Like other leading brands, MSI is actively pursuing the gaming peripherals market in an attempt to create a product range that fully covers everything related to computer games. They were relatively successful in making a line of mice, but with keyboards everything turned out to be not so simple, and for a long time nothing worthy appeared. However, the company’s engineers and marketers still managed to overcome the difficulties, and the Vigor series saw the light, which today consists of two mechanical (GK80 and GK70) and one membrane (GK40) keyboards. We got a shortened TKL version of the mechanics — Vigor GK70 Red, equipped with Cherry MX Red switches and full individual RGB backlighting for each key. Let’s see what it is in detail.
|Model||MSI Vigor GK70 Red|
|Polling frequency, Hz||1000|
|Number of keys||87|
|Keystroke resource, mln.||50|
|Switch type||Cherry MX Red RGB|
|Changing the angle of the body||+|
|Built-in memory, KB||+|
|Ability to record macros||+|
|Handling rollovers||6KRO / NKRO|
|USB cable length, m||1,8|
|Braid material||Nylon braid|
|Material||Plastic / Metal|
|Removable palm rest||–|
|Dimensions (L x W x H), mm||355 x 135 x 45|
|OS Compatibility||Windows 10 / 8.1 / 8 / 7 / Vista / XP|
|Mac OS X 10.3 or later|
|Peculiarities||Removable USB cord, cable management, keycap removal tool, replacement keycaps: 4 with metal cover and 12 rubberized|
|Average cost, $||140|
Contents of delivery
The packaging of the keyboard turned out to be quite colorful, primarily due to the attempt to depict RGB backlighting on it. There is nothing particularly interesting on the front side of the box, but from the rear, in several sketches, a brief description of the main advantages of the product is given. The paperback cover with color printing is removed to reveal a completely black packaging box underneath. As protection against damage, there are only cardboard inserts inside, there are no soft dampers.
In addition to the instructions, the package includes a box with interchangeable keycaps, four of which have metal overlays, and the remaining 12 are rubberized. In addition, there is a key for easy dismantling of the caps.
The shape of the Vigor GK70 is a classic «skeleton», in which there is nothing superfluous. However, the manufacturer managed to slightly embellish it. The top panel under the buttons is made of metal with a beautiful olive tint. All this is screwed with screws hidden under the keys. Between the function buttons and the main block of buttons there is a chrome-plated insert with a mirror effect, in its right part, the red LED indicators for Caps and Scroll Lock are masked. The back panel has a stylish notch, and a dragon image stylized as a tattoo is applied near the arrows. In general, the MSI design was a success, everything in it is done solidly and in moderation.
The keyboard comes with replaceable keycaps and a special key for dismantling them. Four red zinc-gold-plated keys are designed to replace WASD, eight more rubber-coated buttons with a small boomerang texture will replace any printed button, two caps will fit Alt and Ctrl, and one more will take the place of Shift and space.
The metal caps are beveled inwards. On them, as well as on caps with a rubberized coating, there is no engraving. But these surfaces are well distinguishable by touch. When installed, the alternative set of caps looks like this:
There are questions about the structure of the interchangeable caps themselves. Rubberized keys are made of translucent burgundy plastic and have very short transverse stiffening ribs. This is done to better distribute the backlight, but this is also a strong minus in terms of reliability. As for the metal caps, it’s still sadder with them. There are no stiffeners at all, the cruciform shaft, which bears the main load, is not supported by anything. The metal plate is simply hooked onto the plastic base. And this is on buttons that will be pressed more often than any other on the keyboard.
In the printed layout block, everything looks quite standard, it is a classic ANSI «American» for 87 keys. Both Shift are long, Enter is single-row, the F1 button is located exactly above the number «2». Instead of a menu key, there is a macro activation button on the right, and the MSI logo in the form of a dragon is depicted on the Fn button. English and Russian engravings are laser engraved on the top left and bottom right, respectively. All the main symbols are well read both with and without illumination, and the symbols of additional functions are depicted on the front of the caps.
The keyboard does not have a numeric keypad, but everything else remains in place.
The keyboard features classic lightweight Cherry MX Red linear switches in a transparent case. 45g actuation force, 2mm to actuation, and 4mm full travel. The RGB diodes are soldered directly onto the board, and there isn’t even a focusing lens on the switch. All long keys are well stabilized, they have play, but almost imperceptible. Stabilizers are internal, so all keys can be easily removed for cleaning. The caps are made of translucent ABS plastic and painted on the outside.
The keyboard case has an initial slope towards the front, and the keycaps are almost straight in profile. On both sides of the keyboard, there are triangular-shaped recesses for which it is convenient to lift and rearrange it. In the recesses themselves there is an image of a dragon, and two strips, similar to lightning, are illuminated, with three LEDs at once. The height of the legs in the expanded state is 14 mm, there is only one fixation position.
The keyboard has no additional external ports. The cable can be routed out of the case at the rear in the middle, or closer to the left or right edge.
On the base there are four narrow rubber feet at the corners. The bottom part of the keyboard housing is made of matte black plastic.
The signal cable is removable, the Micro-USB connector for its connection is located in the middle in a trapezoid pocket, which allows you to smoothly bend the cable to lay it in the right direction.
The total length of the cord is 1.8 meters, it is completely covered with a nylon braid, has an average thickness and stiffness, and remembers the given shape well. The ferrite ring is put on the wire from the side of the keyboard connector, at a distance of 250 mm from it.
Two folding legs are made of plastic, but have massive rubber blotches, half the length of their body. The keyboard stays on the table well, regardless of whether the legs are folded or unfolded.
The RGB backlighting is well done, with a wide range of brightness, a large selection of effects and the ability to customize. White color is transmitted correctly. There are LEDs under all keys and on the sides of the keyboard. When the backlight is on, the Latin alphabet is visible very well, the Cyrillic alphabet is a little more faded, but it is still readable. The LEDs of the two Lock-indicators are visible only when turned on and look like red holograms that do not put pressure on the eyes with their brightness.
Since the Vigor GK70 is a skeleton, the reflection from the switches is clearly visible on the sides and back. Against this background, the side illumination diodes look quite unobtrusive and work when a constant color is set to all keys, or in the mode of changing the color spectrum. If desired, they can be disabled by pressing Fn + F4.
MSI Vigor GK70 has a very wide range of options for hardware configuration of its functions using key combinations. Moreover, not even all of them are adequately described in the instructions, and some, in particular, about the order of recording macros, are not mentioned at all. If we add to this the absence of Russian and Ukrainian languages in the instructions, then it’s completely difficult to figure it out. Therefore, we will have to fill this gap by talking about built-in functions, the order in which they are activated and used. To begin with, let’s look at the possible keyboard shortcuts, for convenience, we indicate them in the form of a table:
|Fn+F1||Switching to the RGB palette setting mode|
|Fn+F2||Setting individual key colors using the RGB palette|
|Fn+F3||Fast switching backlight colors for all keys. Color options available: white, red, green, blue, yellow, purple, cyan|
|Fn+F4||Disable / enable side LEDs.|
|Fn+F5/F6/F7/F8||Character delay/repeat speed change: x1 (32ms), x2 (16ms), x4 (8ms), x8 (4ms)|
|Fn+F9/F10/F11/F12||Media controls: back, play/pause, stop, forward|
|Fn+PrtScn, ScrLk, Pause||Sound control: mute, quieter, louder|
|Fn+~||Enable an immutable default keyboard profile|
|Fn+1/2/3/4/5||Activation of five backlight profiles and macros|
|Fn+Esc||Exit Programming Mode|
|Fn+R||Reset the keyboard to factory settings (hold for more than 5 seconds)|
|Fn+S||Saving a backlight profile|
|Fn+Win||Enabling normal (6KRO, Win button works) or game mode (NKRO, Win button disabled)|
|Fn+< or >||Changing the speed or direction of the current light effect|
|Fn+M button||Activation/deactivation of macro command recording mode|
|M button + any button (Except Fn)||Play macro if it is assigned to this key|
|Fn+left/right arrow||Switching 14 backlight modes|
|Fn+Down/Up Arrow||Decrease or increase the brightness of the backlight|
|Fn+Ins/Home/PgUp||Switching graphics card modes: «overclocking», «gaming», «quiet» (only supported by MSI graphics cards with the appropriate software)|
|Fn+Del/End/PgDn||Switching motherboard modes: overclocking, gaming, quiet (only supported by MSI motherboards with the appropriate software)|
To adjust the color palette, press Fn+F1, then select one of the highlighted color slots in the F1–F12 keys. The selected key will remain lit, the rest will go out. The R, G and B buttons will light up in the corresponding color, you should click on the desired one and adjust this color component (in the range from 0 to 255 gradations), holding the up or down arrows. The selected F1-F12 key will then change its color. Once the setting is complete, press Enter, and accept or reject the changes by pressing the lit Y or N buttons. To exit this mode, press Fn+F1.
To set the backlight profile, select one of the five profiles by pressing Fn+1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. Then press Fn+F2 to enter the backlight setting mode. To change the current color, hold down the Fn button, then select the desired color from the F1–F12 palette and release Fn. By pressing any key once, you will paint it in the selected color. Pressing again will turn off the backlight on this button. To save changes to the current profile, press Fn+S. Press Fn+Esc to cancel changes.
To select the current backlight mode, press Fn+left/right arrows. The following options are cyclically available:
- color wave;
- spectrum change;
- a wave running in a cross from the pressed key;
- «starry sky»;
- rain (diagonal stripes);
- breathing mode;
- highlight pressed keys («after»);
- «Snake» — the keys are illuminated sequentially horizontally;
- one-color wave from right to left;
- individual configured profile of constant illumination;
- League of Legends mode — QWERPDFB buttons are highlighted in blue;
- CS: GO mode, WASD, Shift, Ctrl and space buttons highlighted in yellow;
- Overwatch mode, orange-lit QWEASD, Shift, Ctrl and spacebar buttons;
- full permanent illumination in one color.
In all modes (if supported), color change is available via Fn + F3, speed and direction of the effect with a combination of Fn + “<” or “>”, brightness control Fn + up / down arrow (10 levels are available and completely off).
The keyboard supports recording up to 12 macro commands in each of the five profiles. To record a macro, you need to select a profile by pressing Fn + 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. Then press the combination Fn + the “M” key (all buttons will be highlighted in white), and press any key once (highlighted in yellow), where recording will be made. Type the desired command on the keyboard and at the end press «M» once. To exit the mode at any time, you can press the combination Fn + the «M» key. To erase a recorded key, it must be pressed in combination with Fn when the edit mode is on (the keys to which macros are assigned are highlighted in red). To play the command, you need to hold down the «M» key and press the button to which the desired macro is assigned. There is no option to stop macro playback (or at least I didn’t find it). It is also interesting that if 12 commands are written to one profile, then the next one, like all the others, will be inaccessible for recording. If you record only 11, then you can also record 11 or 12 macros in the next profile. Whether this was a mistake or by design is unknown. I also could not find a limit on the length of the command, but when writing through the software, I managed to cause the keyboard to freeze at approximately the 500th character.
In addition to hardware functions, some settings can also be implemented through software. The main driver is MSI Gaming Center (current version 220.127.116.11), but MSI Mystic Light is also supported (albeit a bit crooked). Keyboard firmware version: S2544V26 / S2405V24.
On the start screen of the program, you can select a device (headset, mouse or keyboard), the ability to turn the backlight on or off, and access information about the versions of the program and firmware of the device.
By clicking on the keyboard image, we first get to the macro settings page. On the left, you can switch five profiles or return to the main page of the application, on the right we have a choice of 12 macro slots. All buttons are available for programming except Fn and the «M» key. Clicking on Edit will take you to the editor. Remove removes macro assignments from a key.
In the macro editor on the left there is a key to start or stop recording, on the right you can specify how to record delays between clicks in real time or fixed time in milliseconds. In the recording window, only keyboard commands are accepted, numbered in order with an indication of the delay time. They can be moved up or down, or deleted. There is no possibility to edit the entered command, or replace it with another one. Below are only the save and clear buttons.
In the backlight settings, there is again a switch for it, an RGB palette for choosing a color, a switch for 14 effects, and a volume slider. Let me remind you that the backlight is also saved in the same profiles as the macros.
For some effects, the color is not adjusted, but the playback speed and direction are adjusted.
And setting up an individual backlight profile is still much easier using this tab than manually using hardware commands.
If you do not want to accidentally knock down the overclocking settings of your video card and motherboard, or they are not from MSI, then these keyboard functions can be disabled in the Hotkey tab.
Ergonomics and testing
As mentioned earlier, MSI Vigor GK70 is a classic skeleton, from which all its advantages and disadvantages stem. The first thing to consider is the significant height of the keys, since their mechanisms are not recessed into the body, but rather stick out. The case is wedge-shaped in profile, which is why the rows of buttons are at different heights. As a result, the keyboard is most naturally used with the legs folded down, since there is already enough height for the comfort of the wrists. If the legs are spread out, then the user will have to sit down noticeably below the level of the table, otherwise the bending of the arms may become painful over time. As part of the assembly, there are no questions to the device. Although it feels light, there are no crunches or creaks when twisting diagonally. The only thing is that the case can slightly bend when pressed in the gap area, but in real use this is unlikely to be noticeable. The notches on the sides are handy when the Vigor GK70 needs to be lifted and rearranged urgently. Separately, it is worth noting the possibility of laying and outputting the cable, both in the middle and at the corners of the case, this is also sometimes useful. The layout of all buttons is standard, therefore it does not take time to get used to it and you can make blind dialing from the very first minutes of using the device.
The nature of the Cherry MX Red mechanical switches is quite familiar. They are light, linear, recoil is felt only after the cap hits the mechanism case. I really liked the absence of parasitic overtones from the springs in them and how smoothly the long switches are stabilized. I did not need to use an additional set of caps. Although it is possible that avid gamers will like their texture and shape. If you have to print more than play, then it is better to leave the standard caps. For the more sophisticated connoisseurs of speed and responsiveness, MSI offers a variant of this keyboard on Cherry MX Silver switches, which differ from Red in a shortened to 1.2 mm actuation travel and a total travel of 3.4 mm.
I liked the ability to hardware-configure the keyboard and quickly record macros on the fly. However, in terms of software and recording macros from under it, there are certain unfinished points. Not only is the macro editor itself extremely poor in terms of choice of options, but also an attempt to write from under it to the keyboard memory often ended in a freeze. At the same time, everything was fine with the backlight. And, in fact, the backlight itself looks beautiful here, has the correct color rendition and, most importantly, Cyrillic and Latin engravings are equally easy to read.
Anti-ghosting in this keyboard, for some reason, is combined with blocking the Win key. The company calls it gaming mode, where when you press Fn+Win, the keyboard takes 5-6 seconds to enter NKRO mode and disable the Win key (so there are no accidental exits from the game). And exactly the same amount to turn on the 6KRO mode and the Win button back (at the same time, it quickly blinks the LED). A strange decision, because if these functions were not connected, then pressing six buttons at the same time, as a rule, is enough in most situations, and turning off Win would happen almost instantly.
The MSI Vigor GK70 Red is a beautifully crafted and well-built TKL skeleton keyboard. It has a clear RGB backlight that normally illuminates both types of engraving, classic good Cherry MX Red switches with NKRO support, built-in memory for five profiles, extensive hardware and software customization of its functions, a detachable cable with the ability to output it in three different directions .
Of the visible problems of the keyboard, I can only note troubles with direct recording of macro commands (11 instead of the promised 12 in the profile). And some software dampness in terms of working with macros. And in the instructions (in English), the order of recording macros is not disclosed at all. I would also like to see full-fledged metal caps for WASD keys in the kit, and not blotches on fragile plastic. However, even without them, everything would be fine too.
I can call the company’s pricing policy regarding the MSI Vigor GK70 rather restrained. It is not cheap, but not the most expensive among its closest competitors. If there is a markup «for the brand», then it is almost completely covered by the quality of the product. The keyboard can be safely recommended as a purchase candidate not only for MSI fans, but also for anyone looking for a decent TKL with RGB backlighting without a palm rest.