Half the nerds I know are into customizing their own mechanical keyboards. As a person who has built his own PCs since childhood, I feel like I should be one of them, but I never wanted to spend the time or effort to get too far into bespoke keyboards. This, as it turns out, made the NZXT Function perfect for me.
Customizable mechanical keyboards are the kind of hobby that can ruin your ability to talk to other people after you discover the subreddit for it. Are your keys tactile or linear? How’s the actuation force? Have you lubed your switches properly? It’s a lot to take in, especially for beginners who are kind of interested in customizing the hardware but aren’t sure how to get started.
People like that (me) are exactly NZXT’s demographic. The company is best known for making PC cases and components, and more recently letting people customize PC builds then assembling the product in-house (which earned it one of our top picks for gaming PCs). Now, NZXT is applying that same streamlined process to boutique keyboards. It might just be enough to get me to care about which switches are inside my board.
Hardware for Everyone
So what exactly is a switch? It’s the mechanism underneath the keycaps on your keyboard. Every time you press a key, you’re pressing the switch. Not all keyboards have the same switches—that’s why people like customizing keyboards. Switches come in dozens of types, and each provides varying levels of tactile and audio sensations. Want that old-school clickety-clackety feel? No problem. Want a quieter yet still satisfying typing experience? Done!
It’s this level of hardware customization that’s the real star of the show on the NZXT Function. Like many mechanical keyboards, NZXT’s offers several switch options (five, to be precise). It ranges from smoother, more sensitive switches to sharp and clicky ones; you choose your preference while ordering.
Even after you get the keyboard, you can keep customizing. You get extra switches and an array of alternative keycaps to swap in (along with tools for removing both keycaps and switches). Among the many options are, for example, a set of WASD keys with a grippier texture and slight curve that feels more natural for gaming.
This felt a bit like getting an electronics starter kit. The box has everything a newcomer to keyboard customization would need to learn about removing and customizing keycaps, or how to replace switches, while still leaving room to expand in the future. On the other hand, if you just want a nice keyboard without much fuss, the NZXT Function works perfectly right out of the box.
NZXT is far from the first company in this space to offer an experience like this. The Drop Ctrl keyboard, for example, similarly includes hot-swappable switches and keycaps, plus all the tools to replace them. Most kits like this (including the Drop Ctrl) lack extra features like the volume wheel or mute button and are often more expensive.
One area where NZXT goes a bit further is with its NZXT CAM software. This lets you remap every key, which complements the removable keycaps nicely. Don’t like where the Delete key is? Move its cap and remap it in the software. It’s not that this isn’t possible on other keyboards, but NZXT’s approach makes this kind of tweaking feel accessible in a way that other keyboards don’t. That said, NZXT CAM isn’t very robust compared to competitors like Logitech’s G Hub or Razer Synapse. But for a first effort, it covers the basics well enough. You can set LED patterns, remap every key, and record basic macros.
One of the best reasons to customize your own mechanical keyboard is pure vanity: Regular black or white keycaps are boring. Sure, you can throw some RGB LEDs in there like every other mass-produced mechanical keyboard (including most of our favorites). But picking some colorful accent keys is the way to go.
The Function makes this easy by including a set of colors for your accent keys (like Esc, Enter, and arrow keys) that you can choose when ordering from the site. For my review unit, I requested cyan, but they also come in yellow, purple, blue, and red. The keyboard’s chassis comes in black, white, or gunmetal gray, and regular keys are black or gray. It’s not a huge selection compared to the wider keyboard hobbyist space, but it’s an excellent starting point.
If you’re really committed to the palette of your choice, the company sells accent keyboard cables in the same five colors as the accent keys. And yes, the NZXT Function includes RGB LEDs under every key. (You can turn off the backlighting.) Altogether, it’s a stylish package that still feels like you can make it your own.
Plenty of keyboards come with media keys to control volume, but I’ve always found that a volume roller is most convenient. Somehow, NZXT managed to improve on that idea beyond what I’d already come to expect. Most boards with a volume roller have it on the far-right corner, close to where your mouse hand would be (for right-handed users, anyway); the Function puts it on the left, right next to the Escape key.