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Vortexgear Pok3r RGB Review: Small But Exceptional

By Christopher Coke on April 12, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | 0

Thanks to e-sports stars like Tfue, small keyboards are on the rise like never before. Today, we’re looking at one of the most beloved 60% keyboards in the enthusiast community with the Vortex Pok3r RGB. If you’ve enjoyed TKL keyboards or wondered what they hype was about with these small 60-percents, we have the answer and are ready to let you know whether the Pok3r RGB should be the next keyboard on your wishlist.

Thanks to e-sports stars like Tfue, small keyboards are on the rise like never before. Today, we’re looking at one of the most beloved 60% keyboards in the enthusiast community with the Vortex Pok3r RGB. If you’ve enjoyed TKL keyboards or wondered what they hype was about with these small 60-percents, we have the answer and are ready to let you know whether the Pok3r RGB should be the next keyboard on your wishlist.

Specifications

  • Current Pricing: $141 (Amazon)
  • Type: 61-key Qwerty, Colemak, Dvorak
  • Key Switches: Cherry - Black, Silent Black, Brown, Blue, Red, Silent Red, Silver, Nature White (Tested)
  • Material: Solid metal case, doubleshot ABS keycaps (backlit)
  • Software: None required
  • Macros: Yes, complete macro programming. 3-layers, 32 keystrokes per key, saved to onboard memory
  • Illumination: Per-key RGB, 10 presets, custom static layout
  • DIP Switches: Yes

Editor's Note: Vortex reached out to let us know that the keyboard was upgraded with PBT keycaps, including the one in this review. Please disregard the critique of "ABS caps" and kudos to Vortex for responding to customer feedback.

The first question newcomers usually ask when seeing a 60% for the first time is why. This is usually followed with comments about needing the function row, or arrow keys, or number pad. All of these are legitimate questions and ones I asked myself. Compared to a full-size keyboard, something like the Pok3r RGB (that’s Poker 3) looks downright tiny. So let’s look a little closer and try to answer those questions, shall we?

Starting things off, you should probably know that Vortexgear (which I’ll be calling Vortex) is one of the most well-known companies in the mechanical keyboard world. Thus far, they’ve existed mostly in the enthusiast sector but thanks to several prominent e-sports players, the Pok3r RGB is getting more mainstream attention than ever before. This is a good thing because, by and large, the build quality on Vortex’s boards is vastly superior to your average “gaming keyboard.”

Compared to your average TKL, the Pok3r RGB is much smaller. There’s no function now, navigation cluster, or arrow keys. The frame is also minimalist, extending only 2mm on the bottom and sides and 4mm on top, though is made out of a solid piece of CNC-milled aluminum. This gives it a nice weight to stay still on your desk, feel very premium, and improves how nice it feels to type on. The name of the game is to have a small footprint and leave more space for mouse movements.

Even though it’s small, you don’t lose any of the functionality of a normal tenkeyless keyboard. This is the thing I never realized until getting one of these keyboards myself. Yes, function keys are important. So are arrow keys and the ability to quickly jump around a page with the navigation buttons. Every single one of these is present on a secondary layer. Thanks to a conveniently positioned Fn key that you can hold with your pinky, you can easily use a whole second set of commands mapped to most keys on the keyboard. And because Vortexgear has been doing this for a while, they’ve listened to the community and added extra functionality on top of that.

Here’s a look at how it works in practice. By default, your number row doubles as the function row. The right-side letters double as the navigation cluster. Delete is Fn+Backspace. The arrow keys can be Fn+IJKL or swapped into the top layer in the bottom right corner using a quick key command so you don’t need to hold anything to use them. Any key can be remapped anywhere on the board, including those on the secondary layer.

Around the back, you also have four DIP switches that change the layout of the board. The first two allow you to swap between QWERTY, DVORAK, and COLEMAK layouts. The last two allow you to 1) turn Caps Lock into a Fn key and 2) map Fn or Pn to any other key on the board. The latter I don’t bother with since that does require you lose another key unless you’re mapping to left-Windows. Instead, I use this to turn Caps into Fn to access all of my secondary commands and keep the bottom right corner as dedicated arrow keys. It’s the best of both worlds and extremely functional so long as you use Shift instead of Caps for capitalization.

You also have complete macro programming without the need for any software. Using a key combination, you enter into recording mode and can map commands to any key or combination on the board. The Pok3r RGB supports four separate layers (think of these like “profiles” on a normal gaming keyboard or second, third, and fourth sets of keys). Using layers, you can have different key sets for individual games or programs or even an entire keyset dedicated to macros. By default, macros record without delays, which is great for sending through commands fast and exactly what you would want as a gamer, but you also have the option of adding/stacking 0.1ms, 0.5ms, and 15ms delays between commands if you need pauses between each send.

As a gamer, I love all of these features. Being able to record, save, and fire off macros without any kind of software is great. Many gaming boards, like those from Razer, offer “on the fly” macros only if the software is installed. Here, it’s entirely plug and play. Even when you’re not worrying about macros, it’s just as responsive as you would expect from a high-end keyboard.

The sheer conciseness of the board takes some getting used to, but once you do, there’s no going back. It took me a couple days to get used to using Fn commands on my board but now I loved having everything I’d need in such a small package. I definitely enjoy 65% or 75% keyboard, and can get down with a number pad when I’m doing work, but for day to day use, the Pok3r RGB is leaves me way more room to position my mouse and keyboard exactly where I’d like and never feel cramped.

Of course, you can also control the RGB lighting. There’s a total of 10 presets available to choose from, though it’s really not that much because several repeat allowing you to choose a color or have it be randomized, so I would have liked to seen more options available. I do like that you can set your own static layout in multiple ways. Like some of the Cooler Master boards we’ve looked at recently, holding the Pn/Menu button turns 1-3 into an RGB color mixer. You can also hold Pn+Esc and the keyboard will turn into a rainbow palette and you can simply tap the color you want. It’s quick and easy. The keyboard is also one of the brightest I’ve found.

The most important element of any keyboard, though, is how it feels to use. The Pok3r RGB comes with your choice of Cherry MX switches. My sample had Nature White switches, which I’d never used before. Nature Whites are a linear switch with a 55g actuation force. This places it between a Cherry MX Red and a Cherry MX Black. For gaming, I love this switch. I always found reds too light and would make accidental presses from resting my fingers on the keyboard. Nature whites are heavy enough where this doesn’t happen. Likewise, when typing, I make far fewer typos!

The keyboard feels great to type on. The solid metal body deadens out any extra reverb or spring noise. The keycaps add to this since they’re thick, textured, doubleshot ABS. I would have like to have seen PBT caps at this price, but these are definitely an improvement over what you’ll find on any normal gaming keyboard. I also like how much attention went into their design. The number row, for example, has primary and secondary legends side by side so they’re evenly lit. The side-legends for secondary functions aren’t backlit and appear to be printed but since you’ll never actually touch them, wear and tear shouldn’t be an issue.

Final Thoughts

The Vortexgear Pok3r RGB is a fantastic little keyboard. The solid aluminum body makes it feel very premium and great to type on. The small form factor takes some getting used to but it also demands an innovative approach to maintain all of the functionality gamers and typists will need. Vortex has done an amazing job of making sure you don’t lose anything with the shift to the smaller size and well thought out Fn options make accessing all of those commands easy. For gaming, it’s top notch and will leave you wondering why other companies force you to install software to get these features.

If you’re in the market for a new keyboard and need something small, clean, and programmable, this is definitely a board you should be considering.

Pros

  • Excellent build quality
  • Solid metal body
  • Small size but no lost functions (in fact, it adds functions)
  • Fully customizable without software
  • Bright, user addressable lighting

Cons

  • Fairly expensive
  • ABS keycaps

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight