Almost two years I wrote my first hardware review for MMORPG.com. What was the product? None other than Kinesis' first dive into the gaming world with the FreeStyle Edge mechanical keyboard. I had never used a plit keyboard before and while it took a while to get used to it completely changed my typing experience for the better. It’s really hard to go back to a standard keyboard after getting used to the comfort of a split but being an RGB fiend the unchangeable blue backlight on the original FreeStyle Edge just would not do it for me. I remember my chief complaint at the time being the lack of RGB as well all have our own ideas of what a good color layout for our battlestations are and for me it was not blue. Luckily for me Kinesis seemed to be thinking on the same wavelength and have refreshed the line to include some awesome RGB goodness, an updated (optional) app, and some included wrist rests for added comfort. So did they get it right - well, even more right - this go around? Read on to find out.
- MSRP: $219
- Operating Systems: Plug and Play on Windows, Mac, Linux & Chrome
- Connectivity: Wired 6’ Braided USB Type-A
- Response Time: 1ms
- 100% Anti-Ghosting
- N-Key Rollover Toggle
- Switches: Genuine Cherry MX Switches (Brown, Blue, or Red), up to 50M keystrokes
- Lighting: Per-Key RGB Lighting (16.8M colors)
- RGB Presets: Wave, Spectrum, Breath, Rain, Reactive, Loop, Pulse, Rebound
- Macros: Eight Macro Keys w/ Onboard programming or Smartset APP
- Ergonomics: Split Keyboard w/ detachable palm rests and optional lift kit
- Connecting Cable Length: 20 inches
- Dimensions: 1.25 x 15.5 x 10.25 inches
- Weight: 3.0 lbs
- Warranty: 2 Year Limited
Build, Switches, and Typing
Unlike most keyboards in the same price bracket as the FreeStyle Edge the keyboard does not feature a metal body. That’s not to say it doesn’t have the feel of a superior quality build - it certainly does - but dropping over $200 for a keyboard comes with the expectation of a metal frame in my person opinion. Now I can see the philosophy for not having a ton of metal on the FreeStyle Edge as it already scales in at three pounds so in that regard it’s a good decision to keep the weight down. Unlike the first FreeStyle Edge, the RGB variant comes with detachable, padded palm wrests. It adds a level of comfort to the keyboard that I feel was lacking with version one and the pads have just enough give to make them comfortable during long use.
If you pay attention to how your arms would naturally rest on a desk you’ll quickly see that the standard flat layout of keyboard isn’t necessarily good for your ergonomics. A more natural rest position would result in your hands being around a 30 degree angle off the desk and that’s where the lift kit comes in. The lift kit attaches to the keyboard’s two halves and gives the ability to “tent” the two halves. I spent about ten days using the FreeStyle Edge RGB without the lift kit and the next ten with it on and there is a noticeable difference in comfort favoring the lift kit.
The FreeStyle Edge RGB ships with three different switch options: red, brown and blue. My review model uses brown switches and as always Cherry MX switches are a joy to type on. The FreeStyle Edge RGB remains fairly quiet with the browns and even bottoming out the keys don’t result in the ‘thunk’ you can get from other models - it’s sharp, crisp, and even more importantly didn’t seem to drive my coworkers crazy. I’ve included a recording sample so you can see for yourself.
In all honesty the FreeStyle Edge RGB was incredibly easy to get used to. It felt natural to type this way almost instantly and aside from correcting a bad typing habit or two (like using my right hand to type the ‘B’ key) the growing pains were nearly non-existent. Really the thing I missed the most was the ten-key area but that’s largely due to relying heavily on it while working. From a gaming standpoint I couldn’t care less that it’s not there and I doubt anyone using the keyboard for gaming would agree.
Macros and RGB
A gaming keyboard isn’t complete without macros and while I wasn’t a big user of them with traditional keyboards the eight macro keys have been quite the boon when it comes to the split keyboard. I’ve used them to remap hotkeys typically found on the right side of the keyboard (M for map, J for journal, volume keys, etc) so I can easily use them with my left hand. This way I don’t have to leave my movement keys or mouse unattended in the middle of a gameplay session and can shove the right half of the keyboard out of the way to give myself a TON of mouse space.
You can create macros via on-board programming without ever opening an APP but to me, when there’s an app available, I see no reason not to use it. With the FreeStyle Edge RGB Kinesis Gaming has updated their SmartAPP software both visually and in functionality. While the first version had the hallmarks of being designed by the programming engineer, the new version feels a lot more user friendly and visually appealing. Setting up macros was as easy as highlighting the macro key in the app and either typing in the key combination or using the menu to select items such as volume up and volume down.
When it comes to RGB lighting, Kinesis did a bang up job for their first implementation on a keyboard. The backlighting is vibrant with a nice bleed through the keycaps and the caps themselves have opaque enough lettering for even the Fn sub-text to be visible - not something seen on a number of mainstream keyboards - making it easy to identify the correct key in low lighting. The SmartAPP comes with a number of customizable presets and is intuitive to use. While the lighting features don’t support layering like Corsair or Razer (yet?) there is a ‘top’ layer and ‘function’ layer. This gives a visual indication by changing the lighting when you’re holding down the Fn key. The best use case scenario I can think up is if you want no backlighting while you’re using the keyboard but want the keys to light up so you can read the function subtexts when you’re holding down the Fn-key.
The bottom line? The Kinesis Gaming FreeStyle Edge RGB is a great piece of engineering and a joy to use. Plenty of macro keys, great RGB backlighting, extraordinary comfort and a great typing experience are some of the best tennants to cover as a fairly new entrant to the keyboard gaming world. However, a steep price is likely to hold the majority of people back from learning what this keyboard has to offer.
- Customizable with or without SmartAPP
- Solid RGB options and customizability
- Extraordinary comfort and ergonomics
- VERY steep price
- Lift kit sold separately but feels required for the best experience
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.