A Tale of Two Form-Factors
We review a pair of mechanical gaming keyboards from HyperX
HyperX (a division of Kingston) entered the mechanical keyboard market a year ago with the Alloy series, which began as a pair of 104-key designs with the Alloy Elite and Alloy FPS. Both keyboards feature Cherry MX keys, with the FPS sporting a minimalist design with a compact frame to save room on a desk. Now a TKL version of the FPS has arrived – the FPS Pro – to compliment the 104-key version already at the PC Perspective offices, and in this review we will test out both versions of this gaming keyboard.
Both keyboards feature adjustable red backlighting
Features from HyperX for the Alloy FPS:
- Compact design frees desktop space — waste less time reorienting the mouse
- Solid-steel frame for stability, giving you supreme confidence in your controls
- Ultra-portable design with detachable cable is great for LAN parties and tournaments
- Cherry MX mechanical keys for tactile feedback and reliable keypresses
- Convenient USB charge port allows you to charge other devices
- Game mode, 100-percent Anti-Ghosting and full N-key rollover features ensure your inputs are correct
- HyperX red backlit keys with customizable, dynamic lighting functions
- Additional colored, textured keycaps spotlight the most important keys
Now take virtually the same feature list (minus the additional keycaps) and subtract the number pad, and you have the Alloy FPS Pro, an “ultra-minimalistic tenkeyless design ideal for FPS pros”, according to HyperX. This reduction in size and number of keys is accompanied by a reduction in price, and the Alloy FPS Pro will be 20% less expensive than the 104-key FPS when it launches in late August. How do these mechanical keyboards stack up? Read on for our full review!
- HyperX Alloy FPS: $99.99 – Amazon.com
- HyperX Alloy FPS Pro: $79.99 MSRP (launches August 21)
And now a close look at both keyboards.
The Alloy FPS offers a more premium overall package, with a soft carry bag and alternate keycaps included.
The Alloy FPS Pro is packaged with just the keyboard and USB cable, which makes sense considering the MSRP is $79.99 – $20 less than the 104-key Alloy FPS.
We are essentially looking at the same keyboard here, with the lack of a number pad on the FPS Pro an obvious difference. However, a subtle difference is evident when looking closely at the key caps, which have a slightly different font (and feel, but more on that later).
Both keyboards feature a removable USB cable, which connects via a mini-USB port on the back of the keyboard. The larger Alloy FPS also offers a charging port for phones and other devices, and the keyboard can draw extra power from a second USB plug on the other end of the cable.
The base of each keyboard is outfitted with rubber feet, and the top pair can provide an incline if desired. These flip-out feet are very sturdy, and also offer the rubber padding for a stable base.
The Key Switches: Cherry MX Red
While the Alloy FPS is offered with a choice of Cherry MX Red, Brown, or Blue switches, both of our review units shipped with the MX Red switch. Switch preference is a personal thing, of course, and the Red switch is not as common as the Brown or Blue these days; but MX Red is a fine linear switch ideally suited to gaming nonetheless.
Our own Scott Michaud explains the action of an MX Red (with GIFs!), which is similar to the MX Black switch: “The plunger rests directly against the switch and there is no bump to overcome before the activation point. The plunger, when pressed, just responds with a linear resistance and there is basically no feedback that the activation has occurred. The difference between the Red and Black switches is that, unlike the firm press required to activate a Black switch, the Red switch has very light resistance.”
So, unlike popular MX Brown and Blue switches the MX Red does not have the extra tactile feeling of a slight catch or bump along the way, and is simply pressed smoothly down. I found this action to be slightly different between the two keyboards, as both keycaps and travel difference is noticeably different between the Alloy FPS and FPS Pro (there is more of a difference than just the number pad!).
First off, the feel of the keycaps themselves differs between these two keyboards. Here is a quick look at both up close, beginning with the Alloy FPS (104-key):
And now the Alloy FPS Pro (TKL):
The FPS Pro has smoother-feeling keycaps, and virtually no suggestion of an inset label on each key (the key labels are very slightly inset on both, but this is only felt with the 104-key version). Aside from this, the action is different between the two, with the larger keyboard offering a slightly ‘heavier’ keypress feel, and longer travel distance. The FPS Pro not only has smoother feeling keycaps, but the key presses themselves seem to register just a bit quicker with its slightly shallower action. I found myself typing a little quicker – and with lighter pressure – on the smaller FPS Pro, and I preferred this over the standard FPS. This is a personal thing, of course, and some will like a little more travel and a slightly heavier feel. This slightly higher resistance was particularly notable in the larger keyboard’s spacebar, which sat a little taller and was slightly heavier under a thumb when depressed than that of the TKL version.
Lighting on both is red, and very nice looking (if you like red, of course). Yes, black and red seems to be the standard “gaming” color scheme for many products, but I’m fine with it and it is nicely done here with a very even lighting and clearly illuminated key labels. I particularly liked how the metal top plate reflected the light around the keys, creating a soft glow that would have been more muted if this was an all-plastic construction like so many sub-$100 keyboards. In any case, there are six preset LED modes for key backlighting, so these can be set to personal preference.
In the end I was very impressed with both HyperX Alloy FPS keyboards, and that was before learning anything about their retail pricing. The 104-key Alloy FPS is a penny under $100, which is excellent considering its metal frame, Cherry MX key switches, and premium accessory pack. What I was not expecting was the price of the new Alloy FPS Pro, which is at $79.99 a very good value for a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX brand switches.
While both keyboards are excellent, I think the formula has been perfected with the new TKL version in the Alloy FPS Pro (based on personal preference, of course). Those in need of a number pad will no doubt prefer the 104-key Alloy FPS, and it does offer a great gaming experience. For mixed use, however, the FPS Pro really surprised me; with the refined keycaps and slightly shallower key travel, the FPS Pro was equally outstanding for gaming and typing – even for long periods of time.
The Alloy FPS and Alloy FPS Pro both offer top-notch construction with metal frames, quality key caps, and thick braided cables. They look great, and the feel of the Cherry MX Red switches provided a responsive base for gaming, with the slightly lighter feel of the FPS Pro also providing an outstanding typing experience as well.
The Alloy FPS is a premium offering with impressive quality and performance
In the end, both of these keyboards are worthy of your consideration, and while I find the standard Alloy FPS a great option, there is a lot of competition at the $99 price point – though I would argue that the additional keycaps and removable cable (and don't forget that carry bag!) make it a good value compared to other similarly-priced keyboards.
Outstanding performance and competitive pricing earn the Alloy FPS Pro our highest award
For its part the new Alloy FPS Pro walks away with our highest honor, and well deserved. This TKL design was a joy to use, with a seemingly ideal balance of force and travel distance in this implementation of the Cherry MX key switches. Couple this with the same high-end construction and a lower MSRP, and it's hard to pick against the Alloy FPS Pro in its price segment.
HyperX has provided a winning mix of high quality construction, stylish minimalist appearance, and great feel that make these Alloy FPS keyboards a great choice for a mechanical gaming experience – regardless if your preference is for 104-key or TKL.