Large USB cable & NO cable routing / Strange position of USB port
Did you know Creative makes keyboards and mice now? Creative has just launched their new line of peripherals called the Vanguard RGB keyboard and the RGB Siege mouse. Each device sports a unique and competitive design. Creative is mostly known for their superior audio quality and gaming grade audio hardware and I know this because I have had the luxury of testing most of their gaming line of Sound Blaster X products. Creative has taken a bold leap of faith to come this late in the game to gaming keyboards and mice with companies like Corsair and Logitech who have a strong hold on the market. I will be taking a close look at both the mouse and keyboard in this review. Let's see if the risk of launching a new product line can shake things up a bit and if Creative has what it takes to dominate the peripheral and audio market.
As Creative says: "why stop at just audio?"
Why consider the Vanguard K08
The Vanguard was designed with gamers in mind. It was designed with ultra responsive custom OMRON mechanical switches. This is unique because typically you see OMRON switches in mostly mice but perhaps this tells a story for future products as well. The keyboard is compact with 109 customizable keys and full RGB Aurora reactive lighting. All this is easily controlled by Creative's new software.
The specifications are as follows:
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
Microsoft® Windows 10, Windows 8.1/8.0 32/64 bit, Windows 7 32/64 bit
Intel® Core™2 Duo or AMD® equivalent processor (2.8 GHz or faster recommended)
Intel, AMD or 100% compatible motherboard
>600 MB of free hard disk space
Why consider the Siege
Just like the Vanguard, the Siege was also crafted over many years of research into habits of PRO gamers. It offers the best ideas across various types fo gaming mice and was designed to rival all other gaming mice. The M04 Siege has some unique design elements like its reactive lighting system that continues around the outside bottom of the mouse.
The specifications are as follows:
Weight without Cable: 110g
With Cable: 143g
Product Color: Black
Lifespan: 50 million clicks
PixArt PMW 3360
250 IPS Tracking Speed
PC or laptop with Intel Core series processor or higher
Microsoft Windows 7 and above
2 GB RAM
200 MB free hard disk space
USB 2.0 port
Each product packaging felt pretty heavy which is a good indicator of a possibly good product. I felt the packaging really helped grasp the intended audience of gamers with its Blaster X logo and Aurora RGB lighting. Here is the thing about RGB, even if you don't like it you can turn it off. RGB will help you really customize the look of your product if you're going for a certain color scheme and overall look and feel of your surrounding desk area.
Included accessories with the K08 Vanguard:
Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08 Mechanical Keyboard with 2.0m USB cable attached
1 detachable wrist-rest
1 key cap remover
Quick start leaflet
Included accessories with the Siege M04:
Sound BlasterX Siege M04 mouse with 2.0m USB cable attached
Quick start leaflet
The K08 was designed for gamers to react and execute. As games and gamers evolve so does the hardware with improves responsiveness. When it comes to gaming responsiveness is key to winning. The K08 was designed to bring you its P.R.E (Perceive, React, and Execute) system which was aimed to help gamers become better through quick keys and responsive switches.
The design of the keyboard to me feels a little large and I prefer a keyboard with a number pad-less design. I feel the keyboard extends a little bit longer with its macro M keys to the left and to the top with its media control keys. As far as look, the keyboard does sport a unique design and typical gaming look with aggressive logos. The Sound Blaster X logo is not overly presented but is located in the top right next to the SBX key. Being a black colored design will allow the keyboard to match a multitude of systems and really bring out the contrast colors of the Aurora RGB lighting system.
The thing that distinguishes a good gaming keyboard is its switch type and its feel. It is really difficult to explain to someone how something feels when different people like different switch types. The PRES (Perceive, React, and Execute) which is similar to a Logitech Romer-G switch and feels somewhat like a mechanical brown with extra feedback.
The PRES switch was codesigned by OMRON and custom made for the K08. You can expect high actions per minute and can withstand over 70 million keystrokes. These OMRON switches use cross point technology which offers a fail-safe yo keep your keyboard lasting over many years. You can expect quick input actions and instantaneous keystrokes for giving you the ultimate speed and control through your games and minimize typing errors.
These new custom OMRON switches are 25% faster than a regular mechanical switch. Even 1 millisecond can make a difference in competitive gaming. Usually, the default travel distance for a mechanical keyboard can be 2.0mm, the K08 is only 1.5mm which results is faster commands being fired off to your games actions.
These new OMRON switches are 100% more reliable than standard switch types because of the PRES and cross-point technology. Each switch has a dual connector that guarantees actuation even if a connector fails due to oxidation or dust. This keyboard should be able to withstand even outdoor activities.
Even with all your fingers, you can normally only hit a few keys at a time. If you require the ability to do more than that the K08 has you covered. It sports a 26-Key Rollover and Anti-Ghosting Technology. Wha this really means is there will be no input lag and all your keys will be registered simultaneously.
The K08 does come with a detachable wrist rest that proudly displays the Blaster X logo. I did find the wrist rest to not hold or lock into the keyboard that securely but being on your desk shouldn't cause too many issues. It felt loose and would come out very easily. The USB cable of all things surprised me.The cable is HUGE in diameter and braided nicely with a sleeve but this caused complications with cable management and the big cable felt stiff. I also personally do not like having two USB cables for a keyboard. The extra cable provides support for the Passthrough to the USB port on the back of the keyboard. I already find it difficult enough to find an open USB port even as most modern motherboards come with plenty. The problem of adding this extra USB port is where it's located.
As you go around the keyboard it does offer nice design elements and attention to detail. I actually like having the K08 logo on each side fo the keyboard. It's nicely labeled with a clean font and isn't too obtrusive. Speaking about the USB pass through, it is in a strange spot in my opinion. As you look at the top of the keyboard you will notice the angle to the left where the media keys are placed and this is where the pass-through USB port is located. This causes whatever is plugged in there to come out at an angle and I find that not visually pleasing. It would have made more sense to come straight out of the back which can help with cable management. They do not provide any channels for cable routing.
The bottom of the K08 does sport rubber pads surround the bottom to prevent your keyboard from sliding or moving while you're using it. The retention feet feel snappy and actually feel quite sturdy. The raise distance felt just right and the most comfortable for me during gaming and typing. The only thing I would suggest would add a channel for routing the cable, but with its large cable size would have proven to be difficult. They really should look into finding a way to make the USB cable to the K08 a smaller.
I must say, my least favorite part of this keyboard is the media keys. While the OMRON switches feel fantastic and ultra responsive, I can not say the same about the media keys. This raises a few concerns because this is where you can change your RGB dimming and Windows key lock mode. I found that pushing these buttons felt like they had a delay, were unresponsive, or didn't quite register the first time. They are flat but provide little feedback other than the action to let you know the key registered. It felt like they needed quite a bit of force to register the key. I found it difficult to dim the lighting quickly and preferred using the software over a hardware button.
The volume control wheel was satisfying though and worked very well. Them mute button, on the other hand, was again part of the media control keys and required a bit of force to make sure the button worked. The key next to the Blaster X logo labeled SBX did nothing when pressed and I assumed it opened up the control software or did something special but nothing happened. I tested this but perhaps could be fixed with a later firmware or software update.
One of the strongest points about this keyboard is its OMRON switches and RGB reactive lighting. The K08 has a fully customizable system with 16.8 million colors to chose from. You can really personalize your gaming and entertainment space and sync up your other peripherals like the M04 mouse. The colors are fantastic and not washed out. In fact, this has been the best color representation of RGB I have ever seen in any RGB product. The Creative Aurora reactive lighting system has been the best RGB system I have used.
This can all be controlled via the Creative Software suite and offer tons of customization and options.
The Siege M04 uses the same P.R.E (Perceive, React, and Execute) system as the K08 keyboard does. A unique feature of the M04 is the ring of Aurora RGB lighting along the bottom of the mouse. This provides a nice under glow for the mouse to match the aesthetic of your surrounding desk and setup. The M04 is the result of the best ideas found from years of experience across different gaming mice.
What makes or breaks a gaming mouse is its ability to react swiftly and responsively. The M04 is no exception and offers a PWM3360 IR LED Gaming Grade Sensor. This sensor sports a 32-bit high-speed MCU (Micro Controller Unit) with onboard memory.
In the heart of the M04 is the PixArt PMW3360 IR and 32- bit MCU which is capable of a polling rate of 100Hz, 1200 DPI, and very low 3mm lift off distance. For anyone who does a ton fo gaming, you realize it's not uncommon to lift and move your mouse frequently out of habit. This is where the lift-off distance comes in handy. The MCU offers ultra fast cursor prediction as well.
The 12,000 native DPI is fully customizable from 200-12000 with on the fly adjustment from your DPI button. You can program up to 3 DPI levels into the onboard memory so you can find your sweet spot and have short, mid, and long range support in your games.
The 1000 Hz polling rate is going to provide ultra-fast response times and report 1000 times a second. This means you can react quickly in games and will result in smooth animations and a smooth gliding of your cursors across your screen.
"NO input lag equals MORE FRAGS!"
The Siege offers a resistant surface and textured grip surface. This will result in your mouse acting accurately and NO unexpected clicks. The pads on the bottom also help keeps your mouse from slipping while accurately gliding your mouse in the intended direction.
The M04 offers a slimmer braided cable unlike its big brother K04 keyboard. I found this easy to manage and the length is perfect for most users. The scroll wheel is very satisfying and I also appreciate that this is also illuminated by RGB lighting. The shape of the ergonomic design is comfortable and optimized for a palm grip. The mouse offers 7 fully programmable buttons with access to the internal memory. My favorite button is the dedicated sniper button which will quickly lower your DPI to your lowest level and is normally used for easy sniping in games. It's for a high-level fo accuracy.
The mouse branding also labels M04 on the left side fo the mouse. The best part about this mouse it the mechanical feel of each click and the RGB Aurora reactive lighting. I haven't seen another RGB mouse that has individual RGB colors around the entire perimeter of the mouse. This presents excellent RGB illumination and a nice under glow effect. You can control both the K08 and M04 over the same software and even sync colors across devices. Just like the K08 the RGB here is some of the best I have seen on any gaming mouse to date.
Testing mice and keyboards can be kind of difficult because they are parts that require one to interact with personally. There also isn’t a ton of software to test these devices against. The K08 and M04 come with RGB illumination built in and is totally controlled via the Creative software. I will do a video showing noise levels of the mechanical switches and show off some of that sweet RGB goodness.
I will also be testing the M04 mouse using the Mouse rate checker tool on Zowie's website. It is a quick and reliable tool for checking mouse rates and responsiveness. The m04 has a decent rate considering its high DPI setting and is in accordance with other gaming mice on that level.
My test bench is as follows:
ViewSonic XG2703-GS Monitor
Case- Corsair 88r mATX Case and Test Bench
Motherboard- ASRock z270m Extreme 4
CPU: Intel Core I7 6700K
Network Card- Netgear AC 1200 USB
Cooler- Cooler Master Master Liquid 240
Memory- Avexir DDR4 3000 MHz
Video Card: Nvidia GTX 1060
Storage- Toshiba OCZ VX500GB SSD / My Digital SSD BPX 480 GB NVMe RAID 0 Drives (Boot)
Power Supply- Thermaltake PRO RGB 850W
OS: Windows 10 x64 Pro
Headphones- Creative H7
I should have no problem matching up the K08 and M04 to my current setup as it is mostly containing RGB components. The best thing about RGB is making everything sync up or matching your color scheme and if RGB isn't your thing you can disable the lighting on any device I have ever tested.
The average mouse rate recorded here definitely is in accordance with the advertised polling rate which is rated for 1000 Hz. The mouse offers a considerably smooth experience with no delay and it feels very responsive. I tested the M04 with Rainbow six siege which is a very calculated shooter. I have to say the M04 acted better than I expected. I typically in games like CS GO and Rainbow six Siege make sure there is no mouse smoothing and rely heavily on the mouse's hardware.
The Creative Sound Blaster Connect software is pretty good. It's still in its infant state but has a ton of customization and features to choose from. You can download it here. You can choose between lighting, performance, and macros.
The lighting section seen above offers 9 different RGB color modes and 4 different Motion effects with direction lighting. The M04 mouse essentially offers the same control and lighting modes that the K08 does. You can choose pretty much any color your heart desires and even control the speed labeled bpm in the software. This will allow faster or slower RGB effects. I will be showcasing the different RGB modes in the showcased video later.
The performance section does offer different options for the K08 and M04. The keyboard has fewer options and allows you to control repeat delay, repeat rate, and the polling rate. You typically should just leave the polling rate at its best option which is 1000 Hz.
The M04 mouse offers a bit more tweaking. You can set your 3 different DPI cycles, the sniper DPI level, acceleration, Polling rate, lift off distance, and angle snapping. You should leave the hardware acceleration and allow the mouse to perform its tasks with the MCU and Creative software. Also, the lift-off distance is best left at a lower distance in my opinion but it's nice you can tweak this.
The macro section allows you to create custom macros with your M04 mouse and K08 keyboard. The mouse has 7 different buttons you can assign a task and the keyboard offers much more control. You can assign recorded macros to any button and store each profile to the 5 different M keys. The M keys allow for quick actions custom tailored to you and your games. The M04 mouse allows custom macros as well but is assigned to the different buttons on the mouse. The macro keys and profiles are going to be useful for creating custom game actions to be performed instantaneously assigned to a quick shortcut key.
Above you can see a video showcasing the RGB effects for both the Mouse and keyboard. The effects are shown off on the keyboard are the same ones you can choose for the Siege M04 as well. I also showcased gameplay footage of me playing Heroes of the Storm on the K08 and M04 as a game test. Sorry about the audio recording during gameplay, I believe this is the result of the DTS 7.1 filter from my gaming headset. It sounds phenomenal but while capturing the audio and gameplay it sounds muffled and filtered.
The Vanguard K08 and Siege M04 are both strong peripherals for the price. They can seem expensive compared to other options out there but the quality comes in the custom switches and software capabilities. I did find a few flaws with the K08 mostly. I didn't like the large USB cable nor did I like the Media control keys. The keys felt like they require too much force for the buttons to react. The M04 had very little to dislike and is a strong gaming mouse contender.The best thing about the Vanguard is its custom OMRON switches and are surprisingly responsive and feel fantastic.
I would highly suggest these pair as a combo because they offer some of the best RGB LEDs to date using Creatives Aurora reactive lighting system. They can be synced together using Creatives Sound Blaster Connect software. I highly recommend these two products despite the few flaws I found with the K08. The keyboard is very functional and responsive. I would only suggest they try and make the USB cable smaller and possible add cable routing under the keyboard. I would also suggest that the strange placement of the pass-through USB port be changed to stick straight out the back rather than at an angle. You can buy them both on Amazon. The K08 is $139.99 (Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08 SE Gaming Keyboard (Black)) and the M04 for $64.99 (Sound BlasterX Siege M04 Gaming Mouse (Black)).