Closer Look: MSI GK-601 Mechanical Keyboard
The MSI GK-601 comes in a solid cardboard box with a flip cover that highlights all of the keyboards core functionalities. Like most mechanical keyboards, the GK-601 has a matte finish and omits any flamboyant designs.
The GK-601 is a standard qwerty keyboard with only 1 extra “Fn” key used to access multimedia and macro functions. The keyboard uses Cherry MX Red switches, which are known for having low key press resistance. It has no “click” on trigger. Instead, the key press is triggered on the way down. This allows for extremely fast response times and “spam”-ability. The draw back is the lack of tactile feedback that some prefer for typing.
You can find audio and USB connectors on the GK-601, something that’s quickly becoming a standard among high-end keyboards. While the audio jacks may be redundant as most computer cases have them in the front, the USB ports prove to be very useful in handling the ever growing list of USB accessories.
The Fn (function) button is located on the right side of the space bar, next to the ALT key. MSI’s GK-601 keyboard has multimedia controls, lighting adjustments, and 10 programmable macros. Instead of adding additional buttons for each functionality, MSI overloaded F1-F12 and the number pad keys with duo functionalities that are activated when the Fn key is held down. On first impression, this seems like a usability issue if Fn needs to be pressed whenever you want to use a macro. But after closer inspection it turns out that MSI made a really good design choice here.
Instead of having special dedicated macro keys like most other keyboards, MSI’s macros are simply bound to a regular key and replaces its default functionality. Using the Fn key you can easily toggle between different profiles including a default one that just uses the basic keyboard and disables all macros. This solves a bunch of usability issues and is a great design choice. Of course the drawback is that you’ll have to be careful of which keys are being used for macros, otherwise typing into a chat box may prove to be an odd experience.
From a construction perspective, MSI also pays attention to details. All four corners of the keyboard are rubberized as to prevent slipping and shifting during usage.
Unlike alternative keyboards, the GK-601 does not support PS/2 connections. This is fine as most people use USB anyway. The connectors of the MSI GK-601 are gold-plated to ensure optimal connection.
The back-lighting of the GK-601 also looks great. It has 4 different brightness settings: three basic and one slow pulsating glow. The yellow lighting matches perfectly with the Black/Yellow color theme of the keyboard. The lighting controls are built right into the keyboard. You can use the Fn key and the num pad to make adjustments
One problem here is that the keyboard does not seem to turn itself off when the PC hibernates. I’ve had to manually turn off the back lighting after every use. This seems like a possible driver issue that needs to be fixed.
Overall the GK-601 gives a great first impression. Its macro capabilities definitely stand out among competing products. In the next section Benchmark Reviews will take a more detailed look at the GK-601.