Somebody order a gaming keyboard with the lot?
By Tim Colwill 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.
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.
- Dense, solid construction
- Snappy response time
- Impressive anti-ghosting
- On-the-fly profile switching
- USB 3.0 port, audio connectors, bacon, egg, the works
- 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.