PC gaming keyboards come with just a handful of questions now – How is it built? What about LED control? What kind of switches does it have?
These three questions pretty much sum up most gaming keyboards. Enter the Element by Whirlwind FX, and we’re looking at something a little bit different just when we thought we saw everything keyboards had to offer. Spoilers: this is a super sturdy board with a built-in light show like we’ve never seen before and is at the time of this writing $99 from Whirlwind FX and Amazon (yes, that’s ninety-nine). First, some specs:
- Anodized brushed aluminum frame
- Designed and manufactured in San Fransisco
- Choice of Kailh Red Linear or Blue Clicky switches up to 70 million keystrokes
- 1000Hz polling rate and 100% anti-ghosting technology
- RGB LED run through Signal open-platform lighting software
- 30-day money back guarantee
I’m an engineer by education and at heart so I was able to fully appreciate how solid this felt when I took it out of the box and immediately noticed that this beast was was made of metal. The no plastic feel and absolutely zero flex on the deck are thanks to WFX using anodized brushed aluminum for the framing, almost challenging gamers to give it their worst. The keycaps are replaceable and my particular test model was equipped with Kailh linear red switches, which play nearly identical to the Cherry MX red’s with a near negligible difference in actuation force, but they do give you the option of Kailh’s clicky blue edition when you order. The mechanical keys feel good typing and have the performance that one would expect from switches like these. I like the reds because the sound and feel is satisfying, and not so clicky I have to have headphones on to ignore it. If clicky is your game though, pick the blues when you order.
Though it doesn’t have programmable macro keys, this is a full keyboard with a numpad. I’m good with the tenkeyless for my travel stuff but this is sitting on my main desk and I like having all the keys one needs.
I feel pretty confident overall though that I’m not going to break this thing.
The Lights – Basic controls and more
These interactive dynamic lighting effects are based on what’s on your screen. The Whirlwind Engine defines your keyboard (or as we saw at PAX multiple keyboards daisy chained together) as one solid canvas that can show live paint, for lack of a better way to explain it. Your screen resolution is mapped to that canvas, and as pixels light up on the screen, a representation of that appears on they keyboard (or keyboards). So as you’re watching your YouTube clips on a work from home break or in the midst of a Netflix and chill, the lighting on your keyboard will glow with the same colors in the same positions as is on your screen. Basically if there’s media being consumed, it goes to its dynamic state. And if you want, you can have it just do this all the time. You can also turn this feature off completely but really, why would one do that on this particular peripheral? Check out my quick video of my Element and my laptop to see what I mean – even a basic cycle through my World of Warcraft toons is a good example.
Before the Element, PC game immersion in my head as far as what’s on my desk pointed to massive curved screens and 7.1 DTS speaker systems to put yourself in the sights and sounds of whatever you were playing. This keyboard offered a surprising addition to the immersive experience, adding real dynamic tactile feedback to whatever is happening on screen. And it’s… well… it’s really damn cool. If more users get involved with lightscripts this has the potential to have a community making a bunch of cool effects to share with all. It’s also a great build with quality materials and seriously right now a $99 price point is pretty tough to pass up for what you’re getting. And if you’re convinced, you can pick one up at Whirlwind FX or Amazon. And while this isn’t a wrist wrest review, the one I got with my Element is seriously plush, and currently only a $25 addon. Seriously my only little nitpick is that it takes a bit of extra customization and work to get the software running properly on ultrawide monitors. But let’s be real, that’s something they can have fixed with a software patch and I had mine running fine on a Lenovo Legion Y44w (which you can peep my review on here). At any rate, here’s the TF breakdown:
- Top-tier lighting effects and customization
- Solid materials and build construction
- Two switch options for your style
- Excellent value at $99 (at time of writing)
- Software setup with “non-traditional” resolutions
- Some gamers may miss their macro keys
The Technical Fowl rating? 9/10. The $99 ticket price to this particular light show is worth every penny.