Low-profile mechanical keyboards, like this new MSI Vigor GK50, are a bit of a revelation. I mean, you get that sweet clicky experience without all the chunk. However, some of the best full-size low-profile boards cost a pretty penny which is why the $99 GK50 is a truly intriguing option. My favorite board of all time, the Roccat Vulcan 120 (opens in new tab) AIMO costs at least 50% more while the OG Logitech G915 (opens in new tab) will be double that. There are cheaper options from the likes of Keychron but MSI has the advantage of being a much bigger brand.
But why would anyone want a low-profile mechanical keyboard? Well, the most immediate benefit is improved ergonomics to prevent you from ruining your precious wrists. You see, traditional mechanical boards are quite the chunky affairs with thick chassis, blocky keycaps designed to give you that satisfying long travel. At their highest point, they can stand 50mm which requires the use of a wrist wrest.
The GK50 is a mere 34mm at its highest point, with a nice gentle slope that allows your hands to work in a comfortable position without any strain. Yeah, it’s comfortable. Of course, in shaving off all that height, you do lose some of that classic depth and satisfaction when typing on traditional boards. In saying that, the GK50’s low-profile Kailh switches are surprisingly satisfying to press. They are sharp and clicky in the way only low-profiles can be but are much louder than I expected, so maybe think twice before buying this for a shared office space.
The switches are of a tactile nature and have a respectable pre-travel of 1.5mm and a total of 3mm with a slight bump when you actuate them. They are also quite fast though not as smooth as linear switches. I never had any issues while gaming but there is a bit of an adjustment period to get used to the slightly stiffer keys. Sitting on top of the Kailhs are octagonal matte caps with clear legends that are great for RGB.
The caps are about half the height of regular keycaps which helps keep things really low. The matte coating is supposed to keep them free of fingerprints and smudges but at the time of writing this, my board is a disgusting collection of smudges. Thankfully, they are still grippy and the concave caps are quite pleasurable to use. MSI also includes a keycap puller in the box so you could, in theory, buy some aftermarket low-profile caps to satisfy your liking.
Besides, nobody can see your smudges in the dark of your gaming cave where you’ll revel in the glow of the Mystic Light RGB. Refreshingly, MSI has added all the controls for swapping lighting profiles onto the board. Using the MSI key (read Fn key), you can cycle presets, adjusting speed and brightness as you go. No need to jump into the recommended MSI Center software. This new universal app surprisingly lacks a lot of keyboard customization features including the RGB. Odd but there’s always the option of the alternate MSI Dragon Center software which has much better control.
As a full-size board, the GK50 has a ton of keys to work with and so you have a lot of functions available to you without needing to dive into the software. You get media controls, game mode, hell you even have a special key function to start MSI Afterburner to monitor your hardware.
In terms of looks, the GK50 doesn’t impress too much, with its uninspired utilitarian aesthetic. The GK50 is just a bit too dull, even with its octagonal keys and brushed metal deck. The top right of the board is a wasted opportunity of empty space that could’ve been used for a volume dial instead of just LED for caps and num lock.
The GK50 uses a single USB 2.0 cable that’s non-detachable which kinda sucks if you wanted to use a custom cable. The board also has some flip stands for greater slope if that’s your thing. I found the board to be stable on my desk so frantic gamers need not worry.
All said and done, the $99 MSI Vigor GK50 is a decent low-profile mechanical keyboard that sticks to the basics and delivers a reasonable, if unexciting, overall package. The Kailh switches are lovely to type on, although gamers would probably benefit from something smoother. It's worth noting that this board is often reduced and is down to just over $41 on Amazon right now (opens in new tab), that’s a decent deal for a low-profile board.