A good gaming keyboard can be expensive, but it doesn’t always have to be. Sometimes a diamond in the rough (or from the bottom of the bargain box in this case) can be just what you’re looking for, and at a fraction of your budget. To that end, we had high hopes for the MSI Vigor GK20 ($29), a full-size, brightly-lit gaming keyboard with some gamer style but no big frills. Unfortunately, the chassis is chunky and the keys are sluggish to press, resulting in a subpar typing experience overall, although this is partly forgiven by the low price.
MSI is active in many different areas of gaming gear, from monitors to motherboards. Its keyboards are generally unremarkable – with one tested exception, we like the MSI GK71 Sonic Mechanical Keyboard, even if it’s not an innovator. Likewise, the Vigor doesn’t stand out; It’s quite chunky for a full-size board, measuring 1.3 x 6.7 x 17.9 inches (HWD). Its plastic case is lightweight, weighing just 1.9 pounds and doesn’t feel bulky in any way. The cheap feel makes sense given the price, but you can’t help but notice it.
Aside from the chunkiness, the board actually looks good at first glance. MSI’s signature font may be difficult to distinguish from the black keys (it’s similar to the font used for Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spiderman movie), but you do get some nifty under-lighting effects, and the tilted palm rest on the bottom is a nice addition. There are two feet underneath the board that can be pulled out for extra height and a rubber grip helps keep the board in place.
(Image credit: Molly Flores)
If you direct our attention to the keys, you will notice that they are not mechanical as soon as you touch them; Again, given the price, there’s no surprise or expectation. MSI does produces its own private label mechanical key switches but chooses membrane switches here. Membrane switches, sometimes referred to as rubber dome switches, use a thin, knobbed rubber or silicone layer that provides the rebound force for each key, as well as some sort of tactile feedback. Beyond budget desktop boards, membrane switches can be found on many lower-end laptop keyboards.
The membrane switches keep the price down, but you lose the tactile keystroke of mechanical keys found on many of the most affordable gaming keyboards. Mechanical keyboards use individual key mechanisms supported by springs, and numerous types of switches and brands each have their own distinctive features, such as: B. actuation, actuation time or how loud or quiet a key press will be. Proper mechanical models start at about twice the price of the Vigor, with some models being a little less than other brands of mechanical switches.
(Image credit: Molly Flores)
It doesn’t take much experience to feel the difference: the Vigor feels more like a toy than a keyboard. Forget the satisfaction you would experience when using a high-end keyboard like the Razer BlackWidow V4 Pro. The Vigor GK20’s tapping game is simply weak. The typing feel can best be described as spongy. It is not uncomfortable, which is a plus, but lacks that crucial feedback that you’ve achieved a keypress. In this respect, the feel reminds us of that of the Roccat Magma Mini, but without the loud RGB lighting.
MSI Vigor GK20 review: forgive the lag
That’s not to say there isn’t an RGB to talk about. While the Vigor has enough RGB lighting to cover the entire surface, it’s not really bright, which can be a plus or a minus depending on your taste. It’s also not programmable per button, or even changeable per zone: you apply effects and tweaks to the entire board as a single entity. You get four levels of brightness and two different modes: Steady or Breathing. You can switch modes with the function button (stylized with MSI’s dragon logo). Dedicated control buttons for media playback are absent, saving board space. (These controls are shared with some of the top-row F-keys and other keys implemented as shortcut keys.)
The Vigor GK20 isn’t supported by MSI Center, MSI’s customization software, so there’s no way to further customize macros or RGB lighting. On the other hand, the plate supports at least a certain level of water repellency.
(Image credit: Molly Flores)
The Vigor also features anti-ghosting keys, but not across the board. The feature only covers the first 12 letter keys from the left (among the most commonly used keys for gaming, mind you). Keyboard “ghosting” is when a keyboard doesn’t register all the key presses that happen in a riot; A keyboard that offers anti-ghosting should avoid missing any of your presses.
Using the Vigor to play games like Final Fantasy XIV, Phantasy Star Online 2, Minecraft Legends, and Redfall proved flawless, although I did notice a slight input lag in all games tested. It wasn’t enough to kill me or my character, but in a fast-paced shooter like Overwatch 2, it could mean life or death. And I noticed in some particularly hectic moments that some buttons were pressed was missed a few keys outside of the dozen covered by the anti-ghosting feature. (The backspace key was a common culprit.)
Conclusion: This usable force needs a stimulus
At the end of the day, the MSI Vigor is just about okay for a sub-$50 gaming keyboard, a step up compared to a budget model that comes with a budget desktop, but not by much. Key feel is muddy, the bulky body feels lackluster, and additional features are unattainable, but if you’re looking for an unobtrusive gaming keyboard that can handle the vast majority of tasks, very Basics at a bargain price, the Vigor GK20 is a decent temporary keyboard. Ultimately, however, this is no longer a keyboard meant for replacement due to the input lag and lack of keystrokes, and so it’s no secret even in the rough field of budget boards.
You can find better options if you just have a little more money to spend. For a full-size motherboard, consider the IOGear Kaliber Gaming Hver Stealth Keyboard or the Razer Ornata V2, both good budget models that get the job done. Meanwhile, for most people, the MSI GK71 is still our favorite full-size gaming keyboard.
The final result
Don’t confuse the bargain price of the MSI Vigor GK20 with the overall value – the cheap build quality, input lag and squishy keystrokes detract from what at first glance looks like a great deal for a backlit gaming keyboard.
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