EpicGear DeFiant EG MMS Mechanical Keyboard Kit
EpicGear is a subsidiary of Golden Emperor InternationaL (GeIL) that was established in 2011 to manufacture peripherals aimed and tailored towards the needs of PC gamers. EpicGear isn't a very well-known name here in the United States, but they have produced some solid, well-reviewed products thus far, such as their dual-sensor MeduZa mouse and around-ear SonorouZ SE V2.0
headset. EpicGear products are aimed at PC enthusiasts who want a high quality product for a reasonable price.
Today, we will be reviewing the EpicGear DeFiant EG MMS keyboard kit, a keyboard kit with unique mechanical switches and a couple of tricks up its sleeve that you won't find in other gaming keyboards. The EpicGear DeFiant keyboard kit, which is a premium add-on that turns the $89.99 base unit
into a fully-featured keyboard with a high-level of potential customization capabilities. The EpicGear DeFiant keyboard kit includes a case, wrist rest, side adjustment panels, key switch light bars and rear USB 2.0 port add-on.
The mechanical keyboard market has become saturated with manufacturers looking for a piece of the very profitable market. Corsair, CoolerMaster, Logitech and Razer all seem to be popular choices for gamers when it comes to mechanical keyboards, as they offer excellent gamer-oriented features like macro support and RGB lighting. With so many choices in mechanical switches between various manufacturers, the most popular being the Cherry MX variety, it can be hard for gamers to figure out which switch they like, or narrow down their keyboard to one particular switch choice. The EpicGear Defiant EG MMS addresses this issue by allowing end users to remove and change the switch type between various switches available from EpicGear. Say you want linear switches for you WASD keys, but prefer tactile response on others? With the EpicGear Defiant, it's a possibility to do just that. This is the first keyboard I've had with this ability and from what I can see, one of the only gaming-oriented keyboards with this type of functionality. There are keyboards with removable switch types available from other manufacturers, but these aren't common and are oriented towards hobbyists and enthusiasts rather than PC gamers.
EpicGear DeFiant EG MMS Mechanical Keyboard Kit Specifications
- LED backlit with on-the-fly programmable per-key-lighting
- EG MMS - Modular-matrix Structure mechanical keyswitches
- 1000Hz extreme-polling, adjustable 125/250/500/1000Hz
- Fully programmable keys
- Extreme anti-ghosting
- N-key rollover: 10-key
- System audio volume control wheel with one-touch mute
- Dedicated GUI software with 4 customizable gaming profiles
- Gaming mode option, Windows key deactivation
- Gaming grade braided cables
- Approx. dimension: 455mm x167mm x26mm
- Approx. weight: 1000G
- 2 year manufacture warranty
1000HZ is the default polling rate of The Defiant, with adjustment between 125/250/500/1000HZ polling rates being possible. There is a toggle between 6 key and 10-Key rollover, which should be more than enough for any reasonable use scenario. The ability to disable the Windows key, essential for gamers, is also present. The DeFiant offers per-key adjustable lighting via a white LED that is built into the PCB. This solution works in conjunction with specialized light bars that can be inserted into the keys to adjust the lighting, which we will show later. EpicGear covers the DeFiant with a two year warranty, which is acceptable and comparable to other mechanical keyboards.
The $189.99 DeFiant Keyboard Kit ships in the very solid EpicGear Assassin gaming case
, which is made out of a coated EVA material that is very well-made and capable of withstanding abuse. There is no box, the case itself is the packaging that we received for this review. We're not sure if this will change, but we assume that this is how all kits will be shipped. The case is attractive and features a carry-handle, with the EpicGear logo embossed on the outside.
The Assassin features rubber zippers with the EpicGear logo, a subtle touch that we noticed.
Once you unzip the Assassin gaming case, you will find a manual in the top webbing pocket of the case, with the keyboard in a foam seal in the main compartment. Everything is packaged well and didn't suffer any damage during shipping. The initial impression of the EpicGear DeFiant is that it looks very clean and professional, with a few touches to let you know it's intent as a gaming keyboard.
Inside the EpicGear DeFiant manual are EpicGear stickers and a key remover. The manual details how to swap key switches and change the light bars on each key, a task that we found to be very simple to do. We found the manuals instructions to be clear and easy to follow.
When you remove the keyboard, you will find all of the included accessories underneath. They aren't packaged in anything other than the loose foam under the keyboard, but everything arrived well and without any damage.
The overall presentation of the DeFiant Keyboard Kit is basic, but good enough. Not including extra key switches in this $189 kit is a real downfall, though, as that is the main selling point of the EpicGear DeFiant. The wrist rest and rear USB 2.0 attachment are nice, but the side adjustment bars are gaudy and of limited value. The Assassin Gaming case is really solid and offers excellent protection for PC peripherals, or other personal belongings and it is one of the highlights of the kit.
EpicGear DeFiant EG MMS Mechanical Keyboard Kit - A Closer Look
The EpicGear DeFiant features an ABS plastic bottom frame, with an aluminum top plate. The aluminum top plate on the DeFiant looks great and doesn't have an issue picking up fingerprints, a common issue with aluminum on computer peripherals. Since the top plate is black, rather than the reflective white plate seen on some RGB keyboards, we'd expect less impressive LED output, but at the price point of the base unit, this is acceptable. The DeFiant frame is sturdy and doesn't flex substantially when putting pressure at both ends and twisting the unit. The keyboard weighs in at 1000 grams, which is about 2.2 pounds, making it pretty light and easy to carry around, should the need arise.
With the exception of the red cable port on the back, the status indicator lights and volume control rocker, the EpicGear DeFiant has a very subdued, professional look. That's all lost once you get to the ABS key caps, though, which offer a huge, Matrix-style font. EpicGear no doubt thought that this font would appeal to gamers, but I think a lot of users might be turned off by the large, digitized look of the font on these key caps. The caps have a somewhat slick feel to them and the font is printed on them, rather than using an ABS Doubleshot method, so they will wear over time. Thankfully, EpicGear has made the stems on the DeFiant EG MMS switches Cherry MX-compatible and the keyboard has a standard bottom row, so you can put whatever key caps you want on the DeFiant.
Instead of a Windows logo, the EpicGear logo is printed on the Windows key. This is a nice touch that helps with branding without being obtrusive or obnoxious.
The volume control knob on the upper right of the board offers ratcheted adjustment that offers fairly precise volume control and it can also be single-clicked to mute your volume. This volume control rocker is implemented well and has a quality, tactile feel to it that leads me to believe it will hold up over years of moderate use.
To the left of the volume rocker are the status LED's for the DeFiant, which toggle to let the user know when certain features, such as CAPS LOCK, are enabled. EpicGear went with a slightly overstated design with the plastic cover for these indicators, but they fit well with the overall design and gaming theme of the DeFiant. Unfortunately, the LED's are visible through the plastic, so they don't have a clean, diffused look and the LED is kind of overpowering.
The DeFiant USB cable is braided, with a black and red design. The cable is flexible and has a gold-plated USB connector on the end.
The underside of the DeFiant has rubber pads at each corner to held hold to a desk and there are height adjustment tabs on each side of the keyboard so that the rear height can be adjusted between two levels. The two indents on the bottom front of the keyboard allow the wrist wrest to be slid into the unit.
The side of the DeFiant has notches for the accessory bars to be slid into them. These bars aren't the best looking, but they do offer heigh adjustment and they fit the gamer motif of the unit. The rear USB 2.0 port add-on is quite nice and looks very in-place on the unit. Everything snaps into place well and holds to the keyboard.
The EpicGear wrist rest feels great and has a honeycomb pattern to help it hold to the desk. This wrist rest is a must with the keyboard, as it allows for use over long periods with reduced fatigue.
The EpicGear logo is in the middle of the wrist rest, but we didn't find the letters to interfere with our typing or be noticeable in terms of comfort.
The EpicGear DeFiant EG MMS (Modular-matrix structure) key switches are able to easily be removed from the unit and replaced with other switches by using the included extraction tool. These switches use a body type and mechanism very similar to Cherry MX switches and aren't similar to switches from Kailh, Gateron, KBTalking, or any other manufacturer I've researched. EpicGear says that these switches are unique and patented, so whichever manufacturer they've sourced them from is likely only making the switch for these EpicGear keyboards, for now. Our sample unit was shipped with the EG MMS Purple switch, which is very similar to a Cherry MX Blue. Each key offers actuation at 1.5mm with a 50 gram actuation force rating, which should be ideal for gamers who want fast response without needing too heavy a hand.
Each switch has a small slot where you can insert a colored plastic strip to alter the color output of the white LED. Since the LED is built into the PCB of the keyboard instead of into the switch itself, should an LED die, you can't replace the offending switch to remedy the issue, the repair would have to take place at the PCB level, which isn't going to be feasible for most users. This is an oversight of sorts, as the EG MMS switch could have had the LED built-in, though this may have limited them to a single color while EpicGear was aiming for customization with these switches.
The approach EpicGear has taken certainly works, but changing the color on every LED of your keyboard would be a long, arduous process. It would be nice to see EpicGear continue to develop these switches to include a built-in LED on future revisions that can be adjusted through software. We found the color reproduction offered by the light bars to be better than expected and overall, the lighting on the DeFiant is decent, though far from uniform, with the reflection off of the plate leading to light bleed issues and spots where the light was overly concentrated, or bounced off of surrounding keys.
When you remove the switch from the keyboard, you can see the simplicity of the mechanism for the switches, which simply snap into the top plate. The contacts on the bottom of the switch then make contact directly with the raised gold contacts on the PCB. We can see how this can cause potential issues, with the PCB possibly flexing over time and separating from the top plate, but the keyboard should certainly hold up under normal usage scenarios over several years of use. Just don't expect the longevity you would out of a Filco or a Ducky keyboard with metal plates, high quality PCB's and soldered switches.
Those who are worried about these switches being accurate or able to keep up with their hyper-typing capabilities shouldn't have any concerns, as I was able to pull an 89 WPM run in Typeracer
during my first run out with the DeFiant while using the included purple switches.
We did not receive additional switches for this review, which was a let down. The EG MMS Grey switch is similar to a Cherry MX Red, offering linear action. The EG MMS Purple, which we received on our unit, is similar to the Cherry MX Blue switch. Finally, there is the EG MMS Orange, which offers tactile feedback without an audible click, making it most similar to a Cherry MX Brown. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on how the EG Orange and Grey compare to their Cherry MX counterparts. The EG MMS Purple feels and sounds quite similar to a Cherry MX Blue switch.
Overall, the EpicGear DeFiant offers decent build quality and a solid amount of features. We wish we received other keys to try out, but we were able to try out the LED functionality and found it to be well-implemented. We opted to just change the color of our WASD keys for a simple FPS configuration, but creative users can go all-out with their color selection.
EpicGear DeFiant Mechanical EG MMS Keyboard Kit - Software Package
We downloaded the latest software from the DeFiant Download Pag
e on the EpicGear website. The software install takes just a few moments, but there is a driver installed for the keyboard, something to note.
When we first installed the DeFiant software, this message was received. We fixed the issue by updating the firmware to version 2.00, which was available on the download site. Updating the firmware was easy and once the process completed, the DeFiant software was able to be used without issue.
The main screen of the DeFiant software has a layout of the keyboard and adjustments for polling rate, LED ripple mode (which flows the LED's from the inside out and is very basic) and assigning media keys. The software is basic, but works well enough and is responsive.
Macro support is available, but mouse input isn't supported, so macro recording is limited to keyboard-only. This is a bit of a letdown when compared to other macro-recording software, which can combine keyboard and mouse input.
Overall, the DeFiant software is basic, but it is easy to use, gets the job done and allows an acceptable amount of customization such as polling rate and setting multimedia keys. It is important to update to the latest firmware, as the software will not work without it. Let's go ahead and wrap up with our overall thoughts on the EpicGear DeFiant keyboard kit.
EpicGear DeFiant Mechanical Keyboard Kit - Conclusion
EpicGear has designed a very unique and useful keyboard in the DeFiant and we think that there will be a lot of gamers interested in the features it offers. The build quality is great considering the price point and the EG MMS switches, the main selling point of the DeFiant, are totally acceptable Cherry MX clones. Your average user would find it nearly impossible to tell the difference between an EG MMS switch and its Cherry MX counterpart in real-world use without removing the key cap. Going with Cherry MX-compatible stems was a good thought, since users will be able to find key caps and customize their keyboards even further to their liking. The ability to swap out switches is a unique concept that most users will find completely needless, but I think that there is definitely a place for this feature.
People who love to tinker and mess with their components to find the optimal setup will absolutely love the DeFiant, as it offers somewhat of a craft experience, giving users the ability to replace every switch to their liking and adjust (diffuse) the color of each LED. EpicGear has done a great job of implementing these modular switches and removing and replacing them is simple.
The extras that are included with the EpicGear DeFiant Keyboard Kit are welcome, especially the wrist rest, which immediately made using the DeFiant more comfortable. The Assassin Gaming Case is excellent to carry gear in, as it offers a decent amount of protection for your components. Once you remove the foam keyboard-holder insert from the Assassin case, there is quite a bit of room in there. I am sure many users will find use for it beyond transporting their keyboards. The side height adjustment bars are a bit cumbersome, but they do work well and offer more exacting height adjustment. The rear USB 2.0 port add-on is useful, but a bit large for what it offers. EpicGear also has other units with sound pass-thru and USB Type-C connectors available, so there is definitely some customization capability beyond what lies in the case and we wish they had included one of their more feature-filled units with this kit. Not including extra switches, though, was a huge oversight and was the first thing we'd consider as essential to this kit.
The EpicGear DeFiant offers the basic functionality and solid build quality that lend it well to daily-driver use. The gaming software from EpicGear is basic, but it works well and didn't have any issues on our Windows 10 test system. If you want a keyboard that won't break the bank while offering the ability to change out mechanical switches for the one that best suits your needs, definitely check out the EpicGear DeFiant. Whether the extras included in the kit are worth the premium over the base keyboard, which can be had for just $89.99 shipped
, is going to up to customers. With the keyboard in its base form being available for such a low price, we're not sure that the $189.99 price point
of the kit is going to be attractive, though the case, wrist rest, extra light bars and switches are all high quality items that add to the usability of the keyboard, pricing the DeFiant towards the $200 price point with these optional accessories may make it a tough sell for the relatively unknown EpicGear. We recommend you think about if a case, USB connection and adjustments bars are things that you want. At the minimum we recommend grabbing the wrist rest and some extra key caps to try out, but if you want those extra accessories we mentioned, go ahead and pick up the kit.
Legit Bottom Line: The EpicGear DeFiant is a solid, well-built keyboard that features excellent Cherry MX-clones in the form of the EG MMS switches. The keyboard kit being priced at $189, while including high quality accessories, is a bit pricey for what is being offered, so we recommend end users check out the base model first to see if it will meet their needs, as it is a great keyboard at its $89 price point.