The Element FX Keyboard may seem like just another RGB keyboard on the surface, but a deeper look at its features is warranted here.
I’m Christopher Harper, Head of Gaming Hardware at CGDirector, and this keyboard was provided to me free of charge by Whirlwind FX. However, all opinions expressed within this review are completely my own, and I have been neither paid nor pressured to provide undue positive feedback.
With our disclosures out of the way…let’s dive into it!
Introducing The Whirlwind FX Element Keyboard
- Switch Type: Kailh Red
- RGB Type: Per-Key
- Keyboard Layout: Full
- MSRP: $120
The Element FX Keyboard is a mechanical RGB gaming keyboard with Cherry MX Red Switches. My review copy came with a wrist-rest in a separate box, as well as all the expected documentation and boxes.
Due to certain world events in the year 2020, I’ve actually had this keyboard for some months at the time of writing. However, this has given me plenty of time to keep trying it out and seeing the software evolve as I go.
I’ve decided to break this review into two key sections: The Feel and The Software. For a gaming keyboard, these are two of the most important criteria by which to judge its quality.
Let’s dive in!
First of all, the feel. The version I received had Linear Red Kailh mechanical switches, and these were as responsive and quiet as I’d expect from Red switches. While I haven’t tested the Blue switch version of the keyboard, I imagine that version is of similar build quality, but with clicky rather than quiet keys.
The version you want will largely depend on personal preference, but if you have any noise concerns, you’ll definitely want to go with Red Switches instead. Blue Switches will provide more noise and tactile feedback, though, which is a big selling point of mechanical keyboards.
The wrist rest I received with the keyboard was generally soft and comfortable, and actually felt a lot better than the attachable wrist rests I’ve become used to from Razer and Corsair over the years.
Overall feel is pretty much what I would expect from a mechanical keyboard with Red switches- maybe even a little better when using the cushioned wrist rest.
The real meat of the Whirlwind FX Element Keyboard isn’t the hardware, though- it’s the software.
Specifically, its RGB software. The Whirlwind FX software allows for a number of specialized effects to be applied to your keyboard.
The big star of the show here is the “Natural” lighting profile, which causes the keyboard to change its lighting in real-time on a per-key basis in accordance with whatever is happening onscreen in a game or video.
Even by itself, this effect adds quite a lot to the media consumption experience. One of my favorite moments with this effect happened while I was watching a video- a particular shot was a closeup of an object being dropped, and the lighting of the keyboard reflected that item being dropped as it happened. While it may seem a little simple upon first inspection, you’ll notice a lot of little moments like that using this keyboard- moments that, I feel, add another level of immersion to the experience.
A multitude of other effects are available through the Element FX software, too. These effects are divided into two categories: Media Effects (ie the Natural profile) and Idle effects.
Idle effects can display fixed colors and graphics, as well as type lighting (ie keys flashing when pressed).
Media effects display whenever media (audio or video) is being played, and these effects vary from things like a music visualizer to custom per-game profiles developed by the team. These profiles are primarily based on the aforementioned Natural profile effect, with the addition of unique per-game elements, like the dominant colors changing depending on what team you’re on or flashing when you take damage.
The RGB experience on offer here is unlike anything I’ve experienced before, and is truly impressive. For RGB fanatics, I cannot recommend this product enough: there is nothing else like it.
However, there are a few caveats.
For one, per-game effects cannot be adjusted. The regular Natural profile has plenty of options for adjustment- I personally like making it as vivid as possible so that the effects and object-tracking are more obvious.
Compare this to the options of the Doom Eternal preset, where only one form of adjustment is available:
And you begin to see the issue. While this may seem like a minor nitpick, I found that I preferred my own customized Natural lighting effect over the explicitly made-for-Doom effect, and it feels like an oversight that this problem even exists.
Additionally, the software has some minor usability issues, like the inability to type in color codes (one must instead manually adjust a color wheel and other sliders), and a fixed window scale. If you want to resize the window or snap it to a region of your screen, that isn’t an option here- and as a heavy multitasker, that does frustrate at times.
These issues are ultimately minor in the grand scheme of things, but are still worth noting here.
Concluding Thoughts & How I’m Using It
Despite the aforementioned software caveats, this is still an excellent product, and I’m fairly sure my software-related nitpicks can be addressed in due time. (This review is being written in October of 2020- if you’re reading this at a later date, those issues may have already been fixed!)
While the Whirlwind FX Element has not become my new daily driver (I’m far too attached to my Corsair K70 for that), I have added it as a permanent part of my desk setup. It’s a bit unconventional, but I have a dark-but-reflective monitor stand.
Combined with the keyboard in a leaning orientation, I get to see the RGB lighting on both the keyboard itself and reflected, with a sense of depth, in the monitor stand. It looks incredibly dynamic, and it doesn’t clash with my pre-existing setup at all.
If you love RGB, get this keyboard. There is truly nothing else like it on the market, and even if you’re already happy with your existing keyboard, this product will still add a lot to your setup.