HyperX’s Alloy FPS RGB mechanical gaming keyboard reviewed

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.

 

Flashes of Ngenuity

Peripheral software can make or break a product when it’s done poorly, but HyperX’s Ngenuity utility is as straightforward and functional as the keyboard it controls. The app is clean-looking and offers helpful tutorials as you click through it. Should you miss one of those tutorial screens, a help icon in the toolbar will bring back the corresponding help screen for each section of the utility.

The top of the Ngenuity hierarchy for the Alloy FPS starts with profiles. The board has onboard memory for up to three different combinations of lighting settings, macros, and key-deactivation settings for the Alloy FPS RGB’s gaming mode. Once you choose a profile to edit, you’ll gain access to lighting, game mode, and macro sub-settings. Lighting is the most complex part of Ngenuity, so it’s where I’ll focus most of my overview.

You won’t find as flashy a set of pre-baked effects through HyperX’s software as you might in Corsair’s iCUE utility, and HyperX doesn’t have any RGB LED sync partnerships in its corner to keep colors or effects consistent across multiple brands of peripherals. Still, I suspect Ngenuity has enough effects to please both mild and wild fans of RGB LEDs.

For the RGB LED-entranced, Ngenuity’s “Effects” tab offers the user seven prebaked lighting effects. Each of its prebaked effects can generally be set up to use a single color or dual colors of the user’s choice, and they can also trigger random colors chosen by the software.

On top of the usual solid, breathing, wave, and color cycle settings, Ngenuity has a couple distinctive effects of its own. Trigger lights up a key when it’s pressed and gradually fades back to black. Explosion causes a wave of color to emanate from each key press. HyperX Flame causes a multicolor cascade to rise from the last key pressed to the top of the board, an effect that can be quite striking if you set up two contrasting colors.

If you prefer to use RGB LEDs to set apart different keys for functional reasons, Ngenuity’s appropriately-named “Zones” tab offers five lighting-region presets it suggests for FPS, MMO, MOBA, and RTS titles, as well as a “five zones” preset that simply applies five different colors to five different regions of the board. If none of those presets fits your fancy, the software also allows per-key backlighting setup in its “Freestyle” tab.

Conclusions

In today’s crowded mechanical keyboard market, it’s easy for a company to miss the sweet spot of build quality, features, and value. I think HyperX has hit the bullseye with the Alloy FPS RGB, though, especially if you’re a fiend for the dry and pleasant feel of PBT key caps and want to add a set to your typing experience.

The Alloy FPS RGB is as rock-solid and pleasant to type on as its RGB LED-free predecessor, and the company has priced the board perfectly, too, at $109.99. That’s a killer price for an RGB LED-illuminated keyboard from a respected brand. Even better, the Alloy FPS is on sale at Amazon for just $85.99 ahead of the holidays—a move that takes this keyboard’s value from “killer” to “incredible.”

I do wish the company offered this board with more switch options than the rather unusual-feeling Kailh Speed Silvers, but once you get past the high actuation point of those clickers, the Alloy FPS RGB feels just like any other linear-switch mechanical gaming keyboard: fast, solid, and responsive.

HyperX Alloy FPS RGB

December 2018

Best of all, folks concerned about the feel of the keys under their fingers can add a set of HyperX’s double-shot PBT keycaps to the Alloy FPS RGB for just $25, far less than similar sets from the competition. HyperX’s “pudding” caps let the RGB LED under each key shine through brilliantly, and I think they’re a no-brainer for making this board feel like a much more expensive input device. 

The Alloy FPS RGB’s $135 all-in price tag with those PBT caps looks like an unbeatable value in today’s mechanical keyboard market, especially as prices seem likely to creep up in the wake of the holiday discount onslaught. Anybody looking for a no-frills, value-packed gaming board should put the Alloy FPS RGB at the top of their lists, and I’m happy to bestow it with the high honor of a TR Editor’s Choice award.

Comments closed
    • pirate_panda
    • 12 months ago

    The $25 set of PBT keycaps are an interesting value bling option for anyone with a Cherry MX-compatible RGB keyboard. They don’t appear to be branded at all, and the pudding-style construction allows a lot more light to spill out for people who are into that sort of thing.

    • anotherengineer
    • 12 months ago

    Sad they didn’t just include the PBT kaps from the start, probably only be about $10 difference.

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