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April 29, 2013

Unboxing & Review: Armaggeddon Black Hornet MKA-3 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard



Every now and then, we will have difficulties in selecting the best peripherals for our PC setups. Be it for gaming or your everyday use, we would dream of getting the best (so long as our budget allows). Problem is, not all the products are tested and tried so people tend to shy away from them. The Armaggeddon Black Hornet MKA-3 is one such product, priced at about RM459 in the local market, it will surely make most people jump backwards. However, thanks to the good people of Leapfrog Distribution SDN BHD for providing the Black Hornet MKA-3 for this review, we will attempt to lift the clouds of doubt in choosing this particular product.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Armaggeddon branding, you could go to Armaggeddon.net to get a peek of what Armaggeddon is all about ;) .

Here are features and specs of the Black Hornet MKA-3 from the official website:


Features
  • High quality Cherry MX Black and Brown switches and long life up to 50 million operations
  • 87 mechanical switches built-in with backlight effects.
  • 6 fully Macro-Abletm keys
  • Adjustable keys effective time in 7 speed transmission from 1ms ~ 16ms
  • Adjustable polling rate: 125Hz/250Hz/500Hz/1000Hz
  • Multimedia keys with built-in program
  • Adjustable keys respond time
  • Adjustable backlighting effects on keyboard button
  • Yellow lighting characteristic gaming keys for WASD and arrow keys
  • Gaming mode option for deactivation of windows key
  • Detachable USB cable design with cable management system
  • 1.5 meters multiflex cord wrapped with ultra-durable cable jacket.
  • Built-in onboard memory – 32KB
  • Intensified thick 1.8m USB cable for better durability
Specifications:
  • Keyboard interface: USB wired
  • Total keys: 87
  • Cable length: 1.8m

 The Unboxing



The MKA-3 is packed in an overall black box that is decorated with a shot of the keyboard itself beside a Desert Eagle 50AE hand-pistol (no it doesn't come with one and neither is it bullet proof in that extent), with a cut-out window for potential buyers to try out the directional keys. This particular model is a TenKeyLess keyboard (a shorter version of a keyboard which doesn't have the numeric keypad at the right side) with Cherry MX black mechanical switches. According to the Armaggeddon, there is also a model with Cherry MX brown mechanical switches. 

For those of you who are not familiar with mechanical keyboards, here is a solid read on the basics of  Mechanical Keyboards courtesy of noobandroid of LowYat.net forums.
The back of the box details the features and specs of the MKA-3  in a myriad of languages in case English is not your strong point.

Moving to the side of the box gives us the content description as well as the system requirements of the MKA-3. The silver hue text on top of this mentions that the MKA-3 is a fast and precise keyboard thats designed for First Person Shooter games, though I think it's also suitable for other genres as well cause otherwise it'll be harder to justify the pricetag of RM459.00.


Taking the MKA-3 out from the box, its encased in a plastic shell all over much like any other keyboards. The second picture shows all that is contained in the box where you'll find teh keyboard, wrist-rest, a USB cable, 8 black keycaps, replacement rubber feets a driver CD and an instruction manual. A good bundle if you ask me, especially the included wrist-rest that feels very comfortable to use, but I think a key-remover should be included in the bundle for easy replacement of keycaps.





The Black Hornet MKA-3 feels very solid and heavy. For a TenKeyLess keyboard encased in hard plastic,  in no way it would flex and warp. The matte-black textured surface of the keyboard is fingerprint proof, definitely a good feature in my books but I'm not fancying the grey keycaps on the ASDW and Cursor keys though. There is the inclusion of black keycaps, those who have the same opinion myself will no doubt be replacing the keys right before using it; swapping them should be a walk in the park but I do wish they would've included a key remover.



Turning to the underside of the MKA-3, Armaggeddon have provided cable routing channels for the USB connection cable in which users can place through the centre or either side of the keyboard. The rubber feets are quite soft and prevents the keyboard from sliding around well enough and if you look back at the included accessories, replacements for the capsule-shaped are provided. 

One would be able to elevate the keyboard by flipping the feet up on the top left and right feet for a more comfortable position. I felt that Armaggeddon should have the feet flip sideways and thicker build, as the MKA-3 is a rather heavy keyboard, to prevent it from slamming onto the desk when pushed away from the user. The wrist-rest is kind of light but the build is robust and it's not going anywhere when in use.


The MKA-3 has a very small footprint of about half of my Logitech G510, a boon to those lacking desk space. You could also see that the LED backlit is many a times brighter than the my G510, this could be adjusted to 10 intensities as well as a pulse/breathing effect mode is available as well, though it is limited to a single colour combination of blue and yellow.


Here is a shot of both keyboards in the dark. Although the illumination on the MKA-3 looks sweet, one thing to note is that not all of the characters are lit. This is particularly true to the symbols that share the same key with the numeric keys and the controls on the function keys. The greyish print on these keycaps does little to help the situation.

EDIT- I have people asking me "What kind of stabilizers are used in the MKA-3?" For those of you who wish to know, it's a Costar type as depicted below. Thanks to fellow forumer "Ireferno" for pointing this out.



Functions & Software


As with most mechanical keyboards, combining the function key with another will change specific settings or perform tasks. Here are the list of functions that are used this way:

  • Fn+F1/F2 = Adjusts response time
  • Fn+F3/F4 = Adjusts polling rate
  • Fn+F5 to F12 = Media controls
  • Fn+Scroll Lock = Adjusts lighting effects
  • Fn+Print screen = Gaming mode
Switching to Gaming mode on the MKA-3 will disable the Windows Key but you also have the option to switch the cursor keys with the ASDW by pressing Fn+Windows key in gaming mode. Probably this is so that the programmable macros is easier to reach as it is right at the top of them. However, I find myself comfortable while the traditional ASDW.

The software is included in the package in the form of a mini-CD, though you could always download it off from Armaggeddon's website. Installation is a standard affair and I can't foresee why would anyone have a problem with the installation.




Launching the driver software takes you to the main control where you'd be able to switch between profiles, create, load, save and edit profiles. There is also the reset button on the same screen that would reset the MKA-3 to stock. One neat feature of the profile editor is that it allows the keyboard to switch to the related profiles when launching the game/software. This is a good approach, especially when there are no physical profile switchers and/or indicator on the keyboard itself.



The macro manager allows you to program your combos that needed multiple key-press into a single key-press. This would later be assigned to one of the 6 macro-able keys right above the arrow-keys in the Macro settings tab. With the MKA-3's built in memory, one would be able to bring these settings to whichever PC without having to install the driver software every time.


The Advanced setting tab allows us to adjust the polling rate, turn the windows key on/off, set the key response time and adjust the light intensity.

Testing & Conclusion


The MKA-3 is pleasant to use while gaming, Mass Effect 3 and Battlefield 3 feels nicer with the keys being very responsive. No problems whatsoever with other titles as well.





The wrist-rest bundled with the MKA-3 is heaven sent, very comfortable to use with it's leathery feel cushion (much better than the normal plastic ones that comes with most keyboards in the market). It is not designed to be attached to the MKA-3 so you could position it anywhere you want and probably use it with other keyboards should you feel the need to. 

I learned the hard way that I am not suited for black mechanical keyboard while I was typing. I tend to miss keystrokes and my words will be left incomplete when typing on the MKA-3. I called in a good friend of mine to test it out and sure enough his feedback was different to mine where he found that the MKA-3 is very comfortable to use and even found that his typing speed improved with some keys being a little too sensitive (though he jumped when I told him the retail price). Probably the brown-switch version will be more suitable for me instead ;) So if you are ever in the market for a mechanical keyboard, just make sure that the switches are suitable for you. Though we both miss having the numpad at the side, some will be glad to be rid of it.

So in the end, I could say that the Black Hornet MKA-3 is a balanced mechanical keyboard small sized yet packed with nifty features. Not everyone will agree with me of course, especially when its' priced at RM459,  right where the other top brands are currently at.

Pros:
  • Full mechanical keys (Black)
  • Profile editor/creator is well thought of
  • Solid construction
  • Comfortable wrist-rest is provided
Cons:
  • Priced on the high side
  • Absence of physical profile switcher

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