PC component makers NZXT continue expanding beyond the confines of cases, having just launched two lots of desktop peripherals: the Function mechanical keyboard series, and the Lift gaming mouse. Thanks to a shipping slip-up I’ve only been getting acquainted with the Function family, but so far its three models have proven to be adept at games and typing alike – with a big bonus for customisation in the form of easily hot-swappable switches.
If you don’t count the NZXT Shine 3, which you shouldn’t because it was just the Ducky Shine 3 with an NZXT badge on it, these three comprise NZXT’s first crack at proper mechanical keyboard-making. Having made another peripheral debut last year with the Capsule, one of the best gaming microphones around, NZXT have gone for a diversified lineup: there’s the full-size Function (£130 / $150), the Function Tenkeyless (£110 / $130), and the Function MiniTKL (£100 / $120), which is more or less a 75% keyboard with an extra column of keys on the right edge. None are particularly cheap, but they’re not too pricey either, including by the standards of the very best gaming keyboards on the market.
Besides, each provides a decent smattering of features for the money. All three are fully programmable via the NZXT CAM app, with macro support, and you can also use this software to customise the RGB backlighting on a per-key basis. Or, you can just switch between colours and effects using the Function keys, though my favourite setting is the default: a cool, solid, non-distracting pale blue.
The full trio also share a set of unusually side-mounted controls on the left: a volume wheel, a mute button, a Windows key lock button and a lighting brightness switch. As a serial fidgeter I’ve repeatedly disabled the Windows key by accident when going to shuffle the Function MiniTKL around, but the thinking behind this positioning is sound. If you’re right-handed, they can be pressed (or spun, in the wheel’s case) without ungripping your mouse.
The real party trick, though, is hot-swappable mechanical switches. Most keyboards, as well as a lot of build-it-yourself keyboard kits, end up with the switches soldered in; hot-swappable switches, like the ones in the Function series, can be pulled out and slotted back in at will. It’s easy to do with the included tools, and makes these keyboards a bit more flexible for the future, as you’re not stuck with whichever switch comes as standard. Here, it’s the linear, non-clicky Gateron Red switches, which I could almost effortlessly yank out and replace with the Vissles VS II switches from a nearby Vissles V84. If you don’t have a spare keyboard to cannibalise, replacement switches are readily available from the likes of Amazon and Overclockers.
All that said, the default switches aren’t bad – they’re nimble, responsive and not too loud, just like Cherry MX Reds – and the keycaps have that slightly more substantial feel that’s often missing from cheap mech boards. All three models are built mostly from plastic, but this too feels textured and robust. Together with some sharp design work (literally, on the corners), the Function keyboards both look and feel commendably grown-up.
I wouldn’t have complained if NZXT decided to break the clean aesthetic with, say, some USB pass-through ports, and it’s a bit annoying that only the full-size Function keyboard gets a Caps Lock indicator light. Some of us don’t always default to Shift for caps! We exist! Although, the smaller models aren’t forgotten runts. I quickly came to appreciate how the MiniTKL makes room for a double-height Enter key, unlike a lot of 75% keyboards, and while its model-specific NZXT key is initially a jobless filler key, a quick trip into NZXT CAM turns it into a useful macro activator. Its one other difference is harder to turn into an advantage: it’s the only one that doesn’t come with a wrist rest.
Nonetheless, the Function MiniTKL is the version I’ve been using the most. As far as hot-swappable keyboards go, I personally prefer the feel of the Vissles V84, though that’s not available in the more UK-friendly ISO layout like NZXT’s boards are. Both will serve you well, as will the bigger Function and Function Tenkeyless, if you want to dip a toe in keyboard customisation without the commitment of a full DIY kit.
All three should be available by the time you’re reading this; NZXT tell me the Lift mouse will go on sale in “2-3 weeks” time, costing £40 / $60.