Review: Whirlwind FX Element keyboard has plenty of style but OK performance

Backlit keyboards have been a staple of PC gaming for years now. They come in different builds using Cherry switches or a company’s proprietary design. They boast their own materials and layouts.

Although plenty of advancement has been made on the hardware side with more responsive keys or more compact choices, not much has been done to improve the software side or streamline how the lighting on a keyboard can improve gamers’ quality of life.

That’s where Whirlwind FX plans to carve a niche for itself with Element, its RGB gaming keyboard. The device looks comparable to a Logitech G513 with a full-size layout. The LEDs built in each key shine brighter than rival keyboards and it pops especially in the dark. The lighting effects also appear to be more reactive and vibrant. The colors flicker in and out with a snappiness that many keyboards lack.

But what separates the Element though is its Experience Engine technology that lets the keyboard detect and recognize elements on the screen and reproduce it as lights on the keyboard. It’s a mirroring effect that covers a narrow horizontal zone on the screen. It’s a dazzling trick that ensures that no matter what game a player chooses, there will at least be a unique lighting scheme employed via the Whirlwind Engine software.

Used with the right game, the Element can feel like an extension of the monitor. If players put the mirroring element on the right part of the screen, it can relay important information like the end of a cooldown in multiplayer online battle arenas and other competitive games.

The other part of the Whirlwind Engine equation is the dedicated lighting schemes for titles such as “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “Fortnite” and “Minecraft.” The loadouts are more intricate and will let players know if they’ve been damaged or earn experience points in games. It’s a way to alert gamers to important information while letting them keep an eye on the on-screen action.

The per-key lighting on the Whirlwind FX Element stands out. (Whirlwind FX)

This puts the Whirllwind FX on par with other gaming keyboards. Ideally, the customization process should be as easy as downloading the game’s profile on the software and playing, but unfortunately, it can take some massaging to get the title and the lighting to work together. It’s not as seamless as the content-reactive lighting.

Fortunately, it appears as though Whirlwind FX does update its software regularly. It fixed an issue, in which the keyboard stayed on when a PC powers down. Much to my chagrin, I learned about the problem the hard way when the keyboard was left on all night. With each passing week, it looks as if Whirlwind FX adds new lighting schemes for certain titles. The company said it plans to have extensions for the top 50 “most widely-played games.”

As for functionality, it’s a decent mechanical keyboard. The Element won’t win many awards for performance. The switches have a decent clickiness to them but the travel on the keys are longer when compared to its peers. All of this creates a mushy feel to the keyboard.

When it comes to the build quality, the front plate has a metal finish and the back looks like carbon fiber, but both materials feel inexpensive despite Whirlwind FX saying the Element has an anodized brushed aluminum frame. Despite that issue, the Element still hassome heft but it doesn’t feel rock solid like the Logitech G513.

The bottom line: The Whirlwind FX Element’s best selling point is its software that excellently uses the per-key LED lighting. It turns any game into a light show. As for the performance and build quality, don’t expect a premium feel. If you don’t mind the longer travel and actuation compared to its peers, then the software more than makes up for it. The Whirlwind FX Element sells for $129.99.

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Author: Gieson Cacho