Fnatic miniSTREAK Review
Fnatic is one of the most respected eSports brands in the entire world, and that's in no small part down to the massive success their teams have been having in games such as CS:GO and LoL. With their competitive squads doing their thing (and doing it well) the UK-based organisation must've thought it was time to conquer a different part of the eSports world: the peripherals market.
Fnatic have been making peripherals for a while now but recently they've really been stepping up their game, as evidenced by the universal praise that their REACT headset got. Today we're taking a look at the miniSTREAK, which is their take on a TKL mechanical keyboard made for competitive gamers. Is it up to the standards that their REACT has set or can it do with some improvements? Read our full review to find out!
Update 12 October 2020: Fnatic has updated the miniSTREAK slightly in the form of the Speed and Silent Editions. It now comes with Kailh Speed switches or Cherry MX Silent Red switches. There's an added section at the end of the review to detail some of the changes.
"It’s so small and easy to carry around. There’s a bunch of small things that’ll make the PC experience much better, it kinda forces you to completely focus on the game."Broxah, League of Legends pro
Fnatic miniSTREAK - First Impressions
The Fnatic miniSTREAK is certainly a bit of a looker. Most keyboards have pretty straight corners, for instance, while here they've been rounded. Pair that with the (slightly) unusual dark grey top plate and you've got yourself a keyboard that stands out to people who know what they're looking for without having to resort to garish design elements or obnoxious branding.
Another noticeable aspect is the included wrist rest. It's made out of a very comfy faux leather, which is already impressive in and of itself, but the standout feature here is the fact that the actual position of it can be adjusted. More on that later though.
Something else that I immediately noticed and liked is the fact that the switches sit directly atop the backplate of the keyboard. I like this design approach over the one where the switches are recessed inside the casing. This design simply makes the keyboard easier to keep clean, and as someone who can't stand a filthy keyboard that's definitely a plus.
The case of the miniSTREAK is plastic, while the top plate is made out of anodized aluminum. This combo makes it very rigid: I couldn't get the housing to creak when I was applying pressure to it and flexing is kept to an absolute minimum as well. Since this is being marketed as a keyboard for eSports enthusiasts it's important that it can stand up to the rigors of travel and I'm quite sure that this will be up to the task.
The RGB lighting can be configured in Fnatic's software (or you can use presets on the board itself) and while it definitely looks nice it's not the brightest or most impressive RGB show I've ever seen.
I personally don't really care about the quality of the backlighting and it's certainly one of the least important aspects of a keyboard aimed at competitive gamers so I won't dock any points for this at all, but I do know that there are readers who care about this kind of stuff so I'm mentioning it.
I have to say that I am impressed with the way Fnatic has packaged this product. The miniSTREAK comes in a very sturdy and thick cardboard box with a lift-off lid which isn't only nicer to unbox (in my opinion) but also helps with repacking the product in case you're going to a LAN or whatnot.
Inside this box you'll be greeted with the keyboard, and underneath that there's a little cardboard box saying 'I'm more than a logo, open my secrets'. Unfortunately this box doesn't hold the key to having game sense like Flusha but it does reveal a quickstart guide in a ton of languages and a bunch of Fnatic stickers. It's always nice to see companies go the extra mile to make the packaging of their product feel a bit more premium.
Delve deeper and you'll find the detachable USB-C cable and the wrist rest along with the attachment system for it. As you guys might know I always like it when companies include a keycap puller with their keyboards, so perhaps that's something Fnatic can consider for the future, but aside from that this is a really satisfying package to open up.
Size & Dimensions
Features and build
This Fnatic miniSTREAK is a tenkeyless board made for competitive gamers, and most products of this type offer very little in the way of extra buttons and features. That's not exactly the case here, as the designers and engineers have tried their best to include some extras that are actually useful for gamers while still keeping the overall weight and size of the plank down.
On the top left of the board you've got the FN lock button, which makes the function keys default to their FN function when you press them. On the right there's a mic mute button and a volume mute button, and in between those two you've got the 'competition mode' button. Press this one and the keyboard's LEDs will change to the Fnatic orange color (by default; you can change this in the software) to show the world that you mean business.
It doesn't only change the color of the board though: you can completely choose which keys you want to have disabled when in this mode so that you eliminate any chances of accidental key presses. It's basically a 'windows key lock mode' on steroids, and I like it. Aside from the physical control buttons you can also fiddle with your media by using a combination of keys (or utilizing the aforementioned FN lock button) so all in all the miniSTREAK comes pretty well equipped.
At the back of the board there's a little detachable nameplate that's also illuminated by LEDs. The idea here is that you can order your own custom nameplate from Fnatic's site at some point in the future to customize your board, and while this is fairly useless (it's at the back where no one will see it) it's also an optional way for people to make their boards their own and it's not like this feature raises the price of the board if you decide not to use it, so I'm not bothered by this at all. They could maybe consider moving this plate to be somewhere more visible in future iterations though, I think more people will want to go for it then.
Included with this keyboard is a wrist rest. That's not that strange but Fnatic are offering something really high quality here. You attach the comfortable faux leather wrist rest by clicking a 'base' to the bottom of the keyboard and then you put the wrist rest itself on one of three positions. There are magnets in both the base and the wrist rest so once you've put it at your desired position it stays put perfectly. This system works great, though it has to be said that it might just be a bit too small for people with larger hands. For me it fit just fine though, and it's one of the better stock wrist rests I've experienced so far.
Unfortunately the same can't be said for the keycaps. These aren't straight up howlers, but these ABS caps do feel a bit flimsy and will develop a shine after a while. It's not a huge deal, but including some higher quality caps would raise the overall feel of this board by a couple of factors in my opinion, so this is something they could take a look at.
On the bottom of the board there are four rubber elements that do a great job at keeping the plank in place, and you'll also see a pair of adjustment feet so that you can change the angle of the keyboard should you want to. The USB-C cable connects to the board through a routing system so that you won't get that annoying 'oops my keyboard disconnected mid match because I moved it a bit' feeling and while this is without a doubt a welcome addition it would've been nice to see some more routing options. But hey, better to have one route than none if you ask me.
Performance and every day use
Note: the board that I've been testing has Cherry MX Brown switches, but this board is also available with Cherry MX Red, Silent Red, or Blue switches.
Fnatic has opted to go for the well-known and well-loved Cherry MX switches in their boards, and the implementation here is pretty darn solid. Yes, the keycaps could be better but the switches and stabilizers themselves feel really solid so I had no complaints when testing this board at all. It all feels consistent to the touch, and gaming and typing with this board is a joy.
I used the miniSTREAK for my regular Friday night CS:GO sessions with my friends (among other things) and there was no adjustment period necessary. In fact I loved every minute with the board. That's probably in part due to the Brown switches in there (these are my favorite switches) but also because of the fantastic wrist rest and the thin and flat profile of the board, which is something that I personally enjoy as well. Overall I think that the miniSTREAK delivers where it has to as a competitive gaming board: it's comfortable to use for hours at a time and it performs flawlessly ingame.
With full N-Key Rollover and the ability to record and store macros through Fnatic's OP software this has pretty much everything that a competitive gamer would want out of a TKL board, and it's nice to see that Fnatic has taken some time on their software too. It's definitely not the most expansive piece of kit in the world, but it is an easy to use and understand program that's lightweight to boot. It's in early access right now so there'll probably be some changes down the road, but I do like the way they're headed at this point in time.
A neat design element that I noticed throughout my testing is that the rubber elements at the top of the board (as well as the feet that you can use to angle the board) sit perpendicular to the ones at the bottom. This gives you more grip and it ensure that you never accidentally fold the feet when you're adjusting the board. It's minor, but all these minor things together (the adjustable wrist rest, the customizable gaming mode button, ...) make for one great TKL board for the competitive gamer.
This section was added on the 12th of October 2020.
It seems like the TKL version of Fnatic's keyboards was the most popular one, making it the first of their STREAK keyboards to get an update. That update comes in the form of new switches. Fnatic has listened to pro player feedback, which indicated that a switch from Cherry MX switches was the way to go, so enter the Fnatic miniSTREAK Speed Edition.
This board itself is the same as the old boards (which they've now called 'Legacy') aside from of course the switches and a font change on the keycaps. While that font change might not be as noticeable to most people the change in switches definitely is. The Kailh Speed Silver switches feel faster than something like a Cherry MX Red due to the fact that they have a shorter actuation distance.
I quite like these switches: they are very light and easy to actuate so if you want that tactile feeling or appreciate a heavier switch you're going to want to sit this one out but they do feel very smooth with little wobble so if you want that super fast gaming-focused kind of experience this is a cool upgrade. Should you buy an entirely new board if you've got a miniSTREAK with something like Cherry Reds? Not in my opinion: the difference isn't super astounding. I believe that switches are something personal so there isn't one definitive 'best gaming switch' but this change has been made after feedback from their pro FPS players so who am I to argue with that? If I had to choose a linear speed switch I would go with the Kailhs over Cherries though, so I get why they made this change for their newest run of boards.
One more big change that's been made not to the keyboard itself but to the overall package so to say is that the newer versions don't come with the wrist rest. That is a bit of a shame because I quite liked that one but I guess it went unused by the majority of players who gave feedback to the design team.
In short: if you've got a miniSTREAK and you're perfectly happy with yours I wouldn't go out and order this one instantly. This isn't so much a 'next version' as it is a slight upgrade/change to their existing line of models. It's a change that makes sense though, since this board is aimed at competitive FPS players and some of the best in the world have indicated that they prefer these newer switches. It's always nice to see that companies take existing feedback and apply it to their products quickly so good on Fnatic for doing that.
Conclusion & Recommendation
The Fnatic miniSTREAK isn't going to shock the world with its features or overall build ideas, but I don't think that that was the plan either. I think that the plan was to build one of the better bang for the buck gaming keyboards for competitive gamers, and I have to say that they succeeded at that.
The miniSTREAK is a solidly built keyboard with nicely implemented Cherry MX switches that lifts itself above the rest of the pack by offering a great adjustable wrist rest and a number of actually useful additions to the board without having to increase the size. The board looks great (though that's obviously subjective) and feels great thanks to the thin design and aluminum top plate, and with its relatively light weight and detachable (USB-C) cable it's portable to boot.
All things considered there's plenty to love about the Fnatic miniSTREAK, making it a great TKL board for people who want a straightforward and reliable plank. There are a couple of improvements to be made, though (the major one being the keycaps) so I'm pretty excited to see what the next iteration of this board looks like, given that Fnatic seem to really be listening to what people are saying.