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Story first published on 2017.09.28 | Updated on 2018.06.18


Mechanical keyboards – yes, they’re popular among gamers, typists, techies and enthusiasts – but, there’s one big caveat: they’re expensive than your old-school membrane keyboard.

But, there’s REDRAGON, a brand known for their budget-friendly gaming peripherals. And now, we have here one of their cheapest RGB keyboard offering – the REDRAGON Vara RGB / K551, for only PhP2,130 / $44.99.

So without further ado, let’s check it out.


Design Impressions


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The REDRAGON VARA RGB comes only with a single key switch option which is Outemu Blue key switches. Of course, the product name says it all – the keys are filled with RGB sparkles (appropriate for 2017 RGB-conscious human beings).

Redragon Vara with Outemu Blues

So, those backlight effects that you can find on every high-end keyboards are present as well (see video below for the demo)

video via Novero Gaming Store

The keyboard also sports a gold-plated USB 2.0 port, no fancy braided cables and whatsoever

There's no cable management holes
There's no cable management holes
Gold-plated USB connector with cover
Gold-plated USB connector with cover

For the keycaps, REDRAGON didn’t specify it on their packaging but we’re looking on a Double Injection print keycaps (not sure if ABS or any other cheap-o material) with a black finish and has gamer-esque fonts printed on it.

Keycaps
Keycaps

They’re not cheap-looking, and measures only around 1.5mm in terms of thickness. My only concern with it is since it isn’t PBT keycap, it will be shiny after long period of use.

Since it is a budget keyboard, we shouldn’t expect premium finishes with this one. The Vara comes with an uncertain rough plastic finish and smooth plastic body although it might seem not. The keycaps seem sturdy though I might say that you should take care when removing it, since you might break either the stems or the keycap hole.

The font print, just like what I said earlier, is gamer-esque but professionals and typists might also find it appealing as well. It just depends on every single people’s taste, anyway.

And since the body is made of plastic, there is notable flex on the keyboard – twist or drop it harder and you might end up having a broken keyboard.

However, there’s a plus, it’s SPILL-PROOF, so if you accidentally drop liquids on the keyboard – don’t worry about it breaking easily. Just don’t make yourself stupid and don’t submerge it into water, it’s a different story.

The Redragon branding was placed in the right position, printed in red to reflect the brand’s color scheme though I doubt that the logo etched there will last long because of its cheap print method. If you want to get rid of it, I think you can remove it easily because of that.

There’s no cable management holes

On the bottom part, there’s no cable routing holes like what we’ve said before. The keyboard has rubber pads to prevent surface slipping, as well as on their risers so that even if used, surface slipping would be minimized.


The Box & Accessories


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Because it is a budget-oriented keyboard, costs should be kept low – so we don’t expect any fancy stuff with regards to packaging at all.

Vara, box opened

The box isn’t sturdy and looks like your ordinary box – when opened, it reveals the keyboard enclosed on a bubble wrap along with its quick start guide and a sort of warranty card, a keycap puller (ehem, GALAX, ehem), and a cover for its gold-plated USB port.

Skipping that inside out, on the front is a quick view of the keyboard (although the keyboard is only shown illuminating in red) as well as some of its highlighted features on the bottom left side and a big circle saying RGB on the left – separating this from the red-only LED variant of the Vara.

On the back is a quick view of the keyboard tilted on some sort of an angle. I’m sure that you can’t rely on the box when it comes to protecting your keyboard, so be careful with that.


Sound Test, Switch Details and Others


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The switches used on the keyboard are Outemu Blue Switches. These switches are known for being cheap MX Blue counterparts, so just like the MX Blue, it has the tactile sound and clicky feeling. Here’s a quick sound test:

video via Novero Gaming Store

It requires 60g of actuation force – means it requires higher force exerted to invoke a keypress than MX Blues (50g), and key travel of 4.0 ± 0.2 mm.


Features and Specifications


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FEATURES SPECIFICATIONS
Full Per-Key RGB Illumination Key Switches: Outemu Blue key switches (rated for 50M clicks)
Multiple variations and programmable lighting effects Key Layout: 104-key US ANSI layout
12 Multimedia Keys (through Function Keys) Key Rollover: N-Key Rollover (NKRO)
Double Injection print keycaps Port: USB 2.0
Spill-proof Dimensions: 435 x 123.5 x 37mm
Gold-plated USB Connector Keyboard weight: 2.4lbs / 1.09kgs
Game Mode (Disables WIN key) Compatibility: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10

User Experience and Final Impressions


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Of course, being a user of some premium keyboards, switching to Outemu from Cherry MX seems a big deal at all – though for me, Outemu Blues feels much heavier than MX Blues (it’s the fact), and I feel that for starters, this option is a good choice on entering the mechanical keyboard era before all the other switch types confuse you.

If you’re coming from a membrane keyboard, it’ll definitely bring your typing experience to a next level – although you should get ready for an eargasm and/or people annoyed with that super clicky sound. It’s great to type on, and in fact, I might consider it as my second driver beside my current GALAX HoF Black Edition MX Brown switch keyboard.

The RGB lighting is good – not to mention its great customizability for the price and it lights up very well even on dark environments but some color representations aren’t that accurate.


Conclusion and Recommendations


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To wrap this up, the REDRAGON Vara, among all budget mechanical keyboards within the price range – is definitely a good choice among starters and RGB+Budget conscious human beings. It’s feature-packed for the price, sophisticated, great to type on and simply, recommended.

Unless you don’t care about fancy software – for around PhP2,130 – you can already take it home.

PROS CONS
Ergonomic / Comfortable to type on Plastic Frame / Body
Spill-proof Redragon Logo Print might chip out easily/erased
Price No Included Wrist Rest
Included keycap puller/remover No software included

Awards


Being a feature-packed budget-friendly mechanical keyboard and based on our findings – we give it SnowTechStuff’s Recommended Seal.

SnowTechStuff Rating: #RECOMMENDED

More product photos here:


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Special thanks to our Team Vigil’s Jerome Tumbagahon for providing us this keyboard for review!