Good board, with a few oddities.
Acer has been shipping its own keyboards with its Predator desktops for a while now, but has never offered them for sale to the public before. That’s going to change with the new Aethon 500 (See it on Amazon). It’s a full-size gaming keyboard positioned at the very top echelon of the mechanical keyboard market. It features dedicated macro keys, per-key RBG backlighting, clicky Kalih Blue switches, and a snazzy magnetic wrist wrest. As you can see, this keyboard is full-loaded, and priced accordingly at $180. I took it for a spin to see if its lofty price is justified.
Acer Predator Aethon 500 – Design and Features
Solid. That’s how I’d describe the Aethon 500’s build and design. What also helps the Aethon feel sturdy is its weight: 3.88 pounds. It’s safe to say that its heft and thick rubber grips on the underside mean the keyboard won’t move around on you in the heat of battle. The anodized aluminum faceplate, married with the mechanical switches and smooth keycaps, lend a premium feel to the two most often touched aspects of the keyboard.
The keycaps are comfortable, with a texture that feels incredibly similar to the aluminum face and side panels, and once I got used to the spacing, my typo rate dropped considerably for normal work. The blue switches felt great, too. What I really like is the simple, minimal typeface for the key labels. So many gaming keyboards favor chunky fonts but here, Acer showed a bit of restraint, and the end result is all the better for it.
The Aethon has five dedicated macro buttons, a Game mode button in the top corner, a magnetic wrist-wrest, and dedicated media controls. The macro buttons are made of the same plastic as the rest of the keycaps and use the same switches, but Acer skimped on the other extras. Media controls and the Game mode button favor cheap-feeling hard plastic and do a disservice to how good everything else feels. The underside of the keyboard and magnetic wrist wrest follow the hard-plastic-theme as well. With the wrist wrest it’s particularly damning when $150 keyboards like the Logitech’s G513 offer a padded option and cost $30 less. The Aethon’s wasn’t uncomfortable, but it wasn’t exactly plush, either.
Unfortunately, the volume wheel isn’t any better. Every time I went to crank up the Doom reboot’s killer soundtrack during my tests, I was reminded where Acer cut corners. Unlike the volume knob found on its competitors like the Corsair K70 V2, it’s made out of plastic. It’s very wobbly and seemed like it could bend or break off with a firm enough press.
Acer Predator Aethon 500 – Software
Acer promises the Aethon can reproduce 16.8 million colors, and after my testing period, I’m inclined to believe the company. If you want to get really nerdy you can customize the color of each key and set up your own lighting pattern. The software is a little kludgy though, and it took some time scratching my head to figure out how to actually design a lighting scheme and have the options stick.
Lighting patterns include breathing, reactive, scroll, ripple, radar, fireworks, and if you really want to annoy yourself, a blinking mode. Each mode can be fully customized, and you can speed them up or slow them down to a pretty granular degree. If you’re looking to get familiar with the keyboard, reactive mode is a good way to do it. The way lights pulse out of each key pressed and affect surrounding keys is really cool. For most of my gaming sessions though, I played in the dark and just used the fully lit preset.
Speaking of presets, the Aethon has five independent save slots. Meaning, you can tailor each slot to a specific game, so you don’t have to try making a one-size-fits-all preset that works for Dota 2 and Fortnite. You can also activate the Game mode button (upper left corner) via software. This button disables alt+tab, alt+F4, the Windows key and can swap WASD directional inputs to the number pad.
Acer Predator Aethon 500 – Gaming
Everyday typing is one thing; what matter is how does the Aethon hold up during a fight? Extremely well, in fact. The keyboard backlight system makes gaming in the dark very easy, and coupled with the N-key rollover it wasn’t my mis-pressed keys that got me killed in anything I played. Even though it was a new keyboard to me, hitting the F key to rip and tear demons apart in the Doom reboot felt incredibly natural, as did hitting Q to quick swap weapons, or E to activate a terminal.
It’s saying something that during my tests I didn’t need to flip out the angle levers on the bottom either. My wrists are pretty sensitive to strain and I never got uncomfortable using the Aethon right out of the box. The default angle and included wrist wrest made it comfortable to use both as my daily driver for work and for chasing high scores in Max Payne 3’s arcade mode.
What I really appreciated was the gap between the vertical bank of macro keys and left-handed control and escape keys. It made for a really comfortable resting spot for my pinky during gaming sessions and more than that, there was enough literal wiggle room that I wouldn’t accidentally hit a key on either side. Unfortunately, that means I only have myself to blame for all the times I reloaded during my umpteenth run through Hotline Miami’s opening chapters.
The Game mode button felt gimmicky since I rarely accidentally hit keys during games, but it does offer a a quick and convenient way to cycle through several backlight animation presets. I also appreciated the fact that the Game Mode button in the far corner was lower than the Esc key, making it easier to differentiate between the two.
Even though I didn’t use the row of macro buttons, the MMO and MOBA crowd will appreciate them quite a bit. The companion software lets you set profiles for up to five different games, which gives you 25 macros in total. That should be enough for most folks, I would hope.
The Acer Predator Aethon 500 has an MSRP of $179.99, but its price dropped all the way to just $105 recently on Amazon: