Creative Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08 RGB Keyboard Review
To some degree this is almost half a conclusion. With keys dedicated to macros that you can't actually record yet and lighting that is brilliant but you can't assign to profiles and takes an age to setup, the software which forms such a huge part of any gaming keyboard is so lacking it's hard to fully form an opinion. We understand that software is by far the easiest part of the hardware/software synergy to adjust and that an update is forthcoming. So for the moment let's see if the hardware part of the equation hits the high notes.
Most mechanical gaming keyboards that we review come equipped with CherryMX switches, but here Creative have equipped the Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08 with Omron switches. It is by no means the first keyboard to break from the Cherry mould, but we think it is the most successful. The keys have a shorter actuation distance than all of the types of Cherry switch except for the 'Speed' versions, and with a little practise this means that the Vanguard can speed up your typing and - perhaps more importantly - your gaming reactions. They are also a teensy bit firmer than even the black Cherry MXs. Now we haven't got figures for the actuation weight of these Omron switches, but years of experience with keyboards would indicate that they are probably the weightiest keys we've used. However, the combination of this extra pressure requirement with the shorter actuation distance ends up cancelling each other out, so you aren't going to get any more fatigued than you might expect from a lighter actuation pressure switch.
A lot of the reason that people might avoid mechanical keyboards is the amount of noise that they generate when you're typing lengthy passages. The Omrons that are at the heart of the Vanguard are probably the quietest mechanical switches we've come across, easily as quiet as the Corsair Strafe Silent which is the current winner of the "quietest mechanical we've tested" award. The dedicated media keys are a little squishier than the rest of the keyboard because, like most other dedicated media offerings, they utilise a different switch type. We think the benefits of having dedicated keys rather than relying upon a Fn+key combination are worth it. It's even worth the fact that they light up in white only, unlike the RGB stylings of the rest of the Vanguard K08.
Speaking of lighting the centrally positioned key font is broad and works in harmony with the white backplate to ensure that your colour choices are bright, richly saturated and glow around the key rather than solely through the keycap. That's fortunate as the Omron switches use the square outside method of key connectivity instead of the stem design found on Cherry switches, so you're pretty much stuck with the supplied keycaps.
As soon as the software catches up with the excellent hardware then the Vanguard K08 will be up amongst the very best keyboards on the market. It's built like a tank, the Omron switches are a very nice alternative in a world of Cherry offerings, and the lighting is spectacular. The software is very much the weak link in the chain so far, and that's why the Vanguard K08 wins our Gamers Choice for the moment. Hopefully Creative are working on the software as we speak...
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