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HyperX's Alloy FPS RGB mechanical gaming keyboard reviewed

Swift switches in a slim chassis

HyperX's Alloy FPS keyboard earned a TR Recommended award in days past for its no-nonsense design, quality construction, Cherry switches, and software-free setup, but no gaming-peripheral company worth its salt these days can ignore the demands of the RGB LED-hungry masses. A little while ago, HyperX melded those multicolor LEDs with its no-frills gaming keyboard to make the Alloy FPS RGB. I've been typing on this board for some time now, and I'm ready to issue my verdict.

Like its predecessor, the Alloy FPS RGB starts with a low-profile, low-fat frame that barely extends past the key caps above. The steel top plate comes coated in a stealthy dark grey finish, while the underside of the board uses the typical plastic shell. All together, this construction results in an incredibly rigid-feeling and reassuring board.

HyperX uses a detachable Mini-USB cable to pass its user's input to the host system. This wire is nice and pliable and shouldn't oppose any efforts to route it across a desk. While I appreciate the detachable cable, I wish the company had put another Mini-USB port on the left side of the board to allow for more cable-routing options. As it stands, the rather bulky plug and strain relief on the board's cable mean that the wire runs haphazardly across my desk to the PC on its left side.

The end of the Alloy FPS' cable terminates in a pair of USB Type-A connectors: one to pass key strokes to a system, the other to power the Alloy FPS' USB 2.0 pass-through port. This port only offers power for device charging, so folks who want to plug a wireless mouse receiver or similar dongle in here are out of luck.

Silver surfer

Short-stroke and high-actuation-point mechanical key switches are all the rage in gaming keyboards at the moment, and the Alloy FPS RGB obliges that trend with Kailh Speed Silver switches. HyperX claims these clickers have a light 40-g actuation force, a 1.1-mm actuation point, and a 3.5-mm total travel—speedy specs indeed.

Despite their name and spec-sheet similarity to the Cherry MX Speed Silver switches that Corsair uses in its boards, though, the Kailh Speed Silver switches feel nothing like their competition. Part of this may be because the stroke of the Kailh switches doesn't follow a truly linear travel-to-actuation-force curve, something that Nathan's review of the Cherry MX Speed LP switches on the Corsair K70 MK.2 Low Profile Rapidfire opened my eyes to.

Cherry MX Speeds feel as though they have a completely linear, uncushioned actuation curve to go with their light actuation force and high trigger point, so they feel as light and crisp as their specs suggest. The Kailh Speed Silver switches have the high actuation point of the Cherry switches, but they also have a distinct cushioned feel at the end of their stroke that stands in stark contrast to the Cherry switches. As a result, the Kailh switches feel less speedy than the Cherry switches do, despite their similarity on paper.

The force-travel diagram for Kailh Speed Silvers. Source: NovelKeys

Do the Kailh switches feel bad in use? Hardly. The problem is that the prominent cushioning at the bottom of their stroke makes them feel laser-targeted at folks who don't habitually bottom out. If I made a conscious effort to avoid bottoming out on this HyperX board, I was rewarded with a whip-crackingly fast actuation and feather-light action. Without that conscious effort, I kept reverting to the habit of bottoming out on every key stroke, and the cushioned feel of the Kailh keys made them feel a little laborious to actuate compared to the Cherry MX Speeds in the K70 MK.2 Rapidfire board I have here.

Overall, the Speed Silvers feel like hair-trigger Cherry MX Reds, and that might not be a feel that everybody can get along with. The Kailhs are as easy to mistakenly actuate as MX Speeds without the advantage of their swift, pure stroke. If you exercise care in your typing technique, these switches can serve well , but if you're a habitual key-smasher, you might find them too sensitive for day-to-day use. HyperX really ought to consider broadening the range of switch options it offers on the Alloy FPS RGB as a result.

Pudding time

Out of the box, the Alloy FPS RGB conceals its naughty bits with run-of-the-mill ABS key caps, meaning the typing feel of this board has all the slick feel that cap type usually offers. The upside is that HyperX offers a set of PBT key caps for its boards at a quite reasonable $25 or so.  The company sent me a set of these caps to try out on the Alloy FPS RGB, and they both look great and feel pleasantly dry and grippy under the fingers.

These caps use what the company calls a "pudding" construction, meaning the skirt is molded in translucent plastic while the tops are the usual black. In the case of the Alloy FPS RGB (and other HyperX RGB LED boards), the translucent skirt lets the lights on each switch shine through far better than the opaque stock caps. The frosted look of the skirts on these caps mean the light is pleasantly diffuse rather than retina-searing, too.

Despite their excellent price tag, these PBT caps aren't perfect. Perhaps because the company needs these caps to work on all of its boards, the useful alternate legends that guide users through the function layer on the Alloy FPS are missing from this aftermarket set. That might not be a big deal on the Alloy Elite thanks to its dedicated media controls, but it's a bit of a pain on the Alloy FPS unless you have a great memory. Some of the legends on this cap set aren't perfectly crisp in their outlines, either. I don't think those downsides are a big deal given the affordable price for this set of caps, but they're worth knowing about.