Let’s begin with what a standard keyboard size used to be. Assuming that the keyboards have a standard layout, the keyboard that supports all of Windows’s keys will have a 104 keys. Nowadays there’s something called a tenkeyless keyboard, also known as TKL or 80% keyboard, which doesn’t include the number pad. That cuts down from 104 keys to 87 keys actually. Finally, the most extreme footprint cutdown is by shaving off all the number pad, arrow keys, and navigation keys, and the Fx keys at the top, making it a 60% keyboard. That brings us to the POK3R, or Poker III – the latest iteration of Vortex Gear’s Poker series of 60% mechanical keyboards.
I can only give Vortex a very nice A+ for how they package the keyboard. The box itself says absolutely nothing else at the front, other than the nicely silver-printed POK3R logo at the front. At the size is a Vortex logo, some details on the model name, the Cherry MX switch colour, and also the casing colour. More on the last one later.
Opening the box up reveals another a mini USB cable, and yet another box – and beneath the second box is where the POK3R keyboard is found, wrapped in a thin layer of spongy packaging material. I do wish that Vortex included a plastic cover like Ducky did for the Ducky One, so I can at least cover my keys when I’m out of my workstation for a long time.
By the way, there’s nothing else in the box. Only the POK3R keyboard itself, and a matching white micro USB cable. There’s not even a manual inside it.
The POK3R keyboard is one of the most uniquely built keyboard I’ve ever seen. The keyboard itself has a very heavy and solid metal base that wraps around the PCB, and is lasly covered by the plate-mounted switches at the top. Simple design.
The only opening on the heavy metal base is for the micro USB port, which is biased way on the left side of the POK3R keyboard. The biasing of the position of the mini USB port is a subjective choice, and it really depends on what type of setup you have on your desk. However, the choice to use a mini USB might be due to the inherent durability issues on micro USB headers. At least Vortex included a 50cm mini USB cable for the POK3R.
Let’s talk about keycaps on the POK3R. I’ve seen complaints about its keycaps fading after some time of usage. The keycap is made out of a single piece of PBT plastic. There have been many complaints about this on Reddit and other places too, so beware – since the POK3R keycaps are printed at the front and its sides to show the function modifiers too.
At the back of the POK3R shows nothing other important things other than the model name and its serial number. There’s also the DIP switch there – more on that later.
Notice how there is no keyboard feet at the back of the POK3R keyboard? I didn’t notice it at first, until I started playing around with the POK3R and wanted to fiddle around with its feet elevation. I was skeptical at first, with fear that the typing experience would be horrifying.
After typing on it initially, I realized that Vortex had came out with a magical angle and molded it onto the POK3R’s metal base itself, making it the most comfortable keyboard I’ve ever used in a long time. I personally am someone who uses a wrist rest for both my keyboard and mouse, and I’m really happy to say that the POK3R feels great even without the wrist rest, albeit that the keys are a little far to reach because of the POK3R’s height.
Since we’re still on the topic of the POK3R’s metal base, the weight of the POK3R keyboard is heavy enough to not move around, and held in position by all a piece of rubber at each corner. I’m fairly impressed by how Vortex got away with using just 4 tiny pieces of rubberized material at each corner, and still manage to make the POK3R feel amazing and wouldn’t even nudge from its position.
I’ve done a lot of typing on the POK3R keyboard – even this entire review was typed on the POK3R itself. They even use Cherry MX stabilizers! When I first typed on this keyboard, my mind drifted and imagined the worst experience ever, as some of the most-used keys are gone. Surprisingly, those keys are mostly remapped on different positions on the POK3R keyboard – which brings us to the next part.
POK3R is the most dense keyboard ever – as it does not settle for any sort of compromise for the removal of the navigation and arrow keys. The side prints on the keycaps themselves are really important, as they tell that’s the FN combo gonna do. But first, a firmware update, since Vortex is always bringing in new things to the keyboard.
The biggest bonus that Vortex did with the POK3R is the inclusion of all multimedia key functions pre-programmed into the keyboard itself. That includes the entire slew in a very nice layout too. A+ for Vortex for including this very important set of keys!
The POK3R that I have with me here is the VTG-6100, which is a non-backlit version. As you might have noticed, there’s another modifier key beside the FN key, called the PN key. This key is only used for both backlit and RGB version of the POK3R keyboard, so I wonder why Vortex put this key here on the non-backlit version. This key is the least-used key on the non-backlit version of the POK3R.
The DIP switches found at the back of the POK3R keyboard does a multitude of things, including the manipulation of switch 1 and switch 2 to Colemak and Dvorak layouts. There are two modes which gives Qwerty layout instead of repurposing one of the combo for Azerty layout.
DIP switch 3 changes the Caps Lock key to either retain its original function, or to become a FN key instead. Swtich 4 changes the position of the FN and PN keys only, but does not have an option to change the PN key to become a Menu key or something more useful. That said, the PN key will most definitely be a solid blue colour in any keyboard heat maps.
Let’s not forget the POK3R’s epic feature to be able to reprogram itself – at least mostly. There are a total of 4 “layers” on the POK3R, where layer 1 is the default non-programmable layer, which leaves all other 3 layers to be reprogrammed to your heart’s content.
The selection of all the 4 layers are rather simple – hold FN and press the M, comma, period, and forward-slash key to select layers 1 to 4 respectively, then release the FN key. There are 2 hidden LEDs beneath the spacebar, which tells which mode is currently selected. If the LED is not lit up, it’s on the default layer 1. Blue means layer 2, red means layer 3, and purple means layer 4. The second blue LED on the spacebar tells if the keyboard is on programming mode or not.
The manual (which can be found here) has a pretty straight-forward step-by-step guide on how to reprogram the keys, which I think Vortex deserves an A+ in this. Also, the PN key is needed to tell the keyboard that the reprogramming is done, which means the PN key cannot be reprogrammed. What a bummer!
The POK3R keyboard is definitely the most comfortable keyboard I’ve ever used, and the amount of featured packed into this tiny little keyboard can only be described as “very dense”. I absolutely love the construction of this keyboard, but the choice of the keycap is a little disappointing, and let’s not forget about the orphaned PN key. The ability to reprogram the keys are absolutely fantastic, and I can’t help but to adore the 60% layout.
The ♠ Vortex POK3r ♠ is a total blackhole – suck in all the haters, and vaporize them. The price however, is at a premium. Check out the latest pricing here – they’re from the distributors themselves!!