The Predator Aethon 500 is a full-size mechanical keyboard with clicky switches, dedicated macro and media controls and RGB backlighting. This keyboard costs $180 in the US – and even more in the UK – so does it have what it takes to stand against the best full-fat keyboards from Razer and Corsair? Let’s find out in our quick-fire review.
The trend in mechanical gaming keyboards has become clear: quieter, lighter switches with reduced travel and faster actuation. We’ve seen the Cherry MX Speed, the MX Silent and now even the MX Low Profile. The Aethon 500 is positively counter-culture then, with Kailh Blue switches that require a relatively large amount of force to actuate and provide a strong tactile bump and aural click. Compared to standard Cherry MX Blue switches, these are a little lighter with a more balanced force curve according to Input Club.
That results in a rather joyful typing experience, with plenty of feedback on each key press, but don’t expect to be welcomed by your work colleagues or flatmates with this keyboard under your arm. The relatively high weight of these switches means that accidental key presses are unlikely, but it is possible to press down a little too softly and not have an intended key press register. However, this effect will be minimised in time as you get used to the weight of the switches.
The layout of the keyboard is quite interesting, with five mechanical macro keys on the far left side and non-mechanical rounded media controls in the upper right. There’s also a ribbed plastic volume wheel here, but you do need to press down hard for it to work. The Windows key on the left side of the keyboard has been replaced with an Fn button, which is incredibly annoying if you regularly use this key to access the start menu, resize windows, launch programs and so on. Finally, another non-mechanical button to the left of Escape switches between different profiles.
In terms of the keycaps themselves, they are made from ABS with a nicely legible font. The WASD keys are turquoise rather than black with a slightly different texture; hopefully you are a fan of this choice because no standard black WASD keys are included in the box.
Overall, the Aethon looks capable without going too over the top and feels substantial in the hand, suggesting strong build quality thanks to its aluminium chassis. If there ever was a keyboard you’d want in a zombie apocalypse, this one would come right behind IBM’s legendary Model M.
The included software, ‘Predator gaming device integration’, lacks polish. Apart from its unusual name, the layout of the app is a little confusing and there are several missing features – for example, you can’t rebind any key on the keyboard, you can just assign functions like button presses or macros to the dedicated column of buttons on the left.
It’s possible to set up the game mode to have several effects – you can disable key commands like Alt + Tab or Win that might bring you out of a game unexpectedly and even swap WASD with the arrow keys (for the rare games that don’t allow the controls to be rebound). You can also change between 6-key rollover and N-key rollover; the former might be useful for non-Windows environments like your computer’s BIOS where the NKRO mode might not be correctly recognised. The polling rate and repeat rate can be adjusted as well (although I’d recommend leaving these at their default settings).
Lighting effects can be chosen for each profile, with the usual choices including rainbow waves, firework effects on each key press or merely constant light in your favourite colour. These effects can also be synchronised between the Aethon 500 keyboard and Cestus 500 mouse, but no other PC hardware components or peripherals. In addition, the peripherals aren’t supported by games developers, so don’t expect to see custom lighting effects in different games as you might see on Razer or Corsair boards.
The Aethon 500 is a mighty keyboard, well-built with clicky switches that are a ton of fun to type or game on. It’s also a rather massive keyboard, thanks to its extra keys and relatively fat bezels. I don’t mind big keyboards if they provide a ton of extra features, and the Aethon 500 does just enough here to keep its head above water with RGB lighting, customisable game modes and five macro keys. However, I’d like to see a Predator keyboard in a more compact tenkeyless (i.e. no number pad) form factor for those with smaller desks or ergonomic concerns.
While the Aethon 500 is strong in a vacuum, we must also discuss its price. $180 is a super-premium price for any keyboard, even a full-size mechanical with the standard gaming features. I feel that Corsair and Razer’s high-end keyboards – like the K70 MK.2 and the Huntsman Elite – offer the same strong fundamentals with more features, better polished software and a wider range of switch options at around the same price.
Thankfully, at the time of writing this review, the Aethon 500 has been discounted – at least in the US – to $135. At nearly $50 off, this keyboard becomes a much more viable option, so consider it if build quality and physical design are more important to you than software and features.