Genesis Thor 420 RGB Low-Profile Mechanical Keyboard Review: Low profile, small setbacks, good value
Genesis is a smaller name in the gaming peripheral world, but the brand is steadily gaining popularity, particularly in the e-Sports community. The Polish-based company makes and sells all sorts of peripherals, including keyboards, mice, headphones, microphones, PC cases, and more, which are specifically targeted at value-oriented customers.
Genesis sent me the Thor 420 RGB low-profile mechanical keyboard, and I've been using it almost exclusively for the better part of three months. As a primer, I have experience with both membrane and full-sized mechanical keyboards; my daily driver is a standard Logitech K120 membrane keyboard, but I've also spent substantial time using a Razer Blackwidow (w/ Razer's Green switches, equivalent to Cherry MX Blue switches) and Corsair K70 (Cherry MX Red switches).
Depending on the retailer and region, the Genesis Thor 420 RGB ranges in price from €60-80 (US$70-95) at the time of publication.
The Thor 420 RGB is a beautiful piece of kit. The aluminum keyboard deck sits atop a low-profile black plastic base. The keyboard is 418 mm long, making it a hair shorter than most other standard keyboards. It still takes up a fair amount of desk space.
As a low-profile keyboard, the Thor 420 RGB is fairly short at 24 mm. The keys sit flush with each other rather than in tiered rows (more on this in a bit), giving the keyboard a sleek aesthetic. The keys themselves are elevated above the keyboard deck and the transparent casings of the switches are exposed, allowing the RGB lighting to shine around each key rather than just through. The overall effect is rather pleasing.
The keys use a chiclet design like many laptops rather than the traditional beveled design used in most mechanical keyboards. Because of this, the keys sit flush in a plane. While this helps keep the height down, it can make key recognition difficult, especially for touch typists. There is little tactile indication as to where one key ends and another begins, and it can be difficult to know over which row fingers lie.
Another issue is the size of the individual keys. The letter keys on the Thor 420 RGB measure 15 mm2; most beveled keyboard keys (like those on the Logitech K120) measure 18-20 mm2. Some mechanical keyboards have slightly larger keys. While a difference of 3 mm on each dimension doesn't look large on paper, it alters the typing experience substantially. Coupled with the lack of a tactile boundary between keys, the small size requires major readjustment.
During my first month with the Thor 420 RGB, I found myself constantly mistyping keys. I commonly hit multiple keys simultaneously or typed in the wrong row. After sticking with the keyboard and adjusting my typing style to the Thor 420 RGB, I've come to like it, primarily because of the tactile bump of the switches and the speed with which I can type. It takes some adjustment, but I've found myself typing faster on the Thor 420 RGB and quite enjoying the experience.
Overall, the design is beautiful but different from most other mechanical keyboards. The keys and their flat aesthetic will take some time getting used to. Even experienced typists will need time to readjust to the Thor 420 RGB. After adjustment, the keyboard feels great and can improve both the typing and gaming experience.
The Thor 420 RGB uses low-profile mechanical blue switches. Genesis says the travel distance is 1.2 mm and that actuation force is a mere 45 grams. Response time is rated at 1 ms.
When using the keyboard, I noticed that the switches trigger very easily and have a light tactile bump that is perceptible but not distracting. The Content Slim Blue switches are very loud and sound like a machine gun during writing sessions. As such, office workers may want to look for something with quieter keys (MX Brown equivalents).
While gaming, the keyboard feels very responsive. The bump is more noticeable, as keys are not pressed in such rapid succession. It's miles better than my membrane keyboard; I don't second guess whether or not I've pressed a key.
The Thor 420 RGB, as its name implies, uses RGB backlighting. Each key has its own backlight, rather than the zone lighting used in cheap RGB keyboards. As such, every key can light up in one of several colors. I noticed it lacks the color variety of top-end RGB keyboards, but there are at least nine distinct colors. Using the software, users can set key backlights to any of the 16.7 million colors in the sRGB spectrum, though the keyboard admittedly makes it a bit hard to discern between these.
Additionally, the Thor 420 RGB comes with 19 backlight modes programmed into the keyboard itself. These can be toggled in software, but a nice feature is that there are hotkeys for cycling both RGB modes and colors on the keyboard. Because of this, the Thor 420 RGB is essentially plug-and-play, which is nice. The software is available if you want it, but the keyboard does not rely on it. The Thor 420 RGB also doesn't automatically install a software suite, which gives the users the choice as to whether or not they want to use Genesis' software (more on that below).
Most of the backlight modes will be familiar to users of RGB keyboards. It has the typical static color, color sweeps, and waterfall modes. There is quite a bit of variety, including a "raceway" mode (which lights up a trail of keys in a spiral pattern around the board) and two "explosion" modes (which launch colors in an outward circular pattern when a key is pressed). Most of the RGB modes are fun to explore, and there's enough variety here to match most people's preferences. There are also some preset modes for games like Call of Duty and League of Legends that only light up specific hotkeys.
The Thor 420 RGB also features n-key rollover, which allows the keyboard to register all keys pressed simultaneously without limit. In my testing, this is indeed the case; the Thor 420 RGB registered every single key when I mashed the entire keyboard in testing software. There is also no ghosting. The switches are rated for 50 million clicks, so the keyboard should last a while under heavy use.
As mentioned, the Thor 420 RGB has a fairly low actuation force of 45 grams and a shallow travel distance of 1.2 mm. For a mechanical keyboard, these numbers are on the low side of things. The result is that the Thor 420 RGB feels snappy but can be a bit "trigger-happy." The keys don't take much to fire off, which is a godsend when fast reflexes are needed and a nuisance when they aren't.
Typing and gaming on the Thor 420 RGB is a dream compared to my old Logitech K120 membrane keyboard. The K120 feels muddy and sluggish in comparison. Even other mechanical keyboards, like the Razer Blackwidow, don't feel quite as balanced; the Razer, for instance, feels cumbersome and heavy compared to the lighter switches and lower travel distance of the Thor 420 RGB.
That said, the Thor 420 RGB takes some getting used to, especially for typing. I found myself having to readjust my style to use a lighter touch. Otherwise, keys would press down too easily. I tend to rest my fingers on my keyboard during breaks in typing. That works fine on the other keyboards I've used that require more force to push a key down, but I found myself triggering keys by mistake.
After about a month of use, though, I found that I like the lower force needed for the Thor 420 RGB. I also found that my typing speed increased slightly from roughly 95 WPM to a solid 98 (100 on a good day). However, I tended to make a few more mistakes, mostly due to the smaller key size (see the section above for details).
Genesis provides a software app for each of its peripherals. These can be downloaded at Genesis' website (genesis-zone.com) and appear to be customized in certain ways for each device.
Unfortunately for the Thor 420 RGB, the dedicated app is barebones. (UPDATE: The app was not working properly at press time. After a reinstall of the app and drivers, the software works as advertised. Please see below for more details.)
The only features available during our testing period (in version 1.2) are creating, importing, and exporting profiles and changing the backlight modes. Considering the illumination animations can be changed on the keyboard itself, there is very little use for the backlight mode. However, this setting does allow users to customize the backlight for each key and save this lighting to a particular profile. One of the five profiles can be automatically set when a related program is launched. This can be used to light up specific keys with preset colors when specific games are launched, which may be a nice quality-of-life feature for some.
The software does little else. As mentioned, it is a courtesy that Genesis doesn't automatically install this app when the keyboard is plugged in (unlike some other manufacturers). If users want to fully customize the coloration of their keyboard and switch to specific patterns when an app or game is launched, the app is a great tool. For all others who are happy with the presets installed to the keyboard itself, the app is unnecessary. (UPDATE: see below. The app is now working as advertised and has many more features, including macro assignment and key rebinds.)
I would like to see the ability to set macros or rebind the keyboard via software in a future update. There are other keyboards around this price point that have this feature, and lots of gamers would surely appreciate the ability to tie macro setups to profiles. Hopefully, Genesis will enable this at a later date.
UPDATE: After speaking with a representative for Genesis, I was advised to reinstall the software and drivers for the keyboard. After this, the keyboard software works as advertised. The options that were previously grayed out are enabled.
This is excellent, as the software now directly competes with high-end keyboards from the likes of Razer and Logitech. Users can assign macros, can rebind keys, and can even set up hotkey combinations to launch a program. It's robust and straightforward to use. The ability to set bindings, macros, and lighting to specific profiles is a very nice touch that should be attractive to a lot of gamers.
Genesis hits a lot of high notes with the Thor 420 RGB low-profile mechanical keyboard. The peripheral is solidly built and looks gorgeous. Its RGB backlight is bright and reasonably colorful, and the per-key lighting is a nice bonus. Also, the fact that its backlight animations and presets can be controlled directly from the keyboard rather than through software is a major plus in my book.
However, I have some minor quibbles. For one, the key size is small. I understand that one of the main selling points of the Thor 420 RGB is its low profile and relatively compact design, but the small keys took a long time to adjust to. While my typing speed increased during my time with the keyboard, the number of mistakes I made (and still make) while typing also increased. I make fewer mistakes now than I did during the first two weeks of my review, but it is still a bit frustrating.
Lastly, the minimalist software feels incomplete. Genesis advertises the keyboard with a macro assignment feature, but the software doesn't provide one. If Genesis has some other version of the app hiding somewhere and I find it, I will update this review. As it stands in September 2020, the software is only good for setting up a customized backlight pattern. That's nice, but this keyboard should be able to do much more.
UPDATE: After speaking with a representative from Genesis and reinstalling keyboard drivers, the software seems to be working. Keys can be reassigned, macros can be created, and programs can be launched with hot keys. The app is robust and offers many of the same features found in competitors' software.
For the price (~€80/$93), there's a lot to like with the Genesis Thor 420 RGB. There are plenty of cheaper RGB mechanical keyboards out there, but those don't have the clean aesthetic and solid durability that the Thor 420 RGB has. This is a keyboard that easily hangs with the big players in the RGB mechanical keyboard world (and even outpaces a few in some areas).
If you are on the hunt for a low-profile mechanical keyboard with lots of preset RGB backlighting modes and don't want the fuss of complicated software, the Genesis Thor 420 RGB should be at the top of your list.
Disclaimer: The author of this review received the Thor 420 RGB from Genesis free of charge for the purpose of testing.