Max Keyboard Nighthawk X8
Having used many keyboards in my day, I am a huge fan of the mechanical design, and the Max Keyboard Nighthawk X8 is a refreshingly minimalist design in a sea of ostentatious products on the market. There’s something to be said about elegant simplicity, and the X8 has that on the bullseye. There’s nothing extraneous on this board, no unnecessary macro keys since any key can be assigned as a macro. There are audio and USB ports, which are handy, but they’re tucked just out of eyesight. The X8 exudes a quiet and confident functional design.
It’s also built rather well, though the housing isn’t quite as solid as a CM Storm QuickFire. However, it’s still rather heavy and can withstand quite a bit of abuse; I doubt most people will be trashing their $150 mechanical keyboard though. The Cherry Brown switches are an excellent choice, with a great crossover appeal to both touch typists and gamers, as they provide some feedback with moderate activation pressure.
Full key rollover is virtually unheard of in most mainstream keyboards, and while some may call it overkill, clumsy users will surely love it. The onboard memory is a huge bonus, so you can plug and play the X8 anywhere without losing your presets. The side-by-side placement of the key symbols for the numbers is a very simple but smart design move, allowing full illumination. We’ve seen many mechanical boards and every one of them, except for the X8, has the same problem with spotty lighting due to the adjacent symbols rather than stacked. The lighting here is very even and uniform. Even the font choice on the X8 is a slim and simple choice, unlike the ‘futuristic" font on the Cooler Master designs, the "fatty" one on a Deck board, or the tiny font on a Das keyboard. The X8 font is very legible and easy on the eyes, and purist will love the overall aesthetic and details here.
One interesting feature that’s not included on the sample we received is that users can customize the X8 with different coloured illumination for particular keys. That means you can have a blue backlit board, but green lighitng for the S, D, F, E, and C, for example, if you’re an FPS gamer. You can have a yellow-lit Esc key if you want. They sky’s the limit really, though it does cost extra. But you’ll certainly be all the rage at a LAN party as the only one around with a fully customized, backlit mechanical keyboard. Talk about bragging rights.
The only downsides we could find with the X8 is the lack of cable routing grooves on the underside of the board, and the macro software isn’t terribly intuitive. Max Keyboard does provide detailed instructions, so we can’t really complain, but some tweaking to the GUI would certainly help in our opinion.
Retailing for about $145, the Nighthawk X8 isn’t cheap, but great design and functionality rarely are. It’s not much more than most other mechanical keyboards on the market, and the small premium is well worth the investment in our opinion. If you are a fan of sleek design without unnecessary frills, then the Nighthawk X8 should be at the very top of your keyboard shopping list.
There are those who talk a big game, and those that just bring it. The NIghthawk X8 is like the unassuming kid on the bench who can wow the crowd by nailing 20′ jumpers all day long. You wouldn’t know it at first, and Max Keyboard may not be a household name, but after seeing the Nighthawk X8 in action, we think it may be the best kept secret out there. Hopefully that’s about to change, because this keyboard is a winner.
The Pure Point: The Max Keyboard Nighthawk X8 is an excellent example of smart design and function in a mechanical keyboard.