After the 40% form factor CORE and 75% form factor Race 3, Vortex is back again with another smaller-than-TKL layout keyboard. The Race 3 is effectively a length-shrunk keyboard with 83 keys that does not have a dedicated Num Pad, and people said that was cool, but that they would rather have a Num Pad than a function key row. Enter then the ViBE, a wholly new 78% form factor keyboard that is effectively a 60% keyboard with a Num Pad cluster attached to it. Thanks again to Vortex for providing us with a review sample.
The ViBE has 79 keys, which goes with the 78% form factor (100% has 104 keys in the standard ANSI layout, for example). However, with fewer keys than the Race 3, it makes the latter with the so-called 75% form factor seem out of place now. This is a pet peeve of mine since non-standard layouts are really all over the place with companies doing their own thing, which makes assigning a percentage as a means of comparison between these a futile thing to try and keep track of. For the purpose of this review, take a look at the layout and simply consider it a longer, narrower keyboard without the function key row or arrow-key cluster but a Num Pad instead. It is a very interesting layout that, if programmable, can makes this a TKL keyboard sans the function key row, or a Num Pad via layers as Vortex often does. Do not dismiss it immediately thus, and allow me to walk you through it as we begin our review with a look at the specifications below.
|Vortex ViBE Keyboard|
|Layout:||78% form factor (79 keys)|
|Material:||Aluminium case, steel plate and PBT plastic keycaps|
|Weight:||0.91 kg / 2.0 lbs.|
|Anti-Ghosting:||Full N-Key rollover USB|
|Media Keys:||Available as a layered function|
|Dimensions:||99 (L) x 371 (W) x 38 (H) mm|
|Cable Length:||5 ft / 1.5 m|
|Switch Type:||Choice of Cherry MX Red, Brown, Blue, Black, Clear, Speed (Silver), Silent Red, or Silent Black mechanical switches|
|Backlighting:||Limited to some keys (on the base version)|
Packaging and Accessories
May I say here how much of a fan I am of Vortex's packaging? This is the third keyboard of theirs I have examined on TechPowerUp, and the style of their packaging has been different every time. The first used a magnetic gift box, the second a box with a slide-out drawer, and this one goes with a cylindrical tube, and I can definitely say that this is the first time I have seen a keyboard come in one. The tube is made out of thin sheet metal with a wrap on the curved side that is black in color, with brown writing for the company and product name as well as what appears to be a printed on PCB design. At the bottom are the keyboard's salient marketing features, and one end has a cap that can be pulled out to reveal the contents inside. A foam piece holds the keyboard on one side, and there are gaps above and below to allow you to pull it out of the tube, which also reveals the accessories that are placed over the keyboard itself.
Two sets of accessories come with the Vortex ViBE, and they both come in sealed plastic pouches. The first is a set of replacement keycaps, and here, we also see add-on feet for the keyboard, and the second pouch contains the detachable keyboard cable. We get two each of the Esc, Enter, space bar, Num, and Num Pad Enter keycaps, with the space bars in colors different from the others in red or blue. These are to essentially add some flair to the keyboard, which otherwise does not support backlighting (on the base version anyway, and there are no plans yet for an RGB backlit version to be released). These replacement keycaps are made out of thick PBT plastic with an average wall thickness of 1.29 mm and have dye-sublimated legends, which will have these last for quite some time. The feet are to be screwed in place and come with two rubber pieces that are to be glued on top to provide some friction and minimize scratching.
Removing the keyboard entirely, we see another thick foam piece on the other end, and this one fills up the entire diameter of the tube, allowing no wiggle room for the keyboard inside to potentially hit the walls of the tube. The lid also makes contact with the other foam piece to finish this unique, but practical packaging design.
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