Genesis, a Polish gaming peripherals brand, is bringing its value-oriented lineup to the UK and invited XSR to take a look. We opted to go for one of the most interesting items in their initial offering, a mechanical gaming keypad.
The idea here is to provide just the keys you need for FPS gaming, leaving out the rest to save space for your mouse, enhance portability and lower the cost substantially compared to a full-size mechanical board. If you normally have a full-size keyboard on your desk, moving to a keypad allows for significantly better ergonomics. A keypad takes up far less space on your desk, so you can move your mouse in line with your shoulder, a more comfortable position especially over the long term. The keypad also pairs well with a laptop, as its mechanical switches are substantially more responsive than a laptop keyboard for gaming and the Thor 100 is small enough to fit into even small laptop backpacks.
It’s a promising idea, so how does the Thor 100 RGB deliver? Let’s take a look in our rapid-fire review.
The Thor 100 doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to layout, simply cutting off the keys past the column of F5, 6, T, G and B. That means the space bar is about half the width, but that’s more than enough for use in FPS games. The Windows key is replaced by a Function key, which allows access to media and volume controls along the top row plus backlighting controls on W, E and S.
The keys are packed a little tighter than you’d see on most mechanical keyboards, with no extra space between the top two rows. There’s also a quartet of small, membrane G keys along the left side, which can be used for macros. These are set lower than the main mechanical keys, so there’s little danger of activating them accidentally.
A red backlit Genesis logo sits near the top of the board, where the USB cable sprouts, while the bottom of the board includes an integrated, non-removable plastic palm rest. The underside of the keypad has a few soft feet to keep it anchored on your desk, with no option for tilting it as you’d expect to find on a standard keyboard.
If we take a closer look at the mechanical switches, we can find they are MX Red switches produced by Outemu. These are slightly heavier than standard Cherry MX Red switches, but not enough to affect gaming performance. Some Outemu switches can feel scratchy, but I didn’t experience this with the Thor 100. The keyboard is equipped with simple RGB backlighting, which shines through the slick ABS keycaps to allow for use at night.
The backlighting can be controlled by the Thor 100 software, available for download at the Genesis website (6MB). There are ten lighting presets, plus a custom mode that allows you to set each key’s backlight colour individually from a spectrum of options. The speed and complexity of the animations isn’t on par with industry leaders like Razer and Corsair, but still works well. Apart from lighting, you can rebind any key on the keypad and set different profiles to be active when up to five different programs are launched. The interface is simplistic, but does the job.
We used the Thor 100 wherever possible for a one week period, shifting it in place for gaming and then returning to a full-size keyboard for writing tasks. Here’s what we thought after the week was up.
Generally, the Thor 100 performed to expectations. Having the smaller footprint of the keypad meant extra mousing space, so we were able to adopt a more comfortable stance even with a low mouse sensitivity setting of 400 DPI. The extra macro keys proved helpful for games like StarCraft, where the normal two-step process of constructing buildings could be replaced by a single key press. The MX Red switches were also lighter and quieter than the MX Blue switches used in my everyday board, certainly a boon for gaming where every millisecond counts.
While the keypad does have its advantages, not having access to a full keyboard can be a chore. For example, I could type ‘A’ or ‘B’ to indicate which site you’d like to visit in the next round of Counter-Strike, but I couldn’t type ‘Y’ or ‘U’ to actually bring up the chat window (and if you rebound one of these to a key you did have, the Enter key doesn’t exist here either so I couldn’t actually send a message I’d typed). Similarly, I couldn’t access my usual grenade jump-throw bind on ‘H’.
While shooters tend to restrict their key binds to the left side of the keyboard, games from other genres rarely respect that convention. StarCraft: Brood War requires you to press ‘P’ to make probes and pylons, the two building blocks of the Protoss economy, while Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has Meditate on M, Abilities on ‘U’, Ship on ‘Y’, Map on ‘M’ and Quick Load on ‘F9’. There are workarounds for most of these issues, but it’s a faff that means you may want to keep another keyboard within reach to type chat messages and so on – and that somewhat erases the advantages of having that extra mouse space.
The actual build quality of the gamepad is also not great. The space bar sounds rattly when pressed and the whole body of the keypad creaks when pressed. However, in use these issues aren’t apparent and the mechanical switches used here should last for years without worry.
A more serious concern was the quality of the keycaps. The ABS caps used here have little texture, making them somewhat slippery and hard to handle. I substituted some slightly rougher ABS keycaps I had lying around and found the keyboard became much more usable, so that might be a useful upgrade down the road.
While the Genesis Thor 100 RGB does have its limitations, as a gaming keypad it offers good value for money. For example, Razer’s Orbweaver Chroma keypad is four times the price, yet offers far fewer keys.
If you largely play FPS or MOBA games that don’t require regular use of other keyboard keys, then the Thor 100 RGB is a nice way to experience the precision of mechanical switches without spending a whole lot or taking up a lot of space on your desk. However, if you play a wider range of games, going for a budget compact or tenkeyless mechanical keyboard is more reasonable choice.
We hope you found this review useful; let us know in the comments.