I got myself a new keyboard for my birthday, the Vortex Core. I wanted a mechanical keyboard that I could take everywhere with me. Being a 40% keyboard, I expected it to over deliver on the portable side, what I didn’t expect, is that I’d enjoy using this tiny keyboard so much, even for extended periods of time.
- Four layers, from which three of them are programmable without having to flash the devise
- Cherry MX switches. I got mine with silent red ones
- DSA Profile keycaps
- RGB LEDs (also programmable)
- ANSI layout (for the most part)
- Aluminum case with 4 rubber feet
- Micro USB connector
The quality of the printing is great and I really appreciate having the side prints to be color coded depending on the function key. This is necessary to program the other layouts but even if it wasn’t, I wish more keyboard manufacturers would do it.
Vortex Core compared to Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate
Vortex Core compared to Macbook Pro 13″
Vortex Core compared to Magic Trackpad
My Personal Customizations
I really like how this keyboard looks and feels from but there were two changes I made to make it perfect for me:
First, I Programmed layer 2 so I could access all numbers and symbols plus arrow keys via the
Fn key or a combination of
Second, I Switched the left
Space Bar, with a Vim keycap I bought from Vimcaps. The Vim green color, fits perfectly with the beige and gray from the other keys.
I configure my OS to switch
Caps Lock for another
Ctrl for easy access, but as you can notice from the layout, the physical
Caps Lock is missing. At first I was considering to reprogram another key to be
Ctrl because I find the position of
Ctrl very inaccessible. However, I noticed that I can easily press the
Ctrl key using my palms and I ended up liking this better. So much so, that I also adopted this while using my Ergodox EZ.
The Vortex wasn’t really my first option for a 40%. I had my eyes on a Planck EZ because I’m very pleased with the quality of the Ergodox EZ by the same company. I ended up picking the Vortex because (a) I liked the retro look better, (b) it was about 60 EUR cheaper and (c) I could get it from a local shop here in Belgium.
Final Thoughts and Recommendations
Overall, I’m very happy with this keyboard. I enjoy using it for my everyday writing, no matter if it’s code and prose. It’s a great addition to my keyboard fleet and I’ll keep using it on a daily basis. The only thing I’d change, is the cable that comes with it. Everything in this unit has been built with a very high standard and an average USB cable doesn’t do it justice but if you don’t mind this so much or you don’t mind spending extra on a nice cable then you won’t be disappointed. So, if you’re on the market for a well built, good looking, portable and programmable keyboard, you should consider the Vortex Core.
Having said that, I wouldn’t recommend the Vortex Core to someone who’s looking to buy their first mechanical keyboard. Instead, try to go with something a bit bigger first so you can get an idea about what you like and don’t about mechanical keyboards before buying something as extreme as a 40%. A good option could be a Das Keyboard 4. It isn’t programmable but the quality is great and I really like the dedicated media keys.
For those who already have experienced a mechanical keyboard and are considering the Vortex Core, remember that getting used to a new keyboard layout takes time. The great thing about this keyboard is that it’s programmable so you can make that process less annoying by changing the default layout to something you feel more comfortable with. I think it’s better to use something that feels natural so you find yourself coming back to your keyboard over and over again, than something which you might think is the ultimate layout. Little by little you can introduce minor modifications that you can adapt to easily. I’ve been re-programming my Ergodox EZ for the past 4 years and I’ll probably continue doing so in the years to come.