I’m an enormous fan of how Keychron has made the DIY mechanical keyboard house extra accessible to everybody. However for individuals who wish to take part within the clicky-clack universe with out going too deep, it may be onerous to discover a mechanical keyboard that isn’t geared solely towards fans or players.
Surprisingly, NZXT, a model recognized in nerd circles for its PC elements, has managed to place collectively a mechanical keyboard that’s very approachable, significantly if you happen to’re an individual who needs one thing that’s no-frills. It’s referred to as the NZXT Perform. It is available in three completely different sizes, together with full-size—what keyboard nerds name a 100% format—which begins at $150; tenkeyless, or TKL, which eschews the quantity pad and begins at $130; and MiniTKL, which smushes collectively the navigation buttons for a supremely compact keyboard. The smaller board prices $120, although it comes with out the full-size and TKL’s included magnetized wrist relaxation.
A comforting typing feeling
There’s nothing extraordinary in regards to the look of the NZXT Perform. It’s much less gamer-y trying than Razer’s mechanical keyboards, most of which function full-bleed RGB and appear to be cockpit controls in the dead of night somewhat than a colorfully lit keyboard. NZXT additionally emblazons its branding on the chassis itself, which instantly downgrades the customization of the Perform keyboard. Evaluate this to a DIY keyboard just like the Keychron, a plain aluminum shell meant to function a clean canvas somewhat than push one explicit aesthetic.
There is something remarkably calming and comforting about the soft, mushy typing feel of the library computer keyboard, and I was transported back to that time in my life typing on the Function. NZXT sent over a model that featured Gateron Silent Black Linear switches, which are some of the cushiest springs I’ve ever typed on.
I always perform a little typing test with each mechanical keyboard to see if it can keep up with my daily post. I clocked in about 110 words per minute every time I tested with the Function, my usual speed if my fingers vibe with the keyboard. My maximum speed was 120 wpm, which is how fast I type if I’m on a roll. What really helped is that I was able to use the Function’s edited TenKeyless layout versus a full-size board. My small hands type best when I don’t have to travel across an entire board.
If my describing it as “mushy” made you wretch earlier, the good news is you can customize a Function keyboard through the NZXT BLD program with another type of switch. First, choose your chassis color: black, white, or gunmetal grey. Then, choose your switches, options include Gateron Red, Blue, or Brown switches, similar to Cherry MX’s types. There is also the Gateron Aliaz Silent switch option, a more premium tactile switch with a heavy actuation point (right here’s a video of what it appears like on one other board). When you’re finished, you’ll be able to select an accent and cable shade. The alternatives are yellow, purple, blue, and crimson.
The dangerous information is that if you happen to select any of the premium switches—the Silent Black or Aliaz Silent—it would improve the keyboard price to a degree that you just actually need to ask your self if the aesthetic fits you. They price $80 and $60, respectively. The precise price of the board that NZXT despatched me retails for $240, greater than the model new Keychron Q3 with the identical TKL format and Gateron Professional switches.
NZXT Perform boards with no fancy customization will prevent some cash. However if you happen to select this route, know you’re getting cheaper-feeling, shiny ABS keycaps as an alternative of textured PBT ones, and Gateron Pink switches are your solely choice.
Should you obtain the keyboard and also you’re nonetheless not eager on what you see, the Perform additionally has a removable USB-C cable and a normal keycap format, so you’ll be able to swap in one other set to see if it resonates. The field comes with a keycap puller and change extraction device, encouraging you to strive your hand at customization. The switches are additionally hot-swappable, so if you happen to get an itch to transform to some specialised switches from elsewhere on the web, you can also make a weekend out of it with the instruments available within the field.
Tiny little caveats
My main caveat with the NZXT Perform is that it’s simply not my type. It’s a plain board with a design that’s harking back to a PC builder’s lab somewhat than a Tamagotchi-obsessed ageing millennial’s overly adorned room. A part of the explanation mechanical keyboards spiked up in recognition in recent times may very well be attributed to people like me aching to make issues look a sure approach. However the one factor in regards to the NZXT Perform’s look that matches my id is its purple accent keys and energy cable.
That stated, there are some issues in regards to the NZXT Perform you may desire to the opposite choices on the market. In comparison with Razer’s flagship mechanical gaming keyboard, the Perform is only a smidge extra compact—I’m speaking a few comparability of millimeters, however the distinction is palatable as soon as you set both of the keyboards on the desk. On the flip facet, you’re additionally lacking out on some premium points of that Razer board. The RGB lights, for example, don’t shine via as brightly as they do on boards with extra spacing in between the keys.
You may additionally like that side-scrolling quantity curler on the Perform. It’s proper subsequent to the Esc key, which makes it simply accessible as you’re typing, and it’s much less overt than on the mechanical keyboards that go for a knob. There are three side-facing shortcut buttons dealing with outward, too, which supply controls for muting the amount, locking the Home windows key, and adjusting the brightness of the RGB backlight.
After which, there’s the NZXT Cam software program. It looks as if it’s extra strong than VIA, the open-source model of the software program you’d use to program DIY keyboards like Keychron, due to the variety of menu gadgets that propagate up on the left-hand facet. However you can’t entry a few of these respective options if you happen to don’t have NZXT-made peripherals. The Cam software program’s PC monitoring performance additionally has an air of Ralph Wiggum’s “I’m-helping!” power, which is to say it’s largely ineffective.
A comfy, customizable board
The NZXT Perform is a stable mechanical keyboard, although it’s not one thing I might have picked out myself to pair with a set of artisan keycaps. Nonetheless, middle-of-the-line mechanical keyboards like this have a spot within the zeitgeist. They’re an choice when gaming manufacturers like Razer don’t supply the sort of keyboard customization you’re searching for. They usually’re one other consideration when DIY manufacturers like Keychron are restricted of their format choices.