The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Late last year, we got a keyboard from HyperX called the Alloy Origins. While we loved what it offers, there were a couple of things that did not suit our taste in a mechanical keyboard. We are not fans of soft mechanical keys, and the Alloy Origins we had shipped with red switches, albeit, they are 80-million click HyperX switches, we prefer tactile and clicky switches. The second thing for us is the size and weight. While many are looking for 104-key offerings, long ago, we fell in love with TKLs due to the lack of number pad use, and that we can keep the mouse closer to center. By no means were these deal-killers, but if we were looking to buy a keyboard, these are requirements we look for!
Around the same time, HyperX released their Ducky collaborative keyboard, HyperX also introduced a new switch, the HyperX Aqua switches! Their tactile actuation does take more to accomplish than what we are used to from the likes of red and silver options, close to the force of what a blue switch requires. But the switch type is not the only change. What we are about to see is a TKL design, wrapped in aircraft-grade aluminum, with an even sleeker look than what we found in the Alloy Origins. On top of that, we still get some of the brightest RGB LEDs in the game to shine when in use, all wrapped up in a neat, little, affordable package.
With a few minor changes, the new Alloy Origins Core becomes the little brother to our earlier reviewed Alloy Origins, and at this point, ticks many of the boxes we look for in a mechanical gaming keyboard! Along with some of the best lighting currently available, switches we have learned to love, all wrapped up in a sleek body, there is also the price to consider, and HyperX hit that nail on the head as well. Stick with us, as even those not fans of a TKL may be swayed to try out what HyperX delivers in the more compact Alloy Origins Core Mechanical Gaming Keyboard!
Condensing the chart from the product page down to a manageable size, we copied what HyperX offers for the specifications. As we have mentioned, the Alloy Origins Core uses the HyperX in-house switches, which are mechanical, but more about these will come later. The keyboard is RGB backlit on a per-key basis, and lighting can be adjusted in four intensity levels, or it can be turned off as the fifth level. Onboard memory is held in the MCU, but HyperX offers enough space to customize three profiles stored within the keyboard.
Connectivity is handled with a USB 2.0 cable connected to the keyboard via USC Type-C, and the alloy Origins Core ships with anti-ghosting and NKRO active out of the box. The LED indicators refer to the Caps lock and Game Mode activations, we do get multimedia keys, and we already spilled the beans on the Game Mode.
HyperX shows us that there are two switch options on the RGB version of the Alloy Origins Core, and they are HyperX Red or HyperX Aqua, the former being linear, while the latter are tactile. We agree with the travel distance and overall travel measurements, but we do need to address the 45 gram of force for actuation.
As you can see, when comparing the HyperX switches to other HyperX, Cherry MX, and Kailh switches, we see them listed at 45g. This means that we are dealing with tactile red switches, but the reality is something else. If you are expecting light-weight switches, you will be disappointed.
As we look at the Aqua switch specifications provided from HyperX, we do see that the actuation point is indeed 45g, but there is a glaring issue. Actuation happens after the tactile bump. The reality of this situation is that the Aqua switches are much closer to 60g of force to actuate, somewhere between blue and green switches! Think of these as brown switches that require a few more grams to get past the tactile bump.
With that out of the way, we continue and see that the cable is detachable and is nearly six feet in length. It is the end of the chart, where we finally see the 360mm width, 132.5mm depth, 34.5mm height, and 900 grams of weight. We also know the warranty terms, as it is on the back of the box, showing HyperX offers free tech support and warranty coverage for two-years.
Adding the cherry on top of what we are looking at has to do with the cost. When the larger Alloy Origins released, HyperX wanted just $109.99 for it a year ago. What does that have to do with this review? If you only ask $110 for a 104-key keyboard, with less physical keyboard to offer, the price has to be lower! It is no surprise to us to see that Amazon has these Alloy Origins Core keyboards listed at just $89.99. Newegg shows three listings, all from third-party sellers, and the lowest price there is $99.99 for the red switch version, and we do not see a listing for the one we have with aqua switches.
Chad's Peripherals Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe - Buy from Amazon
- CPU: Intel Core i9 7920X - Buy from Amazon
- Cooler: Corsair H150i Pro - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: G.Skill TridentZ RGB 3600MHz 32GB - Buy from Amazon
- Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Hybrid SLI - Buy from Amazon
- Storage: Samsung 960 EVO 250GB - Buy from Amazon
- Case: Cooler Master Cosmos C700P - Buy from Amazon
- Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower DPS G 1050W - Buy from Amazon
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Professional 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
Packaging, Accessories, and Documentation
The packaging is what we typically see from HyperX with the marbled white backdrop and bright red accents. On the front panel, we get the full name of the keyboard at the top left corner and a few features. A large image of the keyboard is presented in the middle, while at the right are indications of NGenuity software, RGB, and the use of HyperX Aqua Tactile Switches. Across the bottom, we see the compatibility at the left and that this is an English US layout, where the right side delivers the company name.
The name of the keyboard is what we left out of this image of this long side panel of the box. What we did capture is that HyperX sponsors Intel Extreme Masters, Rainbow Six Pro League, Cloud9, and Natus Vincere, where you will likely find some of your favorite eSports players!
Both of the small ends of the box are identical in what they offer. Both are red, and using white text, we get the name and company logo at the left, with the keyboard's name at the right.
The second of the longer side panels offers up the package contents, system requirements, and requirements to obtain and run NGenuity software. What we did not show are the legal informatio0n, compliances, as well as the product sticker sporting the HX-KB7AQX-US model number.
On the back of the packaging, we see that the top banner shows the name of the keyboard, shows us where to find them online, and has icons referring to NGenuity software and the RGB nature of the backlighting. The four images cover the detachable cable, the use of aluminum for both halves of the frame, three types of switches, possibly hinting at a clicky version in the future, and the two-foot system that offers three angles of attack. The last thing to note is the icon at the bottom-left, where HyperX shows the two-year warranty.
Inside of the box, we find the Alloy Origins Core wrapped in clear plastic to keep dust at bay and helps to keep the cardboard from rubbing the keycaps. Behind and under the keyboard is where you will find the cable and literature, respectively.
Along with the USB Type-A to USB Type-C braided cable bound in a pair of rubber bands, we also get a guide and another insert. The guide takes you from the layout, explains where to obtain the software, shows the feet, and moves into the installation process. Dual-layer functionality is described in detail, and everything is repeated in multiple languages. As to the additional insert, one side shows us that HyperX is willing to help you fix any possible issues, and where to get help. The other side of it is white and repeats what is found on the side shown, in sixteen languages.
HyperX Alloy Origins Core Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Looking at the left edge of this Alloy Origins Core, we see both halves of the aluminum frame coming together, sporting a textured black finish, with a slight angle provided out of the box. All of the switches above the keyboard are exposed, and with transparent bodies, it helps the LEDs to shine brighter, but at this time, the keycaps in the first few rows are angled away from the user.
Being a TKL design, we lose the number pad but keep everything else. Across the top we see some dual-layered functionality painted on some of the keycaps, while the rest of the concave keycaps sport an easy to read font. We also like that the HyperX name is placed above the arrows, and compared to the Alloy Origins, the LED indicators are moved to the right side, as the frame is not as thick around the keycaps on this Alloy Origins Core.
Once you have NGenuity software installed, and have programmed things through it to a profile, these three buttons become relevant! F1, F2, and F3 and their triple-circle icons refer to the three profiles that can be stored within the Alloy Origins Core, and these buttons are what selects them on-the-fly, rather than needing to reopen NGenutiy.
Multimedia controls start at the F6 key, where it is used as the back a track button. F7 is the play/pause button, and F8 is used to go forward a track.
The F9 key doubles as the mute button, F10 will lower the volume, and F11 will raise it. F12 is used as the Game Mode lock button, and its functionality can be changed in software. Of course, for any of the dual-layer functions to work, you need to use the Function key in conjunction with all of them.
We have removed a few of the keycaps to see what HyperX offers in that department and find single-shot, painted keycaps. The legends are exposed through the paint to allow light to pass through them, and we also see plus-shaped stems under the keycaps, as well as helper studs for the longer keycaps.
All of the switches on our keyboard are HyperX Aqua Switches, aptly named for the stems' color. The switches' body is transparent, allowing the rear-mounted RGB LEDs to shine out onto the keyboard and through the body. We also see the helpers for the wider keys, where the torsion bar is internal but supports the black stems to reset the keycaps to their neutral position.
The Alloy Origins Core ships with a three-degree angle of attack, but by extending the first of two feet, we have now increased that angle to seven-degrees. The angle of attack being different, the first three rows are now much flatter, rather than leaning away.
For those that need even more angle of attack, HyperX offers a second foot to accomplish it. Extending the other foot changes the angle to eleven-degrees, and now all of the keycaps are angled towards the user!
Near the right edge of the keyboard, on the back edge, is where the connection is made with the detachable cable. We have fought with older detachable cables in the past, trying to remember the orientation while trying to connect the cable. With the use of a USB Type-C connector, the direction of the cable has become irrelevant!
The underside of the Alloy Origins Core is a vast expanse of aluminum, with its textured black finish, only broken up by the rather large product sticker, where the serial number is found. Supporting the keyboard without the feet extended are four rubber pads in the corners, which are enough to keep the keyboard in place when gaming or typing.
The dual-foot system has both feet flipping out to the back of the keyboard, but the "locks" are reliable once extended. Typically we prefer the feet to go to the side, but in this instance, unless on a rubber desk mat, you will be hard-pressed to collapse either of the feet.
We tried our best to open the Alloy Origins Core, but even with all of the screws out of the frame, clips around the edges thwarted our entry. However, it takes nothing from the look of the keyboard once powered. To be honest, we like to show the internals, but the bottom line is that if everything works as intended, does it matter? We are good with this sleek, minimalist TKL, with some of the most intense RGB lighting available today!
NGenuity Beta Software
All of the links for NGenuity software from the HyperX site now take you to the Windows Store, rather than offering a download in-house these days, and is now NGenuity Beta. Once downloaded and installed, it works like an app that is added to the taskbar, and upon starting it, we get what we see above. You have a few options at this point. You can click the three horizontal bars to collapse the left side menu, click on the supported products link, or move onto programming the device by clicking on the keyboard icon at the left.
Clicking on the keyboard icon activates the auto-scan built into NGenuity, where it makes sure you are running the latest firmware. We opted to update, and a moment later, we were ready to continue. The process will be slower for those with slower internet connections.
The default window for the NGenuity Beta Software is what we see here, with plenty of things to click! Under the Lights tab, we see the keyboard displaying RGB in real-time, a HyperX logo in a box to its right, and a Save to Keyboard button. The lower section has sections on effects, target, color, and speed, some of which are clickable, others are adjustable with sliders or color pickers.
By clicking on the Choose Triggered Effect box, it opens a secondary menu. In this menu, you may select a flame effect, explosion effect, or a fade effect to be displayed as keys are pressed, and this can be done layers with an effect active while the keys are not touched.
Clicking on the Add Effect plus sign will drop you into another menu, this time for the standard effects we are used to seeing on an RGB keyboard. All of the modes run in a loop, and they are breathing, confetti, swipe, solid, twilight, wave, and sun effects.
Clicking on the Presets icon to the right of the real-time keyboard display is where profiles are addressed. Clicking it brings up three of the boxes with identical images, and then picking one of those got us to this. In this menu, you can change the image and tie it to a game or application.
In the top right corner, there is the Game Mode icon, which can be set on or off in software, but there are also other options. Depending on the use case, you can disable many of the commands that will remove you from the game, by clicking the boxes that you want to deactivate when the lock is applied. The brightness icon offers a slider to adjust intensity when clicked on.
In the bottom left corner is a gear icon for settings. Like other Windows apps, you are delivered to on or off switches for things like Gamelink, startup, memory, and ends with information on the connected devices and date of the software.
Since we have made the entire trip around the first tab of the menu, we can move onto the Keys tab. Once selected, you are delivered to an image of the keyboard, where you click a button to continue, as the instructions in the bottom left corner explain.
We selected the right arrow key for testing and once chosen, the bottom of the menu changes of offer up options of what to do. You can remap other keyboard functions, mouse4 functions, put multimedia control wherever it is most convenient, tie it to a program to launch it, or you can disable it.
We skipped over the Macro option, as a new menu presents itself once clicked on. At this point, you would click record, enter the command, and stop recording. Icons of the devices show up along with the timing it took to do it, whether mouse or keyboard input, it doesn't matter; it all shows up. Editing is limited to clicking on the triple-dots at the top, which allows for an expanded view, and a default delay time that can be applied. As far as editing commands, once recorded, you can right-click on the entry and delete items or change the delay times, but we found no way to enter a command into an existing Macro.
Gaming and General Impressions
DOOM Eternal and WARZONE
Gaming has been a blast on the Alloy Origins Core! Not only do we get back to switches worth pressing with the HyperX Aqua switches, but with the TKL design, we can game with the keyboard in our lap, or with it on the desk, and the mouse moves in much closer for less stress on your shoulders! At first, we thought we would miss the clicky noise we are used to hearing from blue and green switches, but the fact that we wear headphones or blast Pandora while writing sort of negates that for us. The amount of pressure is more than many are used to, to get past the bump of the switch movement, and notice that accidental actions while resting a pinky finger is not found with this Alloy Origins Core.
Movements and weapons selections are all recorded, and with anti-ghosting and NKRO support, anything you throw at these keys in the heat of battle will be sent to the PC. At first, we did get tired after a few rounds of DOOM Eternal, as we move around much more evading demons, balls of fire, and various other projectiles, all due to the actuation force. With time, our arms recovered and are back in shape for these much heavier throw switches than we have used lately! In WARZONE, PUBG, whatever other open-world shooters, you will get the same responsiveness as we saw in DOOM, but the wear on your arms is less as you can drive around and hide more often.
Windows and Productivity
As a daily driver, the Alloy Origins Core and its HyperX Aqua switches come to light again, and remind us of when we got the CM Storm Trigger with its Cherry MX Green switches. For people with fat fingers or heavy hands, the tougher the switch is to press, the less you have to edit as a typist, and we seem to make fewer typos, and we have yet to see any accidental key presses.
While profiles and Macros usually tend to gaming needs, we found them just as useful in productivity, as we made shortcuts for PhotoShop on one profile with a couple of simple Macros included, a second for general gaming, and a third set up for WARZONE. With many hours under our belt with the Alloy Origins Core, we can say this is a perfect blend of something a professional typist/writer will appreciate, and so will just about any gamer out there, as long as the number pad is not a requirement!
Upfront, there is a lot to appreciate when it comes to the Alloy Origins Core. We love it because it is a TKL, it includes new switches we have never tried before, it is built like a tank, the lighting and effects are spectacular, and with the new NGenuity Beta software from the Windows Store in control of customization, HyperX killed it with this product! A two-part aluminum frame, exposed switches, a sleeker design than we saw with the Alloy Origins, and they kept with the USB Type-C detachable cable. From all the aspects we could physically put our eyes on, HyperX made sure to tend to even the finest of details, ensuring their customers get a top-notch product, with little money invested!
We would have liked a few more options in the Macro menu, but otherwise, we have no issues with the Windows Store supplying NGenuity, or the way it works. All of the sub-menus are easy to navigate, and there are helpful tips presented as you select various things to guide you through the customization process. We also like that if we program three profiles and save them to the keyboard, we no longer need the software, should we travel and want to game at a different location. The keyboard takes all of your settings with it!
We feel it needs to be addressed again, as many who see the specifications may think they are getting a keyboard that feels like red switches that are tactile. The bottom line is that HyperX is not misleading anyone, as the actuation force is only 45 grams, but to get there, you will need nearly 60 grams of force! Our analogy of a stiffer Cherry MX Brown switch still applies to the HyperX Aqua switches. OF course, this is all a technicality with how you want to look at things, but if you are looking for a similar feel to red or silver switches, these are nothing like that!
All things considered, and even as much as we liked the Alloy Origins, the Alloy Origins Core plays to our personal preferences in a keyboard, and we love it even more! On top of that, if you rarely use the number pad, save yourself the $20 and opt for this TKL! At just $89.99 for the Alloy Origins Core, you may even want to choose for the Pudding Keycaps and enjoy Double-shot PBT caps and even more lighting, just surpassing the $100 mark.
In the end, we have a very well appointed mechanical keyboard with new switches we love, the RGB display is some of the best in the game, and you get your money's worth with the HyperX Alloy Origins Core Mechanical Gaming Keyboard!
HyperX does a wonderful job with the Alloy Origins Core. Including the new Aqua Switches is a terrific addition to a sleek, affordable, well appointed TKL mechanical keyboard!
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