Hardware Review: Gigabyte Aivia Osmium Mechanical Keyboard

Gigabyte Aivia Osmium

By on August 22, 2012 at 9:30 am

While Gigabyte generally make a living selling the sort of gaming hardware that fits inside your computer, they’re also known for their peripherals as well – and they recently sent over an Aivia Osmium mechanical keyboard, which showed up at our offices carried by a team of six burly men. Grunting and sweating under the weight, they heaved it onto the floor where it crashed to the carpet, sending Tyrannosaurus Rex-like ripples across the surface of my nearby cup of tea.

Here’s what I’m getting at: the Osmium is hefty. Weighing in at 1.5 kilograms, the Osmium is only slightly lighter than the same amount of actual osmium ore would be if you somehow managed to get enough of it together in one place1, although a good deal cheaper2. It’s impressively solid, and should resist even the most infuriated attempts to snap it over your knee after a frustrating string of in-game losses – or double as a handy bludgeoning weapon in the case of a LAN party where your opponents are within arms reach. Four rubber feet underneath lock it firmly to the desk though, which may make grabbing it during a brawl a difficult prospect.

Construction and ergonomics

What it offers in durability, it somewhat lacks in ergonomics: although the Osmium has a full-sized wrist-support (detachable, naturally) its design is very conservative and offers a stock-standard keyboard layout with only slight differences from the norm. There’s almost no room on the sides of the keyboard if you like to rest your hands there, and the left-hand keys such as tab, caps lock and shift are a smidgen smaller than I’d perhaps prefer, resulting in an experience that I found ever-so-slightly cramped — but I have enormous trogolodyte hands, so your mileage may vary on this. Regardless, the Osmium is a strongly-built keyboard which responds briskly to the touch and feels pleasantly tactile to use.

On the top right of the Osmium is a panel with the word “Aivia” on it, which glows a different colour depending on which profile you’ve got active. The Osmium supports five different profiles, marked by preset colours — blue, green, red, purple/pink and aqua — and this panel serves as a button which you can tap to quickly cycle between profiles. Changing profiles doesn’t affect the colour of the backlight, unfortunately, with blue being the colour of the day regardless of what profile you have active.

Keys, wheels and clicks

Two control wheels sit at the top left of the keyboard: the left to adjust the backlight illumination (from ‘barely there’ to ‘distressingly bright’), and the right to control volume. Both can also be clicked inward, to kill the lights or mute the volume respectively, and they’re pleasantly easy to use. Just to the left of these wheels are the five macro keys labelled G1 – G5 — combined with the ability of the Osmium to hold five separate profiles, and you’ve actually got a total of 25 possible macro keys (more on that later). The F1 – F5 keys double as media controls in the absence of dedicated media keys.

With 2mm of travel-to-actuation on each key and only 45g of pressure required the Osmium responds fast, and offered no ghosting issues to speak of during my week-and-a-half of testing. Gigabyte claims the Osmium can take up to 64 individual keypresses at once, but as I recently lost my squad of trained octopii to Toby in a drunken bet, I wasn’t able to test this claim. I was however able to test a full ten simultaneous key presses, with no issues. Key presses are powered by Cherry MX red switches, feeling solid and weighty and — most importantly for a mechanical keyboard — eliciting a lovely clack-clack sound. Included in the box is a key remover and four spare keys.

A surplus of features

The Osmium offers a bewildering array of features, seemingly designed to serve as both a gaming keyboard and a desktop hub. On the right hand side you’ll find not only headphone and microphone jacks, but a high-speed USB 3.0 port as well, because — well, just because, really. As such the keyboard itself is connected via an impressively thick braided cord, which splits into USB 2.0, 3.0 and headphone/mic connectors. Strictly speaking you only need the USB 2.0 connection to run it, but it’s a nice option to have. A USB 2.0 port sits on the top right of the keyboard as well, giving you a hefty range of ways to connect more devices.

The other piece of kit you’ll need is the Gigabyte GHOST software (seen above), which manages the macros on the keyboard as well as the profile settings. Unfortunately the GHOST software is somewhat unintuitive and suffers from some poor English, but once you’re inside it you can use it to customise the behaviour of any of the five profiles, as well as what each of the G1 – G5 keys does when each profile is activated. You can also wipe the keyboard’s on-board memory from inside the GHOST interface as well, and enable or disable specific profiles (making it easy to switch between just two profiles, for example). Finally, if you hate the ‘breathing’ effect of the lights on the Aivia logo, that can be disabled as well.

Conclusion

Retailing at around the $159 mark, the Osmium comes in at the top end of the mechanical keyboard price range, substantially more expensive than the Razer BlackWidow’s $100 price point but only just a touch more costly than a Corsair or CoolerMaster Storm.

For the price, you certainly get a lot of features – but are they features you really need? The real meat of a gaming keyboard is not measured by its ability to run high-speed USB 3.0 devices off a side hub, but in its responsiveness, customisation, and durability under pressure. The Osmium performs excellently in all these areas but comes bundled with a bunch of features that, in all likelihood, you don’t really need. If Gigabyte removed this extra hub-like functionality and dropped the price by $30 – $40, there’d be no question about recommending it — but as it is, this is a keyboard for the luxury-spender only.

Good:

  • Dense, solid construction
  • Snappy response time
  • Impressive anti-ghosting
  • On-the-fly profile switching
  • USB 3.0 port, audio connectors, bacon, egg, the works

Bad:

  • Slightly cramped design
  • GHOST engine is a bit clunky to use
  • At $159, you’re paying for features you probably won’t use

1: I haven’t researched this analogy at all. Don’t hurt me, scientists!
2: At $13 per gram, this would make an Osmium keyboard worth $19,500 if it was made out of pure osmium ore. I don’t know this is relevant to the review.

11 comments (Leave your own)

Umm, you missed out what ‘type’ of mechanical switches are used in the keyboard. It’s sort of the most important point in a mechanical keyboard.

By the way, they’re red switches.

 

Oh snap, you’re right! Yes, they are, I should have mentioned that. Edited.

 

What type of mechanical switch does the keyboard use (colour)? Or did I miss that bit? (it’s early :P)

 

Heh, Question got ninjad.

 

Red switches???
wait.. red switches have no audible ‘click’…

the only sound it should make is the one it makes when it bottoms out, otherwise it should make no noise by itself, just like black switches.

so it’s about as heavy as the Steelseries 7G, with extra programmable keys etc.. and USB3.0 port instead of USB2.0, but about 50 bucks more expensive… since 7G prices have dropped to about 100 bucks now.

and by durable i assume this is at least 7G kind of durable? i mean literally bludgeoning tools kind of durable? Like the 7G ‘i bash someone’s head with it and crack his skull and put the keyboard back in place and continued typing’ kind of durable?

 

I don’t know what to tell you Bronze, there’s a very audible clack-clack-clack when you type away on one of these things. It drove my wife crazy.

It is naturally completely silent if you only press down enough to actuate the switch, but I don’t really type like that!

This is really solid construction on Gigabyte’s part, I’d have no doubt that you could crack a skull with it if you tried hard enough. That’s probably not something I’d put on the box as a selling point, though.

 

Still not sold on getting a mechanical keyboard, I’m not sure I could stand the clickity clack.

That said, looks pertty nice, but I think the slightly cramped feeling you got, I might too, having quite long fingers.

Good review Tim!

 

Tim Colwill:
It is naturally completely silent if you only press down enough to actuate the switch, but I don’t really type like that!

That’s pretty much it… the sound you are hearing is the key bottoming out then, ie: you are hitting it against the base plate of the keyboard.

it’s just somewhat odd because normally ppl who like quiet touch typing chooses red switches EXACTLY for that purpose… ie: because it has zero audio confirmation ‘click’

My housemate can type in his black switches keyboard with a very low audio signature at rapid rate, the red switches are even softer than the black switches.

Black and red technically are similar, both have no ‘click’ and no tactile feedback… but red switches have lower pressure resistance.

 

The clack is the key hitting the deck, not an additional click created by the key (like with Blue switches). You can get rubber grommets from hobby shops (2mm internal diameter) and place them on the key stems. This will remove the clack and reduce travel by about 1 to 1.5mm depending on the grommets. It also makes the keys heavier so with red keys it reduces actuation force to less than 45g (about 35-40g).

Personally I think red/black are the best keys as they don’t annoy the crap out of you like the Blue ones used in the Razer’s.

 

rsoblivion,

I might try to find something like that for my Corsair K60, its not too loud, but since im still use to standard keyboards i press the keys all the way down as it just feels natural to do so.

 

I love my Razer 2012 Blackwidow Ultimate, I’ve gotten used to mechanical keyboards now, everyone else here hates it due to the sound but tbh I think its just everyone trying to blame me for my Niece waking up.

 
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