Personalized mechanical keyboards continue to get more and more popular, and gaming PC and component company NZXT leaps into the fray with its own customizable gaming keyboards, aptly branded Function. Shipping in full-size, tenkeyless and a nonstandard MiniTKL (a smaller-than-usual TKL), they feature hot-swappable switches as well as a standard bottom row and per-key RGB lighting. The latter two are less common in smaller keyboards.
NZXT’s Function keyboard is pretty solid, and I salute it for being one of the few relatively well-known brands to embrace the hot-swappable design for its first and flagship product.
Hot-swappable switch sockets means the switches aren’t soldered onto the circuit board, making it possible to remove or replace them as you please. Ultimately, since you can replace the most failure-prone parts, the design helps you extend the life of your keyboard and keeps you from having to live with the dreaded double-typing of letters or worse, the sudden onset runaway repeat.
They’re all available today starting at $120 for the MiniTKL, $130 for the TKL and $150 for the full-size version. NZXT sells two versions of each keyboard. The retail version comes prebuilt with Gateron red switches, black ABS keycaps and a white top plate. If you order online, you have a lot more choices. Pricing is a la carte: You can mix and match switches, cables and keycaps (all extra), plus there’s a set $10 fee for assembly. The Gat Silent Black Ink V2 switches cost $10 more than the rest. NZXT’s prices aren’t the lowest, so you can always buy cheap and shop for upgrades elsewhere — the keyboards support Cherry MX-compatible switches.
When you configure online, NZXT offers five Gateron switches — typical clicky blues, linear reds and tactile brown options, plus a couple of custom silent switches that are ideal for streamers. I’m a fan of the Gats Aliaz Silent tactile switches, which use rubber dampeners in the stem piece for a quieter keystroke when bottoming out. Perfect for streamers who don’t want their mic picking up the sounds of their keyboard. All the keyboards and switches have 100% anti-ghosting and N-key rollover, so you can be confident your key presses are sent to your PC without error, however fast you’re hitting them.
Options include two PBT keycap colors, black or gray (only the black pass through illumination); accent keycaps in a variety of colors for $10; and braided USB-C cables in matching colors for an extra $10. I think they did a good job of getting the cables to accurately reflect the color of the accent key’s vibrancy and tone, at least for the purple color. Mine didn’t have it, but I think the cyan accent with the gray keycaps would look amazing, because the cyan cable looks awesome in concert with the gunmetal gray.
The MiniTKL has two more keys in addition to the 86 of the TKL model, a 13th function key and a dedicated macro key, all crammed within a smaller frame at an even cheaper price. The keys are really packed in. It doesn’t come with a wrist rest like the other two keyboards.
NZXT’s other new addition to the family is the $60 Lift ambidextrous five-button gaming mouse. It’s a lightweight 2.36-ounce (67 g) wired model with an on-the-fly DPI switch and RGB ambient lighting that pairs well with the keyboard. By default, it lights up when you left- or right-click. Its low-drag paracord USB cable pairs nicely with large skates on the bottom to give it a smooth glide across the mousepad. It comes in either white or black, and it sports the same accent color options as the keyboards.
I like the simple, eco-friendly packaging. Inside you’ll find the keyboard preassembled with the switches and keycaps that you’ve chosen online. With each you get a switch puller, a detachable USB-C cable, a keycap remover and spare key switches. Keep the tools: You’ll need them in the future when you swap out a switch.
The Function’s aluminum top plate not only allows for easy cleaning, but also provides some heft and stabilizes the housing for the switches. I didn’t notice any flexing, and all three models appear to have a layer of foam sitting between the aluminum plate and the PCB board to dampen vibrations. The combination of the stable housing and the foam results in a pleasant typing sound with no annoying echoes or pings when bottoming out the keys. The aluminum plates come in three colors, white, black and gunmetal gray. My favorite is definitely gunmetal. Keep in mind the white finish scratches easily.
On the left hand side is a volume knob with a few buttons beneath it to mute, lock the Win key and adjust LED brightness. The full-size and TKL variants come with a wrist rest and have status lights for Caps lock, Num lock and Scroll lock. While the MiniTKL does not have status lights, it turns the keys’ LEDs white instead.
The stabilizer bars — those parts that keep keys from wobbling when you don’t strike them exactly in the center — do not come from the factory already lubed. (Not that everyone thinks about stabilizer lubrication.) I was glad as I didn’t have to crack them open and painfully remove the factory stuff first. For enthusiasts who aren’t afraid to get their hands a little dirty I highly encourage you to order a keyboard lube kit from Amazon and take a weekend to lube them yourself. Not only will it feel a lot better when typing but it will make it quieter, too.
The RGB lighting is pretty basic, but the LEDs are bright and the color reproduction is good. The animation speed and the transition between different colors leaves a bit to be desired, though, resulting in reactive lighting effects that look choppy and a little slow for 2022. The lighting is fully customizable via NZXT’s CAM software, with per-key lighting control and the usual effect presets. The software lets you record macros, but they’re basic. For example, you can create macros that run once but you can’t create more elaborate macros that toggle.
The Function line is an excellent choice for first-time mechanical keyboard buyers who want to experiment with different switches to find the one that resonates with them the most, as well as DIYers who want to see what the hot-swapping fuss is all about or to give a mechanical keyboard their personal touch.