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Acer Predator Aethon 500 review: Seriously, who designed this keyboard?

The longer you stare at Acer’s Predator Aethon 500, the more strange it sort of feels. It’s no longer that it’s an unsightly keyboard consistent with se, however chances are you’ll name it “difficult.” The place maximum corporations would possibly decide on one or two flashy design parts to face out, the Aethon 500 is all flash, a large number of design parts that incessantly contradict every different.

Acer’s certainly creating a remark because it enters the mechanical keyboard marketplace, however I’m no longer relatively positive what remark.

Be aware: This evaluate is a part of our perfect gaming keyboards roundup. Move there for information about competing merchandise and the way we examined them.

Questionable calls

The Aethon 500 is a fight station. Let’s get started there, with its heft. This can be a monster of a keyboard, so heavy I in reality passed the field off to my colleague Adam Patrick Murray to peer his glance of wonder. You may assume three.nine kilos doesn’t sound like a lot, but it surely’s virtually a complete pound heavier than different flagship keyboards like Razer’s BlackWidow. It’s massive, sure, with thick bezels and a row of macro keys—however extra to the purpose, it’s dense. There’s a large number of plastic right here, but in addition a thick steel backplate and facets. If you want a keyboard to probably bludgeon zombies with, the Aethon 500’s set to be your perfect good friend.

Acer Predator Aethon 500 IDG / Hayden Dingman

It’s a captivating distinction to the light-weight Futura typeface emblazoned on (maximum) keycaps. And if the ones two parts, sans-serif typeface and a thick slab of keyboard, had been enough to explain the Aethon 500 then I would possibly say Acer had a winner of a design.

There are such a lot of peculiar alternatives even though. For one, you’ll realize I stated Futura’s used for maximum of the keyboard. Bizarre, proper? Don’t inquire from me why, however Acer’s selected to make use of an absolutely other, extra competitive typeface at the 5 macro keys. It’s no longer a horrible juxtaposition, but it surely’s no longer endearing both.

The branding’s additionally a little overdone for my tastes. The keyboard itself isn’t too dangerous, however having the phrase “Predator” written around the backside edge isn’t a call I’d make. The (skinny plastic) wrist leisure is the true perpetrator even though, with the Acer Predator emblem engraved in silver at the proper edge. Each and every time I have a look at it, all I will assume is “Anyone stamped Optimus High onto this keyboard.”

Acer Predator Aethon 500 IDG / Hayden Dingman

Aesthetics are subjective in fact, however relating to the Aethon 500 there doesn’t appear to be a unified aesthetic. The emblem and the macro keys scream “gaming keyboard” whilst the remainder of it says “office-ready workstation.” Combining the 2 isn’t doing the Aethon 500 many favors.

One of the vital first parts you’ll realize is the amount wheel. Why? As it stands out of the facet of the keyboard. Like such a lot of the Aethon 500, I’m torn in this selection. It’s helpful—if the wheel didn’t stick out the facet, you’d be left with person who’s a couple of half-inch hard and long to seek out. Like Razer’s contemporary round media keys, the Aethon 500 makes it simple to run a hand up the facet of the keyboard, in finding the knob, and twist.

Acer Predator Aethon 500 IDG / Hayden Dingman

On the other hand, it’s ugly. It reminds me of somebody hand-writing a sign and making the first few letters enormous, then thinking “Oh crap, I’m running out of space” and cramming the second half in. Unique? Sure, but not in a way I’d love to see others copy. The wheel’s also flimsier than it looks, flexing up and down with even a gentle press.

And these are just the Aethon 500’s most obvious quirks. There are more. For instance, Acer uses the arrow keys for backlight brightness, plus…a second set of volume controls. Why? You’ll find the same sort of redundancy is also present in Caps Lock/Scroll Lock/Num Lock, where Acer has included a standard row of indicator lights across the top-right edge and made it so the lock keys only light up if active. Again, why?

The WASD keycaps are bright blue, and there are no alternate caps packed in the box. You’re stuck with it, which is an odd and limiting choice. The Windows key is also swapped with the Function key, which might not affect you but has definitely annoyed me. I usually open programs by hitting the Windows key and typing the first few letters, and muscle memory means I keep hitting the Function key here instead.

Acer Predator Aethon 500 IDG / Hayden Dingman

Perhaps most baffling of all: The “5” key has two secondary function labels, one for the standard “%” sign and the other for the Euro symbol (“€”). That’s the only EurKEY symbol to show up on the Aethon 500 though, and the accompanying “Alt Gr” key you’d use to access it doesn’t (to my knowledge) even work by default in the USA. It just defaults to a second Alt key.

Point being, Acer made a lot of strange choices with the Aethon 500’s design. None of them are really make-or-break, and I haven’t hated having it on my desk these past few weeks. That said, there are better keyboards out there—especially for $180. That might be standard list price for an RGB keyboard, and indeed the Aethon 500’s backlighting is decent enough to compete with Corsair, Razer, Logitech, et cetera. But the rest of the design? I’m not so sure.

Blue for blues

That $180 price is doubly hard to swallow when you factor in Acer’s switch choice.

Did you know once upon a time Acer manufactured its own mechanical switches? Well, mechanical-adjacent maybe—they were modified ALPS switches, with a membrane core.

Anyway, those days are long in the past. Rather than revive its old switch, Acer’s instead opted for a fairly standard Kailh Blue on the Aethon 500. There’s nothing wrong with a Kailh Blue in theory. It’s one of the better Cherry MX knock-offs, with a slightly lower actuation force—so slight it’s doubtful you’ll notice, really.

Acer Predator Aethon 500 IDG / Hayden Dingman

Kailh switches also have a reputation for poor quality control though, deserved or not. Regardless of whether you buy into that argument, it means Kailh switches generally don’t command the same price as actual Cherry switches—except here, on the Aethon 500.

Corsair’s keyboards list around $180 and use actual Cherry MX switches. Razer’s and Logitech’s don’t, but each has developed a proprietary switch to justify the price—in other words, “You either get it from us or you don’t buy our keyboards.”

Kailhs are a common third-party switch though, and thus we can make direct comparisons to other keyboards on the market. You can find other Kailh-equipped RGB keyboards for as low as $60 on Amazon.

Acer Predator Aethon 500 IDG / Hayden Dingman

Now, Acer’s put a lot of work into the Aethon 500 and I’ve no doubt the general build quality is better than most of those $60 keyboards. That said, the Aethon 500 probably deserves a price in between the two extremes—say, $120. Anything higher than that feels a bit steep.

Light it up

Before we wrap up, let’s briefly touch on the awkwardly named “Predator Gaming Device Integration” software. It’s okay.

These sorts of software utilities are always hit-or-miss, but Acer’s is at least fairly intuitive when it comes to changing out lighting effects, the one feature most people will touch. Macro customization is more awkward, but can be deciphered by someone who cares enough.

Acer Predator Aethon 500 Software Utility IDG / Hayden Dingman

My only real complaint is that it’s in desperate need of a graphic design pass. Predator Gaming Device Integration (seriously, what a name) looks like it’s rocking a WinAmp skin from circa 2003.

Bottom line

The Acer Predator Aethon 500 isn’t a bad keyboard, and if you’re buying an Acer Predator PC there’s no reason to throw it out. We’ve come a long way from the old rubber-dome pack-ins that came with a lot of prebuilt machines.

But Acer’s now selling the Aethon 500 to the public and that’s a more questionable pursuit, especially at full price. It’s one of the few keyboards to include macro keys these days, which might be enough to convince certain gamers, but substandard switches, an eye-watering price, and a cadre of awkward design choices make the Aethon 500 an also-ran in my eyes.

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