Thermaltake’s gaming products with RGB lighting are compatible with Razer’s Chroma lighting control system if you have gear from both vendors, but the Thermaltake Level 20 GT RGB Razer gaming keyboard ($119.99) takes the alliance further—it utilizes Razer’s proprietary switches instead of Cherry’s MX switches or some of the latter’s many clones. While it’s unusual to see these switches on products other than Razer’s own (and Thermaltake offers keyboards with Cherry switches if you prefer), it’s not enough to make the Level 20 GT RGB attractive—the keyboard’s bulk, its crash-prone software, and its squeaky key noise left me unimpressed.
No Shrinking Violet
The first thing you’ll notice about the Level 20 is that the keyboard is relatively large (1.73 by 19 by 7.32 inches). Currently, I’m in possession of half a dozen full-size keyboards, and Thermaltake’s is close to the biggest. G.Skill’s Ripjaws KM780 is slightly larger, but that keyboard has several extra keys and an edgier design. The size isn’t likely to be a serious issue for most users, but if you have limited desk space, an extra inch or two taken up by the keyboard can make a big difference.
Thermaltake also made the keyboard a little on the heavy side at 3.3 pounds, though this is explained by the Level 20’s construction. The keyboard features an aluminum top plate and the unit as a whole feels extremely durable.
The keyboard is plain in appearance, with the most notable aesthetic features being a TT logo in the top left corner and a notch or gap in the plastic between the primary and cursor arrow keys. RGB LEDs behind each key help make the board look more impressive. These lights are bright and vibrant and among the best I’ve seen on a keyboard to date.
At top right are several extra buttons as well as a volume scroll wheel. Five of these buttons are dedicated to controlling multimedia features (mute, stop, play/pause, and next and previous track) and the remaining buttons switch among gaming profiles and light settings.
On the back edge of the keyboard rests a USB pass-through port as well as a 3.5mm audio jack, making it easy to connect your headset and mouse.
The keyboard I tested comes with Razer Green switches, which are designed to provide both tactile and audible feedback when actuated. They actuate after being depressed 1.9mm (+/- 0.4mm) with a maximum travel distance of 4mm. The switches also require 50g of force to actuate, which is an average measure for this type of switch. Thermaltake says each key can be pressed up to 80 million times before failing. That’s a longer rating than the more typical 50 million claimed by switches of Cherry provenance.
That said, I found typing with the Level 20 GT RGB Razer keyboard to be an unpleasant experience. The keys produce a lot of noise when pressed, and some of my test unit’s keys, like the backspace, squeaked. I compared the Thermaltake to a Razer BlackWidow TE keyboard also equipped with Razer Green switches and noticed a significant difference between the two; the Razer board was far quieter, and its keys felt easier to actuate. This could be partly due to the BlackWidow’s being broken in over several years, but I never remember it as being particularly loud, while the Thermaltake was obnoxiously noisy.
To program the keyboard keys for special functions and to gain more control over the LED lighting, you must download Thermaltake’s iTake Engine software—or rather, you could if the software worked.
I’m actually the second reviewer from PCMag to take a look at this keyboard, which reached me after a colleague reported running into issues with the included software. I found the Level 20 to work without issue in plug-and-play mode, but the software tripped me up just as it did my colleague: iTake proved unstable, crashing frequently. And between us, we tried iTake on more than one system each.
In essence, you’d want to be sure you’d be happy with this keyboard minus any advanced key-programming or lighting customizations before diving in, given the state of iTake. Given that so many keyboard makers out there offer battle-tested, mature supporting utilities, however, why should you? To my eyes, only if you were to get this board at a very aggressive price would you want to accept that compromise.
You Can Do Better
The Thermaltake Level 20 GT RGB Razer keyboard’s $119.99 price is a fair average for today’s mechanical-keyboard market, and I find myself describing the board as merely average as well—a mechanical keyboard that doesn’t stand out. Its LED loadout looks impressive, but the chassis’ large size and excessive key-noise production make it a ho-hum keyboard for everyday use, even setting aside the buggy software.
Unless you find it on closeout, I’d stick with our Editors’ Choices, the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum and the slightly less expensive HyperX Alloy Origins.