Lighting, durability, and responsiveness are things that players look for in a good gaming keyboard, but in the days of “RGB everything,” lighting can make a big difference when it comes to peripherals. Then you get a keyboard from Whirlwind FX, whom I was able to speak with in the past and review their VR-enhancing Vortx. They took it just a step further with the Element, the brand new keyboard we’re looking at today. With newly implemented screen sampling technology and game integration with the likes of Fortnite, they hope it will be a game-changer. This is our Whirlwind FX Element Keyboard Review.
- Price: $99.00 USD (at the time of writing)
- Frame: Anodized brushed aluminum
- Switches: Kailh Red Switches with 100% Anti-ghosting full key rollover
- Durability: 70 Million Keystrokes
- Actuation Distance: 2 mm
- Actuation Force: 50 g
- Total Key Travel: 4 mm
- Physical Specs:
- Length: 445 mm
- Width: 137 mm
- Height: 36 mm
- Cable Length: 1.8 m
- Per-key individual addressable RGB LED
- Dynamic lighting effects driven by screen-aware EX technology
- Synchronized ambient lighting to any games, videos, music
With its second foray into gaming peripherals, Whirlwind FX has aimed high with the Element gaming keyboard. It has been created to take aspects of the Vortx’s ability to determine sample the screen and repurposed that to translate those colors into a syncopated light show with the keyboard’s LEDs. Aside from its unique LED functionality, the Element is fully mechanical, features an aluminum top plate, and media keys on a secondary layer for controlling volume on the fly.
The Element works its magic through the Whirlwind Engine, which is powered by their EX technology. The software is able to read the visual cues from your monitor. If you run multiple displays, you can set it to work with any of them, but it makes the most sense to have it set to sync with your primary display. As you play your game or watch your movie, every single motion reflects on the keyboard in real-time. For example, if you were looking at a picture of a rainbow on a blue sky, the keys would show a pixel-by-pixel version of that image through its lighting. In a first-person shooter and the lighting will show your arms and gun across the keys as you move around, and if you go from a dark room into light, you’ll see the keys darken and lighten.
The RGB lighting is located behind each of the keys independently, which is how you can make out the motion have the keys match the placement of events on the screen. The way the EX engine can sync everything up is impressive. I’m not surprised that Whirlwind was able to pull this off so well since it’s the evolution of what I first saw with the Vortx translating colors to temperatures. It is interesting to see how Whirlwind was able to make the jump from a VR enhancing device to one that so well adds to the ambiance of the game and your environment.
As a premium keyboard, the Element comes with mechanical switches. I tested the version with Kailh Red, which are a linear switch like Cherry MX Reds. They’re lightweight, which I found to be a good match for my playstyle. You’ll want to be sure you choose the right fit for your playstyle, though, so you can immediately begin gaming and have it feel natural. Right now, Whirlwind FX is offering your choice of Kailh Red or Blue switches, so you have your choice of linear and clicky. In the future, I hope they offer tactile brown switches that offer a middle-ground between the two.
The keyboard is also setup with core gaming features like anti-ghosting, N-Key rollover, and a 1000Hz polling rate. Together, these ensure that your keyboard is responsive to the touch and won’t misclick or stop responding if you press down too many keys.
Overall, typing on the keyboard feels good. It’s responsive and has a nice sound profile. I also really enjoyed the lighting effects. I’m not a big Fortnite player, but Whirlwind FX has even added synchronization for things like popping healing potions, so you can see when it’s completed in a flash of green light. More than anything, though, seeing the colors below adds a level of detail to your peripheral vision that we haven’t had before and it adds to the immersion of the game. It is genuinely cool.
Keyboards don’t need RGB lighting for them to make them good, but Whirlwind FX has really succeeded here by adding an extra element of immersion to games. Even beyond that, it works very well as a high-end gaming device. For the price, the Element is an excellent option with a unique ability to enhance your enjoyment of games.