You must admit that MSI pulled off an impressive feat of engineering by fitting so many keys on its new mechanical Vigor GK80 keyboard. Glancing at its aluminum-profiled base, you are sure to notice its 16 cleverly-situated additional function keys.
This is not including the four dedicated multimedia keys located in the upper right-hand corner or the 8 normal additional function keys located alongside the Fn keys. For a keyboard measuring 445 x 141 x 4 mm, this is quite an impressive technical achievement. But what’s the use of having so many keys? Except for a volume knob, this keyboard has all of the controls you will probably ever need – regardless of your intended use.
Compared to the HyperX Alloy Elite, the Vigor GK80 makes it possible to save a considerable amount of room, making MSI’s new keyboard a better choice for people with limited desk space. While it is not as compact as the Asus ROG Claymore, at least the GK80 does not make you pay extra for a number pad.
Chaotic function keys
Most of the GK80’s additional function keys are related to the keyboards RGB backlighting system. This has to do with the fact that both of MSI’s dedicated configuration utilities (yes, there are two of them) are pretty much useless and you will want to avoid using them as much as possible. You will probably need to consult the instruction manual supplied by MSI in order to discover the utility of all of this keyboard’s buttons (because there are a lot of them). But, it is better than having to launch the Mystic Light utility and having to cope with its poorly designed ergonomics.
In total, this keyboard has 14 different RGB modes, including three special game modes for Overwatch, League of Legends and CS: GO. But you can also use your GK80 keyboard to modify the performance profiles of your MSI Gaming compatible graphics card. You will be able to switch between silent mode, gaming mode, and overclocking mode without ever exiting your game. This is very practical if you are already equipped with MSI gaming hardware, but pretty much useless otherwise.
What’s even more impressive is that MSI’s Vigor GK80 keyboard has its own gaming mode which can be activated by pressing the Windows and Fn keys at the same time. This mode deactivates all system notifications, ensuring that each keystroke will be recorded – regardless of the number of keys being pressed simultaneously.
CherryMX’s tried-and-true switches
I tested the red version of the GK80 keyboard to write this article, but it is also available with CherryMX silver switches. These silver switches have shorter travel (actuation distance) than their red counterparts, meaning that you won’t have to press them down as far in order for your keystrokes to register. This characteristic, should, in theory, make the silver switches faster than the red ones. However, I can’t say for sure without having tested them out for myself.
You may have also noticed that the Vigor GK80 keyboard comes with metallic ZQSD keys (see photo above) instead of being rubber coated like the rest of the keys. Personally, I find these four keys to be too slippery which can be problematic when playing fast-paced games like DOOM. Fortunately, MSI had enough foresight to include a complete set of textured, rubberized replacement caps for the ZQSD keys.
MSI also includes replacement caps for the space bar, backspace key, both Ctrl/Alt keys as well as for 8 conventional keys. MSI even incorporated a space into the wrist-rest for storing all of these spare key caps – a very nice touch, especially if you frequently travel with your keyboard or if you simply need a bit of extra storage space.
Oddly enough, the wrist-rest is not attached to the Vigor GK80 gaming keyboard. As a result, you can place it wherever you like in order to achieve the most comfortable configuration. In the end, this detachable wrist-rest proved to be much more comfortable than other non-detachable models that I have tested. On the downside, the wrist-rest is one more thing you will have to carry with you whenever you change desks. You will also have to reposition it every time you move the keyboard. On the upside, I really enjoyed its rubberized finish; it proved very comfortable during my long-duration test sessions.
Comfortable but noisy
Having grown accustomed to the HyperX Alloy Elite’s blue CherryMX switches, I must admit that the GK80’s red switches felt softer and easier to use on a daily basis. The type of switch you should choose is a matter of personal preference and it is always advisable, whenever possible, to try out the different types of switches for yourself before investing in a mechanical keyboard.
There is not much more I could add concerning the general comfort of the Vigor GK80 and the tactile feedback of its keys. All I can say is that I made very few mistakes when typing on it and that I didn’t have to slow down my typing speed in order to adapt myself to its keys (which are different from the ones I am used to). Overall, I still prefer the more precise typing experience offered by the Alloy Elite, but that does not necessarily mean that you will as well.
In terms of noisiness, I found both keyboards to be equally noisy. The Vigor GK80’s keys make (very) slightly less noise than the Alloy’s keys. Nevertheless, both keyboards should prove equally annoying to your colleagues or family members. Just like with the RGB Klim Domination, you will need to ensure that you will be able to use either of these mechanical keyboards without disturbing the people around you – unless you enjoy having your head used as a punching ball by your family members.
Vigor GK80: a questionable placement of its media keys
My only real concern regarding the Vigor GK80 is its positioning, or rather the labeling, of its media keys. When seated normally, I was barely able to make out the symbols on its 4 dedicated media keys. It was only by leaning forward that I was able to determine what key I needed to press.
This is not very practical when you are in the middle of a gaming session. If you want to lower the volume or mute the sound altogether you will need to look away from the screen so as not to deafen yourself by pressing the wrong button. Given the available room, MSI did not show very good planning by making these buttons as small as they are or by placing them where they are situated.
Generally speaking, MSI’s Vigor GK80 remains a good mechanical keyboard. Not yet available here, it retails for around $150 on the other side of the Atlantic. It is a little bit more expensive than other mechanical keyboards such as Corsair’s K70 Lux or the Asus ROG Claymore, but in many regards, you will get your money’s worth: you will be getting replacement key caps as well as a more versatile wrist-rest than the one available on any other competing product. While this keyboard may seem expensive, if you are interested in being able to completely customize your keyboard’s RGB backlighting without going through third-party software, you should consider purchasing the Vigor GK80.
If, on the other hand, backlighting is not a major concern for you and you spend as much time typing as you do gaming, you may prefer my personal favorite instead: the Hyper Alloy Elite.
- Backlighting is customizable without third-party software
- A multitude of function keys
- Wrist-rest and replacement key caps
- A little expensive
- Poorly situated media keys
MSI Vigor GK80
With its many function keys, a wrist-rest, and replacement key caps, the MSI Vigor GK80 has many good points going for it. The MSI Vigor GK80 is a very good mechanical keyboard with high-performance switches and should be able to satisfy any gamer.