I have been plunging through the vast wilderness of the mechanical keyboard world for budget and interesting models from different manufacturers.
I have been eyeing a Ven Mini from Venatos since it’s launch and finally decided to take the plunge and pick one up. It took a bit of time to decide as I was not a fan of their customizable mouse. It did many things well but it had some real issues. So I decided to throw $130 CAD at a keyboard from a manufacturer I don’t necessarily trust instead of something from the likes of Corsair or Logitech.
But, as a Canadian based gaming company, I really want to support them. That was the real deciding factor.
So here we are today. I have a Ven Mini in hard and it’s time to tear it apart and show it who’s boss. OK maybe maybe I won’t be that aggressive.
The Ven Mini comes in a pretty compact box with your typical marketing pictures and so on you expect to see on a main stream gaming manufacturers box. Opening the box the keyboard is wrapped in a protective bag. Included inside the box is a nice silvery USB-C cable, wire keycap puller, a metal switch puller and a black Venatos logo key. While I like the included key it also shows a lack of forethought since that black key doesn’t match my blue and white keycaps in anyway. But I suppose I can use it somewhere else so it’s not an entire waste. And the thought behind it is nice too.
Let’s talk about the Ven Mini keyboard itself. It is available in several colourways including all black, purple and blue with a white case, blue and white with a blue case and pink and white with a pink case. The plastic case itself is very rigid. If you have owned or own or seen a Skyloong GK61 case it’s basically the same. A couple differences include a switch on the bottom to toggle the wireless Bluetooth on or off and a couple drain holes in case you spill something on your keyboard. There are no claims made by Venatos that this keyboard is waterproof. And I would doubt that it is. Around the centre-front is where the USB-C cable plugs in. I prefer the connector to be on the left side either on the front or the side itself but this works and certainly is no deal breaker.
The keycaps are interesting. The legends are a theme that I also have on a very budget keyboard that I will be reviewing soon and as such look really cheap. I have seen this same legend style on Drevo keyboards of the past as well. It’s not a deal breaker but I always find the weird way they split certain letters and numbers unappealing to say the least. These are PBT shine-through keycaps which means they will be pretty durable compared to ABS. The texturing on them is very different. It’s a bit coarser than I was expecting but not in a bad way. This offers a bit more traction than a lot of keycaps offered by other manufacturers on their keyboards and I appreciate that. They’ve also taken the time to round off the corners a bit more making them less sharp and to me a look of better quality than some of the similar looking budget board offerings.
The switches below are Gateron yellows which are currently one of my favourite switches. A great linear switch that’s a slightly heavier than a red and for some reason typically feel a bit smoother than most reds as well. That said, if you are not a fan of the Gateron Yellow switches the Ven Mini is a fully hot-swappable keyboard. Venatos says it is compatible with nearly all 3-pin mechanical switches which covers a large majority of the switches available. I am a fan of yellows and likely will keep these installed unless I pick up some more ZealPC Tealios switches.
The Mini is also fully RGB. In fact it is even capable, with Venatos’ software available on their website, per key RGB. This is great considering there are so many keyboard offered on the market right now that claim full 16 million colour RGB compatibility but no way to access it directly. Instead mean offer many pre-programmed effects and colours. Some manufacturers even offer software but stop short of per key RGB. Why?
Currently the default programming on the Mini is a bit baffling. By default the “/?”, “R-Alt”, “context menu”, and “R-Ctrl” are mapped to your directional arrows. Even though the keyboard legends don’t depict this at all. And, after contacting Venatos they suggested, correctly I might add, to use the “FN+LCtrl” combination to switch to another layer on the keyboard that unlocks the normal functionality of those buttons. The problem with this is, this second layer not only changes those functions to normal but changes what the rest of the buttons as well. This is frankly baffling. Why wouldn’t you put the arrow functions on that second layer?
When I contacted Venatos again they suggest remapping the keyboard to what I desired in their software. While I appreciate that suggestion and I managed to reprogram the keys (which honestly is more than I can say for many other mechanical keyboards out there) I still have to wonder why Venatos decided to program their keyboards in this manner. Thankfully their software is easy to use and I was able to resolve the issue.
I have emailed Venatos about this and they say many of the people that have purchased the Ven Mini prefer this keymapping. I can see gamers not having a problem with this since they aren’t necessarily chatting a lot but for those of us that game and type a lot not having access to the “?” key a bit hard to swallow.
That same said software also offers access to a multitude of RGB functions including per key RGB settings. There is another tab called “Gaming Mode” That offers a way in software to disable “Alt+Tab”, “Alt+F4” and the Windows key. This is a nice gamer friendly feature though I tend to leave all of those activated. There is also a “Macro” tab. I don’t use macros at all but this feature is very powerful here even allowing you to control mouse events. That’s pretty neat.
The Ven Mini is also a Bluetooth keyboard with an 1800mAh lithium battery on board. After looking at the small manual that comes with the keyboard I bravely removed my USB-C cable and synced up the keyboard. It was actually pretty straight forward. The performance seems pretty good though I expect it may be too slow for serious gamers like many Bluetooth keyboards are. On battery the backlight will stay on for 60 seconds. I do not know what the connection timeout is but if it also times out at the same time as the lights it reconnects flawlessly and quickly. The keyboard can be connected to three different Bluetooth devices at once. There is a charge level indicator in Windows in the Bluetooth settings but the keyboard also will show a red light under the spacebar while it is charging the battery. The red light will go out when the battery is full.
With the keymapping issues aside, I have to say, I really like this keyboard. It types really nice. Feels great while doing said typing. The software is simple but works very well. I think $129.99 CAD is a pretty fair price.