Keyboards seem to be the big focus this year as this will be my fourth keyboard review in the past couple of months. The drive for more keyboards may be coming with the increasing gaming tournaments going on at Twitch.TV.
Sponsorships for gaming tournaments are common and many times it’s a sponsorship for a gaming keyboard. With gaming and keyboards on people’s minds, there has been a recent spike in keyboard purchases or searches made on Amazon and it’s sparking manufacturers’ interests.
Recently, well-known manufacturers like Kingston have entered the keyboard market and we are beginning to see new refreshed designs from Razer on their keyboards to maintain market share.
It doesn’t stop with those brands as a brand that I’ve reviewed speaker equipment for has also entered the keyboard market. VAVA is an electronics company that sparked my interest when I first reviewed one of the Voom speakers, speakers that I continue to use today with superb quality.
When analyzing the keyboard market, VAVA picked up on what is most important in this market, RGB backlighting.
Nothing sells better than RGB computer equipment because it allows people to choose any color that they want at any time they want. In addition, you could choose different effects or your own effects for a one-of-a-kind keyboard layout.
Not only is RGB a mainstream must have, but mechanical switches are the most important aspect of any gaming keyboard. While many brands opt for a German-made Cherry MX switch, VAVA opted to go a different route with their key switches. Tactile in feel, individual backlighting, and a clean layout makes this keyboard a contender against the big players in the market.
Being their first keyboard ever and marketed towards gamers, did VAVA hit the ball out of the park or will they need to go back to the drawing board for a second revision?
Welcome to my review on the VAVA Mechanical Keyboard with Blue Kailh switches.
It seems to be that most keyboards are black framed with just a splash of accent color. VAVA chose to go the all black route with everything, including the VAVA logo, being matte black. If it weren’t for the RGB key switches, this would be a dark keyboard.
Powder coated all over the keyboard is a non-fading UV material that gives each key and frame a non-fading matte black finish. Additionally, the material prevents slippage and hides grease marks from your hands. The material itself feels a little bit like rubber and it’s pleasant to rest your fingers and wrists on.
That said, the anti-fading UV material does have a slight smell to it. I noticed when drinking a cup of water that I had this musty smell and at first, I thought it was my cup. So, I put the cup away and washed my hands with scented soap. Then, coming back to the keyboard with clean scented hands, the smell returned; it was the keyboard itself passing an off smell to my fingers. The smell has decreased since getting the keyboard and it is my assumption that it would fade away over time.
The body on the VAVA keyboard is impressively durable and heavy for being plastic on the outside. When attempting to twist the keyboard it barely flexes and when placed on a table, it doesn’t budge whatsoever. The feel and strength are very similar to that of my Turtle Beach Impact 700 keyboard.
Continuing with the body, each key itself is plastic and has that same UV coating. At the bottom of the body is a pleasant wrist rest that I wish more keyboards came with. This one is a part of the frame and is a welcomed feature.
On the front is the keyboard in a 104-key layout which includes a 10-digit number pad. You won’t find any additional USB ports on the sides of the keyboard, but the bottom includes a bunch of little rubber feet as well as a cable routing channel for the non-detachable braided cable.
For a second generation of this keyboard, I would recommend a longer cable as this non-detachable one is quite short. If your computer is far away, you may find yourself getting a USB extension cable.
One of my top five must-haves for a keyboard is for it to have a clean, readable font face. I get worried when a keyboard is advertised as ‘gaming’ because they will sometimes put this SC-FI-like font face onto the keyboard; like how Razer used too and still does in some cases. I want my font to be easily read and identifiable, regardless of whether or not I know which key it’s representing.
VAVA chose smartly and put a large, easy to read font face onto their mechanical keyboard. Moreover, they even did a couple of neat tricks like adding little arrows to backspace and the shift keys. It’s clever and I really like it.
Not only is the key font face well chosen, the key layout is exactly how it should be. Each key is in its respective position and they didn’t shorten the shift, enter, or backspace keys.
However, not everything is perfect and the VAVA keyboard has a couple of flaws. First, on an RGB keyboard I would expect everything to be RGB, but instead, the Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Scrl Lock indicators at the top left are solid red.
The second is the Enter key. It’s not shortened or misplaced, but instead, is labelled as ‘Ent’. Was the additional ‘er’ in ‘Enter’ really too much to print onto the keyboard? Perhaps it’s the same reason that ‘Caps Lock’ is missing a space between the two words. Having these two grammatical errors on a keyboard is disturbing.
The next blemish is how many secondary functions there are on the keyboard. There is a dedicated button for Insert, Home, Page Up, and Page Down, yet VAVA included it as a secondary function key on the number pad. With additional arrow keys on the number pad too. It’s an odd choice to include a secondary function of a physical button and it just adds a lot of unneeded clutter to the keyboard’s layout.
Fortunately, VAVA’s function-happy layout does benefit us in some cases. Built into the top number row, the Function key can enable media controls as well as volume adjustment, two items that my expensive Turtle Beach Impact 700 keyboard doesn’t even have. You can also disable the Windows key using a function on the keyboard.
This is the most Function (Fn) reliant keyboard I’ve ever used and it doesn’t stop there. There is a dedicated row of function keys (F1 – F12). By default, they act as normal function keys, but the Fn actuator allows you to control the RGB effects that will be discussed below.
Lastly, on the wrist rest is a screen-printed VAVA logo and while that isn’t too uncommon, it can throw a red flag as it may mean the keyboard is rebranded for other brands. Nevertheless, what annoys me, even more, is the fact that the logo isn’t correctly leveled with the wrist rest. Instead, the VAVA logo is cocked at a 175-degree angle. That doesn’t bode well for quality control if the logo isn’t even straight.
Underneath each switch is a Kailh blue switch. These switches are the runner up to Cherry, but just as good in many mechanical switch ways.
A blue Kailh switch is like a Cherry MX Blue switch where it offers a tactile feel and requires little force to actuate; 50 +/- 10 grams to be exact. Additionally, a blue switch has a shorter stroke travel than most. You only need to press the key 4.0 +/- 0.44 mm before the actuation is accepted.
All my typing life, I have preferred the Cherry MX Brown switch which requires a little bit more force to press down and is also quieter. Yet, typing on these blue switches, I’ve noticed that I am a little bit faster in typing because I can press each key faster and move on to the next.
That same response time moves onto gaming as well. When gaming, the blue switches allow you to press a key faster and actuate that function before the next player. For example, in Rainbow Six Siege, when peeking around a wall, pressing Q to look left then E to check the other side of said wall is a faster actuation than an MX Brown switch.
Player’s Unknown Battlegrounds is the same and it allows me to crouch faster than the other guy. Or in Heroes of the Storm, I can jump around a player as Illidan before the other player can react. I am beginning to quite enjoy the Kailh blue switch response speed.
The only downside to a blue switch is that they are quite loud and tactile. If you are in a room with other people or use a microphone that is always unmuted, it may annoy other people, as the clicking sound can be very irritating.
To control the RGB effects on the keyboard, everything is done using the function keys mentioned earlier. There isn’t any Windows based software to set colors or effects. F1 through F12 are the preset lighting effects and each effect can have its brightness adjusted from 0 to 100 percent.
Functions 1 through 5 are customizable and the user can choose which key is lit with each color. This is nice for when swapping games on the go. If you are playing a shooter, you can use preset 1 to light up WASD, whereas the user-defined preset 2 is for driving games.
On the F6 key, there is a falling wave effect, which has colors fade from one color to another while falling from the top. F7 is an explosion of colors that sends out a light explosion from the last pressed key. On the F8, you’ll get a snake effect that starts at the escape key and travels downwards. Next is star light which lights up keys at random and that is followed by a glowing cycle of colors which rotates quickly between colors. Lastly, F11 is a slow fade from one color to another. F12 is reserved for programming F1 – F5.
An RGB LED can support up to 16 million different colors and while VAVA advertises “millions of backlight combinations” it’s more like seven backlight combinations. When you program your own color selection in the customizable presets, you can only choose from seven standard colors, not the millions they advertise.
I would have liked to have seen a hue adjustment on the keyboard. For example, allow the number keys be a Red, Green, and Blue hue change for different colors on different keys.
It’s disappointing to only have seven colors to choose from, but the colors given allow you to get close to many setups that you may have. Luckily, each key is well lit and bright during the day and night.
Recall that quality control comment I made earlier and unfortunately it didn’t get any better. The F1 key on my keyboard had the blue light portion blow out, meaning the F1 key cannot produce any blue light and when the keyboard is on a cycle color mode (F11 is my favorite mode too) it is noticeable that one key is not showing the right colors. My RGB keyboard turned out to be RG.
My Final Thoughts
Despite the keyboard’s faults it was still pleasant to type on, game with, and use overall. The keyboard is well built, durable, and looks fantastic while on a desk. Plus, RGB is the new fad around computer electronics and it brings so much to the customer.
A clean font face, customizable and preset controls, and blue switches make gaming and typing a pleasure for long periods of time. So much so, this entire review was written on this keyboard and I got used to the tactile actuation.
However, at a $79.99 price tag, I cannot recommend this keyboard. It is far too expensive for a brand that’s never been in the keyboard market and has little knowledge of said market. The flaws of the keyboard are flaws that cannot go unnoticed even for how minor some are.
The VAVA Voom speakers I reviewed a while back were fantastic and I think VAVA needs to either stick with a market they do well in or drastically redesign this keyboard. Especially focusing on quality control.
At the time of writing this review, the VAVA keyboard is listed on Amazon with 41 reviews at a perfect five stars and I find that I would give it a 3.5 rating. This is a $45 keyboard that is out of its league and for $80 you can do far, far better.
© 2017 Justin Vendette
Tagged Amazon, cheap, game, Gamer, gaming, Inexpensive, Kailh, keyboard, Mech, Mechanical, PC, Reivew, Top 10, VAVA.