GIGABYTE is making waves in a whole lot of computer component segments. Mostly known for their motherboards and video cards, the company has been branching out into a ton of new sectors lately. The gaming centered peripherals market is one of those areas as their mouse line-up has gotten positive reviews from a lot of places.
GIGABYTE is now building on that positive momentum and bringing on their first keyboard aimed specifically at gamers with the introduction of their Aivia series K8100 gaming keyboards. Available in black, red, or yellow, these keyboards are designed to turn heads with their flashy design and look, but as we all know, flash is nothing without performance. Aivia stands for advanced, intuitive, and versatile interface archetype, so let's dig in and see if the K8100 holds to the standards that GIGABYTE has set.
I'll admit it; when I first opened up the box I was taken aback. This keyboard is seriously YELLOW. Designed with certain Italian supercars in mind, you do get a racing feel not only from the bright coloring, but also the lines and shaping of the keyboard. The K8100 is a backlit keyboard and the keys glow red when the lighting is turned on. The lighting is nice and visible without being overly bright; a nice setting for a keyboard without adjustable lighting in my opinion. I kind of expected the logo on the bottom to glow as well, but it does not.
Taking a quick look at the rear of the keyboard gives you a look at a couple of features as well. The cable is run in a channel up top to give you some flexibility not only with the length, but where it protrudes from your keyboard as well according to your setup. Several rubber feet are here for stability as well as adjustable stands to prop the keyboard up if you prefer.
The wrist rest is also removable via the screws across the two flaps if you want to remove it. I actually did remove mine for testing; more on that later. The K8100 has a nice weight to it and feels nice and solid; it does not flex at all during normal use. There are also two USB ports included on the keyboard; one on either side. I liked this design as my keyboard sits on a slide out shelf under my desk and not having to real all the way to the back was very nice.
This is a very busy corner of the keyboard for those of you that like macro buttons. The Mode button allows you to switch between five different sets of macros for the buttons you see for a total of 25 macros available per setting. The Mode button glows a different color to distinguish which macros you are currently using. You'll have to install the GHOST engine drivers to take full advantage of the macros, and it's well worth the time.
The K8100 has 4MB of built in memory that saves your macro settings, and after tinkering a bit you'll take advantage of it. The software, while a bit daunting at first due to there being so many options, is fairly straightforward once you get into it. There are several preconfigured functions that you can drag and drop into the macros for use, or the software also gives you the ability to "record" your own macros for multiple complex button configurations.
You can even set the macros to have a time delay before activating or to keep performing the action multiple times before shutting down. GIGABYTE's video here gives you a hands on look at macro recording if my words aren't helping to describe it very well.
The other side of the keyboard gives you another fairly unique option. Across the center is a touch-sensitive volume control area; just drag your finger across it to the right to raise volume or to the left to turn it down. The volume setting is shown to the right of the touch control with more of the little arrows lighting up the higher the volume is. This seems to be a lot of real estate and work just for volume control to me; it seems a little slow and clunky to use as well. The Mute button does work with a single press which is nice to have.
Using the K8100 keyboard was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The keys were nice and responsive; GIGABYTE has adjusted the keys so that the most used keys require the most force while the ones on the outside of the board require less. The keys themselves give a very smooth stroke and give nice tactile feedback while still being nice and quiet. GIGABYTE's anti-ghosting technology allows up to 20 key presses to be recorded without missing any, and this was definitely noticeable in games where I could move, strafe, fight, and hit as many keys as I needed without a hitch. When it comes to responsiveness, the K8100 is definitely a nice product.
After saying all of that, I just couldn't get comfortable with the physical design of the keyboard itself. The severe angle of the wrist rest had my left hand sitting halfway on and halfway off of the rest during use. Even after removing the rest, for some reason I just couldn't get really comfortable with the keyboard for an extended amount of time. I might just be an oddball because my wife and a couple friends had no noticeable issues with it, but keyboards and mice can be a fairly personal choice when it comes to comfort and plenty of my colleagues had none of these issues. Take it for what you will.
The black version of the K8100 will set you back $69.99 at Newegg, while the red version will cost you ten dollars more. I couldn't find the yellow version in stock at any retailers I checked out. This is a fairly nice price for all of the options and flexibility that this board has to offer. IF you've got the bucks to spend on a fully decked out gaming keyboard, the K8100 is definitely one I will recommend, personal comfort issues or not.