MSI has been on the cutting edge of the component game for some time. This year, they’ve refreshed their line of gaming peripherals with the Vigor series of gaming keyboards. We’ve looked at the mechanical-like GK40 and the tenkeyless GK70 with Cherry MX Red switches. Today, we’re taking on the flagship with the Vigor GK80. Join us as we take a look at exactly what a top-end keyboard looks like from MSI.
- MSRP: $159.99
- Key Switches: CHERRY MX RGB Red Switches (linear)
- Keystroke Life: 50+ Million
- Interface: Wired USB 2.0
- Normal Keys: 104/105 keys (Standard)
- Dimensions: 439x141x38mm
- Backlight: Full RGB Illumination (16.77 Million Colors)
- Accessories: 4x Double Material Metal and Plate Keycaps, 12x Double Injection and Material Keycaps with rubber surface, 1x Key Puller, 1x Wrist Rest
- Cables: 2m Braided Fiber
- Multimedia Keys: Dedicated Keys
- Gaming Mode: Fn + Windows
- N-Key Rollover: N-Key Rollover (Gaming mode), 6-Key Rollover (Standard mode)
- Weight: 1400g
When it comes to gaming keyboards, there are a few things I tend to look for. Is it well built? Does the design and layout make sense? Does it feature onboard controls for things like macros and lighting? How about software? Is the board bringing anything unique to the table? All of these things separate out a run of the mill keyboard from something truly good - and when you’re asking more than $150, your keyboard needs to be good.
Which is pretty much where I land with the MSI Vigor GK80. It’s a good keyboard - not amazing, but good, and even better if you have an MSI motherboard or GPU. What we have here is a fairly standard per-key RGB mech that lets you do almost exactly what you would expect it to with almost exactly the features you would expect it to have. It does have a couple of unique tricks up its sleeve, though, so let’s take a closer look.
Beginning with the layout, the GK80 features a full 104-key layout. MSI hasn’t done anything outlandish with its design, so keys will be right where you expect them to be, with the exception of the multimedia keys which are mounted on the upper right edge, as a nice USB passthrough for a mouse or headset. The top rim is accented in red. Here we also find our non-detachable braided cable (two-headed to accommodate the pass-through). It features a nice brushed aluminum top plate in gunmetal gray that looks very nice under the black keycaps.
Out of the box, the WASD keys will be capped with MSI’s rather unique swap-ins. These keys are topped in a metal alloy which has a distinctive texture to let you know when you’re in position without having to look down to check. I suspect some gamers may find these keys too slippery, though I’ve never personally struggled with sliding off of my keys. MSI has also included a wide selection of 12 rubber topped keycaps in the box, too, as well as standard WASD keys if you’d like to keep things stock.
The GK80 uses the “floating key” design that’s become so popular over the last few years. In years past, keyboards would often hide their switch-tops under the plastic case. Thanks to the advent of Cherry MX RGB switches, keyboards like the Vigor GK80 show off even more of their lighting by removing the plastic case and letting the keycaps “hover” above the metal mounting plate. It looks good, especially with the added underglow of the corner LED strips.
On the bottom left and right corners, MSI has added diffusion light bars to enhance the board’s flair. The LEDs behind the plastic are nice and bright, which make the strips quite vibrant. The corner lighting also gives the GK80 a unique look when much of the competition is opting for solid strips along the top or bottom.
When it comes to customization, you can change the lighting through a dozen presets right onboard, changing their base colors to suit your setup. Here you can choose a set color or dial in your own palette using an RGB mixer controlled through a series of key commands. Up to five custom lighting profiles can be stored onboard.
For more advanced programming, including macros and hotkeys, you’ll want to pick up the Mystic Light and Gaming Center apps from MSI’s support page. These will allow you to dial-in and edit chain macros for games or apps, alter your keyboard’s lighting much more quickly than using onboard controls, as well as sync your lighting between devices.
So what makes the keyboard special? Two things. First, it features one of the nicest wrist rests I’ve seen included with a keyboard. It’s standalone, which means it doesn’t attach but can also be used with any keyboard, and is made from a heavy-duty aluminum frame. The top has a textured rubber insert with the MSI logo that looks very nice. It’s not padded but definitely helps keep your wrists from sliding around.
The real killer feature here is one that will only benefit users who already own MSI components: one-touch hardware overclocking. Both CPU and GPU can controlled using function commands, without the need to open MSI’s Command Center software. Each offers three modes: Silent, Gaming, and OC, each with its own overclock settings. For my case, I typically keep a very mild CPU overclock and let my GPU control itself with Nvidia’s GPU Boost. Every now and again, though, it’s nice to be able to press a button and get that extra bit of juice - I’m looking at you Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Being able to do that without leaving the game is a very nice feature.
Overall, the MSI Vigor GK80 is a solid mechanical keyboard that delivers in most ways you would expect it to. The multimedia buttons are a tad small and it would be nice to see more switch options than the current Cherry MX Red. Yet, for those limitations, we have a nice included wrist rest, helpful onboard overclock controls, and some extra onboard lighting options than we usually see on mainstream gaming keyboards. If you have an MSI motherboard or GPU, you’ll find more to enjoy with the onboard overclocking. For everyone else, though, it’s fairly standard fare: good, but not quite doing enough to differentiate itself from the competition.
- Onboard overclocking controls
- Nice corner light bars
- Plentiful onboard lighting controls
- Looks good in gunmetal finish
- Quality wrist rest that can be used with other boards
- Only one switch option
- Needs MSI hardware to get the most benefit
- Doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.