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EpicGear DeFiant Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review

EpicGear DeFiant Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review

EpicGear is a relatively small player in the peripherals market, but its DeFiant mechanical gaming keyboard may change all of that.

@chad_sebring
Chad Sebring
Published Sat, Apr 23 2016 12:50 PM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 98%Manufacturer: EpicGear

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 36 IMAGES

EpicGear has been around for a while now, and sadly, in that time, we have no seen all that much as far as products go. Checking back into their folder on the NAS, we found that review sampling has come down to two products. The first of which was the Meduza, and while it has been some time since we looked at it, EpicGear was ahead of their time, and is still the only dual-sensor mouse we have ever seen. Then along came the Zora, which is more mainstream in its ambidextrous design, but with bold color accents and a full software suite, we found ourselves pleased with that mouse as well. One thing that rang true with both products though is the fact that no matter the technology involved, EpicGear products have always been affordable.

They have made many mice over the years, and even a few keyboards, headsets, and various other accessories, but what brings us together today is their latest in mechanical keyboards. Of course, EpicGear could have stopped designing with a keyboard offering a metal top, a lightweight but solid frame, the unusual font used on the keys, and backlighting, but EpicGear has way more in store for you with this keyboard. They took the ball and ran with it as far as they could with this design.

Not only did they brand their own switches, but they are also offering optional key caps, and protective layers in optional colors to cover the metal plate. Taking things yet another step further, EpicGear has delivered the first and only keyboard we have seen to offer removable switches. This means that you can swap switch types on the same keyboard with ease, and if a switch should go dead, with no soldering involved, you just replace the bad switch by snapping it into place.

Along with the new DeFiant mechanical keyboard, EpicGear has also sent along a box of optional switches to try out. EpicGear is offering three switch types to choose from. We opted for a keyboard with purple switches that are tactile and audible, but they also offer linear gray switches or orange tactile switches without a report. Since we have so much to cover on what the DeFiant is all about, along with many of the accessories that go along with this design, we may as well get right to the specifications, so we may discuss the price and show you what this EpicGear DeFiant and EG MMS switches are all about.

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The EpicGear DeFiant offers LED backlighting with on-the-fly per-key lighting, and under each key cap is an EG MMS switch. The keyboard offers an adjustable polling rate up to 1000Hz, and every key is programmable. Along with anti-ghosting support, the DeFiant also sports the option for 6-key or NKRO support. There is a wheel to adjust the volume with a one-touch mute function. There is software to ease the pain of programming, a gaming mode, and a Windows lockout switch as well. On the back of the DeFiant is a braided cable that is black with orange highlights, and the keyboard is 455mm wide, 167mm deep, and stands 26mm in height. All of this keyboard weighs in at 1000 grams and is supported by a two-year warranty.

The right side of the chart mentions the three types of switches. There we see they offer linear gray switches, orange tactile switches, or purple switches with a tactile feel and audible click. The EG MMS stands for EpicGear Modular-Matrix Mechanical Switch, and this means that there is a PCB with contacts on it, which allows the switch to be removed and replaced without wiring or solder involved in the process. The switches require 50 grams of activation force and are said to have only 1.5mm of travel to actuate, with 4mm of total travel. The EpicGear switches have the highest lifespan we have seen as well, with a rating of seventy-million clicks. The top plate is made of a high-strength alloy, the switches offer double-blade contact points, double-cross contacting area, and are plated with thirty microns of gold plating.

As we write this review, it will still be a few weeks before this keyboard hits the shelves, but EpicGear has made us aware of the MSRP. We are told that to obtain the DeFiant keyboard that you will only need to find $89.99 for this 104-key layout. Of course, there is a key cap set, the protective liners, and the EG MMS switch sets as well, but at this current juncture, we have not been disclosed the pricing for these products, but it is very possible that EpicGear is still working out these fine details.

While we will be showing off the EG MMS switches, how they work, and what they feel like, our primary interest is in the DeFiant mechanical gaming keyboard itself. With pricing in hand for that, we can carry on knowing you get a ton of options in this keyboard, and with little invested up front.

Chad's Peripherals Test System Specifications

Packaging, Accessories, and Documentation

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The front of the packaging offers a large image of the DeFiant on it, with notations to the EG MMS switches and additional accessories around it. The EpicGear logo is at the top, and along the bottom we are given the name and that this is a mechanical keyboard.

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The longer thin side below the front panel is basic in what is offered. There is a gray pattern of lines running left to right, with the DeFiant name set on top, right in the center of the panel.

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With the company and product names to the left, this leaves a lot of panel left on this end. We see that this space is used to denote the layout of the keyboard, as well as allowing room for the switch types to be marked as to which are on this keyboard.

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The other longer yet skinny side of the box is identical to the first one we saw. Again, it offers just the stripes and the DeFiant naming across it.

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The last of the smaller panels delivers the naming on the left again, but this time, to the right end, we are shown the DeFiant powered up, with the white LED backlighting glowing through the key caps.

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On the back, at the left, we see another image of the keyboard, followed by features like the EG MMS switches, expandable accessories, being LED backlit, optimization for gaming toughness, and full programmability. Below that EpicGear shows us that inside the box should be a keyboard, a key and switch puller, and some literature to get you started. The right section of this panel covers the specification in nine languages and even shows some of the planned accessories.

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Inside of yet another box, we find the DeFiant wrapped in plastic to protect the keyboard from minor abrasions. The cable is wrapped up at the back, and under the keyboard, you will find the literature and accessories.

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Inside of the large orange quick start guide, there are listings of all of the hotkeys. These are not obviously marked on the key caps, so you may need to refer to this for programming and profile usage. EpicGear also sent along a few stickers to use and keeps the color theme going with their switch puller and key cap puller combination tool.

DeFiant Mechanical Keyboard

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From the left end of the DeFiant, we see a rounded lower frame section, with an alloy top that extends past the base on all sides. The switches are exposed in this design, and currently, as it sits flat on the table, the key caps are angled just slightly forward.

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The first look at the main section of the DeFiant shows that EpicGear used an unusual font for this design. What they do not indicate is that along with the function key, keypad numbers 1 through 9 along with the F11 and F12 perform various modes and programmability. Also, the standard 1 through 4 along with Function, swaps through the various profiles.

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To control some of the multimedia functionality, the F5 through F8 keys are made for this. Here you are given a play/pause button, the stop button, and ones for the previous track and next track.

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The F11 has a "W2" inside of a Superman shield and is used for per-key LED programmability. The F12 shows a lighting icon and is used to select the four levels of LED intensity.

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The command keys, arrows, and the number pad all offer what we expect. Not a lot of dual functionality, except you can use the number pad for arrow command as well.

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Pressing and holding the Function key, along with the Page Up button, will set the keyboard into NKRO support. If for some reason you prefer to use 6-Key RollOver support, the Page Down button affords you that option.

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The standard locks are offered in a solid red bar. For each of the Numbers, Caps, or scroll locks, when active an LED is illuminated here. There is also a scroll wheel for volume, which also can be pressed inward, which mutes any sound coming from the PC.

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Extending the feet under the DeFiant readjusts the key caps on top so that all of the rows of keys are angled towards the user. Outside of that, we still see the larger alloy top panel above a rounded lower frame section.

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Under the DeFiant, we find the name EpicGear is pressed into the lower section, and there are five smaller feet to support it. We also see notches along the front, which we can only assume are to support an optional palm rest.

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The flip out feet is standard on the DeFiant. They are made from plastic, flip out to the back of the keyboard, and offer a rubber pad to ensure grip on the desk is not lost.

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Depending on the lighting, the accent color is either bright pink, or bright orange, but we do like the braided pattern that covers the 1.8 meters of cable. There is no inline choke on the cable, but we do see that the cable terminates in a USB 2.0 connection, which is gold plated.

Inside the DeFiant

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The first thing we did was remove some of the black painted key caps, which are molded in white plastic first. Under them, we expose the purple EpicGear switches and LED lenses. We can also see that with this exposed design, the torsion bars are above the plate, and need extra care when removing the large key caps because of this.

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Removing screws from the bottom of the keyboard allows us to remove the top panel. What we find under that top panel is that we have all of the switches clipped into the top plate, with just contacts below them, no wiring made directly to the switches.

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Below the top panel is the main PCB. Here we find a bunch of surface-mounted LEDs and a pair of contact pads for each switch to function by.

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Moving in a bit closer, it is much easier to see how this removable switch idea works. While everything is soldered on the back side, it is just as clean looking as this side of it is, and there are bunches of the square gold contacts, which allows for the swapping of switches with simplicity.

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This Holtek HT1632C is not the MCU in play with this design. It is the memory mapping LED display controller, which allows for the per-key programmability of the switch LEDs.

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It is the above Holtek HT32F1755 that is used to control everything. This is a 32-bit ARM Cortex M3 MCU that will take all of the key presses and send them to the PC with a 72MHz clock and 128-bit of memory.

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Once we had the DeFiant all back together, we powered it up via the USB 2.0 connection and are delivered a fully backlit keyboard ready to do whatever we desire. Also, no matter what you try, the LEDs will always be white in this design.

Software

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In the software, you see the keyboard at the top of the left side. Here you can select a key for remapping, and with the options to the right, you may set a different command to each key. Near the bottom are boxes to adjust the USB Report Rate, and enable the onscreen display, and enabling the GIU TSR. Along the bottom of the window, you may select which of the four profiles it is you want to be programming.

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Under the Macro tab, we find a full suite to program with. You can create and delete Macros, but you can also import them from other sources, and save them to a folder on the drive. After naming the Macro hit record, and as you press buttons, they show in the larger window below. To the right you can use time delays and insert a default value if needed. EpicGear also offers an edit section, where you can insert commands, or delays to a Macro that is already in use, to fine tune it to perfection.

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The last option in the software is to hit the support tab. Here you are shown the software and firmware version currently in use, before ticking the box to check for updates. There is also a one-click link to the EpicGear site, and yet another to drop you off at their social media page.

EG MMS Optional Switches

EG MMS optional Switches

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As we mentioned, we were also sent this 24-pack of optional EG MMS switches. Usually, you will buy these in packs with just one type of switch inside of it, but for review purposes, we were sent a multi-pack of purple, orange, and gray switches to try out.

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The packaging is top tier, with each switch placed in a dense foam compartment, to be sure that these make it safe to you. Along with the eight switches of each type, these kits come with an additional key cap and switch puller tool.

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After using the larger end of the tool to remove the key caps, you simply flip it over and use the tabs on the smaller end to lock into the switches, at the top and bottom of them. Then, by pressing inwards on the tool, the switch latches release so that these will come right out of the alloy top plate.

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So we could get a sense of what the various switches are like, we decided to fit them under the number pad side of this DeFiant. At this point, we have removed thirteen switches and are ready to clip in some of the optional offerings.

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To get to this stage, all we had to do was make sure the lens of the LED lighting is at the top of each hole. You then gently press each switch into the square opening, and the tabs will lock it into place. Since there are contact points under each switch, all you need to do is to replace the keycaps, and you are all set and ready to try them out.

Final Thoughts

On its own, the DeFiant from EpicGear is a solid mechanical keyboard that functions very well. We are glad we opted for the purple switches, as they do remind us of a switch somewhere between a Cherry MX blue and green switch. The gray switches are tough to press as well, and the orange switches reminded us more of a red switch from other makers. The extended top plate makes it easy to grab the DeFiant and move it around, and the bright accent along the back and in the cabling, along with the intense white LEDs under each switch make for an attractive look. We are not that fond of the futuristic font used, but it isn't so crazy that we could not get used to it.

We found the anti-ghosting to work as intended, and the NKRO support is where we found a home most of the time. The 6-key rollover was just not fast enough to keep up with our demands typing and tended to miss a key stroke here or there. What sets this DeFiant apart from many of the other keyboards out there though is the ton of optional bits that EpicGear is planning to provide. Not only are there the cool EG MMS switches that are simple to swap out, but by the looks of things, there are going to be multi-colored top covers, a palm rest, a number pad, and possibly even more that you can add to the DeFiant to customize this design even further than the software allows for.

Speaking of the software, even though there are only three tabs to work with, the suite offers everything you will need to set the various profiles, remap and assign LEDs, and even offers a top notch Macro Manager to allow users to spam any game till their heart is content. Offering four profiles helps to simplify life as well, as you can set them to a game, or even modify them to suit you better for photo editing, video editing, or even daily word processing. The sky is the limit here.

Standing alone, the DeFiant is a unique design, which nobody else has sent to us for testing before. We love the idea of simplicity in the way the EG MMS works, so if you feel you want to change certain keys you can, and if a switch dies, you simply click in another one, and off you go. Just with this in mind, the $89.99 pricing is very fair for what the DeFiant can do. Even though we are not yet sure of the cost when it comes to all of the optional parts, it is hard to knock EpicGear for the effort made with this design. It seems they have thought of everything and have taken a lot of the skills needed to modify the standard keyboard away. This allows even the most basic mechanical keyboard user a chance to step up their game and have a DeFiant that is set up exactly to your specific needs and desires.

There aren't many on the market that even consider most of this, and as far as we know, there are none that makes swapping switches this easy. EpicGear has a trendsetting design on their hands, and when this keyboard does hit the shelves, we feel a lot of people are going to want to get their hands-on one.

Chad's Peripherals Test System Specifications

TweakTown award
Performance95%
Quality including Design and Build100%
General Features98%
Bundle and Packaging99%
Value for Money99%
Overall98%

The Bottom Line: EpicGear's DeFiant is a mechanical keyboard that will turn the market upside down! For little cost, you can get the keyboard, and as long as plan pans out, the optional gear and EG MMS switch design makes this the most customizable keyboard, out of the box, that we have ever seen.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

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DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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