whereas I feel as if I have more typos on the Browns for some reason.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      Browns take getting used to, that’s for sure. I’ve been on a Brown-based Cooler Master keyboard for about 5 years now. I really like it and it’s comfortable, but the “graininess” of the keys at first made it weird.

      • tsk
      • 3 years ago

      Why don’t you get a red keyboard again?
      I went from a ducky mini with blues to corsair K65 with reds causes the ducky was too small., however I could never get used to the reds so now I have a turtle beach with blues.

        • Voldenuit
        • 3 years ago

        The Red version of that keyboard had been out of stock for a few months, and since everyone kept raving about the Browns, I thought I’d give them a shot.

          • just brew it!
          • 3 years ago

          Ehh… for typing, I don’t think anything beats blues. Browns are a compromise — they’re for people who want tactile feedback but work in an office environment where the noise of blues is an issue, or people who do a lot of typing [u<]and[/u<] play FPS games. For a primarily gaming use case, reds or blacks are probably the way to go.

            • Voldenuit
            • 3 years ago

            We had IBM model Ms in my old job (running AIX, no less). I don’t miss the noise of buckling springs, no sir.

            • just brew it!
            • 3 years ago

            One of my co-workers uses a Model M. When he brought that in (and nobody else in the immediate vicinity complained), I stopped worrying that my RK-9000 (MX blue switches) was too loud. 😀

            • AMD64Blondie
            • 3 years ago

            Fellow IBM Model M user here.(1991 PS/2 version.)

            I’ve had it since 2007.Still clicking away after 10 years of use.

            (as an aside,where did the past 10 years vanish to?)

            • just brew it!
            • 3 years ago

            [quote<](as an aside,where did the past 10 years vanish to?)[/quote<] No... f'n'... kidding. I am absolutely convinced that our perception of how fast time passes scales with age. So 10 years at age 40 is like 4 years when you're 16, or 2 years when you're 8.

            • EzioAs
            • 3 years ago

            Hear hear. Blues user here.

            Greens are pretty good for typing as well though they do feel a bit heavier to push.

            • just brew it!
            • 3 years ago

            I imagine the Model M fanatics would prefer greens over the other Cherry variants if forced to give up their beloved buckling springs. They’re probably the closest you’re gonna get to the classic IBM feel without using the IBM mechanism.

            • llisandro
            • 3 years ago

            <tl;dr: matias switches are awesome for typing>

            Personally, I think this gets at the problem with the cherry style of switch- there’s a tactile bump, but the switch just isn’t really all that tactile over the entire travel range of the switch (I think this is why blues feel better than browns- I want more tactility).

            My daily driver was a Browns CM Storm with O-rings. The tactility always felt vague to me, and adding o-rings softened bottoming out, but made it feel mushier. I live in the sticks, so I only have a bestbuy with Razer Greens, MX Blues, and one Logitech with Romer-G (mush city) to try out in person. Blues felt best, but I didn’t love any, so I went down a rabbit-hole of youtube and online reviews last week and settled on a matias quiet click (ALPS clones). Purported force curve [url=https://deskthority.net/photos-f62/matias-force-curves-t15278.html/<]here[/url<]. I got a KBParadise V80 TKL, which is an almost exact clone of my CM storm. Force curve seemed to address my gripes about Cherrys- there's a second force ramp after actuation that decelerates the fingers, and adds a whole lot more feel than clicky Cherrys. I've only had the board for 2d so time will tell, but so far, I'm loving it- as a typists board, it feels great. It is way quieter than my o-ringed Brown, and very tactile! I was really hesitant to buy it without being able to try it out, but I have no regrets.

      • MagariNegi
      • 3 years ago

      I use browns at work and reds at home. I much prefer browns for typing and reds for gaming. Definitely a different feel for both.

    • Anovoca
    • 3 years ago

    I really don’t get the colored wasd keys. If you have to look down while playing a game to find the wasd keys to begin with, you probably aren’t playing anything competitive enough to need a keyboard specialized for gaming.

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      Textured WASD keys may and probably do help, though, especially for shooters.

      • Anovoca
      • 3 years ago

      Ill give you that, though it is usually for me the keys not next to wasd that I have trouble finding in shooters. Especially when they start mapping alt weapons and grenade attacks to n or m.

      Edit: @morphine. Mobile app fail.

      • Chrispy_
      • 3 years ago

      I hate WASD keys for even more serious reason:

      What if your game isn’t the sort of game that uses an inverted-T cluster like WASD or ESDF?

      What if you prefer ESDF? I’m an ESDF person and all these silly extra keys down the left side on some gaming keyboards are a kludge for WASD users that have run out of keys on the left.

      Not only that, the F key has the bump you can feel as a home key so you NEVER have to look to see where your hands are, as if putting your left pinky on control was too hard for WASD users in the first place.

      In terms of position, The F1-F4 cluster is directly above ESDF, but it’s far clumsier to reach all of those from WASD.

      Finally, ESDF means you will never accidentally hit the windows key when aiming for ALT with your thumb. Not unless you’re really, [i<]really[/i<] stretching. So, I'm not a pro gamer, but a lot of pro-gamers use (and older pro-gamers used to use) ESDF because it is unquestionably superior to WASD. The only thing going against ESDF is people's habit of using WASD, and stupid keyboards that try to force you into an inferior set of keybinds.

        • just brew it!
        • 3 years ago

        So get some custom textured keycaps, and put them on whatever keys you want. Nobody’s forcing you to use the ones that come with the keyboard.

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