Review: A4tech Bloody Lightstrike B820R mechanical gaming keyboard

20170113020100_46367 (1)The A4tech “Bloody” Lightstrike B820R gaming keyboard dares to innovate  but still suffers freshman product development pains that deny it entry into the “big leagues”—at least for now.

Based in Taiwan, A4Tech develops a broad range of PC peripherals, from wireless mice to Web cams to headsets and more. The Bloody name  represents their gaming peripherals arm (or hand, ‘cuz their logo is a bloody hand print).

Lightstrike B820R feature highlights and specifications

The key feature of the Lightstrike B820R is in its specialized optical-mechanical switches. According to A4Tech, these special infrared switches are faster and more responsive than standard mechanical switches, boasting an average of .2ms to respond vs. a 30ms response for typical Cherry MX switches.

Additional features include rugged aluminum construction, significant spill resistance, and sealed switches to protect against dust and particle intrusion. The Lightstrike B820R also boasts a relatively compact footprint for a full-sized keyboard, and it comes with additional textured, colored key caps to replace the WASD cluster and surrounding keys.

Rounding out the features are fairly typical ones for gaming keyboards, including RGB lighting and effects, support for multiple profiles, and anti-ghosting.

Lightstrike B820R features and specifications

  • Connector: USB
  • Optical-mechanical switches
  • 0.2ms response times
  • 100% Anti-ghosting
  • 8 additional convex silicon keys
  • Customizable RGB LED back lighting and effects
  • 4 levels of brightness
  • Enhanced space-bar for improved durability
  • 6 RGB lighting modes
  • Key Lifetime: Up 100 million keystrokes
  • 1000Hz/1ms polling rate

Lightstrike B820R performance evaluation

I applaud A4Tech’s attempts to innovate in a market where innovations are relatively few and far between. Most gaming keyboards, mice, and headsets have matured to a point where year-over-year product refreshes generally yield few if any real innovations or improvements.

The Lightstrike is a noisy, bouncy keyboard, which at least makes it feel extra responsive. It’s also fun to type on.

That said, the Lightstrike keyboard’s main innovation—it’s optical-mechanical switches and improved response times—are also one largely lost on most users. Gaming or otherwise, few if any of us will truly notice the difference in responsiveness between .2ms and 30ms, and the Lightstrike won’t likely make any difference in your gaming prowess.  Subjectively speaking, it certainly didn’t seem to positively (or negatively) impact my general Overwatch performance.

This isn’t to say it isn’t a fine keyboard. The Lightstrike B820R feels (and sounds) very similar to gaming keyboards with Cherry MX Blue mechanical switches—generally one of my favorites—with the addition of a little extra ‘boing’ (courtesy of extra-bouncy springs in the switches) to its noisy clicks. The Lightstrike is a noisy, bouncy keyboard, which at least makes it feel extra responsive. It’s also fun to type on.

 I also appreciate the tough aluminum construction and overall dust and spill resistance—definitely a boon for anyone with pets or anyone who likes to eat/drink at their desk. 20170113020100_46367 (1)

But all that said, the Lightstrike has a number of quirks that stop it from being truly competitive with better-known competitors.

First, the key layout is curiously (and unnecessarily) non-standard. The Print Screen, Scroll Lock, and Pause/Break keys are separated from the key cluster just above the arrow keys, and moved to the upper right corner of the keyboard. In addition, the typeface on the keys is odd and may throw you a little at times.

For example, the Print Screen key is simply labeled “PS”, the Scroll Lock key is labeled “SL”, and the Pause Break key is labeled “PB”.

 The 6 extra keys for replacing the WASD cluster and the Q and E keys are nice, textured, and unfortunately orange. I like the textured key caps. I don’t mind orange. But you’ll probably want to change the back lighting for those keys to contrast with the orange–which brings us to the Lightstrike’s most notable weak link: it’s software.

 Most fledgling gaming peripheral manufacturers tend to regard driver software as an afterthought, and the Bloody Lightstrike software was clearly designed by software engineers without the benefit of a UI/UX designer. The interface is clunky, non-standard, poorly designed, and not user-friendly. I was able to still muddle through and figure out how to do what I wanted, but Bloody has a long ways to go to catch up to the likes of Logitech, Razer, Roccat, SteelSeries, and other major peripheral makers.

Overall: 6.5/10 — Good (but needs some work)

The Lightstrike B820R mechanical gaming keyboard is ruggedly built and innovative — and even modestly priced around $99 or so — but A4Tech will need to invest heavily in their software if they want to stand among the big dogs in the market.

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