A few years ago I found myself in a conundrum due to an injury to my nerves as a result of excessive work in a poor ergonomic setting. This injury inevitably crippled my ability to use a mouse and keyboard for anything outside of the most minimal activities. At the time I found myself upgrading all of my work equipment to solve the issue however when the time to choose a keyboard came, I was stomped. Then out of nowhere stepped in Kinesis with their Freestyle Edge RGB – the keyboard which saved my writing career and still use daily. The one I’m typing this portion of the review on atm.
So when my proverbial heroes reached out with their new TKO Tournament Keyboard, there was no reluctance to cover it on my part.
TKO Tournament Keyboard is a premium compact keyboard. It’s so well built that just lifting it feels satisfying. Built with gamers and coders in mind, it features substantial amounts of features. As per usual below we have the specs for those interested in the numbers:
- • Programmable 60% RGB Mechanical Keyboard
- • 1 year limited warranty
- • Dimensions: 295mm wide x 114mm deep x 33mm tall
- • Weight: 19.0oz
- • Anodized Aluminum Plate
- • Premium PBT Double-shot Keycaps
- • Premium Kailh Box mechanical switches
- • 16.8M Color Dual-Zone RGB Lighting (Backlighting & Edge Lighting)
- • SmartSet Programming Engine with on-the-fly remaps & macros
- • SmartSet App for Windows & Mac
- • 9 Customizable Profiles with fully-programmable dual-layer Layouts and dual-layer Lighting Effects
- • 4MB onboard memory (the v-Drive™)
- • Multimedia actions (embedded Fn layer)
- • Available Game Mode, NKRO Mode, and Tourney Mode
- • 2 sets of pop-out legs for optional “Tenting” and “Tilting”
- • 1000mz polling and 100% anti-ghosting
- • TKO keyboard
- • Detachable 6’ USB-C cable
- • Travel Case
- • Dual Keycap and Switch Removal Tool
- • 8 Additional Kailh Box Switches (Contrasting switch types)
- • 2 HyperSpace Switch Covers
- • Full-Size Spacebar keycap and Stabilizer
- • Quick Start Guide
Specs aside, what is it like to use the TKO Tournament Keyboard? To be blunt, it’s not as comfortable for me as my Freestyle Edge but it’s way cooler in a lot of ways. Firstly it’s visually stunning. It has an RGB strip running along its base which along with every key can be configured to with a multitude of lighting effects. Configurations can then be saved and cycled among using hotkeys. There’s even a second layer of effects which can be added for Fn commands. Initially it didn’t seem like such a big deal but that opinion quickly changed. The second function light switching effect is a game changer which offers instant feedback on Fn inputs.
Also it looks cool!
[Section written using TKO]
The TKO being a tournament keyboard means it’s built to last. It’s sturdy and despite being small, it’s still heavier than most regular keyboards. Even the power cable and carrying case have a premium look and feel to them. If you walk into a room carrying a TKO, people will know you mean business. Even before plugging in the USB-C cable, you’ll know that this is something special. From the metallic sheen of the body to its solid black base and the RGB strip sandwiched between them, the TKO looks beautiful. In a way I kind of wish they did an upgrade to the Freestyle Edge using this same style. The way the keys extend from the body give off an almost mechanical look. A look which not only looks good but shows that it’s built to last.
[Section Written Using the Freestyle Edge]
That being said, despite its gorgeous looks being arguably better, the TKO should not be considered an alternative to the Freestyle Edge. As stated in my review of that product, “it is easily the most comfortable keyboard I’ve used to date”. The TKO doesn’t change that. It’s a keyboard primarily for people on the go or those with a desire for minimalism in the build. The Freestyle Edge saved my writing career thanks to its perfect ergonomic design but its compatriot isn’t as easy on my already damaged wrists. It’s fine when playing games where all you’ll need are the W,A,S,D keys but when typing it’s no different than using a regular keyboard. Well at least when it comes to comfort.
If we’re talking about functionality then it’s definitely different. Having a 295mm width has its drawbacks and that includes the lack of some dedicated keys. To save on space without losing on functionality, almost every key has a second and in some cases third function. These include obscure functions like mute and play along with regularly used ones like the directional keys. I’ll admit it took a bit of getting accustomed to but if it’s your primary keyboard then it should be easy.
Genuine Cherry MX Mechanical switches
The TKO being a Cherry MX switch mechanical keyboard also allows for it’s full customization. Unlike the Freestyle Edge, the key switches can be changed along with the key caps. It’s all standard sized too so you shouldn’t have much issue finding custom keys. Just be careful though, the custom key market can be quite expensive, especially here in the UK. And speaking of the UK, the TKO at the time of writing is not currently available here but you should be able to grab one in the EU or Australia soon. From the information we were given, the US and Canada were the primary focus for now. This means the keyboards are preconfigured for use with US keyboard settings. If you’re able to grab one outside of those regions you’ll need to enable those settings on your PC first then configure the settings to fit your native configs.
Which gets us into the software side of things. Along with this new piece of hardware comes a new software package which works with both the TKO and the Freestyle Edge. The software includes new features like the second function RGB settings, effects, macros for delays and tap and hold actions. All of these settings are stored on the keyboard itself so you can plug and play on any PC without needing to reconfigure it. With the TKO you can have up to 9 different profiles set at the same time, then switch between them with a few keystrokes. There are also inclusions like NKRO as well as Game and now the Tourney Mode. Kinesis have even included some presets for titles like CSGO, Destiny 2 and Fortnite to help familiarize users with the device.
What makes the TKO a Tournament Keyboard
By enabling modes like gaming mode you’ll disable certain keys to prevent accidentally exiting games. NKRO allows for unlimited simultaneous key presses and Tourney enables the two while disabling Macro Playbacks. Having all these settings available on the device itself at all times, gives ultimate freedom for the active gamer. Oh and if you’re not just gaming, the TKO also has presets for coding and typing as well.
The Kinesis TKO may not be a keyboard for everyone. It’s certainly not a keyboard for me thanks in part to its predecessor being so amazing, my injury and the fact that I’m not a competitive gamer. I don’t care about latency, macros and all that other jazz but that’s the point. This Keyboard isn’t for me. It’s for the Tournament ready player looking for that edge on the competition. It’s for the fortnite player who wants more out of his play. It’s for someone with $160 USD who wants what is arguably the best Tournament keyboard out there.
The TKO Tournament Keyboard used for this review was provided to us by its Manufacturer, Kinesis Gaming.