EpicGear sent me a Defiant with EG Purple switches pre-installed under every key. I have to say, while I love mechanical keyboards of every stripe, the MX Blue switches are my least favorite of the MX family. I type very rapidly, and the audible feedback of MX Blue keyswitches creates a torrential downpour of clicking noises.
The EG Purple switches have a very similar tactile feel and click response to the MX Blue keyboards that I've used, but (in my completely unscientific opinion) the clicky feedback on the EG switches is even louder. This is true despite the fact that the raised-keycap design of the Defiant dispenses with the loud smack of keycaps-on-baseplate that other keyboards sometimes have when you bottom out the keys.
As I mentioned before, EpicGear sent me an MMS keyswitch sampler with eight of each switch alongside the Defiant. I swapped out my usual gaming movement cluster for the EG Orange switches at first. I then performed the same switcheroo with the EG Grey switches, and spent a couple of days with each. I also installed each switch into the numeric keypad to try them out side-by-side.
While gaming, I found that using mismatched keyswitches felt very strange. Since I didn't have enough switches to replace all the keys I use while gaming, some of the keys ended up with clicky Purple switches underneath, while others were Orange or Grey.
I've run into a similar bit of tactile oddness before on my Corsair Strafe keyboard because of its beveled WASD keys. By comparison, gaming with a mishmash of switch types was even less pleasant. I think the switch sampler is a great product for someone who simply wants to feel what the different keyswitches are like, but mixing and matching the different switches just didn't work well for me. Others might find more utility in a keyboard with mismatched clickers, but it just didn't add anything to the gaming experience for my fingers. I'd much rather have a 100% consistent set of switches under the keycaps.
Unsurprisingly, just as Cherry's MX Red keyswitches are my favorite of that brand's products, the EG Grey switches were my favorite for the Defiant. The perfectly smooth linear feedback from the keys feels fantastic, and there's none of the "scratchiness" or gritty feeling that I've felt in other keyboards with Cherry MX clones (or sometimes, even real MX switches.) In further unsurprising news, the EG Orange switches feel almost exactly like the EG Purples, the only difference being that they lack the noisy audible feedback. I feel confident saying that regardless of which switch type you prefer, if you like Cherry's design, you'll be pleased with EpicGear's work.
My biggest complaint with the Defiant and the MMS keyswitches is much the same as my biggest complaint with the Morpha X and its swappable microswitches: they're just too darn hard to remove. EpicGear sent along a tool for removing keycaps and keyswitches from the keyboard, and another one came with the 24-pack of switches. Regardless of which tool I use, it takes a herculean effort to actually pull a keyswitch. To give you a frame of reference, the last time I swapped out switches—replacing the numpad with the purples that came pre-installed—it took me almost 15 minutes just to replace six keyswitches. It really is that hard. My best female friend was completely unable to remove a switch at all.
Like I said in my review of the Morpha X mouse, from a certain perspective it's good that the keyswitches fit snugly in their sockets. However, for a product built around the idea of customization, the difficulty of actually using the headline feature makes the prospect much less appetizing. I feel like if EpicGear could make a stiffer metal version of the tool that gripped the keyswitches more securely then this problem would go away entirely. The soft plastic of the included switch puller slips out of the notches on the keyswitches far too easily, which is why you have to squeeze so hard.
I'm not intimately familiar with EpicGear's back catalog of gaming hardware, but looking over the company's website it seems like the Defiant is a bit of a departure. Rather than focusing on flashy imagery and aggressive design, the Defiant seems to be a product focused on high-end performance and reliability first and foremost. It certainly looks the part.
I'm happy to report it plays the part, too. Even with its unique socketed keyswitches, I never had a single misfire with the Defiant. Most of my complaints about the keyboard are nitpicks, with the sole real mark against it being the scratch-prone finish on the keycaps. That doesn't affect the performance of the keyboard, but someone who is as concerned with the look of their hardware as the performance might feel otherwise. For a device that's going to need to survive many thousands of keypresses over its life, we're worried the Defiant might end up looking a bit ragged with time.
Like the Morpha X, I think this keyboard's modularity is a bit of a red herring. Like its murine EpicGear cousin, the Defiant is already a high-end product. The ability to snap in new keyswitches, or snap on external accessories, is really just icing on the cake for what is otherwise already a fairly excellent keyboard without that feature.
EG's proprietary MMS keyswitch design is impressive, too. Put simply, the keyboard feels just as fantastic for typing as any high-quality Cherry MX-based keyboard. For gaming, I think the short throw of the EG keyswitches is even better than the standard MX design, although I haven't gotten my hands on a keyboard using Cherry's MX Speed super-shallow switches yet.
Fortunately, the modularity doesn't seem to drive up the price of the Defiant too much. Newegg has the Defiant with EG Orange tactile switches for just $72 right now, while a model with the linear Grey switches runs $90 and the model I have here with clicky Purple switches is $95. Given the performance and features on offer, even the Purple keyboard is a fair buy, and $72 is a steal for a mechanical keyboard like this. Newegg also has the 24-pack of MMS switches for $9, the Defiant lightbars for $10, and your choice of the side stands or "Tournament" palm-rest for $15 as of this writing.
The Defiant competes with more expensive Cherry MX keyboards on performance and features, and it doesn't look like something you'd find in a giant robot anime. It also offers customization features you won't find anywhere else, if that's your thing. Given those advantages, I'm more than willing to call the Defiant TR Recommended.
12 comments — Last by Froz at 3:30 AM on 04/23/17
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