Vortex, manufacturer of the hugely popular 60% keyboard, has been teasing its next generation Poker on Facebook. Dubbed the POK3R, or Poker III, the new board is set to include several upgrades, and undoubtedly will sell for more than the Poker II’s ~$110 street price.
Here’s a quick rundown of the POK3R’s features–at least those we know so far, and how they stack up against the Poker II:
- Metal case: Unlike the Poker II, which ships with a plastic case, the POK3R will feature a low-profile cast aluminum case. This alone guarantees that the POK3R will retail for at least $150, and likely more. It appears to be the same aluminum case that Vortex has been selling separately for the last year or so.
- Black or white: The POK3R will be available with black caps and a black case, or white caps and a white case, similar to the Poker II.
- Full programmability with 3 layers: The Poker II has only two programmable layers with a fixed Pn key. Vortex says the Poker III will have three programmable layers with the Fn and Pn keys being programmable themselves–in other words, full programmability similar to keyboards with custom controllers.
- Support for QWERTY, Dvorak, and Colemak: Vortex’s teaser photos suggest these layouts will be settable via DIP switches on the PCB, and DO show correct-profile Dvorak and Colemak keysets, but it’s unknown whether they will ship each layout as a separate SKU. When you start multiplying layout support with color, LED options, and so on… that makes a LOT of different SKUs, and retailers don’t like that–too difficult to stock everything. More on this below.
- LED Backlighting with programmability: The Poker II comes in backlit and non-backlit varieties. The same will possibly be true of the POK3R, since some teaser shots show it with backlit-compatible keycaps and some show it with solid keycaps. However, all of the ‘naked’ Poker III shots so far have shown LEDs installed, so it might be a mandatory feature. Either way, we also know that on backlit models, you’ll also be able to program LEDs on a per-key basis if you only want certain keys illuminated. Note that it will NOT be an RGB board, although Vortex has commented that they’re interested in releasing RGB boards in the future when Corsair’s exclusivity contract ends.
- Authentic Cherry MX switches: Unlike many of their competitors, Vortex won’t be switching to a lower-cost MX alternative switch like Kailh or Gateron.
- Multiple types of keycaps, including PBT+POM doubleshots: In a Facebook comment, Vortex suggested that the Poker III will come with a choice of keycaps–including, at least, their recently released PBT keycaps with translucent doubleshot POM legends, dyesubbed PBT, lasered or printed PBT, and ABS (probably pad-printed).
- Plate mounted: The POK3R will have a plate sandwiched between the PCB and switches for extra rigidity, just like the Poker 2. There was some previous speculation that it would be PCB-mounted (i.e., switches soldered directly to PCB with no plate in between) like the original Poker X, but this has since been proven false.
- Revised function layer: On the Poker II’s function layer, the missing arrow keys were mapped to WASD. On the Poker III, they look to be mapped to IJKL instead, and many other functions have been relocated too. Of course, this is only the default configuration–with 3 programmable layers, you can arrange your function layer any way you want.
- No “Enjoy Your Feeling” on the spacebar: Good, because no one enjoyed that on the Poker II.
- Will be available in ISO: Good news for our European friends.
I think there are two main takeaways here.
First, the POK3R is going to be an expensive, high-end keyboard, with its aluminum case and vast new feature set. My guess is it’ll retail between $150 and $200, and probably closer to $200. If this happens, Vortex will continue to sell the Poker II as a “budget” option.
Second, Vortex is really pushing customizability, from color, to keycap material, to keycap layout, to backlighting. If you multiply together all the possibilities, you get dozens if not hundreds of combinations. There’s no way retailers will stock all these SKUs. It may mean that certain combinations are impossible to find at retail… or maybe Vortex is planning something special? Maybe they’re going to start selling made-to-order boards direct? That’ll be complicated since they’re based in Taiwan, but don’t rule it out completely–especially with the POK3R’s expected premium price.
Finally, the latest word from Vortex is a February 2015 release date, though some people on the forums are saying March. Don’t hold your breath, though–Vortex is notorious for delays.
I’ll close out here with a gallery of images Vortex has released so far. Enjoy, and let me know what your predictions are for the Poker III!