Mechanical keyboards are a joy to type on, but unfortunately, they’re not as widely used as more affordable “regular” rubber membrane keyboards. The thing is, mechanical keyboards usually cost a whole lot more money, and not many consumers are willing to pay that much for a keyboard.
Enter the Redragon Vara. Retailing at RM250, it isn’t exactly in the same price range as conventional keyboards. But it’s definitely one of the more affordable mechanical keyboards, which makes it ideal for those who are looking to try out a mechanical keyboard for the first time.
What Is It?
In essence, the Redragon Vara is a mechanical keyboard for those who are on a tight budget. Considering the low cost of this keyboard, it naturally isn’t equipped with the popular Cherry MX or Kailh switches. Instead, the Vara uses the lesser-known “Outemu” Blue switches, which – as its name suggests – mimic Cherry MX Blue switches.
Design-wise, there’s no fancy RGB lighting or metal construction, although the Vara features red LED lighting – and it can get really bright. The Vara also feels surprisingly durable; this keyboard can definitely take some rough treatment while travelling or something. Other than that, it looks rather appealing as well, with the red accents and “gaming” typeface making it look outstanding.
Is It Any Good?
For a RM250 mechanical keyboard? It’s actually really, really good. This is a pleasant surprise for most of us in the team who tried it out. Not only is it a sturdy keyboard, the switches also feel very similar to the Cherry MX Blue. They are very tactile, and provide an audible click with every keypress. These characteristics are what make Cherry MX Blue switches so popular among keyboard enthusiasts, and these Outemu switches give a similar typing experience.
For the most part, these Outemu switches mimic Cherry MX Blue switches well enough. At least, if I don’t compare it to other mechanical keyboards, which brings up a few notable…issues.
The Bad Stuff, Tell Me.
While the Redragon Vara is a very good mechanical keyboard for its asking price, there are a few compromises here and there. For one, while MX Blue switches can be quite audible when typing, the Vara’s Outemu switches take it to another level – it can get very loud especially when you’re “in the zone.” It got to the point where I got a little self-conscious of how loud I’m typing in the office. I’m fairly certain some colleagues shifted dirty glances in my direction during those times.
In comparison, other mechanical keyboards such as the Razer BlackWidow Chroma (Razer Green switches) and Filco Majestouch Ninja (Cherry MX Blue switches) – both of which I have personally used among other keyboards – are much more muted, although these products are also priced significantly higher than the Vara.
The Outemu switches are also not quite as pleasant to use. They feel somewhat… “unrefined” compared to more popular switches. I found the typing experience not as smooth or as “composed,” for lack of a better word, compared to higher-priced mechs. Then again, these come into the territory of what makes the Redragon Vara affordable, so it’s a give and take situation.
Should I Buy It?
If you’ve always wanted to try out a mechanical keyboard but don’t feel comfortable shelling out a chunk of your monthly salary, the Redragon Vara is definitely a good starting point. RM250 is pretty cheap for a full-sized mechanical keyboard, and more importantly, it is also a very good one for its asking price. There are of course some compromises, such as the noise level, but it may not be a big deal for some.
It’s always encouraging to see more affordable options in the mechanical keyboard scene. A high entry price has always been an issue for mechanical keyboards, but keyboards such as the Vara makes it less of a luxury to type on one. Where it takes you from there is another story altogether.
Photography by Terry Bass.