The Creative Labs Sound Blaster family of products is traditionally known for sound cards and gamer-related audio hardware. This year, however, Creative Labs is sidestepping tradition and expanding their reach to other gaming peripherals. Today, we’re taking a look at the their first entry into gaming keyboards and mice. The company’s decision to tap into such an oversaturated market is a strange one, but considering their history of excellence, there’s plenty of reasons to get excited.
The Sound BlasterX Weapons Crate, a limited edition bundle, ships with two key items and an accessory: the Vanguard K08 keyboard, the Siege M04 mouse and a high performance gaming mouse pad. You’re also getting a fancy carrying case that’s practical for taking your gaming gear on the road. The bundle retails for $299.99, but the main two items are also sold separately: $139.99 for the keyboard and $64.99 for the mouse. If you own any of the recent Sound BlasterX devices, the Vanguard K08 and the Siege M04 will make an excellent addition to your gaming setup.
Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08
Creative Labs has a long history of designing hardware that not only impresses audibly, but visually, and the Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08 reaffirms the company's eye for detail. The Vanguard K08 is a stylish-looking keyboard that oozes with elegance. Its cut/angled corners give the body a modern look, and the matte material on the keys provides a unique, shine-free aesthetic. The keyboard comes packaged with a detachable wrist rest, and while I’m typically not a fan of having a giant piece of plastic dangling while I type, Vanguard’s wrist rest isn’t intrusive and it’s far more visually appealing that what’s normally expected from these types of accessories.
• Product Color: Black
• Dimension (HxWxD): 215mm x 465mm x 37.6mm
• Dimension Without Wrist Rest (HxWxD): 149mm x 465mm x 37.6mm
• Lifespan: 70 million actuations
• Actuation force: 45g
• Actuation distance: 1.5mm
• Total travel distance: 3.5mm
For the last few months, I’ve been using the HyperX Alloy FPS Mechanical Gaming Keyboard for both gaming and office work. The HyperX keyboard has a distinct clickiness when typing, and switching to the softer Vanguard K08 took some getting used to. Both are mechanical keyboards, but the Vanguard’s softer clicks boast a more temperate typing/gaming experience.
"Since I spend just as much time typing, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy the softer switches. I found myself hitting the keys with less force, which resulted in significantly less strain on my wrists."
Despite the adjustment period, I ended up falling in love with Creative Labs’ uniquely engineered OMRON switches, and I had a hard time switching back to the HyperX model. Creative Labs claims the OMRON switches provide 25% faster response and 12.5% faster actions per minute, and after testing the Vanguard side-by-side with other keyboard models, I can confirm that the K08 is one hell of a snappy beast. The keys are more responsive without being oversensitive. To most people this may seem like a small or insignificant improvement, but when you’re playing something like an MMO, the added responsiveness can mean the difference between life and death.
The Aurora Reactive lighting system is Creative Labs’ new signature feature that’s included across most of their 2017 Sound BlasterX lineup. Personally, this is the first lighting system that I’m genuinely excited about due to its versatility. I’m somewhat picky when it comes to my gaming/entertainment setup, so it’s nice to be able to choose a very specific color arrangement without being limited by software (cough, cough...Cougar Gaming).
All adjustments/settings are accessed via Creative Labs’ free Sound Blaster Connect software. Here you’re presented with a vast array of customization options, including settings for repeat delay, repeat rate, polling rate, macros assignments and of course countless tweaks for the lighting feature. I left most performance settings on default as they provided an excellent balance for gaming and typing, but it’s nice to know that I have the freedom to change anything I want should my preferences change in the future.
"My personal favorite feature, however, would have to be the stupendously useful volume dial. What may seem like an unimposing addition turns out to be this keyboard’s most unexpected perk."
The Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08 delivers phenomenal gaming performance. I’ve spent the last two weeks jumping between numerous game genres, and regardless of the title, I’ve felt a notable increase in reaction time and fluidity. Having the macros keys located on the far left is an excellent call as I normally dislike reaching upward for special macro commands.
Since I spend just as much time typing, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy the softer switches. I found myself hitting the keys with less force, which resulted in significantly less strain on my wrists. In general, typing feels more effortless. Vanguard’s engineers have done a remarkable job maintaining the benefits of mechanical switches while imbuing a sense of lightness seen in traditional membrane keyboards.
My personal favorite feature, however, would have to be the stupendously useful volume dial. What may seem like an unimposing addition turns out to be this keyboard’s most unexpected perk. As someone who’s constantly connected to a headset while working and gaming, having a volume dial right next to my fingertips is a godsend. Even though I can access all of my volume controls via my external amp on the desktop, there’s just something incredibly practical about having immediate access within the keyboard. Also, having a dial instead of buttons provides greater control over the volume levels.
Sound BlasterX Siege M04
The Siege M04 reflects the Vanguard’s excellence with an equally stylish aesthetic and superb gaming performance. Both peripherals were designed with consistency in mind, and the Siege and Vanguard fit harmoniously together. The Siege M04 is a beautiful piece of tech, and the Aurora accents combined with the sleek curves give the body a modern and sleek form.
• Length: 135.6mm
• Width: 67.65mm
• Height: 43mm
• Weight without Cable: 110g
• With Cable: 143g
• Product Color: Black
• Lifespan: 50 million clicks
• Optical Sensor
• PixArt PMW 3360
• 12,000 DPI
• 12,000 FPS
• 50G Acceleration
• 250 IPS Tracking Speed
• 2mm LOD
The Sound BlasterX Siege M04 features a gaming grade PMW3360 IR LED sensor with 32-bit high speed MCU with low lift-off distance, 3 level DPI cycle button for on-the-fly DPI switching, 7 fully programmable buttons with internal memory, ergonomic right-handed design optimized for palm & grip, fully customizable Aurora Reactive Lighting System supporting 16.8 million colors with 6 different lighting presets and a fingerprint resistant surface with rubber textured grip region.
"If you’ve used something like the SteelSeries Rival 700, you can expect very similar performance results without the extra weight and a more attractive price tag."
Weighing it at only 143g, the Siege is light and speedy. I was initially concerned that the low weight may not provide enough resistance when aiming in FPS games, but my worries have been put to rest the moment I jumped into a Titanfall 2 multiplayer match. The Siege feels elegant and smooth. My accuracy didn't necessarily skyrocket, but I walked away with less wrist strain after longer gaming sessions.
I normally have a tendency to grip my mouse with a little too much force, but thanks to Siege’s ergonomic design, my hand is now in a state of rest, instead of constant tension. If you’ve used something like the SteelSeries Rival 700, you can expect very similar performance results without the extra weight and a more attractive price tag.
Like the Vanguard K08, the Sound BlasterX Siege M04 can be customized using the Sound Blaster Connect software. You’re given very similar tweaking options, but the Siege tab offers additional settings, like acceleration/deceleration dials, angle snapping and lift-off distance.
Unlike with the Vanguard, there was no adjustment period when switching to the Siege. The mouse has an immediate sense of comfort, and it took me mere minutes before I was able to effortlessly dive back into competitive online matches. As a whole, the Sound BlasterX Siege M04 is an excellent mouse, and an impressive first entry for Creative Labs. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on the limited edition crate bundle, you’re also treated to a stellar high performance gaming mouse pad.
"The Vanguard K08 and Siege M04 are an attractive addition to the new 2017 Sound BlasterX line, and they illustrate an even brighter and more versatile future for a company that never stops innovating."
Conclusion: The Sound BlasterX Weapons Crate is a unique offer from a team of craftsmen that never fails to impress. The market may be brimming with gaming keyboards and mice choices from every corner of the industry, but Creative Labs once again manages to stand out from the crowd. The Vanguard K08 and Siege M04 are an attractive addition to the new 2017 Sound BlasterX line, and they illustrate an even brighter and more versatile future for a company that never stops innovating.