Aye up, I am back again with a keyboard review. MicroStar International are very well known by now, decades of products and dragons, quality and value often go hand in hand and I have had the pleasure of using many of their products since the 90’s.
Resting on my big yellow surface today is the MSI Vigor GK70 TKL Gaming Keyboard, an RGB Tenkeyless affair from their range of Vigor keyboards announced early 2018. This one comes equipped with Cherry Red switches so we are already off to a good start before even getting to the specs, which shall hit the page right about… now.
|Model Name||Vigor GK70 RED GAMING KEYBOARD|
|Main Key switches||CHERRY MX RGB Red Switches|
|Keyboard Interface||Wired USB 2.0|
|Normal keys||87/88 keys (TKL)|
|System Requirement||System with USB port|
|Dimensions (mm)||354*137*46 / 405x84x186 mm (with package)|
|Backlight||Full RGB Illumination (16.77 Million Colors)|
|Operating System||Windows 10 / 8.1 / 8 / 7 / Vista / XP
Mac OS X (Supports while in Normal Mode)
|Accessories||4x Double Material Metal and Plate Keycaps 12x Double Injection and Material Keycaps with comfortable surface 1x Key Puller|
|Cables||Braided Fiber (1.8 m) with cable strap (Micro USB)|
|Keystroke Life||50+ Million|
|Multimedia Keys||Fn + Function keys|
|Gaming Mode||Fn + Windows|
|N-Key Rollover||N-Key Rollover (Gaming mode) 6-Key Rollover (Standard mode)|
|Weight(g)||900 / 1500g (with package)|
And with that, lets get the camera on this thing.
Hello to the front of the box with lots of colour here to appeal to the RGB fan. There’s not too much information on here, a mention of MSI’s RGB control system called Mystic Light, a Gaming Gear logo, a big picture of the keyboard sporting its included metal WASD caps and finally a mention of the switch type as there are more choices.
Over on the back there is much more information available, all in English, no use of multiple language specs here, instead we have a keyboard top view centerpiece surrounded by features, RGB, Mystic Light feature, Switches and the inclusion of extra keycaps.
Extruding the contents from the sturdy packaging there is a tidy presentation of the keyboard and accompanying kit. Along with the GK70 we get a manual that is quite thin and a box labelled Gaming Keycaps containing some nicely seated extra caps for the Vigor and an MSI themed keycap puller.
MSI have provided a very smart looking keyboard with a tasteful dragon logo above the arrow keys. The metal caps came pre-installed and are cold and heavier to the touch. The rest of the keycaps are smooth which I have often stated is not my favourite texture, I do like the sugarcube feel of some really good doubleshot PBT caps. The keyboard feels lighter than most of my other TKL mechs, so here’s hoping rubber grips stop it from sliding.
Grip bring us to the underside, with feet up or down you get four rubber pads which are nice and grippy, the feet themselves are thick and sturdy and offer excellent keyboard elevation for those typists that like to have it leaning forward. In the middle we get the product label which sits under the USB connector which is a mobile phone style micro USB, so you could easily replace the cable if you became separated from the one included. There are channels at the back for cable routing enabling three exit areas which is great for helping keep a desk looking tidy.
Here we see the cable threaded through the channel to feed out to the right, the included cable is quite a thick braided solution which is a little stiff.
End on, we are treated to the side decoration which is added flair to something normally out of sight while in use. The channels next to the dragon do light up as we will see once we get this board up and running.
One of the extra treats included is the MSI shaped plastic keypuller, it would have been nice to include what I consider to be the superior wire style puller, but this will do as long as you’re gentle.
While we don’t get full sets of extra keycaps we do have a selection for WASD between standard on the right, rubberised in the middle and metal on the left. Extra rubberised caps have been supplied for twelve gaming keys including left shift and the spacebar giving more choice.
Powering on the keyboard we are greeted with an RGB lightshow as the colours scroll across the board. Interestingly the metal keycaps with their red skirts offer a strange glowing effect as the darker and brighter colours pass underneath creating the impression of breathing.
Here we get to see that side decoration lighting up along with the raised keycaps allowing light to bleed underneath, some people prefer their switches sunk into a keyboard shroud which can make it difficult to create a minimalist style with a chunkier casing but which would focus lighting through the keys.
MSI have gone with Cherry for the switches, the clear RGB Reds available on this keyboard are of course a great choice, however it is getting more an more difficult to discount other brands of switches these days as the technology advances and manufacturers all strive to create the most desirable switch.
MSI Gaming Center
After downloading the MSI Gaming Center from MSI’s website we are greeted with a device page after an initial request to update firmware which doesn’t appear to be working but more on that later, right now we can select control systems for headsets, mice and keyboards from MSI.
The first page in the keyboard section is a Macro key selector, selecting a key and clicking edit brings us to the Macro editor page.
The macro editor has the standard record and setup options to create macro’s for games and applications.
Moving onto the next tab, we get the LED control area, here you can select between colours and lighting modes, including a text scroller which scrolls MSI across the board. The Custom option crashes the software so I was unable to test that. Also within this section selecting profiles also causes the software to crash, however they are selectable within the macro area. I tested the software on two completely different systems with quite fresh Windows installs and got the same result both times.
If you have a compatible MSI motherboard and or graphics card, there are some hotkeys you can set up to control the gaming/overclock status of your devices. Personally I like to do this outside of games and within software while monitoring temperatures and voltages.
MSI Mystic Light
Also downloadable is MSI’s Mystic Light software, this allows you to sync the lighting of your various MSI components, I managed to get my keyboard synced with my MSI GPU, handy if you want a light-theme for your system. This software works quite well it does like to fill the screen and is semi transparent which is new to me for config software, it clearly shows which devices are syncable in the illustration in the middle.
Performance & Testing
Plugging in the keyboard, I was met with a nice easy plug and play experience, the driver was automatically downloaded and I could get straight into action.
So as a keen typist for many decades I do enjoy a good responsive keyboard. The MSI GK70 is no exception, using trusty Cherry Red switches I enjoyed a predictable typing experience. Speed and accuracy are no problem, the smooth keys are a little slippery for my liking but that is often down to personal taste. The extra included keycaps didn’t feel suitable for my day to day usage, they are definitely geared towards a gaming experience.
The styling and customisation capabilities of the lighting enable the keyboard to sit on many a desk, capable of being either understated or as gloriously flashy as the user wishes.
After a few good gaming sessions, the accuracy of the switches really shone through from everything from FPS games such as PUBG or CS:GO right through to RTS games such as Forged Alliance and Ashes of the Singularity. Macro programming is useful for some situations and is fully customisable. The Metal keycaps were fun to use, they have more weight to them causing me to adjust my keypress pressure to suit. The rubberised keycaps were nice and grippy, I wouldn’t have minded a full set of those rather than the gaming selection.
The build quality of the keyboard is impressive, especially since it’s a bit lighter than many TKL mech’s I have used. The rubber ends on the legs and rubber grip pads underneath kept the keyboard from sliding around. The keycaps could have been more impressive if they were double shot PBT, we get some mid-range ABS caps here which are fine and the legends allow light to shine through with no blemishes. The braided cable is quite stiff but feels to be of a high quality.
The downloadable version 2.2 MSI Gaming Center software looks great and has lots of excellent features, however I have some issues with stability and how it handles firmware updates. Trying the software on two different systems and using different USB ports did not alleviate those issues, luckily MSI are very responsive to feedback on technical issues and they have furnished me with a new 2.7 version of the software, I can now happily report that the firmware updated just fine, it’s a two parter one for the LED Controls and the other for the keyboard. I no longer experience crashes selecting profiles or the custom LED Layout. So go ahead MSI and get that released onto the website.
MSI’s Mystic Light software works straight from the download, this additional tool sync’s up your MSI Mystic Light compatible components, in my case the GPU has a dragon on the backplate which I managed to get to match the keyboard.
The design remit for the GK70 is definitely implemented with a gamer in mind, the styling with the dragon on the backplate and the flashy light up side decorations is all about the MSI dragon theme that appears throughout their gaming products. I feel the side decorations are a little wasted as they are not visible while using the keyboard normally. The switches are mounted on top of the baseplate which does help to shrink the edges of the keyboard for a more minimalistic design however as this leads to light bleeding across the baseplate this setup is not to everyone’s taste. The MSI Gaming design is continued into the included keypuller which is quite cute, however a wire puller is usually preferred. The cable is of good quality and the keyboard end of the usb setup is the same as many mobile phones, meaning many varieties of cable will fit.
At around £130 at the time of writing, the MSI Vigor GK70 is a little high compared to some of it’s immediate competition such as the Coolermaster Masterkeys Pro S RGB TKL for around £100. If you are after specific MSI colour sync features with software designed to work with all your MSI components then the premium may be worth it. The extra keycaps are a nice touch too and add some value.
- Excellent implementation of tried and tested Cherry switches on a great looking minimalist gaming TKL keyboard.
- Many lighting effects.
- More macros than you can throw a macro at.
- Sturdy build quality.
- A bundle of extra keycaps and a puller.
- A little pricey vs the competition
- Keycaps could be better
I do love a TKL keyboard and have insisted on gaming with them for the past 7 years or so. These days I am not too particular about switch manufacturers but won’t deny I have enjoyed being on some Cherry reds again, excellent accuracy and a sturdy feel to them, in fact they make the mid-range keycaps feel cheaper than they should. The great thing about having MX type switches is there is a huge range of quality keycaps available which can not only improve the feel of the keyboard but can offer customisation. The software did prove disappointing but I am sure MSI will get the niggles straightened out.
Up against the likes of CoolerMaster, Asus, Ducky and Corsair the Vigor sits in a bit of an odd pricing position, if MSI were to drop the price on this it would be a real contender.
MSI were going to get a silver award for this keyboard, considering the initial issues and high price, however their rapid keen response with updated software gives me a feeling that customers will be well cared for, which does add value, so a Gold award it is.
Many thanks to MSI for sending in the sample for review.