NZXT, which is better-known for its PC cases and liquid coolers, has launched a trio of Function mechanical gaming keyboards and a Lift gaming mouse, cementing its recent expansion into the peripheral market.
The keyboards in particular sport some awesome features such as hot-swappable switches and keys as well as unique side-mounted volume control and a detachable Type-C cable. The question is are they any good?
The Function keyboards come in full-size ($149.99/£129.99), tenkeyless (TKL) ($129.99/£109.99) and mini TKL ($119.99/£99.99), while the Lift mouse will retail for $59.99/£39.99) so reasonably priced compared premium keyboard and mid-range mouse offerings from competitors.
The tenkeyless and full size models offer a magnetic wrist rest, which is a nice touch, although this will still pale in comparison to a proper wrist wrest and there’s no rest on the mini version. All three do have a detachable Type-C to Type-A braided cable, though, so if you need a custom shorter or longer cable to create your perfect setup, this makes it much easier.
Starting with the Function keyboards and if you’re a fan of volume control dials like I am, then these will likely find their way onto your shortlist already seeing as this is a relatively rare feature – even rarer on tenkeyless and mini TKL. It just saves using keyboard shortcuts or reaching for your speakers or Windows desktop volume controls.
The placement of the dial is great too as whether you’re gaming or typing it will never be too far away unlike being at the top right of the keyboard chassis on most other manufacturers. The left side of the chassis also offers three buttons, which are fixed to control volume mute, RGB backlight brightness and Windows key lock. Sadly, while NZXT’s CAM software allowed other keys to be reassigned, the same wasn’t true for these.
The keys sound like a good idea, but I found it was quite easy to accidentally press them if you adjust the position of the keyboard, for instance between typing and gaming sessions so perhaps ergonomically, they don’t make as much sense as you think they might.
The removable Gateron Red switches included with the sample reviewed here felt much like Cherry MX Red switches, but the keys did exhibit quite a bit of movement and were much noisier than other keyboards I’ve used with Cherry MX switches. It’s likely something you’d get used to, but the fact remains there’s a lot of added rattling, especially when hitting larger stabilized keys.
The RGB lighting is vibrant and shines clearly through the key symbols, but it feels a little generic, with no distinctive font and very small character size compared to most other keyboards out there. The matt coating also proved to be a fingerpint magnet and will likely require regular wipe downs to keep it looking clean.
NZXT’s CAM software needs to be used to control the lighting, create macros and key profiles and reassign keys. It’s fairly painless, if a little simplistic and clunky in areas and the lighting especially offers only basic control. Still, you’re able to control the color of individual keys and can quickly switch between four brightness levels using one of the side keyboard buttons.
They keyboards feature sturdy height adjustment arms, which allow for two additional raised positions as well as the default flat position. There’s a generous amount of rubber on the underside so on a grippy surface, the Function keyboards feel well-planted.
Another reason to consider NZXT for your next keyboard is the BLD program. Here you can pick your keyboard base using the three sizes mentioned above, add your chosen switch type (Gateron, but with blue, brown, silent etc) as well as keycap and cable color. It’s an interesting concept, but given the high price of adding in the custom options, only worth it if you’re sold on the design of the base with its side buttons and volume dial.
The Lift mouse I found to be an acquired taste and took a while to get used to, especially given how low it sits, which feels significantly lower than my already shallow Logitech G402. Once accustomed to it, it proved to be lightweight, solid and its large teflon pads allowed for effortless movement.
The scroll wheel was light and pleasant to use with a soft rubber coating providing plenty of grip, while you also get a DPI adjustment button and two side buttons. It uses a PixArt 3389 16,000 DPI optical sensor and Omron mechanical switches and overall felt fairly responsive, although maybe not quite as zippy, lag-free and accurate as something more premium. I’d probably expect better here given the price too. My biggest issue is that there were plenty of surfaces where my Logtech G402 would run rings around it.
My glossy desk for example saw the mouse cursor jump around all over the place while the G402 offered a 100 percent consistent experience. Using a mouse mat would solve this, but if you’re working from a cafe or with a gaming laptop without a mouse mat, you could be in for an unpleasant experience.
Starting with the keyboards, and as a first effort, it’s not bad from NZXT, but while its coolers and especially its cases offer decent bang for your buck, for what’s on offer here the price is a little steep. It’s fairly clear that NZXT is aiming to offer complete setups with its BLD program, and with great cases coolers, power supplies, motherboards and even a premium microphone on offer, core peripherals were a key missing component.
The keyboards need a little work to be truly competitive, but do have some merits such as the volume dial, chassis build quality, removable switches and customization. The mouse, too, is a reasonable first effort, is well-made, light and comfortable.
However, it’s maybe not up to the standards of hardcore gamers and struggled on some surfaces too, which is maybe a tad underwhelming for a $70 mouse. I have no doubt that NZXT will view this as a starting point, though – at least I hope it will – as its cases and coolers regularly occupy top spots in recommendations, and rightly so. It’s nearly there with its first lone foray into core peripherals, but not quite.