At this point, it’s probably fair to say that the gaming peripherals market is extremely well established, with a few brands being the clear leaders. That’s why it’s so refreshing when a lesser-known manufacturer can really shatter the mold and exceed expectations. Patriot’s Viper brand might be one of these cases.
Patriot Memory has been around for over 30 years at this point, and as their full name would imply, they specialize in the production of memory, in both DRAM and flash varieties. They’ve recently branched out into gaming peripherals, some of which we’ve covered before, including the opaquely named V760 keyboard, V560 mouse and V360 headset. Seriously, Patriot, spice it up a little.
Branding nitpicking aside, the reality is that I asked Patriot if I could do this review. They provided a piles of accessories for the recent Zotac Cup Masters that was filmed here in the Newegg Studios, and the first time I saw the V770 I was intrigued. After the event I obtained a review sample that I was sure nobody’s feet had touched, and put the board through its paces.
The Patriot Viper V770 is available on Newegg for $99.99.
The form of the Viper
I’m usually the function-over form type, but the V770 caught my eye because of its impressive RGB lighting, or, more accurately, where some of that lighting is situated. The largest RGB zone on the board is its removable -let me repeat that: removable- handrest, which has a stripe running across it, and a big ol’ RGB Viper logo. RGB on a keyboard is common, as are removable handrests, but I’ve never seen those two features combined in one product.
The handrest clips to the board with magnets, and when it’s popped into place, a 4-pin RGB connector on the rest makes contact with a barely-noticeable port on the front of the keyboard. This connection governs a traditional RGB strip under a diffuser plate. There’s a coating over the plate, which is etched away for the design to show through.
Of course, the V770 has a lot more going for it than just a lighting trick. The rest of the keys, as well as zones on the sides are also capable of 16.8 million-color RGB, and come with a staggering number of preset lighting patterns and color schemes. These presets are managed by a row of button on the left corner of the board, above the ESC and the F1 through F5 keys. At first I thought this was the extent of aesthetic customization options for the board. I later learned that there’s a very robust driver/application suite (which we’ll cover later) that offers a higher degree of control than these preset buttons. There are probably those out there who don’t want to install more drivers and management programs, but in this case, you’re losing out on so much of what the V770 can do.
Moving past parts that light up, the Viper V770 is still a fine looking keyboard, and it is solidly built to boot. The top plate is constructed from aircraft grade aluminium, and the rest of the board feels like thick ABS plastic. The keycaps themselves are coated ABS with symbols etched on. This style of key manufacturing isn’t the most durable option, but with proper care, they’ll still look good for a long time.
The good news is, the keycaps are interchangeable with any key sets that will fit Cherry MX switches. This is because the V770 uses Kaihl Red switches, which are known as being more or less exact clones of Cherry. We couldn’t find any lag or ghosting issues, and the 109-KRO worked as advertised.
In addition to the RGB handrest, the other feature that instantly drew my to the V770 was its dedicated media control. While lots of keyboards have media buttons, they often feel cheap, or like an afterthought. Not so here, where the controls have a fairly unique, but very rational configuration. Instead of buttons, the media controllers consist of a space-saving three toggle switches and one roller. The rollers adjusts system volume up or down, and a satisfying down-click activates mute. Each toggle can be flicked up or down. The first has a pause/play toggle, and stop. The second governs fast-forward and rewind, and the third skips back or forward to the next track. It all feels extremely intuitive, and the function of each control is clearly printed on the board to avoid any confusion.
There are two passthroughs on the V770, one on each end. The escape key side has a single USB port, which we tested with a headset, and was still able to deliver quality sounds both in Destiny 2 and through Spotify. The Numpad side has a single 3.5mm jack, and through an included headset and microphone y-splitter, we were again able to hook in a headset. Sound quality was still very crisp, though I did notice a slight reduction in bass.
As another little bonus, the V770 has a phone dock. It doesn’t actually connect to a phone in any way, it’s just a piece of plastic that pulls out of the backside of the keyboard.
Software and Drivers
One of the challenges of creating a high-end programmable, customizable keyboard is developing a software interface to do that programming and customizing in. The good news is that Patriot did a great job creating such an application, especially for what appears to be an early effort. The software itself is verbosely known as PATRIOT VIPER KEYBOARD V770.exe so you’ll excuse me if I refer to it as “the program,” “the software,’ or “the interface” The bad news is that they did a fairly poor job of promoting it. None of the packaging mentions anything about any software, and a single line printed on the flashcard that serves as a manual directs users to patriotmemory.com for technical support issues. It’s a little confusing that there’s no reference to such an important piece of software for the keyboard. I only found out about it after Googling the keyboard, since I couldn’t figure out how to program the macro buttons. The link on Patriot’s site takes the user directly to a dropbox download, which is probably why Patriot decided not to include documentation in the packaging. My hope is that they eventually move toward a more industry-standard platform for distributing the software.
Gripes about distribution aside, the software itself might actually be one of the better proprietary peripheral management interfaces I’ve seen. Upon opening the program, the use is presented with a variety of lighting and response time options on the left (including options for the RGB handrest) and an overview of the keyboard on the right. There’s a dropdown menu to choose lighting effects, as well as sliders and color palettes.Clicking any of the keys will bring up the key assignment menu, where you can assign any key individual keystrokes, macros, or other operating system functions. Every key is mappable, so if you’re a DVORAK user, the V770 has you covered.
I made two macros for Destiny 2, one of which goes through the process of reloading all of my weapons, and the second of which summons my Sparrow bike. I’ve mapped them to two of the dedicated macro keys, highlighted in red:There are 5 custom lighting profiles which are as granular as the keymapping aspect. Every button can be assigned its own static color. Here I’m in the process of making the left Control key blue:I mentioned before that I assigned some macros to some of the extra keys, and luckily creating those macros is also super easy. Clicking the macro button on the main window unsurprisingly brings up a window for creating macros. The macro editor will record keystrokes, including delays. It won’t record mouse clicks, but right clicking in the keystroke order box brings up another menu that can insert delays and mouse clicks.The program does have a profile feature, though I found it a little lacking. You can export and import profiles, but the program only stores one profile at a time, and sometimes the application has to be restarted after an import for changes to actually take effect. Also many other similar programs can detect when a game is launched and swap profiles appropriately. Viper’s program currently lacks this capability.
The profiles themselves store key assignments and lighting customizations. They get the job done, they’re just implemented less elegantly than I’ve seen before.
Finally, there’s a settings menu, and I noticed that currently the program is currently version 2.1. Hopefully this is indicative that there will be future updates to polish up some of the rough edges.
Ready to Strike
We’ve established that the V770 has a broad range of features, but how does it actually feel to play on? I spent a few hours playing Destiny 2 to get a sense of the board.
As I mentioned before, the keyboard is built with Kaihl Red switches, which are a very faithful replication of Cherry MX Reds. My preference is for Blues or Browns, so I might not have used Reds quite as extensively as gamers who prefer them. I will say that trying the V770 next to another board with genuine Cherry Reds, the Khail Reds felt the same to my fingers. Travel and tension force seem identical, so if you already have a preference for Reds, your hands will feel right at home here.
I’m also happy to report that V770 is nice and responsive. Again, I never experienced any ghosting with the board. 109-key rollover seems excessive, but it does work. More importantly, if any of you are playing games that involve pressing one hundred and nine keys at the same time, please let me know so I can try it.
I’ve also been spoiled by having spare macro buttons. Pressing one button to mount my Sparrow or reload all my weapons is super convenient, and gives me a second to crack my knuckles, take a quick drink or just focus on my surroundings more. I’m sure more creative people than myself could find other uses for the extra keymapping real-estate, but I’m happy just to have some functions automated.
This Viper’s got bite
There are a couple of peculiarities with the M770: There’s a row of buttons for managing RGB presets even though there’s a far more powerful software package available. The program itself is versatile and offers a granular level of control, but some features need another level of polish.
This is an extremely feature rich keyboard that includes excellent smooth, quiet mechanical keys, high-quality media controls, plenty of RGB lighting, and a sturdy design. Better yet, all of these features come in at a price-point below comparable keyboards.
If you want all the features of an expensive, top end gaming keyboard for significantly less money, check out the Patriot Viper V770 for 119.99.