So we have been trying out MonsterXGears’ SIREN keyboard over the past week. It is touted as the first of its kind 89-key 2-block Hyper RGB e-sports mechanical keyboard. To me, that translates to an 1800-Compact layout RGB clicky USB-A wired keyboard.
The keyboard comes in a standard cardboard package, with photos of the keyboard on the front and back and a highlight of the features on the back of the box. The rest of the MonsterX product line borrows names of mythical creatures from Greek, Christian and Japanese mythology, and that probably explains why there is a picture of a samurai helmet on the box too. In the box, we get the keyboard, manual, keycap puller. There’s no need for additional cables as it is wired and there’s no need for a switch puller as the board is not hot-swappable. There are no additional spare keycaps provided though, which is a bit of a bummer.
The manual explains the features of the board along with system requirements, there is no need for installation as it was recognised immediately by Windows as a gaming keyboard and the drivers were automatically installed. You do have the option of installing the MonsterX driver for it, which would allow you to further customise the RGB lighting effects and set up your own macro shortcut keys.
Official dimensions for the keyboard are 358mm by 130mm by 39mm, which is just about 45mm wider than an average 65% keyboard. The whole case is made up of plastic and there is a slight heft to the whole keyboard, although it doesn’t feel like there are any weighted metal plates in it. Two standard feet behind allow you to raise the keyboard a few degrees up, and rubberised feet are stuck on below. The cable is slightly off-centre at the back, but it has a braided sheath which feels nice and durable. On the left and right sides are several vents which allow the RGB lighting to glow through, leaving a nice glow on your desk.
Now what MonsterX means by 2-blocks is that the layout is a modified 1800-Compact layout. On standard 1800 layouts, we usually have the numpad on a slight offset to the right of the directional arrows, with the page navigation keys above the numpad. What they have done here is take on a format similar to a ten-keyless (TKL) board and mapped on the numpad to the page navigation keys.
So, in a full-sized keyboard, you would have the keys separated into 3 blocks – alphabets (alphas), directional and page nav, numpad. Taking on the 1800 layout brings that down to 2 blocks, like a TKL layout. A quick search online did not turn up any other keyboards with the numpad mapped in a similar layout so yes, I do believe this to be a first of its kind. Disclaimer: I use mainly 65% boards which have a slightly wider backspace, enter, right-shift key. Switching over to the Siren resulted in hitting numbers 0, 1 and 4 on the numpad more often than not. This takes getting used to, but it is a point to note.
Keycaps are shine-through double-shot, but I cannot confirm if they are ABS or PBT. They do sound thin, and the clicky switches do not help much. I am not a fan of the fonts as they are a bit too stylised for me which makes it hard to read amongst all the flashing colours, but some may like it. The top row of the board houses your function keys which also double up as media keys. The number row also doubles up as custom keys to fiddle around with the backlight if that takes your fancy.
Due to the layout, as I mentioned earlier, some of the keycaps on the right side of the alphas might be smaller in width, so do keep this in mind if you plan on getting additional aftermarket keycaps. They come in an OEM profile which is standard.
The board is not hot-swappable and comes with blue clicky switches which are, as all other clicky switches go, clicky. Do note that these are Jixian switches, which are Cherry MX Blue clones, and they are pretty poor clones. The installed stabs do not really do a good job either as there is significant rattle on the modifiers. These switches do have a similar amount of travel as other Cherry MX switches and feel pretty light to actuate.
They give off a high-pitched click which made it sound like I was breaking a million strands of uncooked spaghetti while typing this out. Sonically, these are not my cup of tea as they are pitched too high. Unless you are on a mission to annoy your colleagues or your other half, I would stay away from these switches.
As far as RGB lighting goes, you get the whole shebang with this one. On the board, you can switch between 14 backlight modes for your keys as well as customise zones for them. Both brightness and frequency adjustments are available too, and using the custom driver gives you more options for configuration including macro shortcuts.
So how does the MonsterXGears Siren fare overall? It is touted as an e-sports gaming keyboard and rides on the e-sport peripheral wave of other products that are flooding the market right now. I have not had any key registration errors during the time that I have been using the board, and I do not have any qualms about the build quality and QC. What puts me off, however, are the Jixian Cherry MX clone switches which are just too clicky for my liking.
As an entry-level introductory board into the rabbit hole of mechanical keyboards, it will do as it does not disappoint in handling general tasks such as word processing and browsing online. The modified 1800-Compact layout is not groundbreakingly weird and having the numpad would benefit some users who can incorporate it into their workflow.
It gets the job done, but there are other alternatives out there within the same price range of S$149 and a 1-year warranty with actual Cherry MX switches though. If you can get past the type of switches used, the fact that it is not hot-swappable and you cannot replace the stabs for more stable ones, it is reasonably priced and could be considered as a gift to someone who wants a mechanical board.
Written by Shahril Safawi (Tech360.tv Community Creator)