Many people, gamers especially, neglect their peripherals. They stick with that ancient Dell mouse their PC game with, or they rock the $20 impulse-buy keyboard in the exit row at Fry’s Electronics. It’s unfortunate as, even as they spend upwards of $600 on a shiny new video card, they’ll grab the cheapest input devices they can find. Just like those centralized components, a great keyboard or mouse can improve all of your games. I’ve spent the last few weeks with the HyperX Alloy Elite Keyboard, and as you can see in this video below, there’s a lot to like.
HyperX has been slow-rolling their way to making a respectable name for themselves in the gaming community. Their Pulsefire mouse (our review), Cloud Revolver (our review), and Cloud II (our review), and now joined by two keyboards — the Alloy Elite and FPS Pro. (We’ll be taking a look at the latter in another review)
In terms of design, it’s clear the team at HyperX wanted this keyboard to be the last one you’ll need to buy for a very, very long time. With a hefty and strong steel frame, the Alloy also features a thick USB cable protected by a braided jacket with rubber grommet to alleviate pinch point damage. The steel is a charcoal black with a trio of macro keys for lighting management on the top left, a Game Mode key (disables the Windows key to guard against accidental tabbing out of a game), and the usual array of play/pause, rewind, and fast forward, flanked by a scroll wheel-style audio roller on the top right.
Under the hood is where the magic happens. Beneath each one of the keys on this board is a Cherry MX switch. Cherry, one of (if not the) oldest switch manufacturers, is arguably the best switch manufacturer in the business. There are quite a few Cherry switches to choose from, with Blue, Brown, and Red being what’s on offer from HyperX. Brown switches have a detent-style throw with an obvious ‘break’ point in depression, but without the clicking noise you might expect. Blue switches are more traditional type switch, offering resistance and an obvious snap as you type. The Alloy Elite I am reviewing has the Red – my personal favorite. Red switches are a smooth motion with no detent, and a linear 45 grams of needed force to depress it the 4mm travel distance. They are a bit taller than your typically throwaway Dell keyboard keys, but it is incredibly comfortable for writing long reviews, surfing the web, and gaming alike. In fact, I’m writing this review on it right now!
About that lighting…
While it’s unlikely the reason you’d pick up a high-end keyboard, lighting to match your rig is always fun. The HyperX Alloy Elite only offers red LEDs, but it does have a wealth of options for what you can do with that one lighting choice.
The aforementioned pair of control keys on the top left of the keyboard toggle through a waving pulse from left to right on the keyboard, a pulsing and fading setting, a “triggered” setting where keys light up as you press them, an “explosion” setting where each key press kicks off a firework-like explosion of light emanating from the last key you pressed, a simple setting with just WASD, 1234, CTRL, and space lit up, and an always-on setting. My personal favorite is the triggered setting as it looks like the crazy hacker-spoof nonsense portrayed in movies. It’s entirely cosmetic, but it’s also one of the best examples of making LEDs more interesting I’ve seen on a keyboard.
Halo swords and features
The Alloy Elite’s Cherry MX mechanical switched keys can be removed and replaced. Included in the box is a set of textured WASD keys in silver instead of the basic black, as well as four silver (but untextured) keys to replace the first four number keys. Naturally, a key puller (that resembles the energy sword from Halo) is also included. You could conceivably put the textured keys anywhere on the board, replacing the four arrow keys if you are inclined, but they are meant to be home row-esque markers to allow players to rapidly move from typing to FPS movement without having to glance at the keyboard, losing precious milliseconds in the process.
Like the Pulsefire, the Alloy Elite has a massive leg up on its competition – it has no drivers. That means no clunky tray detritus, no updates to run, no software to install, and no memory sap to run extra features — the Alloy Elite is truly plug and play. On the flipside, this does mean that you won’t be programming in macros, but in over 35 years of gaming, I can’t say I’ve ever found much use for macro keys, myself.
There is one aspect of the Alloy Elite that isn’t as well-constructed as the steel-bodied main component — the wrist rest. Made of plastic with a rubberized wrist surface, the wrist rest connects to the underside of the main body with two plastic clips. As the Alloy Elite isn’t meant to be a mobile keyboard, this shouldn’t be a major concern as the weight of the body holds it firmly in place, but it is a striking contrast in construction materials. That said, the rubberized material on the wrist rest is perfect for gaming. With its checked pattern, it has enough grip to keep your wrists stabilized, but not so much that you might stick to it moving from one end of the keyboard to the other. As someone who types more than a few words a year, I appreciate the inclusion as it’d make the Alloy Elite harder to use for daily work without it..
Let’s play some FPS with the Alloy Elite
With the textured keys in place on the WASD keys, I tackled a few games to put the Alloy Elite through its paces. Taking advantage of the early access, I tried Lawbreakers, as well as Fallout 4, Hitman, and Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Hitman was one of the best ways to test the anti-ghosting technology present in the keyboard (N-key rollover, more colloquially (but incorrectly) known as “Ghosting” is when you press multiple keys simultaneously and the keyboard fails to register or confuses the input – something Microsoft has explained in great detail right here, even including a testing utility to give your new keyboard a run for its money. Ghosting on the other hand is where you press two keys, and somehow a key you didn’t press is also activated, likely due to the way the board is wired) as you end up pressing a lot of keys that may carry common wiring in other keyboards. Here, I was able to press W to move forward, then D to strafe sideways, and then C to crouch, all simultaneously and without interference. Similarly, flying a helicopter in Ghost Recon: Wildlands requires a lot of digital gymnastics to stay airborne. No matter what I threw at the Alloy Elite, it happily passed my inputs to the game without complaint or hesitation.
In addition to gaming, I also type a lot of documents. On a good day I can breeze past 120 wpm – occasionally enough to overpower cheaper keyboards. Here, I was able to type as fast as my fingers would go without a single forced error – any goofy misspellings were my own fault.
While we are on the topic of keys, you likely have noticed that the keys don’t rest in a ‘cradle’ of any kind, and they aren’t nested to the point where you cannot get underneath them. In point of fact, they are all removable. This is incredibly handy if you want to clean your keyboard as you can strip it all the way down to the switches, which are sealed to a degree to keep dirt, dust, and grime out. It’s not exactly a marketing bullet you’ll see on the back of the box, but if this keyboard is going be in your peripheral family for a while, easily keeping it clean is a boon you shouldn’t overlook.
HyperX Alloy Elite Keyboard
At $109.99 MSRP, the Alloy Elite from HyperX is right in the sweet spot for a quality keyboard. However, the overall construction, Cherry MX switch hardware, steel frame, and driverless nature could easily justify a higher price. HyperX continues to establish itself as a gamer’s best friend, and the Alloy Elite only serves to solidify that position. Now, let’s hope the Alloy Elite 2 carries a pair of USB 3.0 ports in the back!