Fnatic STREAK65 Review
Fnatic. World famous esports team. Winners of multiple major tournaments. Peripheral manufacturers.
That latest title is something they've only recently added to their curriculum vitae but as we've seen over the past couple of months the European brand is definitely taking this stuff seriously. After releasing a couple of well-liked but perhaps rather safe iterations of their STREAK line of keyboards it's now time for something new. Enter, the STREAK65. A compact keyboard made for serious competitive gamers, housing Fnatic's very own mechanical switches.
This, according to Fnatic, should be the ideal 65% keyboard for competitive gamers. We've sent one over to our reviewer to see if that's the case.
"The numpad, and part of the home cluster has been removed. No functionality is lost because all inputs are easily accessible through the secondary FN function layer and shortcuts."Fnatic, on the 65% size
Fnatic STREAK65 - First Impressions
Fnatic had already told me that this is a light keyboard but it wasn't until I actually held it in my hand that I really appreciated just how light this thing actually is. The entire package (box and all) weighs less than most keyboards do on their own, so Fnatic definitely isn't lying about the lightweight aspect. I, for some reason, associate weight with quality as far as keyboards go so I was taken aback by this at first but luckily the designers didn't make any sacrifices to the structural integrity of the case, though more on that later.
But the STREAK65 isn't only light: it's extremely compact in general. It's very thin, with small bezels and no unused space. Combine that with a detachable USB-C cable and you've got a keyboard that almost feels more portable than some flagship smartphones. That's of course a great bonus for competitive gamers who often travel to tournaments (let's hope the COVID-19 vaccines keep developing at an encouraging pace so we get to see LAN tournaments again) and don't really want to haul around a gigantic full sized board, so props to Fnatic for delivering such a minimal overall package.
A board this light is obviously not going to be made of heavy materials. The case is made out of plastic, with an aluminum top plate which makes for a very solid board overall. I half expected this to be a flexible disaster but to my surprise it's almost impossible to get the STREAK65 to flex or bend in any way, and there's no creaking anywhere either.
The RGB is done nicely too: it's still not the brightest but its looks good and natural, and there's no stuttering nor are there obvious transitions between different effects. A cool bonus here is that the spacebar has multiple LEDs underneath it so if you care about that sort of thing you'll be pleased to know that the spacebar doesn't have any 'dead zones'.
The STREAK65 is a serious competitive gaming keyboard, so it doesn't come with a whole lot of extras in the box. What you get is the keyboard, the detachable USB-C cable, and the usual documents along with a pretty nice and easy to understand quickstart guide for those who don't want to mess around with any software.
I don't mind minimal unboxing experiences but I do always like it when companies include a keycap puller. Even if you're not planning on switching the caps out (and you probably won't be switching them out in the near future, but more on that later) it's a good thing to have when it's time to clean your board. Perhaps Fnatic can consider adding this in the future.
Size & Dimensions
Features and build
The STREAK65 is built from the ground up to be as compact as possible, meaning that there aren't any additional knobs or dials on the keyboard. The fact that it's a 65% board means that there are no function keys either, so if you're someone who loves to use their numpad or the F keys then you should look elsewhere but for me this is the ideal keyboard size because you still get the arrow keys. I use those for work and browsing a lot and while I have the luxury of swapping out boards for gaming and other activities I realize that most gamers won't want to buy two boards so this really is a fantastic layout for that 'best of both worlds' feeling if you're asking me.
The smaller size of course isn't just done to make the board more portable: a smaller keyboard means that you can have your keyboard hand and mouse hand closer together. For some people (myself included) that's just a more comfortable feeling when gaming so unless you really need the numpad I would always recommend a smaller form factor if you're a gamer.
I do have to say that I feel like they went a bit heavy on the branding: you've got 'STREAK' on both sides of the board, as well as 'FNATIC' on top, the Fnatic logo on the spacebar, and then again the Fnatic logo on the backside of the board. That last logo can be removed or swapped out though, to be completely fair, since it's on a detachable nameplate. You should be able to buy a customized plate for yourself but I've only seen this feature 'live' once and that was a couple of months ago so I'm kind of hoping that Fnatic bring this back in a more permanent way. It's of course a gimmick (who sees the backside of a board anyway: it would be cooler to have the ability to replace the logo on the top plate) but for people who like their customized stuff this is a nice option to have.
On the bottom of the board there are four rubber feet (including two flip up feet) and while these do hold the board in place as they should they are a tiny bit uneven on my copy, causing the board to wobble a little if I pay attention to it. It's not something that's very obvious when typing or gaming so I won't say that it annoyed me but obviously this isn't desirable.
Another thing that isn't desirable are the keycaps. The board comes with ABS caps that attract fingerprints and other types of oils rather easily, and that's something that annoys me greatly. I usually don't mind keyboards having cheaper caps all that much since it's a way to keep the price down and it's easy enough to swap out keycaps if you care about this sort of thing but these are custom made so it's going to be very difficult to find a replacement set.
I would absolutely love it if they had a perhaps slightly more expensive option with decent PBT caps (they could even add a cool cable or what not to make the whole package more premium) or sold an improved set separately for people who care about this kind of stuff. I am aware of the fact that the majority of people don't care about this though, so I get why they did it, but it wouldn't hurt to have extra options for us gear enthusiasts, doubly so for a board that's aimed towards serious competitive players who (usually) are more invested in their gear.
All in all I've got to say that this little board defies (my) expectations: I thought it was going to be a flimsy and brittle board when I first unboxed it but I'm glad to admit that I was completely wrong on that front.
Performance and every day use
One of the main attractions of the STREAK65 are the new Fnatic Low Profile Speed switches. These have been developed with Kailh and are touted to be the fastest mechanical switches on the market. With a pre travel of 1 millimeter and a total travel of 3.2 millimeters they're indeed on the fast side, and combine that with the rather low actuation force of 45G and you've got yourself a very speedy board.
It seems like speed is the name of the game for gaming keyboards these days, and while I don't actually feel like I perform any better with fast linear switches over tactile switches I did start preferring linears for gaming over the past months and these Low Profile Speed ones feel great for that. Initially they felt a bit 'gritty' to me but that could have been because I was getting used to the low profile aspect and bottoming out too much because they feel pretty smooth to me now.
What's great here is that there's almost no wobble on any keys (not even the larger ones) and that the custom stabilizers are lubed, meaning that there's no rattling at all with this keyboard. That's great news for keyboard nerds (I mean that affectionately) but this level of attention to detail makes it all the more disappointing that they've gone for the cheap ABS keycaps. I'll shut up about those now but it's just a bit weird that they make a point of advertising something as 'niche' as lubed stabilizers (which is something that pretty much only people 'in the know' care about) and then slap on relatively subpar keycaps.
To sum up the switches and gaming experience: it's great. The low profile aspect and the speed of these switches is definitely something that you have to get used to but once you do it's a fantastic experience if you're a fan of faster boards.
I also want to touch on the low profile aspect for a bit: does it make a big difference? Not for me. I haven't played with a whole lot of low profile keyboards so far but for me it's just a different feeling: I didn't feel as if I moved any smoother with these than I do with a regular speed-focused keyboard. Of course 'the feeling' can be very important: if you feel as if regular mech boards are too high and cluttered you'll probably feel more at home with a low profile board (which can increase your performance) so I'm not saying that low profile keyboards are a gimmick or whatever: as far as I'm concerned they're a welcome addition to the market to allow consumers to have even more options.
The STREAK65 can be controlled through Fnatic's OP software, and while that's a lightweight and easy to use program it feels a bit lackluster to me at this point. That's logical since it's still in the early access phase, but right now there are comparatively little RGB options, for example. That's all being worked on though, and you can already record macros and rebind keys and all that jazz so the most important aspects are present. If you don't want to bother with that you can use the board without any software at all since it has on board controls, which is always nice to see with these smaller boards.
Conclusion & Recommendation
In all honesty I didn't have high expectations for this keyboard. I wasn't a big fan of the (few) low profile boards I've tried so far and when I then unboxed a super light board I thought I was in for a bumpy ride but as is often the case with preconceptions I was wrong.
The Fnatic STREAK65 is a great gaming keyboard thanks to its impressive construction quality combined with a very light weight and overall portability, and the 65% form factor means you've got lots of space for your mouse. The Fnatic Low Profile Speed switches are a welcome addition to the switch market and feel fantastic if you are into fast linear switches, though the low profile aspect takes some getting used to. Special attention should also go to the stabilizers: all keys feel solid and rattling is almost nonexistent due to the lubed stabs.
These things combine to make this one of the more interesting gaming keyboards I've tested this year. It's also one of the better gaming boards I've used in 2020, with the keycaps being the main drawback. That's a double whammy because these are custom keycaps so replacing them is going to be a very tall order. There's also the fact that the feet on my copy are slightly uneven but I'm quite sure this is a QC issue.
All things considered this is one you should absolutely consider if you're looking for a compact (low profile) gaming keyboard and you've got a need for speed. My only hope here is that they'll offer a version with PBT caps (or let people buy them separately) in the near future.