We know MSI for their computer parts, their graphics cards and motherboards, but like just about every single soul in the computer industry, they have realised that the real money lies in the small pieces of plastic that are sold to consumers at 100 times their manufacturing value.
The Vigor MK80 is by no means the first attempt at creating a mechanical keyboard, but it is the first one to take up competition directly with the premium hardware brands on the market. The main way to do this is to make sure that you have all the same features as the top tier products.
The Vigor MK80, therefore, features the classic Cherry MX Red switch, and the rest of the keyboard seems to be a pure homage to all the things a gaming keyboard must contain, perhaps an attempt to catch the eye of every single consumer in the market.
There is a wrist rest, RGB lightning, pass through USB, and a frame in LUMINIUM.
For the deviants, a Cherry MX silver version also exists. It is faster, at least in theory, but as we have only tried the switch a few times, we can hardly say for sure that the effect is measurable, but it is different.
The RGB is of course synchronised with other MSI products and your computer, and because it's from the same brand, the keyboard allows you to directly take control over settings that normally would require software to be started. This means that the keyboard contains direct control over your MSI graphics card and motherboard, not only RGB-wise, but also profiles and performance settings. Now we are talking - because this isn't something that the competition can do, and MSI do need to bring something different to the table in this fiercely competitive market.
Speaking of competition, the design department perhaps should have taken a closer look, because it is the major weak point, especially as the multimedia keys are horribly placed; you not only have a hard time reaching them, but you can't see what you are pressing and the icons are placed in a bad angle.
Function wise there is 100% anti-ghosting via N-key roll over, which we sort of expected. The design is as such pleasant enough, but the top plate combined in red combined with the odd WASD keys in shiny metal-finish look like something designed by a 12-year-old - but they can be replaced, and both keys and tools are included. This is needed, for the shiny metal finish also means that the keys themselves are smooth and slippery like something that has been used 10 million keystrokes too many.
The price is currently £160, not exactly cheap. At that price bracket, the keys are not on par with the other options that exist, and the backlighting is a tad difficult to read in limited light, and for added trouble, MSI has thrown in their own icons as function keys but forgot to translate from Klingon.
This makes little sense as there are 12 extra double injection keys in a fantastic quality included - why not make this standard from the start?
Same goes with the wrist rest, its open in both ends, perhaps for cable management, but it is in reality just a thing aluminium frame with a too skinny layer of patterned rubber.
Despite being compact at 44.5 cm x 12.1 cm, there is a problem with everyday use. The function keys are a necessity as you would otherwise be forced to use two different software suites to make it work. The easiest way to handle it is to engage Gaming Mode and leave it at that.
The basic design idea of integration control over other MSI products is great, it's a vital selling point, but if MSI means business, a serious design and layout revamp is needed.