A review of Vortex's Cypher mechanical keyboard

I have been trying to find the perfect mechanical keyboard for work for a little while. I started out the Logitech G413 but that lacked the customisation that I really wanted, and I was slowly moving on from my love of frameless designs. I had been intrigued by smaller form factors and managed to pick up a 60% Mini One 2 from Ducky with Cherry Silent Red switches.

The silent reds were perfect for the office, but increasingly I was feeling limited by the form factor and the lack of arrow keys in particular. Next came the Filco Majestouch Minila seemed like the perfect combination of form factor/layout magic (60% with arrows!), but its Cherry Black switches were starting to get comments from the people around me when I was in the office on busy days.

So now what? I have some keyboards on order (Group Buys and another on pre-order) that will be a while, so I decided to see what was good and available and had specifically silent switches. I came across the Vortex/Vortexgear Cypher (single spacebar) on Candykeys.com with an ISO-DE layout with the essential Cherry MX Silent Red Switches.

The Vortex Cypher Keyboard


The keyboard has a standard 65% layout, with one or two slight differences that might trip some folks up in terms of customization (more on that later!). The only real issue I have with the default layout is not having a dedicated DEL key, but this is quite easy to rectify with the board’s programmability!


So, at the top right of the keyboard, the default layout has a home key. Now, I do not know the last time I used the home key that was not by mistake. But the Cypher has a little trick up its sleeve. You can program any of the keys to be anything you want on one of the extra layers that the keyboard has. This allows you massive amounts of macro potential. By changing layer (Fn+, or Fn+. or Fn+/), then jumping into programming mode, you can select a target key, and then the key or keypress combination that you want to happen when you press that key. In my case, I wanted to replace the home key with a DEL key.

  • So changed to the 2nd layer (Fn+,).
  • Enter programming mode (Fn + L_Ctrl) This makes a green light appears up around the tab key.
  • Press the target HOME key.
  • Then the Fn+’ (DEL) key combination that I wanted to replace Home with.
  • After that press the PN key to program that action.
  • Finally press Fn+L_Ctrl to exit programming.

All I have left to do after that is replace the keycap with a DEL one and happy days. I will look to replace the rest of that 65% right hand column with other more useful keys in future but for now, that DEL key is perfect. And this is super tame use of this power - I am sure there are some amazing macros out there built with this functionality.

Build and Design

Vortex have designed a nice minimal and sleek 65% board here. The top of the frame is a nicely curved design and has this inset rim piece (that if you need to take off is a bit of a pain) that adds a continuous subtle shadow line to the frame that sets it apart. And I think subtle might be the best word for the design - it will sit in your office without drawing too much attention until you take a closer look.

In terms of build, it is a nice solid plastic, and the Cypher has some weight to it. The USB cable is detachable so that’s a plus and has a type C connector. There are no feet to adjust the angle of the keyboard and that might be a deal breaker for some people as I think it might be on the shallow side. Unfortunately, the keyboard does not have a PCB that is hot swap sockets but that is forgivable as when it debuted back in 2018, hot swap PCBs might have been a little out of this price range. The stabilizers also have a little rattle - not overall noticeable on the Enter key or spacebar, but definitely on the backspace key.

I was also a little disappointed by the Cypher’s “hollow” sound. When I bottomed out on the switches that hollowness seemed to be a little loud - so the silent red switches were not as silent as I hoped and nowhere near as silent as the Ducky.


So, with that hollow sound - what could I do? I decided to try a couple of modifications that I try on most of my boards, so I started with tape and foam mods. So when I opened the board I discovered this cavernous interior which is exactly where that hollowness was coming from.

Cypher Vortex interior

I filled this with foam. And it was night and day. The hollow sound is almost gone. I’m not sure how much the tape mod added to this sound dampening but it seemed to have helped on other boards so I went ahead and did that too.

There is a little scratchiness from the switches but its barely noticeable. I am quite sure this would be removed by adding lube to the switches. But since this is not a hot swappable board and I do not want to bother desoldering the switches, I will just live with it. Along those lines, I would love to be able to lube and remove the rattle from the backspace key especially, but I guess I am just going to have to learn to type perfectly from now on…

Obviously because I bought the keyboard in ISO-DE layout, so I picked up a nice set of Dolch MA profile keycaps from Amazon (affiliate link). As I mentioned above, the layout has a couple of oddities that might make finding a keycap set that fits a little difficult. The bottom right alt, fn, and pn(!) key are all 1U. That PN key is going to be a blank or another kind of modifier. But not every set will have a R4 (Or R1 depending on your profile) blank or modifier keycap. I tend to buy uniform profiles like DSA or MA for exactly this reason.

Vortex Cypher with Dolch MA Keycaps

Final Thoughts

The Vortex Cypher is a well-built minimal 65% mechanical keyboard with a trick up its sleeve. I have enjoyed using it in the office, and although it is not perfect - at this price point and with the functionality it has, it is hard not to recommend it.