The G.Skill KM780 Mechanical Keyboard & MX780 Gaming Mouse Review

It would appear that gaming peripherals are all the rage nowadays, with more and more companies trying to grab a piece of a surprisingly resiliant PC gaming market. Many manufacturers of other PC components, such as memory and cooling products, have diversified and released gaming keyboards and mice during the past couple of years. The most prominent examples probably are Corsair and Cooler Master, who went as far as to create "gaming divisions" within their own companies.
Along those same lines, G.Skill, a company known for their memory-related products, is now diversifying as well and joining the gaming peripherals market. As part of their initial foray into gaming peripherals the company is starting small, releassing just a single mouse and a single keyboard, the Ripjaws KM780 RGB and Ripjaws MX780 RGB, respectively. Both of these are very high end products with very interesting specifications, clearly designed to compete with the cream of gaming keyboards and mice available today.

G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 Mechanical Keyboard ($160) - Key features and specifications

  • 100% Cherry MX RGB switches (Brown or Red)
  • Fully Programmable Keys
  • Per-key RGB Backlighting
  • Extra Gaming Keycaps, Keycap Tool & Keycap Case
  • On-board Profile Storage
  • Full n-Key Rollover and 100% Anti-Ghosting
  • Dedicated Macro Control & Mode Selection Keys
  • Windows Lock Key
  • LED Backlight Toggle
  • Timer Key
  • Media Control Corner & LED Volume Display
  • Detachable Soft-Touch Wrist Rest
  • Five-Level Contoured Keycaps
  • G.SKILL Unified Driver System
  • Mouse Cable Holder
  • USB Pass-Through & Audio Jacks

G.Skill Ripjaws MX780 Gaming Mouse ($50) - Key features and specifications

  • Ambidextrous & Interchangeable Side Grips
  • Height-Adjustable Design
  • On-board Profile Storage
  • Adjustable Weights
  • Avago 8200 DPI Laser Sensor
  • Durable Omron Micro-Switch
  • 8 Fully Programmable Buttons
  • Customizable RGB Backlighting
  • G.SKILL Unified Driver System 
G.Skill's entrance into the peripherals market comes at an interesting time. Although I'm not sure one can claim that this market is truly saturated at this point, among the PC component companies who have diversified, G.Skill is definitely coming in behind the pack. This means they not only need to compete with the traditional vendors in this space such as Logitech, but also the companies that diversified earlier such as the afformentioned Corsair. The good news for G.Skill here is that the PC peripherals market is a lot easier to break into since it's not so strictly a commodity market - unlike RAM, mice and keyboards involve direct human interaction and are not merely a faceless chip inside a case - which gives G.Skill a fighting chance even if they are late in joining this market.
As for the products themselves, as I briefly touched upon before, G.Skill has aimed for the high-end segment of the market. The Ripjaws KM780 keyboard retails for around $160, and meanwhile the Ripjaws MX780 mouse is lighter on the wallet at $60. These prices are comparable to similar RGB mechanical keyboards and gaming mice, so G.Skill is competitive on prices, though this does mean that G.Skill needs to convince buyers that they have something that established brands do not. Otherwise the high-end market is a very small market - a definite niche in the PC space - but also a more profitable one, which for G.Skill is no doubt a welcome change from the thin margins of selling large volumes of RAM.

The G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 Mechanical Keyboard

G.Skill supplies the Ripjaws KM780 keyboard inside a well-designed cardboard box. The artwork theme of the box is focused on a picture of the keyboard itself and promotes its most important features. Inside the box we found a basic quick start guide, a large wrist rest with a soft top layer and a container with a keycap removal tool and ten red "gaming" keycaps with ridged top surfaces. Three of the keycaps, the W, A and D, have their top greatly beveled and facing towards the central S key.
 
Some companies keep their designs plain and serious while others make them complex and aggressive. The Ripjaws KM780 is something in-between. Everything on the keyboard is black, with the metallic company logo at the top of the keyboard being the only exception. The keycaps are mounted directly onto the aluminum top frame of the keyboard, which aluminum surface is somewhat overly prone to fingerprints. Plastic decorative flaps with the company logo imprinted on them extend from the sides and a metallic tube surrounds the keyboard.
Aside from the standard 104 keys, there are several extra keys on the KM780. Six programmable "G" keys can be seen to the left of the keyboard. These keys are also mechanical and illuminated, like the main keys. Right above the "G" keys and the ESC key, G.Skill placed the macro recording and mode selection buttons. The three smaller buttons to their right are the Windows key lock, the brightness selection and the timer buttons. It is worthwhile to mention that is the first time we saw a dedicated timer button on a gaming keyboard.
Five more flat buttons can be found to the right side of the keyboard, followed by a metallic volume control wheel. Four of them are used for the basic media functions and the last one is the volume mute button. Right below the volume control wheel, G.Skill installed a LED bar indicator that displays the master volume level of the system. It is a cool feature but we found a minor bug: if the main audio device changes, e.g. USB headphones are connected, the bar does not reset itself and one has to turn the volume all the way down in order for it to display the proper volume level again.
As the mechanical keys are rather tall, G.Skill placed most of the flat buttons into plastic frames that elevate them a few mm, providing easier access and limiting the chance of accidentally pressing a mechanical key while trying to push one of the buttons. Only the three smaller Windows key lock, brightness and timer buttons are not elevated, probably because the designer thought that their use is infrequent/secondary.
  
One USB port and headphone jacks can be found at the rear right side of the keyboard. There is also a switch that can be used to turn the KM780 into a standard keyboard, disabling programmability and n-key rollover to maximize compatibility. This sometimes is necessary with very old motherboards or even while accessing the BIOS of more recent systems.
G.Skill also installed a plastic "cable mouse holder" on the metallic tube at the rear of the keyboard. This can be moved at any point across the tube or, if it is not going to be of any use, folded beneath the keyboard. Do note that unless the keyboard's feet have been extended, the cable holder does not fit beneath the keyboard unless it is at the rightmost edge of the tube, where a slot for it exists. The extra container with the additional keycaps can also be attached to this metallic tube.
Beneath the keycaps we found original Cherry MX RGB switches. These were exclusive to Corsair for a year since their launch in 2014 and apparently G.Skill jumped on the opportunity the moment that exclusivity period was over. The Ripjaws KM780 comes with either Red or Brown switches at this point of time and this pictured is the Brown version. Cross-type supports can be found beneath the larger keys.
As for the backlighting, the Cherry MX RGB switches currently provide the best visual experience possible. Their clear bodies allow the most uniform distribution of lighting around the key and that is especially apparent with mixed/complex color settings. In theory, the Cherry MX RGB switch can have any color of the RGB scale (that's about 16.8 million colors) but, as we have mentioned in all of our RGB keyboard reviews to this date, the human eye cannot possibly differentiate more than a couple dozen colors. It is highly unlikely that the vast majority of people will care to choose any other color than the few core colors provided by the software.
There is just one major issue with the backlighting of the G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 and that is the lighting of the flat buttons at the top of the keyboard. The lighting color of these buttons, including the volume level LED bar indicator, cannot be changed and is always red. So, if the main backlighting color of the keyboard is changed to any other color than red, these buttons are a major visual dissonance.

Quality & Performance Testing

In order to test the quality and consistency of a keyboard, we are using a texture analyser that is programmed to measure and display the actuation force of the standard keyboard keys. By measuring the actuation force of every key, the quality and consistency of the keyboard can be realized. It can also reveal design issues, such as the larger keys being far softer to press than the main keys of the keyboard. The actuation force is measured in Centinewton (Cn). Some companies use another figure, gram-force (gf). The conversion formula is 1 Cn = 1.02 gf (i.e. they are about the same). A high quality keyboard should be as consistent as possible, with an average actuation force as near to the manufacturer's specs as possible and a disparity of less than ±10%. Greater differences are likely to be perceptible by users.
The machine we use for our testing is accurate enough to provide readings with a resolution of 0.1 Cn. For wider keys (e.g. Enter, Space Bar, etc.), the measurement is taking place at the center of the key, right above the switch. Note that large keys generally have a lower actuation force even if the actuation point is at the dead center of the key. This is natural, as the size and weight of the keycap reduces the required actuation force. For this reason, we do display the force required to actuate every key but use only the results of the typical sized keys for our consistency calculations. Still, very low figures on medium sized keys, such as the Shift and Enter keys reveal design issues and can easily be perceptible by the user.
As expected from Cherry MX switches, the Ripjaws KM780 is extremely consistent and any force differences are imperceptible by the user. We measured an average actuation force of 45.2 Cn with a very low disparity of ± 3.53%. The Cherry MX Brown switch is specified to require a force of 45 Cn at the actuation point, so this average is just about right. However, do note that the actuation point of this switch design is after the maximum pressure point, as seen in their operation chart below. In order to reach the actuation point, a force of 55 Cn is required to overcome the maximum pressure point of the switch. 

The G.Skill Ripjaws MX780 Gaming Mouse

G.Skill supplies the Ripjaws MX780 in a relatively simple cardboard box with modern artwork, focused on promoting the major features of the mouse. The top of the box can be opened to reveal more details and the mouse itself but the design of the packaging does not allow the potential buyer to test his/her grip.
 
Inside the box we found a small quick start guide, a couple of weights, a tool for the adjustment of the palm height and a set of side grips for left-handed users.
The Ripjaws MX780 sports a modern design, appearing to have its external plastic parts and electronics mounted on an aluminum frame. However, be warned that this is an elaborate illusion. As the specifications of this mouse clearly specify, only the base of the mouse is aluminum. The silver parts visible from the sides and top are plastic, although we have to admit these are so well designed and made that most people would find it difficult to tell the difference.
 
Including the basic left/right buttons and the wheel's middle button, there are eight buttons on the Ripjaws MX780, all of which are programmable. There are two buttons on each side of the mouse, as well as one button beneath the wheel. By default, the button beneath the wheel cycles between DPI settings. As for the side buttons, two are easily reachable with the thumb, but pressing the other two requires the use of the pinky finger and this can be very tricky. G.Skill had to go with this design as they made the MX780 ambidextrous, so they had to have two thumb-accessible side buttons in either case.
 
One of the most innovative features of the MX780 is that the side grips are removable and the second provided set reverses the mouse to a left hand design. Only magnets are used to secure the side grips so they can be easily removed by just pulling them off. Beneath each of the grips there is a cavity for one of the circular weights. There are only two 4.5 gr weights that, in our opinion, are nothing compared to the overall weight of the mouse (108 gr) and will not make a feelable difference for any kind of user.
 
Turning the mouse upside down reveals the aluminum plate that the Avago ADNS 9800 laser sensor is mounted on. This sensor is found on almost every high performance laser gaming mouse available today. A small hex screw can also be seen. Using the supplied tool, it is possible to adjust the height of the palm grip. This is not a very useful feature for those used to a claw grip, as the palm does not touch the mouse, but it can be convenient for those that are used to a palm grip. The thin skid feet of the MX780 are not too large but not small either and they provide very good performance.
 
There are several lighting areas on the MX780. One is the scrolling wheel, one is the logo at the front of the mouse, one is the mode selection lights and, finally, there are four wide LEDs installed across the area between the main buttons and the palm rest. These four wide LEDs by default serve as the DPI mode indicators. Their colors and various effects can be programmed via software but, in our opinion, these are of little importance on a mouse. Most of them are not even visible when someone's hand is on the mouse anyway.
  

The Unified Driver System Software

Software is a very important parameter for high end gaming peripherals such as these. G.Skill named their software the "Unified Driver System" and, much like most similar software packages, it can identify and setup either or both of the KM780 and the MX780. Still, although the interface of the software remains the same, the driver package for each individual device needs to be installed separately.
The main layout of the package is very similar regardless of the device connected. There are three main settings tabs (Customize, Setting & Lighting) and two tabs for the programming of macros and lighting profiles. Macros and lighting effects need to be programmed individually before programming the keyboard. To the top right corner, three small buttons give access to the software settings, the warranty terms and a link to the company's web page.
The Customize section is the main programming section of either the keyboard or the mouse. To the left, there are options for the creation of profiles, with up to three different modes per profile for the keyboard. Profiles and modes are programmed independently and different profiles can be sharing modes. They can also be linked to a software, automatically switching when that software launches. There are no mode programming options available for the mouse.
Per-key programming is available for both the keyboard and the mouse. Any key can be programmed to execute virtually any command, from a typical single-key function of another key (layout change) to the execution of external programs and macros. It can also be programmed to insert a piece of text, such as a repetitive/common guild chat message or a piece of programming code, or to be disabled altogether.

Keyboard Key Customizations
More options are offered in the case of the mouse, as the user can also program DPI switch, "sniper" and profile switch functions. For those unaware of what the "sniper" key does, it reduces the DPI of the mouse significantly while the key is being held pressed, allowing on-the-fly precise aiming while gaming.

Mouse Key Customizations
The Setting section is, with the exception of a single setting, different for the keyboard and the mouse. The only setting available for both devices is the control of the polling rate, which can be set between 125 Hz and 1000 Hz. If there are no compatibility issues, there is no reason why anyone should reduce the polling rate of either device.
For the keyboard, the user can also adjust the repeat rate delay and acceleration, how alerts are displayed (OSD or lighting effects on the keyboard) and the programming of a "sleep mode". There also is an option to change the n-key rollover to 6-key rollover (only six concurrent keypresses will register) but, once again, there is no real reason to do so unless there are serious compatibility problems with your system.

Keyboard Setting Tab
As for the mouse, the Setting section offers DPI programming options, some control over the lift range of the mouse and control over the double click/wheel scroll/pointer speeds. The user can program between one and five DPI levels, with different X and Y axis sensitivity if required.

Mouse Setting Tab
The Lighting section, as the name suggests, allows for the programming of the devices' lighting. There are options to select between solid lighting and lighting effects, for all of the keys or individual keys. Do not forget that the lighting effects have to be programmed via the Lighting Profiles tab before they can be inserted into individual keys or groups. By default, 24 colors are available, but these can be programmed via the lighting profiles section.
The Lighting Profiles section offers two main options: to change the default 24 colors and to program basic lighting effects. Only two effects are available for the mouse, Cycle and Breathe. The Wave, Ripple and Reactive effects are only available for the keyboard, naturally, as they would have no real meaning on the mouse. Strangely, the Cycle effect is not available for the keyboard, although it would work just fine.
By far the most important section of any such software is the macro recorder and, unfortunately, this is the weakest link of these products. Regardless whether the macro is being programmed for the keyboard or the mouse, the macro recorder can only register button presses/clicks and delays. These delays can then be edited and custom keypresses can be manually inserted. However, without the ability to record any kind of mouse movements, relative or absolute, the macro recording software is useless to nearly all gamers. We can think of very few situations where mouse movements are not necessary for in-game macros and chances are that even these users will require a macro including mouse movements at some other point of the same game. It is certain that advanced gamers will have to result to third party macro programming software, compile .EXE files and then program keys to launch them as external applications.
What the software also needs is some language editing, as we have adjectives mixed with nouns on the tabs/buttons and some other language-related errors.

Conclusion

Let's begin our conclusion with our thoughts on the KM780 RGB mechanical keyboard. The primary selling factor of this keyboard undoubtedly is quality and the KM780 RGB truly is one of the highest quality keyboards we have ever tested. The Cherry MX RGB keys are, as with all of the keyboards that we tested to this date, very stable and consistent. There is virtually no key wobbling or any feeling of ricketiness about the keyboard, including the buttons across the top, which offer great tactile feedback.
The design of the Ripjaws KM780 could be improved. Aesthetics are a strongly subjective matter and thus some will enjoy the modern appearance of the KM780 while others might hate it. However, the design also affects the functionality of a keyboard. The plastic side flaps and metallic tube unnecessarily add to the width of the keyboard, taking up desktop space and pushing the mouse pad further to the right. This can be a deal breaker for some gamers, especially those seeking narrow (or even tenkeyless) designs to keep the mouse as close to their front as possible. The metallic tube adds some functionality, as the cable holder and the keycaps container attach to it, but it could just stop at the edge of the keyboard and not run across the sides as well.
Another issue would be the backlighting of the extra buttons and the LED indicator bar. The Cherry MX RGB switches are excellent and the software offers enough programming options, but the inability to change the backlighting of the extra buttons is problematic. With the keyboard switched to any other color than red, the red color of the buttons is a major visual dissonance. RGB LEDs ought to have been installed beneath these buttons as well.
The G.Skill KM780 RGB mechanical keyboard is clearly designed to compete against the best gaming keyboards currently available. Specifically, taking into account its design and the use of Cherry MX RGB switches, it seems as if G.Skill attempts to take a piece of Corsair's pie. G.Skill's KM780 RGB is a bridge between the "plain" Corsair K70 RGB and their "overloaded" K95 RGB, offering the few extra macro keys, dedicated mode/profile switching keys and USB/audio pass-through connectors that the K70 RGB is missing. In terms of quality, G.Skill would have no problem competing with Corsair, and aesthetics are a subjective matter.
The Unified Driver System software however needs a lot of work before it can be even considered as a competitive solution against Corsair's Utility Engine. We are still at version 0.62 and, if G.Skill places some effort and resources on this, it could be greatly improved soon. Still, truth be told, virtually only Corsair currently has a significantly better software package, as most other manufacturers have also neglected upgrading their own software packages.
As for the MX780 gaming mouse, that is an entirely different story. Although the Ripjaws MX780 mouse also sports a modern design as well, it is not really a matching design next to the KM780 mechanical keyboard. Then again, G.Skill never claimed that these two products are a set and they are being sold separately. It also has a far broader range of direct competitors, unlike the KM780 that essentially competes against half a dozen other products at most.
The main selling points of the mouse remain the quality and good gaming performance. After using the mouse alongside the keyboard for two weeks, I cannot say that the quality and feel of it is less than excellent. Even though the design favors users accustomed to a palm grip and I am strongly used to a claw grip, I had no issues working with the Ripjaws MX780 and adapted to its design in virtually a few minutes. With a claw grip, I had easy access to two of the side buttons using my thumb, as well as one of the other side buttons using my ring finger, while my pinky was maintaining gliding balance. Trying to access both of the right side buttons with my ring finger however was nearly impossible without losing the balance of my grip.
As for the software, it definitely would benefit from a more sophisticated macro recorder, just like the keyboard. However, complex macros are not as important on a mouse. Most users will just remap the side buttons to perform a single function, such as to throw a grenade, take out the flashlight, or drink a potion. Even for professional use, the side mouse buttons are usually reprogrammed to Windows commands, such as Copy and Paste. As such, although the software can be improved, it is passable for use with the mouse.
As with all such designs, having a single button and rotating DPI settings is not very practical. If you are using more than two DPI settings, it can be very confusing, especially in fast-paced games. I do not personally use more than just one DPI setting, so I repurpose the DPI selection button to something else. Besides, for aiming, it would probably work a lot better if one of the thumb buttons is set to activate the "sniper" mode while pressed. Finally, the presence of RGB lighting has some aesthetic value but, in my opinion, no practical value whatsoever. Even if someone has to look at the mouse for visual feedback, i.e. check the selected mode or DPI setting, most of the LEDs are beneath the palm and cannot be easily discerned. Taking your hand off the mouse would be catastrophic in all but the most slow-paced games and, even then, having to look at the mouse is not a practical way to receive feedback.
In conclusion, much like every product, both of the Ripjaws KM780 mechanical keyboard and the MX780 gaming mouse have both advantages and disadvantages. The KM780 RGB and the MX780 are currently retailing for $160 and $60 respectively, in good agreement with their direct competition. For example, the two main competitors of the KM780 RGB mechanical keyboard, Corsair's K95 RGB and K70 RGB keyboards, currently retail for $180 and $170 respectively. G.Skill's products are not significantly less expensive but are of equivalent quality and performance. The software should be improved and the inability of the media/extra keys to change their backlighting color is a visual dissonance on a RGB keyboard, but they are high quality products. Their features and design should be considered and weighted against the individual needs by each user that is shopping for a high quality mechanical keyboard and gaming mouse.
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