Mechanical keyboards are growing in popularity in the gaming market. As a result, we now have a number of products to choose from coming from dozens of manufacturers, making it difficult for newcomers to introduce a truly innovative product. Today we are having a look at the EpicGear Defiant, GeIL’s latest gaming keyboard, which is the first modular and expandable mechanical keyboard and comes with EpicGear’s own proprietary switches.

Introduction

Golden Emperor InternationaL, commonly known as GeIL, is one of the oldest and most well-known manufacturers of high performance computer memory products. The company was founded in 1993 and was almost completely focused on memory related products until 2009, where they had their first diversification attempt towards the power supply market. In 2011, GeIL established their own gaming peripherals brand, “EpicGear”, through which they offer a variety of gaming mice, keyboards, headsets and other peripherals.

With the recent high popularity of mechanical keyboards, nearly all gaming peripheral manufacturers are offering at least one such product. Every manufacturer is trying to innovate and differentiate, but this is becoming increasingly difficult as there have been a large number of new products released during the last couple of years. In order to offer something unique compared to the competition, EpicGear came up with a “fully modular keyboard” design, the Defiant. The Defiant can be expanded by attaching external accessories to it (palm/wrist rests, extra macro keys, etc.), but its mechanical switches can also be removed and replaced.

Packaging and bundle

EpicGear supplied us with a sample of the Defiant, as well as a pack of 24 MMS switches. The keyboard comes into a sizable cardboard box that offers adequate shipping protection. The artwork on the box is relatively simple, focused on a picture of the keyboard itself.

Alongside with the Defiant, EpicGear supplies a quick start guide, a keycap/switch removal tool and three large orange stickers with the company’s logo.

The extra switches pack includes eight switches of each of the three switch types that EpicGear is currently retailing, as well as one keycap/switch removal tool. EpicGear retails this pack and it is ideal as a sampling kit prior to purchasing the entire keyboard. If for some strange reason the user wants to mix the switch types on a single keyboard, it can also be used to replace some of the keyboard’s switches.

EpicGear is currently marketing Grey, Orange and Purple switches. We do not have the detailed specifications of EpicGear’s switches, but these essentially seem to be copies of the Cherry MX Red, Brown and Blue switches respectively, with the actuation distance reduced to 1.5 mm (the stock Cherry MX switches have an actuation distance of 2 mm) and their life span allegedly increased from 50 million keystrokes to 70 million keystrokes. We test all three sets of keys in this review and produce our own comparason force diagrams.

The EpicGear Defiant Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
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  • Samus - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    I personally used a few Microsoft Natural 4000's for years, a few because they only last about 9 months before the keys start to bind (especially return and space bar)

    I found the layout just aggressive enough to be comfortable but not so aggressive that I was unable to go back to using a rectangular ANSI keyboard layout, which is inevitable since I work on multiple computers daily (I'm in IT) or even my own notebook.

    Which is the real issue with the uber ergonomic designs. They are awesome once you are used to them, but it's like typing on hot ashes when you have to inevitably used a standard keyboard again at some point.
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, May 12, 2016 - link

    The Natural 4000 was one of the models I tried using. I didn't have it long enough to test the longevity before I gave it away, but I older model MS Naturals suffered from the same key binding problems. I had some beige Natural from the early 2000s that I used in place of a Model M for a year or so and it was misery to use before it started to wear out, but after the keys turned crappy, it was a hand destroying monster.

    Anyway IIRC, I used the 4000 for three-ish months and it was disappointing that it made my wrists and hands feel just as bad, but much of my computing time involves typing because I write extensively so I'm always looking for an alternative design that will spare me the pain. It's important for my work and for my hobby writing books that I can type for hours. For me, the transition back to a flat keyboard was always a huge relief. I can't describe how much better it felt to use a normal keyboard on a laptop or netbook. Yeah, I realize that's an experience unique to me, but I was really disappointed that mechanical keyboards and ergo keyboards always fall short of making things better than a membrane board. At the moment, the least painful keyboard I've used is the one built into my workplace Dell Latitude e6440. Typing on it is fantastic and I've long since unplugged my docking station keyboard.

    As for longevity, the only membrane keyboards I've managed to kill off are dead because I spilled tea on them or the MS keyboards that, after hearing about your experience with the 4000, might just have a long-running design problem. And there's an original Model M that I typed to death. My experiences with other cheap $10-20 keyboards and laptop/netbook keyboards is that they've all been pretty much bulletproof for as long as I've needed them.
    Reply
  • erple2 - Saturday, May 21, 2016 - link

    You can still buy the Model M today (sort of) - Unicomp bought the licensing rights to the buckling spring, and they can now be bought in USB varieties from pckeyboard (http://www.pckeyboard.com/page/category/UltraClass... Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    They've already tested some ergo options, read thru back reviews. Reply
  • Ogewo - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    Those reviews are few and far between. I'd like them to be numerous and close together. Reply
  • althaz - Thursday, May 12, 2016 - link

    Those keyboards are pretty rare though, they are over-represented here, really. Reply
  • ACeeTee - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    Just made an account to point out that this is not the first modular keyboard, Mad Catz has had the S.T.R.I.K.E 7 since 2012 and that is modular :/ Reply
  • alexvoda - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    I have not read the article yet, but I already spotted bulshit in the first paragraph.
    I quote: "which is the first modular and expandable mechanical keyboard"
    Starting from the end:
    - Yes, it is a keyboard
    - Yes, it uses mechanical switches
    - Expandable?? Umm, NO! Expandable means 1. to increase in extent, size, volume, scope, etc.; 2. to spread or stretch out; unfold; 3. to express in fuller form or greater detail; develop.
    The keyboard on the IBM Thinkpad 701c is the only expandable keyboard I know of. You can see it in action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLj3aCfqzOM
    - Modular?? Umm, NO! The Azio Levetron Mech4 is modular. The Microsoft Sidewinder x6 is modular. The Tesoro Tizona is modular. The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is very modular. This one? Not so much.
    - First? As in first to use user replacable switches. Nope. AFAIK the Team Wolf Void Ray+ and the Team Wolf Zuque+ were launched before this one. And certainly the "Smart 68" was launched before all three.
    Reply
  • hoarangE - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    Personally, I think you are reading far to into that sentence, as it could have easily been a typo and read as "GeIL’s latest gaming keyboard, which is THEIR first modular and expandable mechanical keyboard and comes with EpicGear’s own proprietary switches" which would make your whole statement moot.
    Plus if you read more of the article, you would have seen that this product IS, in fact, modular (though the modular units were not available for review at this time).

    Anyways, to the author, thanks for the article!
    Reply
  • fanofanand - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    The Razer Tarantula from circa 2006-2007 also had replaceable keys. Worst keyboard I ever bought. Reply

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