Today we’re looking at something of an oddity: a mechanical gaming keyboard that doesn’t have backlighting! Instead, the Velator from Speedlink focuses on delivering a solid typing experience with interesting MX-style Blue Outemu switches and a solid software offering. Let’s see how it compares to other keyboards at this affordable price point of €60!
At first glance, the Velator is a very ordinary mechanical keyboard. It’s made from traditional matte plastic, with a slightly elongated integral palm rest.
The keyboard has the full number of keys (i.e. it has a numpad) and it is available chiefly in a German ISO layout. F1 to F8 have secondary functions, starting with playback controls on F1 to F4, then volume on F5 to F7, and finally a Windows Lock key on F8. Red LED indicators for each lock (caps, num, scroll, Windows) are in the upper right of the board.
If you remove one of the ABS keycaps, you’ll find an unusual sight beneath: a Cherry MX-style Blue switch, made by Outemu. The switch sits beneath a shroud, which is intended to prevent dust and other debris from affecting the switch’s performance. Despite the switch’s transparent housing, this keyboard doesn’t offer backlighting of any kind.
The base of the keyboard has hefty flip-out legs in the usual style…
…and the keyboard connects to your PC using a black and red braided non-removable USB cable.
Let’s move onto the software side of the equation.
The Velator comes with some very simple software, which allows you to remap (most) keys and switch between five different profiles. You can map most keys simply to other keys on the keyboard, although the number keys (1 through 0) can also be set to macros.
As you can see, you can store multiple macros, you can set them to loop, and you can record with or without delays. By right clicking in the macro editor, you can insert delays or mouse events, as well as changing the duration of delays that are already present. In terms of macros this is one of the better software solutions we have seen, although it would have been nice to set up macros on more than just the number keys.
We used the Speedlink Velator for one week, for both everyday work (writing, photo editing) and games (Counter-Strike, StarCraft II, Heroes of the Storm). Here are our impressions.
One mysterious early issue
In our testing, we ran into a few problems with the Velator right from the start — and in an area I wouldn’t have expected on a mechanical keyboard. Put simply, the keyboard doesn’t seem to handle Ctrl and Shift being pressed at the same time. This combination is not super common, but it does appear in shortcuts for WordPress and Photoshop, two applications I use every day. Specifically, Ctrl + Shift and a number will turn highlighted text into a heading in WordPress, but on the Velator nothing at all happens when these keys are pressed. The same is true for Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S in Photoshop, which exports a photo for the web. Ctrl and Shift both functioned fine by themselves, but together was simply a no-go.
Here’s Speedlink’s statement on the problem, slightly edited for spelling and grammar:
The anti-ghosting of the VELATOR is made for the typical gaming combinations in the WASD area, so there could be the mentioned issues with some office applications. The problem is known at Speedlink and they are working on that case.
However, their explanation isn’t consistent with how the keyboard is described on their site as ’16-key rollover’. Sixteen should be the minimum number of keys that can be pressed simultaneously, not the maximum. (See my guide to rollover here!) The problem with Ctrl + Shift + a third key indicates that the keyboard has 2KRO or 3KRO at best, which is disappointing for a mechanical even at this price range.
Stiff, clicky and tactile switches
Apart from this rollover problem, the Velator acquitted itself well enough in our testing. The high actuation force needed for Outemu’s interpretation of MX Blue switches took a bit of getting used to though; in some tests, these switches have been shown to have an actuation force of 60cN compared to the usual 55cN. The space bar takes this to the next level, with significant force required due to a pair of conical springs that seem to increase its resistance (a unique implementation; normally MX Green switches are used for the space bar).
After using the keyboard for a few minutes, I got back into the habit of pressing down hard on each key, and I found it pretty reasonable for typing. The clicky, tactile switches provide a lot of feedback for each key press, and certainly give the impression that you are working hard. I don’t have a keyboard with genuine Cherry MX Blue switches at hand to test the Velator against, but Outemu switches have a decent reputation and I certainly didn’t find any obvious failings for typing.
For most games, I personally prefer lighter switches. The earlier actuation points and lower actuation force requirements of Red and Brown switches seem a stronger option for shooters and MOBAs, but I felt the Blue switches worked well in strategy games like StarCraft and Company of Heroes 2. However, this is a matter of taste; try out as many switches as you can and use whatever you like best.
Standard full-size layout
Apart from the switches, how is the keyboard? Well, the layout is standard ISO, which is nice as it allows you to replace the (cheap-feeling) ABS keycaps with something more colourful, higher quality or both.
The inclusion of media keys was helpful, as it allows you to skip songs or adjust the volume while you’re in-game. The numberpad is more of a matter of taste; I personally prefer a more compact layout (like tenkeyless or 60%) as this allows for a lot more mousing space but your opinion may differ. I will say that having a numberpad is great for spreadsheets or complex games with lots of controls. For example, many CS:GO pros like to use the numberpad to speed up the process of buying weapons, armour and grenades at the start of each round.
Impressive build quality
The only thing left to cover is durability and build quality, and here the Velator really impresses. The matte black plastic casing feels as strong as anything, and the dust covers over each switch might be a nice way of preventing the build-up of grime, allowing you to get away with cleaning your keyboard a little less frequently. The USB cable is non-removable and braided too, which according to my sources is the most long-lasting design. (You might think having a removable cable is better because then you can just replace the cable if it fails… but oftentimes the port itself will fail, which is quite awkward to replace!) All good mechanical keyboards should feel solid and invincible, and the Velator doesn’t disappoint here.
The Velator is a hard keyboard to judge. On the one hand, it does what it sets out to do pretty well. It’s a pleasant keyboard for typing and (some) gaming, with a traditional design and no extraneous features. Five years ago it would have been a decent budget option.
However, over the past half-decade we’ve seen mechanical keyboards become the trend du jour, and now it’s possible to pick up a keyboard with more advanced software, flashy backlighting and a more interesting design for less money.
That makes it hard enough to recommend the Velator, but then you have to add in the fact that the board showed some unexpected flaws too, most notably its inability to recognise shortcuts that included Ctrl and Shift pressed simultaneously. For that reason, we’re going to suggest you give the Velator a pass.