Sophisticated Gamer

WhirlwindFX compact Atom gaming keyboard beats the competition in 1 crucial area

The Atom is an ideal alternative to WhirlwindFX's less-mobile Element with impressive software.

Few things are more satisfying than a keyboard with a good mechanical clacking sound. For ambitious PC gamers who want something with a lot more razzle-dazzle, WhirlwindFX offers "content-reactive mechanical RGB keyboards" that reflect whatever's on your screen in bright, colorful ways.

Both the full-sized Element and the newer 60 percent-sized Atom Keyboard — each available for $119.99 — offer a suite of colorization options that respond to gameplay in real-time. Similar keyboards from companies like SteelSeries, Razer, and HyperX do the same thing at a cheaper price. But with the Whirlwind Engine, the Atom's possibilities feel endless. It's a high-end alternative for hardcore gamers who want more razzle-dazzle in their lives.

Individual LEDs behind each key mirror the colors of the video game, dynamic background, or YouTube video that's onscreen. Or, you can select from a number of effects that simulate visualizations like the green Matrix code, rippling water, outer space, or a shifting rainbow. You can even adopt integrations specific to more than 30 different games. And there are 16.8 million possible colors.

What's great about the Atom Keyboard

  • Sturdy, visually pleasing design with bright LEDs
  • Clickity clack! (great typing feel)
  • Whirlwind Engine is unparalleled
  • Integrations exist for many major games

From a straightforward design standpoint, the Atom feels similar to most keyboards on the market. But an ergonomic design, bright LEDs, and matte finish within a lightweight but strong frame make for a keyboard that feels just a touch better than most of its competition. Between all that and the detachable USB-C cable, it maintains quality while staying highly mobile. It helps that typing with it just feels — and sounds — great.

Software innovations elevate the Atom above most of its competition. The Whirlwind Engine application allows you to configure your device with numeous idle and in-game effects.

Hades, Cyberpunk 2077, Apex Legends, Overwatch, and Among Us are just a handful of the games that have integrations with Whirlwind. The software detects "critical utility moments" within the game experience and reacts accordingly with bursts of color and LED patterns. Initiate a battle in Cyberpunk 2077, and the keyboard will flash an angry red. A progress bar made of light will fill across the Atom as you heal in games like Apex Legends. Claim some Darkness in Hades and the whole keyboard will pop purple.

These subtle enhancements to the gaming experience really amp up the immersion. For anyone with programming know-how in HTML and JavaScript, it's even possible to create custom effects that respond to just about anything.

What more could you want out of a keyboard?

The brightly lit keyboard really dazzles.WhirlwindFX

What's not so great about the Atom Keyboard

  • There are no arrow keys (which makes sense for the compact model)
  • The larger keyboard is the same price
  • Runs exclusively on native-owned Windows; Doesn't support Mac or Linux

The Atom is about 11.25 inches long and four inches wide, truly living up to the 60 percent promise. If you want a smaller, leaner keyboard that doesn't sacrifice any modicum of quality, then this is it. But that compact size means you lose the arrow keys and the number pad.

As of this writing, the full-sized Element costs the exact same price, so it's hard to imagine a circumstance in which you'd want the Atom instead. If you have enough money to want an additional, more compact keyboard for more mobile PC gaming on a laptop, then it's pretty ideal. But there are perhaps better luxuries to invest in.

Perhaps the most glaring drawback of the Atom is that it's limited to native-owned Windows, meaning that cloud services like Shadow Boost — which lets even Mac users stream a virtualized PC via the cloud — won't integrate properly. For primary Mac users like myself, we get to watch the Atom lazily cycle through a variety of color schemes like my parents' old hot tub. Even without being able to unlock the full potential of the Whirlwind Engine, the Atom is a high-quality keyboard that's enjoyable to use. You really can't beat it's clickity-clack sound.

The Atom keyboard is an excellent choice on-the-go, but for the same price, you might as well get the full-sized Element.

Sophisticated Gamer is a series all about elevated gaming accessories you won't be embarrassed to show to your Tinder date. We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too.

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