If you’ve ever read my blog in the past, chances are that you know I’m very interested in input devices and especially mechanical keyboards. I like my Das Keyboard very much, despite the criticisms I voiced in the review I posted on this very blog a few months ago. I recently discovered this specimen of VicTsing I-500 on Amazon and I have been very curious to try it out since, given its very low price, which is uncommon for a mechanical keyboard. Could this be the perfect product for someone who wants to give mechanical keyboards a first look without having to part with 100+ €? Or maybe we can’t really expect much for such a low-cost product? Let’s find out together!
Packaging and content
This is a product that currently retails for 39.99€ on Amazon.it. As such, I didn’t expect it to come in a nice shiny box and I guess I was spot on. It’s a simple cardboard box with a VicTsing logo on the top and the usual contact information on the bottom. Strangely enough, the information on the bottom doesn’t include a link to VicTsing’s website. It would appear that VicTsing is a brand used by this Eastern Times Tech for some of their products. To me, their branding scheme doesn’t seem to make much sense: They use the VicTsing brand for products that aren’t really related to each other, like smartphone accessories, binoculars (!), and computer devices. EasternTimes Tech seems to run at least three websites (one, two, and three) for no apparent reasons, two of which are badly translated from Chinese and one whose translation is incomplete. Ugh, it seems we’re off to a bad start here.
But whatever, I don’t really care how a company does its business and I’m not used to judge a book by its cover. Or a monk from his clothing. What bothers me is the typo at the bottom of the packaging, though. And it’s actually one of the most visible things about it!
This being a 40 € product, it’s no surprise that the packaging isn’t particularly attractive. Or with a particular attention to detail, but come on, you can’t misspell your company’s name!
At least the inside is somewhat better, with the keyboard being placed inside a soft bag and between two foam pieces to protect it during ship. Inside the box is the keyboard itself with the keycap puller and a small manual in English, Chinese and German that covers the very basics, detailing how to use the keyboard, what the Fn key does (more on that later), all of which is delightfully and cheesily translated from Chinese.
The keyboard is connected to your computer through a regular USB connector. I kind of like the way it looks: it’s futuristic without looking as if it came straight out of a dystopian sci-fi movie, although its greater length might prove problematic if your computer leans against the wall (don’t do that). The cord is about 1.5 m long, but doesn’t seem to be of the best quality in the world, so I wouldn’t suggest It does not plugging it out often. The connector doesn’t support PS/2 adapters, so that’s not an option if you want to keep one of your rear USB ports for something else. The lack of a USB hub or pass-through doesn’t help either.
The keycap puller: a nice extra
At any rate, I wasn’t only attracted to this product by its low price, but also by the fact that it includes a keycap puller for when you need to clean under the keycaps. So far I’ve been using medical pliers, and while they work well enough, they also leave visible marks on the sides of the keycaps, which could potentially reduce their lifespan. These keycap pullers usually retail for around 5 euro, so this is really the 35 € keyboard! The puller itself doesn’t seem to be high quality, but it’s still a nice addition.
Using the puller is pleasurably simple: you hook it to one of the caps and pull upward. Doing so reveals the blue switches underneath them. If you’ve ever read anything about mechanical keyboards, you may probably have heard that Cherry’s patent expired in 2007, giving other manufacturers the possibility to manufacture their own spin on switches. It would appear, judging from the fact that the housing is clear instead of black, that these are off-brand parts instead of genuine Cherry switches. I guess you can’t expect to see Cherry MXs in a 40 € product, can you?
The front of the keyboard features a distant resemblance to Corsair’s K70 mechanical keyboard, with the keycaps not falling below the chassis when pressed. This is useful for easier removal of the keycaps and to limit dust and debris buildup over time. On the one hand, I like this design choice. On the other, it makes it extremely easy to accidentally press one or more keys with your arm when your elbow is resting on the desk.
I was pleasurably surprised to find out that the front of the chassis is actually metallic. I’m not sure what material it is, but from the looks of it, it would appear that it’s brushed aluminum. The side and back, however, are made completely out of plastic.
This model of keyboard is only available in the US layout, which is a terrible choice for two reasons: first, it’s the American layout, and second it’s an ANSI layout, meaning that it lacks the key between Z and Shift, the Enter key is short and elongated, and above it is an additional key that would otherwise have been placed left of the Enter key. I really dislike this configuration, because it messes up the configuration I’m used to, it prevents me to use the less than and greater than signs, and I usually hit the Enter key at the top, not at the bottom. I would’ve strongly preferred having it in the British or German layout, or any layout that makes sense.
Another thing to note is that this is a tenkeyless keyboard, meaning that it lacks a numeric keypad and, as such, only has 87 keys instead of the usual 105. This is going to be a problem if you’re planning on doing heavy number inputting. Or if you need to use the less than and greater than symbols seriously what the heck were Americans thinking when they chose to not use the ISO layout ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY I’M GONNA KILL YOU ALL!
Ahem, as I was saying, this type of keyboard is also called “tournament edition” in the context of esports, because it’s usually provided to players during video gaming tournaments and pro gamers usually prefer them over full-size keyboard, the reason being that they believe it’s better for your shoulders because your hands will be spaced more naturally. I haven’t been able to find any study supporting this claim, but whatever floats their boat is fine to me, I guess.
On the bottom are two rubber feet that should help prevent you from accidentally pushing your keyboard away from you while typing, two adjustable stands that seem to be rubberized, although they seem quite prone to breaking to me, and three holes that, according to the manufacturer, should help avoiding damage to the keyboard should you pour liquids on it. Apparently pouring stuff on your keyboard is the latest kink and nobody warned me. Oh well, I suspect that soaking your keyboard in hot coffee is going to be great for it durability, so I strongly advise you don’t do that.
Complementing the keyboard are two blue LEDs for caps and scroll lock. The num lock LED is missing for obvious reasons. The placement of the caps lock LED is fine: it sits above and between F12 and Print Screen, which is great for seeing it light up while typing. The other is a different story. When I type it’s basically hidden by the Scroll lock key, which makes it hard to see when it’s activated. To be honest, though, this is just a nitpicking. After all, how many of us care about the Scroll Lock key?
The blue switches
As I mentioned, these switches don’t seem to be authentic, yet they feel quite good to type on. They’re only available in the blue variety, which feel similar to browns under your fingertips, with a slight tactile bump when the keypress is registered, but with the added “click” at the actuation point. I admit I like having this click, because it lets me avoid to bottom out as much as I do with my Das Keyboard. The keycaps, however, don’t have the nice “clack” that those on my Das do, which is a shame because I would’ve loved a nice “click and clack” audible feedback.
For comparison, here is how my Das keyboard sounds like:
And this is how the VicTsing I-500 sounds like:
Typing experience and usability
As is very common with mechanical keyboards these days, the VicTsing I-500 has some features clearly aimed at gamers. In particular, it has a Win Lock functionality activated by pressing the Fn and Windows key at the same time. Doing so excludes the Windows and Menu keys to avoid switching to the desktop when playing a video game and accidentally pressing one of those keys. To be honest, I believe this is the most pointless feature a keyboard can have, up there with N-Key Rollover, and I don’t think I’ll ever use it.
The F keys also double as media keys by pressing them in conjuction with the Fn key. This is placed in an odd position: At the right of spacebar instead of the left. This makes using these shortcuts a little bit awkward. I’m not a huge media keys user by any stretches of the definition and having the Fn key in this odd position is a big disincentive to use them at all. To make things worse, it would appear that Fn + F5, which usually stops the current media file playback, doesn’t work and Fn + F11 locks the keyboard, which is a feature that doesn’t make any sense because it doesn’t lock your session as well.
No keyboard review would be complete without mentioning how typing on it feels. For such a low price, I’m surprised by how comfortable this product is. I already mentioned that I like the sound the keyboard makes, but I think it’s worth noting that the ergonomics aren’t bad either. In my testing, which I performed using TIPP10, I was able to achieve slightly better speeds than with my Das, but also slightly worse error percentages. These may be due to the fact that the key for ù is oddly placed in ANSI keyboards and the number of misspellings for that character seem to confirm that.
Let’s be clear here. One more word per minute isn’t exactly convincing me to ditch my Das Keyboard for the VicTsing I-500, but it’s nice to see that even an inexpensive product can be a pleasure to use. Granted, there are a few things about this product that I don’t like, like the aforementioned lack of a keypad, which made using Excel to calculate the averages featured in this review a real pain, or the fact that blue switches aren’t really suited for playing videogames (the click can be very distracting from the overall experiences), and the lack of a USB hub. However, considering its low price and overall decent quality, I find it really hard to hate on the VicTsing I-500. If you’re in the market for a new keyboard and want to give mechanicals a shot, this is a great entry-level product that will hopefully not disappoint you.