An Unexpected Gaming Keyboard Competitor
If you don’t use a gaming keyboard, are you even a PC power user? Well, it certainly feels that way if you are happy with a simple sub-R500 keyboard that simply inputs letters and numbers, is likely not programmable, nor has the option of hot-swappable keys and switches. Gaming peripherals have wheedled their way into every aspect of PC life, including offices. At my office desk, when I go in, I am still using my very first mechanical gaming keyboard, the venerable Razer Blackwidow coupled with a Corsair Scimitar mouse. Why? Believe it or not, all the macro recording and programmable keys make using Excel so much more efficient and, when you are working on tight month-end reporting deadlines, those seconds count. Us accountants are the Formula 1 pit crews of the corporate world.
With that in mind, when I received the Vantar from Cougar I was immediately struck – without taking out of the shipping packaging – how light it was. My first thought was that this is not the keyboard I had been expecting, but a mouse mat or some accessory. What reinforced my erroneous suspicions was just how thin the box was. This keyboard came in the same packaging you would see those cheap Logitech office keyboards arrive in. However, once the packaging was removed, it was clear that the Vantar was a gaming peripheral – just one that eschews almost everything you think a gaming keyboard should have.
The box displays the keyboard in all its RGB glory on the front. It also informs you that if you like tactile or aural (clicky) feedback, this is not the keyboard for you. This is a membrane “scissor switch” board. That’s right, there’re no mechanical switches to be found and, even with the advancement in the design of low-profile mechanical switches, Cougar opted to essentially take what is now a laptop standard and sell it as a peripheral. The back of the box gives a bit more detail on the keyboard, including the fact that the RGB is pre-programmed into the board and the eight profiles are controlled by a combo keypress.
That’s the first thing to note this is not a programmable keyboard. Which is both a blessing and a curse depending on your point of view. If you prefer to run a compact, bloat-less OS install, not having to install a manufacturer’s control software to get full use of your peripherals is ideal. My gaming PC has Corsair’s iCUE software installed for the RGB features as well as the peripherals, but because I use a Razer headset and sometimes a Razer capture card, I must have Synapse 2.0 also installed. It does use up resources to have these apps running.
However, if you like the control gaming peripherals give you, especially macro recording, and programmable keys you are out of luck with the Vantar. Not being able to change something as simple as the key lighting can be a drawback especially if you don’t like the pre-installed effects and like me like to have certain keys set to a different backlight to make it easier to identify them and their function at a glance. Although given that they aren’t programmable this may not be as much of an issue as it would be with a programmable board.
The Vantar does feature Cougar’s anti-ghosting technology that ensures that each keypress registers especially during multiple input presses. At least it would if it was a feature on the entire set of keys. Cougar have implemented it on what they consider to be the most used keys, especially when gaming. As such it is mainly confined to the left side of the board, being the WASD, left Shift, Ctrl and Alt, Tab and space bar. The arrow keys also get the technology.
It is a curious decision, but one, like the lack of programmable keys, as well as the decision to forgo the now standard mechanical switches, likely due to cost-saving measures. The Vantar is a cheap gaming keyboard in terms of cost. At R750 it is affordable. And that cost-saving philosophy extends to the construction. The Cougar Vantar is a solidly built keyboard, something that is surprising given that it is an all-plastic board. Deck flex is, of course, present, but it isn’t egregious, and the board never feels cheap.
As a gaming keyboard, it is something that will take some getting used to if you’ve never played on a laptop. Having said that though having used it as a daily driver for the last three weeks for both productivity, this review is being written on it right now, as well as or gaming, mainly Halo Infinite as well as some Crysis Remastered with the odd session of a turn-based strategy game I am reviewing, the board held up well. While I personally prefer the feedback from a mechanical board and the flexibility of programming the keys as I see fit, the Vantar is an excellent alternative for the budget gamer.
The low-profile nature of the board also makes it a viable option for anyone with limited desk space as it can easily store under a monitor stand. If you carry your laptop around in a larger backpack, then the Vantar is a good option for your laptop. To be ideal or laptop users on the go, Cougar should look to issue a TKL revision of the board. That would hit the sweet spot for portable peripherals.
The Cougar Vantar is a curious keyboard, an old-style board with some modern design touches, but at this price point, it certainly has its advantages. Besides budget, if you have limited space, prefer a quiet, low-profile board and don’t need or care for programmable keys, bespoke RGB lighting or macros, then the Vantar is an excellent option for your setup.
Build Quality8/10 Very Good
Value for Money9/10 Amazing
- Good value for money
- Maintains a low (no) software proile
- Good quality build
- RGB profiles cannot be changed
- Anti-Ghosting is implemented on select keys