Introduction & Specifications
Today we are venturing into the world of blue switches, the tactile click is so satisfying for many, but can sound like a machine gun in the wee hours.
The keyboard I have to review for you today comes from Sandberg, hailing from my home nation of Denmark they have a large product range from Gaming peripherals, audio products, and various nifty gadgets. while they were founded back in 1985, I have only really been aware of the company for the past three years or so, mainly due to their social media campaigns.
The Hailstorm Mechanical Keyboard sits in the upper mid-range segment and is targeted at gamers looking for a mechanical keyboard with a good feature set but without the top end premium prices.
- USB interface
- Cable length: 1.8 m
- 104 standard keys
- Outemu Blue mechanical switches
- RGB color for all keys
- Weight: 1400 g
- Dimensions: 47.8 x 21.65 x 4.22 cm
- With wrist rest
- Three Profiles
- Macro Editor
- Colour and Lighting Management
I have never seen or used Outemu switches before so this is going to be interesting.
Presented in a larger than normal box, the picture on the front gives us a good idea of what awaits us inside, the included wrist rests giving the Sandberg Hailstorm Mechanical Keyboard a larger desktop footprint. The icons on the box letting us know that it has RGB, it is built on iron, has software available, is optimised for gaming and some media functions. They also state that it is double quality tested which should help make sure less faulty units slip through the cracks and a very respectable 5-year warranty. Sandberg is definitely confident with the quality of the Hailstorm.
The back of the box is absolutely crammed with text, a description of the keyboard is listed in no less than 24 languages, there is also specification listed at the bottom. But this is not all the Sandberg Hailstorm box has to offer.
Held down by four little magnets, there is a flip up presentation lid, over the base there is a plastic window allowing you to see the keyboard inside and under the lid two characters aiming outward with their laser sights on, I wonder how long they have been camping there? Also inside the lid is a Full RGB for all keys illustration showing 6 different main keyboard LED colours. I do like the box design as it does allow you to see the contents should it be displayed like this in shops or at events.
Getting everything out of the box, we have the keyboard with a fixed cable, a driver CD, a quick guide and a pair of Sandberg Esports Equipment stickers. The inclusion of a driver CD seems just a little old fashioned and no longer completely necessary.
Well here we have the Sandberg Hailstorm Mechanical Keyboard and it is definitely aimed at gamers, should this design be placed on your office desk it would most certainly raise some eyebrows. This sturdy looking and feeling keyboard has a good weight to it and is unapologetic in its futuristic design, it wouldn’t look out of place on a ships console in a science fiction production. The wrist rests are solid hard plastic, they look very sturdy and are embedded into the metal base plate which extends around them, the base plate itself is in a brushed aluminium style and painted black, it is very solid and oozes good build quality, to the sides of the key area there are angled tapers that have lights in them, above the keys there is a protruding wedge with a backlit Sandberg Esports Equipment logo. The keycaps themselves are fairly smooth but there is somewhat of a grippy surface on them, it’s not quite rubber but my fingers don’t slide off easily, so they get a thumbs up from me. Coming out of the back just above the F6 key the braided cable appears, the braiding on this is very nice, in fact, I would not be surprised if this was proper paracord, it definitely feels like it, rounding things off topside we have a gold plated USB connector.
The futuristic design continues underneath the Sandberg Hailstorm mechanical keyboard, indentations in the plastic base add some unseen flair to the design, I can’t imagine they are needed for strength when the metal top plate is so strong. The bottom base also extends around the wrist rests these are definitely not removable. Securing the keyboard in place on the desk are 4 rubber feet and a plastic nub in the middle at the front, how heavy are they expecting the typing to be? Two legs are available with rubber feet for increasing the rear height of the keyboard should you so desire. The sticker gives us the name of the company and keyboard with an item number and a UK layout notice, strange there is no serial number on this one, the person or robot employed to do the stickers must have been really ready for a break, as there are a couple of bubbles under it, smoothing it out seems to have made the rest stick ok though.
Acting as a keyboard dentist, I got my key puller so we could have a look at the roots of these keycaps, here we have the blue Outemu switch, a tactile click switch in a clear housing for the RGB lighting, it looks a lot like Cherry’s blue RGB switch and allows for compatibility with other Cherry based keycaps. This Outemu blue has a loud click at actuation, you know for sure you have pressed one of these, pressure to bottom out the switch is a good approximation to a Cherry blue, it requires a little more force than the sample Ajazz blue switch on top of my keycap puller.
All plugged in and the keyboard lights up, RGB scrolls across the keys, while blue lights emanate around the key area highlighting the Sandberg logo and some of the futuristic designs. As with many RGB backlit keyboards, you can use the FN key and various other keys to change the illumination, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem possible to change the colour of the Sandberg logo or any of the blue lights on the keyboard. It was playing with the lighting that I hit upon a problem, when set to full yellow or white, the frequency of the LED’s causes a strange colour split effect as you look at the keys or blink, I thought it was my eyes but on asking the Mrs she noticed it too, this made my eyes go a bit funny and I couldn’t use the keyboard in those two colour modes. I have never seen that before on a keyboard, other colours were absolutely fine however so I left it on scrolling rainbow mode and carried on.
The included software is also downloadable from Sandberg’s site here.
Loading up the software we are presented with a pleasantly uncluttered interface, which does appear to offer less functionality than the competition, such as polling rates. Here we have three profiles available to us, along with a panel to control the lighting, strange that they have just included 7 selectable colours we are missing full RGB tweaking here, a drop down list for a selection of effects and sliders for brightness and speed. Clicking on each key allows you to assign it a different letter or symbol, a macro or a media function. Finally, on this screen, there is the macro button which takes us to…
The macro programming screen, here you can record macros, specify cycle parameters and link them to a trigger event such as key down, key up or delay.
Performance & Testing
Being in my view one of the most important components of a PC system, I like many others am very particular when it comes to choosing a keyboard, in fact, functionality and quality will often be prioritised over aesthetics. The Sandberg Hailstorm Mechanical Keyboard is offering us a blue switched experience on a heavy solid framework that should take a good amount of hammering.
With all my keyboard reviews I try to use the keyboard for at least a week before making my final determinations, this includes extending usage to writing the review itself. The Hailstorm performs very well indeed at all tasks I have thrown at it, the keycaps are very pleasant to use, while not as textured as my normal caps these are grippy and prevent slipping and the typing errors that usually come with very smooth keycaps. The switches are quite loud, in fact, my Mrs found them a distraction while using the keyboard in the same room, this is a downside to all blue switches as they not only have a tactile feedback bump but an audible click that accompanies it. These switches leave you in no doubt that a key press has occurred and can aid the user in being a lighter typist, without bottoming out the keys as much. Even with Cherry brown tactile quiet switches, I find myself bottoming them out a lot so it is easy to see the attraction of these switches. The wrist rest was too shallow for me and I find my palms resting on the ridge of the bottom edge of the rest, this affects comfort for me as I have a habit of resting my hands on a soft wrist rest. The backlighting is more limited that some keyboards in this price range and as I mentioned the yellow and white lighting creates a strange effect when moving my eyes over the keyboard or blinking.
The heft of the metal plating used for the Sandberg Hailstorm Mechanical Keyboard ensures that its remains firmly seated using the rubber feet, hectic gaming sessions found the keyboard and switches delivering a solid performance, with no doubt about movements being sent to the PC, the tactile blue Outemu switches clicking away furiously. If it weren’t for the wrist rest being too short for my hands/wrists this would have been a very pleasurable experience, if the wrist rest were only detachable or extendable. There is no polling frequency setting in the software for this keyboard but the default rate works well in hectic gaming situations, while not advertised on the specifications the Hailstorm does have NKRO and it works absolutely fine.
There is no doubt that Sandberg has produced a reliable and sturdy keyboard with the Hailstorm, the Outemu blue switches are an unusual appearance amongst keyboards available with a UK layout, luckily Cherry switch keycap compatibility ensures customisation won’t be an issue.
Built on metal plating with accurate switch responses and tactile/audible feedback, the Hailstorm performs admirably, the grip on the keycap tops is just enough to stop you sliding around when things get hectic, the lighting performance however is lacking, there are limited colours to select on the keyboard and in software meaning it is a little less than a true RGB keyboard, there is also the issue with the strange strobing effect from white and yellow colour selections which is distracting and difficult to look at.
The Sandberg Hailstorm has a futuristic design, with gamers definitely in mind, the extra lighting on around the keyboard is only in blue which is a limiting factor for those who like to theme their desktops. The wrist rest being built into the keyboard also limits the number of people who would find this keyboard comfortable to type or game on, I did manage to reduce the discomfort of my palms resting on the edges of the wrist rest plastic areas by putting my foam wrist rest in front, so it is still possible to avoid the plastic fronting but it really would be preferable if the built-in wrist rest were removable or extendable. The keys are mounted on top of the metal place and not within the casing which gives the keys quite a bit of height and allows light to bleed underneath, although not severely. The Outemu blue switches are great however I am surprised that other varieties of switch are not on offer especially since Brown and Red switches are generally the most popular types.
At the time of writing, I was able to find the Sandberg Hailstorm Mechanical Keyboard for just over £86. There is a heck of a lot of competition around at this price level and some brands that also offer a little more with the keyboard. The build quality is top notch however and should not be ignored when considering this against competing keyboards. The issues with the wrist rest and LED’s would mean I would be tempted by more minimalist designs we are only a stone’s throw from a Ducky One at this price.
I think if Sandberg takes a look at the Hailstorm offering and consider changing the wrist rest and correcting the issues with the LED strobing effect on white and yellow, then this would be a hot full-size blue switched contender. Sandberg has a great build with an excellent warranty offering, it just needs tweaking. With the build quality and performance in mind, I am going to give the Hailstorm a silver award, let’s make it a gold Sandberg.
- Very solid build with great materials
- Responsive switches
- Macro programmable
- 5 Year Warranty
- LED's on yellow and white have a strange strobing effect
- RGB not fully available for customisation
- Wrist rest fixed and not suitable for all
- Only blue switches available