NZXT has made a name for itself with its stylish cases and components, but it’s officially entering the peripheral market with its brand new line of Function gaming keyboards. Featuring a low-profile body, hot-swappable switches, and plentiful options to customize the size, color, and feel, the NZXT Function is aimed at offering gamers an easy on-ramp to the world of mechanical keyboards without breaking the bank. Starting at $119.99 for the compact MiniTKL and ranging to $149.99 for the full-size, do these keyboards have what it takes to compete in an ever-more crowded market?
NZXT Function – Design and Features
There’s certainly no shortage of mechanical keyboards these days, so to sweeten the deal NZXT is offering the ability to customize keyboards purchased directly through their site with a wider array of switches and PBT keycaps in more interesting colors than the laser-etched black that comes on the standard versions. Every keyboard also supports hot-swappable switches, customizable per-key RGB backlighting, and a volume roller that is mounted on the left side of the keyboard to keep your aiming hand on the mouse.
NZXT has always valued style in its designs and that holds true here. Each board features a low profile case with a sturdy aluminum top plate that’s matte finished. All of the proffered switches use clear housings to show off the RGB, even when viewed at an angle. If you pick up the stock model, you’ll also have backlit legends to easily type in the dark; the PBT versions use dye-sublimated legends and limit RGB to underglow only. The volume roller is small and unobtrusive, trimmed in black rubber for grip, but is hardly eye-catching. Apart from the indicator lights and subdued branding, it’s honestly very minimalist. The custom versions also offer you a choice of colored accent keys for the arrows, Escape, and Enter keys for a bit of extra flair. It looks good, clean.
The function is available in three different sizes, ascending in price with size: MiniTKL ($119.99), TKL ($129.99), and Full-size ($149.99). While the last two are exactly as you would expect, the MiniTKL breaks the mold and condenses all the keys of a TKL into a more compact package. It does this by getting rid of any extra space on the board, cutting out the gaps between the function keys and removing the right Windows key so the arrows can be tucked in closer to the rest of the keys. The navigation and editing cluster that usually takes three columns has been squeezed down to two. Ironically, despite being more compact, shifting things this way actually gave NZXT space to include two additional keys, so the MiniTKL has an F13 and NZXT key that are each unmapped to allow for custom macros. It’s a very functional layout, even if the extra column on the right looks a little unusual.
The keyboards are light on additional features, but NZXT checks most of the boxes you would look for these days. They’re all fully programmable, they all look nice, and the two larger versions include wrist rests to improve their ergonomics; why the MiniTKL does not is a mystery. Around the back are a pair of tilt feet with a set of smaller props in the center that can be tipped out for a gentler typing angle. There’s no built-in USB hub or audio combo jack to connect a headset, but there are three buttons along the left edge to control Windows lock, backlight brightness, and mute. The cable is also detachable to support a set of custom color options NZXT is selling in Yellow, Blue, Red, Purple, and Cyan. These cables are braided and quite nice.
If you can afford to wait an extra couple of days for your keyboard to be made (and pay the $10 premium), it’s definitely worth going straight through NZXT and customizing your own keyboard. The PBT keycaps look, feel, and sound better than the thin ABS keycaps included on the premade models. They’re thicker, and slightly textured, which improves the typing feel, but they’re also more durable and won’t shine or show finger oils as easily. The stock version is also limited to a black or white top with all-black keycaps while the custom versions add gunmetal gray to the case choices, gray keycaps, and colored accent keys to match the different custom cable colors.
For this review, I was sent one of each size keyboard. Each one was outfitted with a different color scheme and every one of them looks great in their own way. Remove everything else from the keyboard, and you’ll still have something that looks awesome on your desk, so I have to give kudos to NZXT for the potential of its color customization options.
Custom keyboards also have a wider range of switches to choose from. Keyboards bought from retailers will only be available with Gateron Red switches, but custom orders expand that to Gateron Red, Blue, Brown, Silent Black Ink V2, or Aliaz Silent tactile switches which have a tactile bump. Only including basic Red switches in normal orders feels oddly limited when many other gaming keyboards at least offer Brown and Blue, but here you’ll need to pay the $9.99 upcharge for the option. You’ll also be paying $9.99 if you want those stylishly colorized accent keys and another $9.99 if you want a cable to match.
What’s worse is that either of the more boutique options, Silent Inks or Aliaz Silents, raise the price by $69.99 and $79.99 respectively for the MiniTKL/TKL and Full-sized versions. Given that these switches routinely sell for $0.65 – $0.75 per switch when bought on their own, it makes sense that they would cost more, but it’s a tough pill to swallow considering that the keyboards are already pretty expensive. A fullsize keyboard outfitted with these switches, colored keycaps, and a matching cable push the price all the way up to $259, which is crazy for what’s being delivered. It’s also odd that there are only silent options available here. With new switches coming out every week, why just these two?
Since the keyboard includes hot-swap sockets, you could easily change to something new at any time without needing to break out your soldering iron, and that’s honestly recommended in this case. While Gateron Silent Ink V2s and Aliaz switches are nice, there are many other options that are easily as good and that cost less. Still, I’m glad to see hot-swappable switches here. Trying new switches is one of the most fun parts of the hobby and makes the Function keyboards a better platform to continue exploring it well into the future.
But while the Function keyboards do a lot right, they miss the mark with their stabilizers. The larger keys on most keyboards are stabilized using a wire mechanism to prevent them from tipping when pressed off center. For years, gaming keyboards ignored this component until community outcry finally forced major gaming brands like Corsair and Razer to take notice and change. NZXT missed the memo.
The Function keyboards have the unfortunate distinction of having some of the rattliest stabilizers I’ve used in years. This was an issue across all three boards I tested, but the severity ranged from “not very good” to “terrible,” so it’s hard to say just how loud any one keyboard will be. The worst was on the version I tested with standard Gateron red switches. My old Corsair K95, which I bought in 2017, is noticeably better. My cheap Ajazz keyboard, a budget company most people probably haven’t even heard of, is lightyears ahead. Using silent switches does help by removing some of the switch noise, but at $69-79 for a set of switches, that’s not a good solution. Even hand lubing the switches didn’t completely remove it on any of my samples, and no one should be expected to do that at this price. There is no excuse for the Function keyboards to be as rattly as they are because it genuinely drags down the rest of the typing experience.
Even with the stabilizer issue put to the side, these keyboards feel too expensive when their biggest features have been staples in budget keyboards for years. There are other great options that have similar features for less, like the Glorious GMMK, which has been available on Amazon since 2016 and is now available directly from Glorious for only $84.99. Unlike that board, you can’t even cycle through all of the available lighting options or change static colors without opening the software first, which makes it feel unusually limited. Of course, the GMMK won’t integrate with NZXT peripherals quite as easily, and has its own stabilizer issues, but it does leave you wondering what you’re paying for other than the cool aesthetics being offered.
NZXT Function – Software
The Function keyboards have each been rolled into NZXT’s CAM software. Since the company’s earlier products largely revolved around cases, components, and cooling, the software also acts as an effective system monitor, allowing you to keep track of your system temperature, frequency, and other performance metrics. It’s also where you’ll control any other NZXT components you might have, like choosing the color of your RGB fans or changing performance profiles on your all-in-one CPU cooler.
Keyboard controls all live on their own tab and are broken into several parts for lighting, key remapping, and recording macros. Each of these are functional but feel unpolished and in development. Macro recording, for example, doesn’t offer an easy way to remove all of the input delays like Razer Synapse or Corsair iCUE. In fact, they can’t be removed at all, only set to 20ms and doing so means changing the delay twice for every single keystroke (once for down, once for up). If you do go through the trouble, these can be saved to one of the keyboard’s four onboard memory profiles, so you won’t need to leave the software running in the background.
Remapping keys is easy enough. You just drop and drag the key you would like to move wherever you would like it to go. But, like macros, it’s just inefficient. Having to drag and drop takes time that could be cut in half by simply clicking those same keys.
Lighting is also rough around the edges but better overall. Like most keyboard software, you choose your lighting preset from a dropdown menu and adjust basic parameters like brightness and animation speed. You can also click and drag to choose groups of keys, which is a major timesaver. But, the more innovative audio effects don’t function as you would expect. The bass and level options show pictures of waveforms that imply that’s what you’ll see on your keyboard and neither do.
The software is also light on gaming features. Recording macros and remapping keys are expected features of the software in any name-brand gaming keyboard, but it doesn’t go much further than that. You can lock the Windows key and Fn keys, but there’s no timer function. No gaming integrations. No ability to use make timers to leverage lighting for situational awareness.
Most of these issues can be fixed with updates in the future. Given NZXT’s track record of updating CAM, I trust that will happen. But for now, it feels more like a beta.
NZXT Function – Performance
Gaming on the Function keyboards is fine but not very remarkable. I spent several days with each model to gauge how it performed, but found myself gravitating toward the MiniTKL due to its smaller form factor. I liked the way it looked on my desk, but I found I could keep my keyboard and mouse hands closer together, which felt more comfortable than on the standard TKL or full-size versions. The MiniTKL also has the benefit of having built-in macro keys, which are genuinely useful if you play games that benefit from them.
The keyboard felt responsive under my fingers, but features a slower 500Hz (2ms) polling rate compared to the 1000Hz (1ms) to 8000Hz (0.125ms) found on most other big gaming keyboards, like the Razer Huntsman V2. I’m not a professional player, so that’s not a difference I can easily feel, but if you’re looking for the fastest set of keys in the west, this ain’t it. For my part, whether I was playing rounds of Valorant or leveling an alt in World of Warcraft, the buttons responded fast and reliably.
You also can’t go wrong with any of the switch options NZXT offers. I was able to test the standard Gateron Reds, Gateron Silent Black Ink V2s, and the Aliaz Silent Tactiles. The Black Inks in particular felt buttery smooth under my finger, but even the normal Reds were satisfyingly smooth. I was able to swap in the alternate options from my personal collection of switches, and every one of them offers a satisfying and reliable gaming experience.
While I’m glad that NZXT included a wrist rest with these keyboards, and wish they had for the MiniTKL, I’m not a fan of their rubber surface. It feels a touch slippery and gathers dust almost immediately. Every single speck is visible on its black surface, which makes it look grimy sooner rather than later. And if experience is any indicator, the use of basic rubber here is more than likely going to lead to perspiration during the warmer months.
The stabilizers are less of an issue while gaming, but the problem doesn’t disappear completely. Since many games bind jumping to the spacebar, you routinely get reminded that it sounds louder and more grating than the letter and number keys. Even though the silent switches tame this somewhat, none of the three boards I tested were good enough to really solve this problem, even without actively typing.
On the plus side, the keyboard was nice to look at and the other keys felt perfectly fine. I would even go so far as to say that they felt pretty good to use, doubly so with PBT keycaps installed. I also really grew to like the left-side volume roller as it led to less time with my fingers off more important keys, and my mouse hand always aiming and ready to fire.