VORTEX POK3R RGB REVIEW
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another Rhinofeed review! Today we're going to take a look at the latest update to the POK3R mechanical keyboard and see what's changed in this new RGB model. There is a lot about the keyboard that is the same, but also a few major things that have changed. In this review, I will only be going over the new features and changes of the RGB model in particular. I encourage you to check out my previous review of the POK3R to see the function layer, layout, programming features, dip switches, and any other notable features.
Just like last time, you receive the keyboard itself and a USB cable. The price point is a bit higher at $139.00, which is $10 more than last years model, most likely due to the cost of the RGB switches. Availability to the public will be pushed to the end of June 2016.
The switches available will be Cherry MX Blue, Brown, Red, Black, and Nature White, all with the new clear housing made for RGB lighting. Nature White is a relatively new linear switch (non-clicky, no tactile bump) that has an actuation force of 55cN, which is in between Cherry MX Red (45cN) and Cherry MX Black (60cN).
This particular keyboard has Cherry MX Blues. I would like to get my hands on the Nature White version in the near future. Cherry MX Clears are one of my favorite switches, and Nature White could be a good complimentary switch considering it has the same actuation force. Cherry MX Clears will not be available, however, because Cherry doesn't make an RGB version (let's hope they do in the future).
They've kept the cast aluminum case standard, which I am very pleased with. I did notice that the case appears to have a slightly glossier finish than the previous keyboard. It looks and feels high quality, giving the keyboard a very solid construction. It's still one of the best selling points of the POK3R keyboard.
No changes have been made to the positioning of the screws, so it is still compatible with after-market 60% cases. They've also gone back to using standard Philips, which is much appreciated. However, if you have a thin case that is supposed to line up perfectly with the steel plate, I don't think it will sit flush with the edge of the case. Vortex had to add an additional PCB for the LED lighting, which adds roughly 1-2mm thickness to the overall build.
Another notable difference is the white steel backplate. White reflects the backlighting much better than a black steel plate would, which is probably the reason Vortex went with that color choice.
Unlike the previous POK3R model, Vortex has used doubleshot ABS keycaps for the RGB keyboard. Vortex is no longer using the thick PBT keycaps like on the non-backlit model. These keycaps are thicker than most doubleshot ABS, but they are still not quite as satisfying to type on as the PBT keycaps. I was surprised that they didn't use their PBT + POM keycaps that are made for backlighting, and I would rather use them for typing each day. I will do a sound test that includes typing on the included doubleshot ABS keycaps as well as the PBT + POM keycaps so that you can hear the difference.
The font on these keycaps is some sort of modified version of Arial Rounded. Therefore, Vortex is no longer using Bank Gothic. The numbers and symbols are aligned horizontally vs. one right above the other, and the larger modifier keys no longer have the full words written out but only representative icons. This is most likely to prevent any gradual light fade you might see if the lettering is too far away from the switch lighting.
They've also included light pass through dots on the spacebar, which do give you a gradual light fade effect as they get farther from the RGB switch, but they also show the color of the programmed function layer you're on.
Just like on the original POK3R there are 3 additional function layers that allow you to program your own layout. Nothing has changed regarding programming, so here is a link to my original review to find out more.
One question I have received a lot in the past is how do you change the position of the arrow keys back to WASD. To do that, all you have to do is assign them to a programmed layer which I go over in my previous review. However, in the latest firmware update to the POK3R and POK3R RGB keyboards, you can get to your arrow keys another way by pressing Left Win + Right Alt + Spacebar. This key command will switch between having the arrow keys always on or off. The arrow keys, in this mode, are located on your right shift, right control, Fn, and Pn keys.
You also have volume control built-in, which is not labeled on the keycaps. Fn + S is volume down, Fn + D is volume up, and Fn + F is mute.
It's the reason we're all here today. Let's finally check out the RGB lighting! There are six single LED modes where each key is illuminated one at a time, four full keyboard LED modes, and two custom programmed LED modes. I will explain the features of the backlighting in this review, but I encourage you to check out my full video review to see all of the modes in action!
You can switch through the single LED modes by pressing Pn + 4.
1. Individual light fade out
2. Individual light fade out(random)
3. Flash mode
4. Flash mode(random)
5. Laser beam
6. Laser beam(random)
The full keyboard LED modes can be switched by pressing Pn + 5.
1. Full key in single color
2. Full key in single color breath mode
3. Vortex mode
4. Rain drop mode
The two programmable layers reside on the "-" and "=" keys, but editing them requires the "9" and "0" keys. Due note that any lighting programmed on the "9" layer can be recorded as individual keys, while anything programmed on the "0" layer can only be recorded as an entire row of color. Also, every programmed function layer can have their own two custom backlighting modes. Since the keyboard has 4 function layers total, you effectively have 8 total layers of custom lighting (4 individual key custom, and 4 row-by-row custom). The best part: all of your backlighting is saved on board with no software required.
The only downfall I find is that each programmed function layer has an LED color that stays illuminated underneath the spacebar. Layer two will illuminate red, layer three is green, and layer four is blue. These colors may clash with the colors you chose for your custom backlighting.
In all of these modes, there are a couple different ways to select your color. First, there is a built-in palette of colors you can choose from by pressing Pn + Esc. This is the easiest way to pick your color. The other way is to mix your own color by combining Red, Green, and Blue. Each time you press the Pn key (the keycap with the diamond icon on the bottom row) plus the 1, 2, or 3 keys, you can add in more of each color up to 6 brightness levels. For example, if you wanted a bright purple, you would press Pn + 1 (six times) and Pn + 3 (six times), but you would not press Pn + 2. Otherwise, you would add green into the mix and start to get white. Once you've selected a color, it is saved in the onboard memory until you change it to something else.
You can adjust the brightness level of the LEDs by pressing Pn + X (lower) or Pn + V (raise), although it doesn't seem to adjust brightness for the custom layers. I'm wondering if this was missed as part of the firmware, and I have asked Vortex if it was supposed to be included.
Lastly, you can adjust the LED speed for the animated backlighting modes by pressing Pn + "," (speeds up) or Pn + "." (slows down).
To make it easier to understand, here is the Pn layer shown below.
All in all, Vortex kept the update relatively simple despite this review being so lengthy. The addition of Cherry RGB switches will make a lot of people excited while a few others may just want to keep it simple without all the flashy colors. I wish they had gone with PBT + POM keycaps, but other than that, I can't find anything else I don't like about this keyboard. They kept the same great build quality, incredible feature set, and added new RGB switches. What more can I say?
Thanks again for being a Rhinofeed fan, and thanks to Vortex for sending this out for review! If you have any questions please ask away in the comments section.