Sturdy, reliable, and well-designed.
Kingston is on a roll with its HyperX gaming brand. What started with high-performance memory 15 years ago has recently branched out to peripherals, with great success. Its headphones and gaming mice are lauded for delivering a lot of bang for the buck, and its Cloud II headset is our hands-down favorite for the price.
Now, the company has expanded its keyboard line with its latest model, the HyperX Alloy Elite (See it on Amazon). It’s similar to the Alloy FPS and addresses most of that model’s annoyances in a less-portable footprint. If your keyboard stays attached to your gaming PC all the time, the improvements in the Elite are easily worth the measly $10 price hike.
Design and Features
The Alloy Elite shares much in common with the Alloy FPS, design-wise. Both are heavyweight, durable keyboards with a steel frame and a thick braided USB cable. It’s got a nice charcoal black finish with matching keys, and Kingston throws in a set of textured, colored keycaps for the W-A-S-D and 1-2-3-4 keys. Those are red on the FPS; they’re silver on the Elite.
The keyboard is available with your choice of three different Cherry MX switches: Blue (clicky), Brown (tactile bump but not clicky), or Red (smooth linear motion). Of these, gamers tend to prefer the Brown or Red variants. Hardcore typers like the old-style audible “click” and firmer action of the Blue switches. My test unit came with Red switches.
In terms of how the Alloy Elite differs from its predecessor, first you must understand that there are three essential issues with the Alloy FPS model: There are no individual buttons for the lighting and media controls (you have to use Function keys), the USB port is for charging only, and there is no wrist rest. The Alloy Elite addresses all of these.
Though the keyboard offers only a red backlight, there are six lighting modes, the same as those found on the Alloy FPS: Always on, breathing (pulsing), wave (a left-to-right motion), trigger (keys light up as you press them, then slowly fade), and explosion (tapping key creates “ripples” of light). The sixth mode is programmable, so you can select which keys you want illuminated (it defaults to W-A-S-D, CTRL, Space, and 1-2-3-4). My favorite by far is the trigger mode. The slick fade effect looks awesome as you’re furiously typing away.
Though I would prefer RGB lighting the red backlight looks great with the black keyboard and fits the HyperX branding. While the Alloy FPS has five lighting levels, the Alloy Elite has just four: off, low, medium, and high. Frankly, there’s no practical need to have more.
You get dedicated media controls too: mute, play/pause, forward, back, and a slick volume wheel. And of course there’s a gaming mode button, which disables the Windows key so you don’t accidentally pop open the Start menu in the middle of a heated match. That’s par for the course with all gaming keyboards.
But while the Alloy FPS puts lighting and media controls on the Fn keys to save space, the Alloy Elite adds a bar up above the keys, dedicated to the lighting and media controls. This makes them drastically more user-friendly. I especially love the wide, vertically-rolling analog volume wheel. The control area is separated from the keys by a thin line that follows the lighting pattern and adds a touch of style to an otherwise workmanlike design.
The USB cable is permanently attached to the keyboard rather than detachable as it is on the Alloy FPS, a clear sign that this is not meant to be tossed in a bag to travel with you. But Kingston did correct the FPS’s annoying “charge only” USB port, upgrading it to full USB 2.0 pass-through on the Elite. Now it’s good for more than charging your phone; it’s a handy place to plug in a USB headset or wireless controller dongle.
Finally, typists who want a comfortable wrist angle usually opt for a keyboard with a wrist wrest, and the Alloy FPS doesn’t include one. The Alloy Elite does, and while it’s plastic, it feels sturdy and nicely matches the soft black finish of the metal keyboard deck.
These are all great features, but the Alloy Elite is a little spartan compared to fancier (and pricier) keyboards due to its lowish $109.99 price tag. For example, there are no programmable macros, no headphone jack, no full-color RGB lighting. You can get these sorts of features from other keyboards, but you’ll usually pay more for it. Kingston’s approach has one stand-out benefit: it’s 100% driverless. There’s no software to install; just plug it in and play.
There’s no doubting the build quality of this thing. It’s built like a tank. The heavy steel frame is apparent the moment you pick it up, and that extra heft really keeps the keyboard in place. It doesn’t slide around at all.
Then you have the genuine Cherry MX switches. Some other budget mechanical keyboards opt for cheaper switches, like those from Outemu or Kailh. And Logitech and Razer have their own custom mechanical switches, which have met with mixed reviews. But Cherry MX endures because of its consistent and reliable performance. There’s a whole internet subculture devoted to mechanical keyboards, and Cherry MX are so popular that a cottage industry has sprung up to provide replacement switches, custom keycaps, and mods like O-ring switch dampeners.
I like the smooth motion of the Cherry MX Red switches our test unit came with. The activation point is right around 2mm with the reset point just a shade above that, which is great for fast-paced key tapping. Cherry MX Brown are very similar, but with a noticeable “bump” as you press down for a tactile feel. Cherry MX Blue have that tactile bump and an audible click, which remind you of old IBM keyboards from the early PC days. But they’re less suitable for gaming, as the activation point is beyond 2mm and the reset point is around 1.5mm. This means you must press the key down further to make it register, and let it go back up further before it can register again.
In addition to using the Alloy Elite to type thousands of words over the past couple weeks, I also used it with a variety of games, from intense FPS titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Overwatch to more sedate fare like Planet Coaster and Stardew Valley. I couldn’t have asked for better performance—no keypress ever went unregistered, I never felt like response was anything other than instant, and even my most heated moments didn’t cause the keyboard to slide on my smooth desk. Just to confirm Kingston’s n-key rollover claim, I fired up Aqua Key Test and, sure enough, you can press as many keys at once as you want without any of them failing to register.
I can also appreciate that the keys are raised up above the key deck. If you’re the type to enjoy a few snacks while gaming, you’ll appreciate that it’s easy to get under and around the keys to clean everything off.
The HyperX Alloy Elite has an MSRP of $109.99 and is available for pre-order today on Amazon: