Keyboards were once nothing more than a way to input text onto a screen for data collation or communication; today they form the basis for most of our remote interactions. The keyboards of today run the gamut from hardware and software keyboards found on smartphones to more tangible gaming, multimedia and productivity keyboards designed for desktops.
Unlike your regular office keyboard, gaming keyboards are designed to operate at the jagged edge of usage. They are designed from the ground up to be brimming with functionality and to withstand even the most intensive gaming sessions and angry forum rants.
The trouble with this is that great PC gaming peripherals are usually charged at a premium thanks to the mechanical switches, back lighting, programmable macros and other features a manufacturer sees fit to load onto its peripherals.
So we put the budget-priced Armaggeddon Kai-9 Sentinel gaming keyboard through the ringer to find out whether it’s a viable alternative to more expensive options. Read on to see what we found.
Armaggeddon Kai-9 Sentinel review: Appearance
The Sentinel is a full-sized backlit RGB keyboard that features media keys as well as programmable macro keys that can be configured using the Armaggeddon software suite.
The F keys also have dual functions that are accessed by pressing them together with the Function key located between the right Alt and right-click keys, though this is confusing as many of these functions already have their own dedicated hotkeys.
In what proves to be an attractive aesthetic touch, Armaggeddon has fitted the Sentinel with back lighting that can illuminate the keyboard in seven colours, though unfortunately this is not completely customisable, which we’ll get into a bit later.
While the lighting is bright enough to show up in direct sunlight, there is a considerable amount of light bleeding from the back of the keys. Normally we would find this a bit annoying but the lighting creates a nice haze that makes typing in dim conditions a lot easier.
At the back of the Sentinel there are two feet that let you adjust the height of the keyboard, which you will need to do as the keyboard is a bit too flat without them. When the feet are out, the keyboard does feel very stable, though we would have liked it more had the rubber feet at the bottom of the keyboard offered a bit more grip.
The Sentinel also has a 1.8m braided cable that lends it an almost premium feel, which is complemented nicely by the keyboard’s gold-plated USB plug.
Armaggeddon Kai-9 Sentinel review: Typing
The Sentinel uses a membrane switch as the interface between the user and the key depression, and is able to reach a maximum polling rate (the rate at which the USB port is checked for commands) of up to 1 000MHz. Theoretically, this means keys can be pressed at a rate of 1 000 times a second, and register every time.
While we couldn’t test that claim directly, we found the keyboard to be very responsive while typing. Unfortunately, that responsiveness became problematic at times when gaming.
Using the keyboard during fast-paced titles like as Dota2, a game in which your hands must roam over the keyboard’s surface chaotically in order to keep your number of actions per minute high, resulted in us accidentally pressing unintended keys as our fingers traced over them. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem for those with a light touch, but the heavy-handed among us will find it quite irksome.
The layout of the keyboard takes some getting used to as well; this is mostly because of where the macro keys are placed. While we understand the engineers at Armaggeddon probably wanted to keep the macro keys close to hand, if you are going to be typing a lot on this keyboard the macro keys will probably just get in the way.
Armaggeddon Kai-9 Sentinel review: Customisation
The Sentinel has its own dedicated software suite that allows the majority of its 122 keys to be customised, but strangely doesn’t offer a lot of backlight customisation.
Even more odd, the Home Base tab shows nothing but a static image of the keyboard and some social media icons at the bottom on it. Rather confusingly, Armaggeddon didn’t see fit to make those icons hyperlink to anything at all. This made us a bit wary to even consider using the software, but fortunately the remaining three tabs proved surprisingly useful.
The second tab gives you the option to customise all three of the profiles pre-loaded on the keyboard. Out the box, these profiles are set to the basic functions of the keyboard though you are able to customise every key except the F keys, Windows Key and the Function key.
This customisation can be saved directly onto the keyboard thanks to the inclusion of 64KB of on-board memory, and you are able to switch between these profiles at the push of a button. Each profile has its own lighting scheme so you always know at a glance which one is active.
The third tab contains the macro set up. Here, you are able to select from a number of presets and record your own macros. The process can be quite tricky to get right, and with the large number of steps required, getting it right can take some doing.
That said, we do suggest you take the time to map these keys out as having your own keys customised exactly as you like really definitely enhances everything you’re likely to do with the keyboard.
Armaggeddon boasts that the Sentinel is a seven-colour backlit keyboard, but unfortunately the back lighting’s customisation options are limited. While you’re able to adjust the light intensity and whether you want a static lighting setup or if the keyboard should cycle through the colour spectrum, we wish that we could also choose from more colours. In lieu of this, the Sentinel offers more important things, like programmable keys and a lower overall cost.
Armaggeddon Kai-9 Sentinel review: Conclusion
The Sentinel retails for R599, which is right at the top of the low-end gaming keyboard pricing bracket but definitely worth the cash.
While the Armaggeddon Kai-9 Sentinel does have a few niggles, for R599 you’ll be hard-pressed to find a keyboard that offers programmable macros, multi-colour back lighting, multiple profiles and media keys.
So while it is somewhat rough around the edges, we came away feeling like it offers a great compromise between cost, performance and features.
Ultimately, the Sentinel is a solid choice for the gamer on a budget, but those with heavy fingers should test it out before buying it.