- Fast and firm switches.
- Metal frame provides extra stability and durability.
- Vibrant RGB lighting.
- All-metal construction makes it heavier than a lot of tenkeyless boards.
PC peripheral manufacturers are practically a dime a dozen these days. From bargain-focused brands to boutique labels, it can be tough to keep up with the sheer volume of new companies selling their wares in the PC hardware market.
This is particularly true in the premium keyboard space where you can find dozens of smaller manufacturers going up against the likes of Razer, HyperX and Corsair. Of these lesser-known manufacturers, you'll want to keep your eye on Hexgears, a relative newcomer specialising in high-end mechanical keyboards for gamers as well as anyone who appreciates working on a sturdy, clicky keyboard at the office.
For the past week, I've been taking the Hexgears Nova through its paces. Hexgears pitches the Nova as its entry-level mechanical keyboard, albeit one that packs all the features you'd expect from a premium product. Does it live up to these lofty claims? Let's take a look.
First and foremost: the Hexgears Nova is a tenkeyless board, meaning it omits the numpad in favour of a smaller form factor. Hexgears does offer a full-sized alternative in the form of the Hexgears Supernova, if that's more your style. However, this review is based solely on the tenkeyless Nova.
The Nova makes an excellent first impression with its stout, full-metal frame. I'm a fan of keyboards with a bit of heft to them, as it ensures they remain steady and stable even during frenetic gaming or typing sessions. The Nova lives up to this, never slipping or sliding no matter how intense my work or play became.
All-metal keyboards often opt for a hard, industrial aesthetic (see the HyperX Alloy FPS Pro), but Hexgears has gone for something a little more welcoming with the Nova. Edges and corners are all smooth curves, making the Nova comfortable to carry and to rest your hands on while you're using it. More importantly, the metal construction means the Nova is built to last. Short of pelting it directly into a concrete wall, I have little doubt the Nova is capable of surviving anything you throw at it.
Of course, a keyboard's build quality is only half of the design equation. Any high-end keyboard worth its salt has to feature RGB lighting, and the Nova doesn't disappoint here. Along with standard RGB backlighting beneath the keys, the Nova sports an LED strip running around the base of its frame. It's a neat addition, one that has the added bonus of illuminating the area around the keyboard to help you find lost foodstuffs when gaming late at night (I'm speaking for a friend, of course).
I also want to mention how striking the RGB lighting on the Nova is. Whether it's the LEDs themselves or the Nova's "shine-through" keycaps, the end result is a brighter and more vibrant display of colour than I've seen from any keyboard in recent memory.
I have to admit, when I first saw that Hexgears went with Kailh BOX switches for the Nova, I was a little wary. Most mechanical keyboard manufacturers opt for Cherry MX switches, and for good reason: Cherry has established itself as the brand for reliable and responsive switches since it launched the Cherry MX line back in the 1980s. Fortunately, my concerns disappeared as soon as I sat down and began typing on the Hexgears Nova.
Feedback on each keypress is firm and forceful. The Kailh BOX switches are satisfyingly clicky, holding their own against their Cherry MX counterparts. They're fast too: I had no trouble smashing out high-speed sentences with no unforced errors right from the get-go.
That speed carries over to gaming as well. Punchy feedback ensures you're aware of every keypress, and the solid, well-spaced keycaps prevent your fingers from inadvertently slipping from one key to the next.
The Hexgears Nova might not have a full retinue of 104 keys, but it's got plenty of features to make up for it. Its RGB lighting is the whole shebang: not only does it support a range of lighting modes like breathing and wave patterns, it lets you adjust the colour of each individual key to your liking, should you be so inclined.
Macro support is somewhat less comprehensive. You can record and store up to five sequences of key presses, assigning them to the Y, U, I, O and P keys. Unfortunately, you can't assign macros to any other keys, and there's no facility for rebinding keys through the Nova itself. These are relatively minor quibbles, but they're worth keeping in mind if you rely on macros to streamline your gaming or desktop experience.
The other caveat to the Nova's customisation is the fact it's all hardware-based. Rather than creating lighting patterns and recording macros via an app like HyperX's Ngenuity software or Razer's Synapse tool, changing settings on the Hexgears Nova involves holding down key combinations to activate various customisation modes. This isn't an insurmountable obstacle for recording macros, but if you want to dive into custom RGB lighting, prepare to spend a whole lot of time cycling through individual colours to find the one you want.
As with a lot of tenkeyless boards, the Nova eschews dedicated media buttons and instead assigns commands like adjusting the volume and pausing playback to shortcuts on the function keys. Fewer buttons helps keep the Nova nice and compact, but I do miss the ease of quickly jamming on a dedicated mute key to silence an obnoxiously loud banner ad or a poorly mixed video.
There are already plenty of quality brands to consider when shopping for a keyboard, and now there's another that deserves your attention. With the Nova, Hexgears has proven itself more than capable of building a sturdy, responsive and satisfying mechanical keyboard that goes switch-to-switch with brands several decades its senior.
If you're in the market for a compact mechanical keyboard that marries premium performance and a solid feature set with an affordable price tag, the Hexgears Nova should definitely be on your shortlist.
Pricing and availability
The Hexgears Nova is available right now from Amazon US and the Kono store for US $79.99.
Buy the Hexgears Nova Mechanical Keyboard from Amazon US site
The Hexgears Nova delivers top-notch performance in a compact, tenkeyless frame. Get yours now from Amazon US.View details
Hexgears Nova specs
- 373mm x 147mm x 40mm
- Switch type
- Kailh BOX
- Per-key RGB lighting
- Macro support
- Can record and store up to five macros.