MSI Vigor GK80 review: RGB fanatics rejoice


You have to hand it to MSI for cramming so many keys onto its new Vigor GK80 mechanical keyboard. Glance down at its streamlined aluminium base and you’ll see at least sixteen keys with extra function symbols peeking out of the tiny crevasses between each row.

That’s in addition to four dedicated media keys in the top right corner and a further eight function buttons along the usual string of Fn keys. For a keyboard measuring just 445x141x42mm, that’s pretty impressive. Whether you’ll end up using all of those is another matter of course, but (lack of volume slider aside) the main thing here is that you’re not having to compromise on style over substance.

Indeed, compared to the rather giant HyperX Alloy Elite I’ve just tested, the extra desk space I’ve gained back is pretty sizable, making the GK80 a better fit for those with smaller desks. It’s not quite as small as the Asus ROG Claymore, but at least the GK80 doesn’t make you pay extra for a number pad.

Admittedly, most of the GK80’s extra function buttons relate to its RGB lighting system, which is just as well, really, because MSI’s two (yes, two) dedicated bits of configuration software are so utterly useless that you’ll want to avoid using them as much as possible. You’ll probably still need to consult MSI’s bundled instruction manual to find out what they all actually do (because there’s a lot of them), but it sure beats having to deal with its confusing Mystic Light tool.

MSI GK80 keys

There are 14 different RGB modes in total, including three special game modes for Overwatch, League of Legends and CS:GO, but you can also use the GK80 to change the performance profiles on your compatible MSI Gaming motherboard and MSI Gaming graphics card, allowing you to switch between silent, gaming and overclocked modes without disrupting your game. Handy if you’re decked out in MSI kit, less so if you’re not.

Instead, much more useful is MSI’s own gaming mode for the GK80, which can be turned on by pressing the Fn and Windows keys. This disables all system notifications and ensures each key press gets registered no matter how many keys you’re pressing at once.

Now I’ve been sent the Cherry MX red version of the GK80, but it’s also available with Cherry MX silver switches as well. These have a shorter actuation distance than red switches, so you don’t need to press them down quite so hard in order for each keystroke to register. This should, in theory, make them a bit faster than red switches, but it’s hard to say whether they’re actually any better when I’ve only got the red version in for testing.

MSI GK80 WASD keys

You’ll also probably have noticed the GK80 comes with metal WASD caps (pictured above) rather than rubber ones like the rest of the it. Personally, I found these caps far too smooth and slippery for my liking, and they made playing fast-paced games like Doom more of a chore. Thankfully, MSI have had the foresight to include a full set of textured rubber WASD replacements (along with a spare space bar, back space, eight regular caps and two Ctrl/Alt-sized caps) if you don’t like them. There’s even space to pop all of them inside its bundled wrist rest, too, which is a nice touch if you’re travelling or just want somewhere to store them for later.

Bizarrely, the wrist rest doesn’t actually attach to the rest of the GK80, so you can place it where you like to get the comfiest position. In one sense, this is brilliant, as pushing it right up to the edge of the keyboard made everything feel just a tad too high and cramped. On the other hand, it’s a right pain in the backside, as it’s yet another thing to move and re-position if you ever want to adjust where your keyboard sits on your desk. This is more me being lazy than anything else, so I probably shouldn’t complain too much, as I really quite liked the feel of its soft-touch rubbery finish under my palms and it genuinely made typing a lot more comfortable over long periods of time.

MSI GK80 wrist rest

Remove the wrist rest’s rubber caps at either end and you can use the groove to store your spare key caps.

Having come straight from the blue Cherry switches of the HyperX Alloy Elite, however, I must admit that the red switches on the GK80 do in fact feel a fraction softer and less forceful during everyday use, which, depending on your personal switch preference, might make them less suited to reams and reams of typing.

There’s not much in it, in all fairness, as the GK80 still provided more than enough tactile feedback and overall comfort while I was writing these very words, for instance, and I rarely made any mistakes or had to slow down my typing speed in order to accommodate its different typing style. Overall, though, I think my personal preference lies with the sharper, cleaner keystrokes of the blue Alloy Elite – but that’s not to say you’ll also like them better as well.

In terms of noise, they’re just as rattly as each other to my ears. The GK80’s clacks are slightly lower in tone than the high-pitched Alloy, but neither of them are any less family-friendly than the other. As a result, you’ll still need to use them out of human earshot, unless of course you particularly enjoy having your respective housemates or family members use your head as target practice in a bid to get you to type more quietly.

My only real concern with the GK80 is the positioning, or rather labelling, of its media keys. From a normal seated position, I can barely make out the symbols on each of its four dedicated buttons, and it’s not until I lean right over them that I can actually see what I’m pressing.

Sure, you could probably memorise the position of each media key, but they could certainly be a lot more visible

Sure, you could probably memorize the position of each media key, but would it have hurt to make them a bit more visible?

That's better...

That’s better…

That’s not very convenient when you’re mid game and want to whack up the volume or mute it altogether, as you’ve still got to make a conscious effort to look away from the screen to make sure you’re not about to burst your own ear drums by pressing the wrong key. Given the amount of free space just below them, too, it makes little sense to a) make them so small and b) have them hanging half-way off the upper edge.

Overall, though, the MSI GK80 is a fine mechanical keyboard. At £160 / just over $150, it’s a touch more expensive than other mechanical RGB boards like the Corsair K70 Lux and number pad-less Asus ROG Claymore, but in many ways it’s much better value for money, as you not only get several extra key caps in the box, but the movable wrist rest gives it a lot more flexibility than its rivals. Yes, I know £160 is still a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a keyboard, but if customising your LEDs down to the nth degree without having to deal with any software is important to you, then it’s probably worth the extra tenner over the Corsair and the Asus. If you’re not fussed about the RGB lights, though, and just want something nice for typing and playing games alike, then the HyperX Alloy Elite is still my top recommendation.


  1. HiroTheProtagonist says:

    Why do people want glowy RGB lights flaring up from their fingers? At best you don’t notice it due to focus on the game, at worst it’s distracting, not to mention most boards require some 3rd party background program to make the lights work in the first place, and then you get charge $150 for the privilege.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a party to go to at which I will be an absolute joy.

    • MajorLag says:

      The same reason they want their PC to have a transparent window and their ram and fans to have RGB LEDs: to pretend they are impressing their friends at the lan parties the never go to, because all their friends are playing plunkbat over the internet.

    • Cederic says:

      I can touch type so don’t need backlit keys, but it’s still nice to walk into the room and see my keyboard and mouse both glowing a soft gentle pink colour.

      More interesting was GTAV which changed my keyboard lighting scheme to match which of the three characters I was controlling.

      Sadly too few games go for silly gimmicks like that :(

  2. Herzog says:

    Are there any silent gaming keyboards? Still rocking my mechanical kb with red switches,but need a new silent one. Mechanical or not is not as important. Should be one without number pad though. Any suggestions?

    • Smollik says:

      I’m on the same boat mate, I need a suggestion too

      • HiroTheProtagonist says:

        Dunno about specifically gaming, but a board with Cherry Blacks sounds right up your alley. It’s got the same linear design as Reds, but they’re quieter. Or, if your current board allows, buy a set of O-rings to dampen what sound you currently have.

        • Herzog says:

          Thank you for this tip. Just ordered a pack of O rings!

        • AngoraFish says:

          Except Cherry blacks need a lot of actuation force and can be pretty damn loud when you bottom out, which you are pretty much forced to do with those switches.

          Reds are better for the vast majority of people.

          In practice, all mechanical switches are pretty clacky regardless of type unless you are the kind of typist whose fingers literally glide across the keyboard. See link to

          I agree with Hiro though, o-rings are definitely the way to go. I’ve put them on both my black and red keyboards and they cut the noise dramatically.

    • Linkblade says:

      I’ve put much effort into this issue. Check out my review on silent keyboards:

      link to

  3. fray_bentos says:

    Scrolls to bottom, sees price and declares in his finest Yorkshire voice ” ‘ow bloody much!”, but more seriously, it might be good to put the release date/price just below the headline of these hardware articles though?

  4. kwyjibo says:

    Why are you reviewing this garbage? Does this RGB dumpster fire actually appeal to RPS readers? Do you want to cultivate a readership of energy drink “gamer” identity morons?

    Go take a look at the wirecutter recommendations instead. link to

    If you insist on RGB crazy macro support, maybe wait for reviews of the Das 5Q which has just begun shipping.

    • quaid says:

      I am a man of taste and sophistication and also a man who does not agree with you at all. Colorful keyboards are both aesthetically pleasing and a nice, fun departure from decades of the same old black and beige clicky clackers.

      Also, white (the most classic of backlighting) is really just RGB firing full cylinder, when you think about it. So, maybe it’s just that you like RGB too much? All due apologies if you forgo any sort of lighting altogether & I have a 0,0,0 enthusiast confused for a closeted 255,255,255.

      That said, I’m more of a Pok3r or WhiteFox guy myself. I don’t really see myself buying any keyboards by big companies like MSI, Corsair, Razer, etc. having discovered the geekdom of tracking down rare PBT keycaps, building custom cases, and otherwise generally being the sad, lonely computer-nerd equivalent of an obsessed record collector.

    • CaLe says:

      I agree some of the bright lighting can look a bit garish, but then there are ones like this which I think look quite nice:

      link to

      That’s the Logitech G810 for anyone interested.

    • Cederic says:

      Given the number of backlit mechanical gaming keyboards on the market, there’s clearly a strong demand for them.

      Why wouldn’t the RPS hardware expert help readers navigate that market?

      Disclosure: I’ve been playing computer games for 35 years and love my sparkly RGB keyboard.