Whirlwind FX Element review: Just when you thought RGB lighting couldn't get any better

Interactive, smart keyboard lighting creates an immersive gaming atmosphere.

Whirlwind FX Element
(Image: © Whirlwind FX)

Keyboards haven't changed much through the years. Sure, there have been the advancement of the mechanical switch, the implementation of display tech, and everyone's favorite feature: RGB lighting. At the end of the day, a keyboard is still just a keyboard. Whirlwind FX wants to change that with the Element.

This mechanical keyboard has a party trick, allowing you to synchronize the RGB lighting with video games. Not only that, but the switches used are high-quality and the build is promised to be well worth the asking price, so how does it stack up against the big boys from Razer, SteelSeries and other top manufacturers?

Whirlwind FX Element is one awesome lightshow

Whirlwind FX Element

Source: Whirlwind FX (Image credit: Source: Whirlwind FX)

Whirlwind FX makes some unique PC products. Firstly, we have the Lightstrip, which is pretty self explanatory. It's an LED strip that can be installed inside your PC and connected via software. Next up is Vortex, which essentially blows cool and warm air to create atmosphere, depending on what's being played. Pretty radical so far and the company decided to make a keyboard.

The Element isn't just any mechanical keyboard, however. This should be expected with the product catalog already established. It's one where the RGB lighting is center stage. While this feature of keyboards isn't everyone's favorite cup of tea, the Element keyboard promises to take it to another level in all the right ways.

Whirlwind FX Element makes keyboard RGB lighting actually useful.

Unboxing the Element and it's immediate just how well built the keyboard is. There's very little flex, thanks largely to the same aircraft-grade aluminum frame we're seeing in more premium keyboards. The entire keyboard is black, aside from the carbon fibre effect and giant Whirlwind FX branding on the underbelly, which don't look distasteful.

On the front, it's fairly compact. Whirlwind FX printed a logo in the top-right, which I would have preferred to have been used for the LED indicators — instead, they're located just above the arrow keys. You've got a full QWERTY configuration with number keypad. There aren't any additional macro or extra function keys, creating a standard layout.

I really like the font and size used for the keycaps. Each character is clear and everything is evenly lit. It's clear Whirlwind FX went with some more advanced lighting than what's present on most gaming keyboards out there.

For switches, Whirlwind FX chose to go with Kailh and added options for red and blue, depending on preference. For review, we received a sample with the red switches. These aren't as noisy as blue and don't provide as much of a tactile feedback. The actuation point is fairly high at just 1.7mm, making the Element a solid keyboard for typing and some downtime in your favorite PC title.

While the keyboard is great to use out-the-box, using the official Whirlwind FX Engine software is where the magic is able to happen. It's a little confusing to see what software you need to download since it's called Vortex, but the single software package available on the official website will work with the Element, as well as other Whirlwind FX products.

With the software installed, it'll start analyzing your screen from the get go. It's pretty impressive. Even if a game isn't fully supported with additional functions — like health being displayed or damage taken indicators — you'll still be able to see each frame drawn out in RGB lighting as you play.

Whirlwind FX Engine is seriously good, but incomplete software.

Game effects can be downloaded from within the software package. These are created by Whirlwind FX and the community, using nothing but HTML and JavaScript. Even with the software doing its thing, the keyboard still polls at more than 1200Hz.

The software is pretty straightforward to configure too. You can set effects, configure them, see data on polling rates, and more. It's not the most comprehensive software package around, but it does the job well and looks the part.

What you might dislike about the Whirlwind FX Element

Whirlwind FX Element

Source: Whirlwind FX (Image credit: Source: Whirlwind FX)

There's not a whole lot to dislike about the Element. Whirlwind got most of it just right. The braided cable, cut keycaps, RGB lighting, software support, build quality, and switches are all fantastic. What bugs me is the cable itself, which cannot be removed. It would have been nice to see a detachable USB-C cable.

An issue some gamers may encounter is the lack of macro and key remapping support with the Whirlwind FX software. Strangely, with all the advanced features offered with this mechanical keyboard, there's no option to configure macros or map keys within the software itself. It's a shame since the overall package is really well designed and easy to use.

Should you buy the Whirlwind FX Element?

The Whirlwind FX Element has some of the brightest and most alluring RGB lighting I've seen on a keyboard to-date, which is something I thought I'd never read myself write. But it's truly something else when you have it synchronized with whatever you happen to be playing at the time.

If you don't care for RGB lighting at all, this probably isn't the best use of your money. But even if you buy the Element and turn off all the lighting effects, it's still a solid mechanical keyboard. The build quality is great, reflected in the price, so too are the Kailh switches. It's just a shame about the non-detachable cable and lack of macro and key reprogramming support.

Whether you happen to be typing up a document and engaging with the enemy in-game, the Element is fit for the task and the choice between red and brown switches opens up the door to mostly anyone. You may not have heard of Whirlwind FX prior to reading this review, but you should totally shortlist the brand if the Element isn't quite up your alley.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.