Photos and Features
The Pok3r RGB sample that Vortex sent me came in its box, but had been beat up very badly. That combined with the fact it didn’t come with any of the accessories or even a cable, there wasn’t any good reason to do a packaging section so today we are jumping right into the Photos and Features section.
So if you are unfamiler with the Vortex Poker it is most likely the most popular keyboard available in the 60% form factor that I have covered a few times in the past. 60% boards have the same layout as a traditional keyboard, only there are less keys. Most of you have most likely seen a TenKeyLess keyboard where there is no number pad. The 60% takes this further and drops the entire F key row up top and the direction pad and keys to the right. What you are left with is a full set of alpha keys and the modifiers you use day to day. The functionality of the lost keys is still there, you just have to get at them using a function layer. I’ve been a big fan of this form factor for a few years now and both my wife and I use them at LAN events. I also sometimes use them around the office as well when space is limited.
Keyboards like the 60% Infinity that I build and wrote about last year have this same form factor and have been able to take advantage of the aftermarket accessories for the Poker keyboards with cases. A great example of this is the oak case I reviewed. With the older Poker models like the original and the Poker 2, they both came with basic plastic cases. When Vortex introduced the Pok3r (the Poker 3) they clued in on everyone upgrading their keyboards and went ahead and switched the plastic case to an aluminum case. So our Pok3r RGB has that same heavy duty case. The case is a little shorter than the old plastic cases, so you can see the keys float a little. For our sample they send a black model with black keycaps and a black case, I couldn’t find any information if there will be a white model as well. I hope there is because the pok3r looks great in white.
Like I just mentioned the aluminum case on the Pok3r RGB is only as tall as the mounting plate that the switches are mounted to. So from the side, we can see the switches. This should make keeping the Pok3r RGB clean a little easier, though. From the side the case has a nice angle, this makes the front edge fairly thin and the back edge a lot thicker. The back edge is also where the detachable cable hooks up. It uses a Mini-USB connection, something you don’t see as often but a lot of the people in the keyboard community still prefers it over the Micro-USB connections.
So like I mentioned earlier, 60% keyboards have to take advantage of a function layer to be able to keep a lot of the keys that get used from time to time on a traditional keyboard that aren’t on a 60%. To help with this the Pok3r RGB has legends printed on the bottom edge of some of the keys. These all work with the FN button. There are also a few controls that you get with the programming button, but I will get into those later. So one of the easiest things to remember is the F key row. Basically, they use the number row but with the function key to get the same number. So FN+7 is F7, most people don’t use the F-keys often but you get used to this one really quick and it’s a lot like using shift to get to $ or %. The direction pad is gone as well and they have this on the IJKL buttons. The older Poker 2 used FN+WASD and I really wish they still did that. Then of course if you look you will see things like insert and print screen. The one key that I use a lot is the delete key. Holding FN+Backspace is delete, I don’t think you could ask for an easier one there. All In all more of the functions that get used are easy, with the exception of the direction pad and the others are there and labeled if you ever need them.
The bottom of the Pok3r RGB has a few things going on. For starters, there are four extremely wide rubber feet that give the small keyboard good grip. The extra weight of the metal case also helps a lot here. Like other Poker keyboards, in the middle of the base is a plate with the keyboards name, Vortex’s quote “Enjoy your Feeling” (they used to print it on the spacebar as well), and the keyboards serial number. Ours just says engineering sample, though. It did save me the trouble of having to blur or Photoshop out the serial number like I normally do. The last interesting thing on the bottom of the Pok3r RGB is a small hole in the case that gives you access to four dip switches. The first two switches can be used in combination to switch the keyboard between Qwerty, Dvorak, and Colemak layouts. The third switch turns the CapsLock key into a FN key. The fourth switch is more complicated but you can use it to reprogram the position of both the FN and PN keys.
You should already know by now that the Pok3r RGB is a mechanical keyboard, but to go beyond that they are using Cherry branded switches. The Poker RGB is available with Brown, Blue, Red, Black, and Nature White. The first four are normal switches that most of you have heard of and I wrote about in our picking a switch article from a few years ago. That said things have gotten a lot more complicated in that time and I really do need to revisit the topic. The new Nature White Cherry MX is exclusive to the RGB switches. This means it is only available with the fully transparent casing. For lighting, they use a small RGB LED mounted to a second PCB. The traditional PCB that the switches are then attached to have holes for the light from each LED to come through. This is why they use transparent casings, because unlike the older design, the LED isn’t installed into the switch. The new switch is a linear switch just like the Red and Black switches but it uses a difference actuation force. The Red requires 45-cN of force and the Cherry MX Black requires 60-cN of force. The Nature White falls in between slightly with 55-cN of force, the same that the popular Cherry Brown requires. I'm excited to test it out because Brown switches are one of my two preferred switches and typically I’ve not been a fan of reds and black because they felt to light and too heavy.
For the larger modifier keys, the Pok3r RGB uses Cherry stabilizers. These mount below the backplate and make installation and removal of keycaps much easier. Typically cherry stabilizers do have more of a rattle though so I will have to keep an eye out for that in my testing.
For the keycaps on the Pok3r RGB, Vortex changed things up in a few ways compared to previous backlit poker models. This is a good thing, though, in the past, most people preferred to get backlit pokers with the non-backlit keycaps simply because they were much better. The issue was that the old backlit caps were basically the same thing we see on every backlit keyboard. Cheap and thin ABS keycaps painted black with the legend laser cut into it. The normal Poker keycaps, on the other hand, are thick PBT keycaps. So this time around they changed from a normal backlit keycap to a double shot design. This means they won’t wear out. They did stay with ABS though and I’m not sure why. Vortex actually sells a PBT backlit keycap set, with a few changes it would have been perfect here. They also changed the font slightly but most people won’t notice that. All in all, I like the move to a double shot keycap though when looking under the caps they still didn’t get any thicker.