The MSI GK-601 is aimed squarely at gamers wanting a mechanical keyboard. At the foundation of this design are Cherry MX Red switches, regarded by many as the best Cherry switch for gaming. They require little force to press and therefore allow game actions to be executed quicker. Then there are other gamer premium features MSI have tacked on. While the GK-601 doesn’t have dedicated macro keys or software that offers as much macro customizability as other keyboards, nearly any key can be reconfigured to execute a custom macro. The only keyboard we’ve seen that can reassign regular keys with custom commands was the ROCCAT Isku FX and that was possible with the use of driver “hack” with a ROCCAT Kone mouse. On top of that, the custom profiles are saved to onboard memory which is useful for traveling gamers. This keyboard well suited to the shooters and real-time strategies that are really popular right now and I can definitely see the GK-601 in the hands of MSI sponsored professional gamers. MMO gamers needing dedicated macro keys will have to look elsewhere however.
The software needs lots of work. Not only does it look unrefined, it’s unintuitive to get the hang at first sight. Fortunately, the software’s help documentation is reasonably easy to understand. Nearly any key can be programmed with a custom macro and that’s great if one is greatly interested in reassigning a key to type out a long script – “[To TEAM]: Enemy 6 o’clock. You owe me ice cream.” However, I feel there should be at least one more macro programming option: the ability to rebind a key to become another. What if I wanted the Tab key to aim down the iron sights, but the game won’t let me natively bind to the Tab key? The best the GK-601 software do is repeat that function over and over again which isn’t too useful when the sights are flying furiously between the hip and scope. What if I wanted to reassign a key with a standalone media key function? I’d like to see that too because I don’t like having to press Fn and F1 together just to mute my sound.
So how does the $120 (Newegg) GK-601 compare to other premium $100+ mechanical keyboards? From a general standpoint, the GK-601 is lacking some features found on other keyboards such as dedicated macro keys, dedicated media keys, and a wristrest. The Logitech G710+ has all of that and most others like the Razer Blackwidow Ultimate have either one or two of those. While the MSI GK-601 doesn’t have dedicated macro keys, it handles programmable macro functions differently from the rest in a way that may or may not be useful to some gamers. MSI’s keyboard has everything else those keyboards offer: individually backlit keys, USB passthrough, and N-key rollover for antighosting. The GK-601 even has audio passthough for upfront access to headset plugs and comes with 1-year warranty.
Compared to other similarly priced premium Cherry MX Red keyboards, the GK-601 actually stands its ground extremely well. The GIGABYTE Aivia Osmium and CM Storm Trigger share most or all of the same features with the GK-601. When you look at the whole picture, the GK-601 is not worse than its closest competition, but it’s not better either. It comes down to whether the GK-601’s exclusive features fit your needs and if you like the way the yellow and black looks.
Legit Bottom Line: MSI has done a fantastic job designing their first mechanical keyboard. However, the GK-601’s software could be better and given the MSI big reputation, that’s both unexpected and disappointing. On the flipside, the ability to configure nearly any key with a macro command makes the GK-601 a compelling option amongst other high-end backlit mechanical keyboards.