Is there a broader spectrum of low-to-high pricing for essential gaming accessories than with gaming keyboards? The influx of cheaper, feature-rich options from China has certainly helped level the playing field somewhat, but not every gamer is willing to compromise quality for quantity (quantity of features, that is). So whenever we come across a “gaming” keyboard approaching the rare equilibrium of attractive features and affordable pricing our ears perk up and our fingers get antsy.
That’s pretty much what you’ll get with Inland’s OMK-X RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, a feature-rich alternative to its most obvious inspiration, Corsair’s K70 mechanical keyboard lineup. Never heard of Inland? They’re basically Micro Center’s in-house brand, much like you see with Best Buy’s Rocketfish or Insignia (or to a lesser extent, Walmart’s Equate). Like them, Inland has cloned a well-known keyboard almost feature-for-feature, reducing the cost without reducing much of the overall value. It’s a tough magic trick many have tried, yet few have succeeded.
So what makes the OMK-X a viable option for budget-minded gamers? Two things: that price (duh) and surprisingly great optical keys. Well, great if you like blue switches, anyway.
Design: Something Familiar
Right from the start the OMK-X looks, feels and functions like a high-end gaming keyboard should, one costing considerably more than its price tag suggests. There’s no denying the OMK-X has copied reverse-engineered Corsair’s K70 look and design, though in a thicker and heavier body. Rather than use an aluminum or metal base, this is entirely a plastic and rubber affair, albeit solid plastic and rubber that still manages to feel professional-grade.
Apart from the (ahem) familiar looks you’ll get a standard QWERTY keyboard with numberpad and bonus Macro and preset Game Mode keys arrayed across the top – though I’ll return to their placement being an issue later. A big advantage the OMK-X includes over most budgeted keyboards is – just like the K70 – the extra USB passthrough port next to the USB cable. Why we don’t see these on more gaming keyboards, given how peripheral hungry a gaming PC can become, I’ll never know. But they sure are welcome.
At over 3.05lbs it’s also considerably heavy, which is great as there’s no way you’ll accidentally slide this across your desk. There’s also a textured plastic detachable palm rest that magnetically clips onto the bottom for added comfort. Even better, the two extendable legs on the bottom are rubber-coated, adding another level of stability while slightly extending your typing angle.
Speaking of rubber, the OMK-X claims to have a braided USB connector cable, but it doesn’t. Instead, there’s a six foot long fairly standard rubber cable housing the USB connectors (keyboard/power and USB passthrough), easily the cheapest component of the entire keyboard. At least the rubber coating is pretty flexible and should easily loop itself around most setups.
The top-right side features a host of media keys, including the usual play/pause and track keys, and a nicely textured volume wheel. An extra key lets you swap the wheel to adjust either the volume or brightness levels, though I found it hilarious the row of function keys duplicate these controls by combo-pressing different keys together.
Less hilarious, sadly, is how frequently you’ll have to use combo-pressing to get the most out of the OMK-X. I’ll get to that here in a bit.
Optical Keys: Loud and Clear
Unlike most gaming keyboards the OMK-X doesn’t use traditional mechanical switches, but instead newer (better?) optical switches. The jury’s out if there’s any real advantage for things like gaming but I never experienced any performance issues either playing games or extended typing sessions. Apart from the ugly key font (often seen on cheaper Chinese keyboards) these are very nice keys that are incredibly responsive and fun to bang away on.
Full disclosure: Inland doesn’t provide any real information or technical specifications about the OMK-X, which is a shame as the overall performance is generally superb. Apart from some of the bragging points on the box (written in hilarious Engrish) and horrendous “instruction” manual the only things we had to go on generating this review are experience and intuition.
Currently, the only model available includes KT blue optical switches, the KT implying they’re from (I assume) Chinese knock-off manufacturer Kailh. Optical or not, the OMK-X keyboard’s blue switches produce the same LOUD and CLICKITY clicks and actuation levels you’d expect from a traditional mechanical blue-branded keyboard. Inland promises fast 0.2ms reaction time and I’m inclined to agree; as someone who’s used hundreds of “legit” Cherry blue switches over the years there’s no discernible performance difference between standard mechanical switches and these optical ones.
Worth noting: not everyone loves the feel or noise of blue switches, and if you count yourself among them the OMK-X isn’t the keyboard for you. Given the brand and pricing I’m not sure we’ll ever see red or brown switch options, so if blue ain’t for you, proceed with caution.
RGB Lighting and Combo-Keys
There are two lighting areas on the OMK-X, under the keys themselves and permanent lighting strips on the sides, neither able to be specifically tailored or individually programmed. But the included lighting effects for the keys should do the trick for most users and are levels are bright enough for most situations. With the right configuration the OMK-X can look incredibly stylish on your desk… too bad getting there can be a chore.
Easily the most disappointing aspect of OMK-X keyboard is the RGB lighting, which works fine and looks great, but can be frustrating and cumbersome to configure. There’s no accompanying software, which means everything – and I do mean everything – about the various RGB lighting effects are handled by combo-pressing different keys in tandem. These combos not only include lighting effects but also configuring the five Macro and Game Mode keys, none of which is fun or intuitive.
Worse, these combinations are *only* written on the included instruction manual that’s really a flap of paper, one smaller than a fast food napkin. Every lighting and programmable function is listed here in near impenetrable button combinations written in a micro-sized font. Trying to program Macro functions was an exercise in frustration and it wasn’t long before I gave up. Doing so requires a series of complicated combinations using the NUM, CAP, SCR, WIN and other keys, usually in conjunction with flashing indicators and exact timing. Miss something and you’re back to square one. Lose the paper and, well, you’re out of luck. Happy experimenting.
Also, consider the awkward location of the Macro key array itself, above the horizontal number keys. They’re simply too far away to be useful for any serious gamer to consider an asset. Maybe they’ll be fine for programmers, musicians and digital artists who don’t rely on quick key presses, but definitely not twitch-hungry gamers.
Conclusion: Cloned Value
Inland’s OMK-X RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard offers a mixed bag of performance and features, but a generally nice mix. Yes, it’s a clone of the better, more versatile (and more expensive) Corsair K70 lineup, but the typing experience is extremely pleasantly responsive and the build quality (while plastic and rubber) is solid. The backlit RGB lighting effects looks pretty great, but it’s a shame configuring them is clunky and frustrating, and the Macro keys are useless for all but creative types. You’re getting a lot of keyboard functionality for relatively little cash with the OMK-X, even if the design credit rightfully belongs to Corsair.