Vortex Tab 90 review: An acquired taste

vortextab 90 setup

The Vortex Tab 90 is overall a nice keyboard, but not for everyone. The combination of Cherry MX Blue switches and wireless Bluetooth functionality is a rare find.

The keyboard is by no means new, which means you may be lucky to find it with a hefty discount. At full price, I think you can find better and newer keyboards.

The Vortex Tab 90 occupies a niche space with a sleek 90% layout, where you will save space without missing keys. However, it takes some time to get used to the layout and the DSA keycap profile.

The support for onboard macro programming adds great customizability for particularly coders.

The fast summary

  • Wireless Bluetooth.
  • Sleek space-saving 90% layout.
  • Cherry MX Blue switches.
  • Onboard macro programming.
  • Quirky, colorful retro design.
  • Bluetooth 3.0 is rather old.
  • High frame with limited incline.
  • No guide marks on the F and J keys to position your fingers.
  • DSA profile keycaps take some time to get used to.
  • Non-standard keycap sizes.
  • No software.

Specs at a glance

OSWindows / macOS
ConnectionWireless Bluetooth 3.0 / USB Type-C, pairing up to 4 devices
BacklightingNone
MacrosHardware programmable
SwitchesCherry MX variants
LayoutsISO / ANSI
Hot-swappableNo
BuildDouble-shot PBT Keycaps, DSA profile
Dimensions371 x 120 x 34 mm
Weight1397 g

Where to buy

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Check price and availability on Amazon.

Unboxing

vortex tab 90 unboxing
In the box

The Vortex Tab 90 comes with:

  • USB-C cable for wired-mode or charging
  • Additional colored keycaps
  • Keycap puller
  • Manual

I already switched to the colored keycaps in the picture above. Out of the box, the color scheme is entirely grey and white.

Setup

Unfortunately, my sample came without the manual included. I managed to find the manual online, but no way in hell I would have guessed the setup procedure without it. Below is an excerpt (bad translations included) from the manual on how to pair the Vortex Tab 90 in case you’re in the same boat as me:

1. To put your keyboard in pair mode, slide the power switch on (Back of case)

2. Activate Bluetooth on your device and set it to search for new devices.

3. Press Pn + L_Alt for 3 seconds to enter the Bluetooth pairing mode, the Bluetooth LED indicator (on Capslock) will flashing then hit Pn + one of J, K, L, ; to pair the device.

4. Locate the list of Bluetooth devices in the interface of the device. After selecting “Vortexgear” from it, the Bluetooth indicator is off and the pairing is completed.

Design

vortextab 90 sideview
Side view.

The design is distinctly retro, which gives me vibes to the good old IBM keyboards I used in elementary school in the 90’s. There is not a lot of incline and the compact layout and DSA profile keycaps give a very sleek look. However, the keyboard looks and feels a lot more “plastic” in real life than in the marketing pictures and it shouldn’t be confused with the Vortex Tab 90M, which has an aluminum frame.

The DSA profile keycaps are rather shallow and are definitely not for everyone. Even with Cherry MX Blue switches, I had a hard time getting used to both the low keys and the relatively big gap between them. They feel like a middle-ground between low-profile and full-size keys.

The frame is pretty high and there is no incline adjustment, which makes the keyboard a bit uncomfortable to type on for longer durations. You may need to purchase an additional wristrest.

In addition, there are no raised marks (guide keys) on the F and J keys to position your hands without looking, which may seem like a minor detail, but it makes me crazy!

Layout

vortex tab 90 layout
Retro and coffee.

I like the layout, where you get all the keys you need with no wasted space. It certainly takes some time to get used to, especially when trying to hit the arrow keys, but it’s not a dealbreaker. The colored keycaps separate the layout nicely and make it easier to handle.

For some unexplainable reason, one red keycap didn’t fit the right Ctrl, which leads me to another point. Alt+Gr, Fn, and Ctrl to the right of the spacebar are all shortened (1u) compared to standard, which makes it slightly more difficult to find custom keycaps.

Features

Wireless Bluetooth

A keyboard with a 90% layout with wireless functionality is a rare find. I was a bit worried about the Bluetooth connection, as Bluetooth 3.0 is old by now. However, the connection is stable and the keys are responsive.

The keyboard cannot be charged but runs on 2x AAA batteries that you have to buy yourself.

Cherry MX switches

The Cherry MX Blue switches are great as always. It’s also extremely difficult to find the MX Blue switches in a wireless package, so this is a big plus. Due to the DSA keycap profile, they feel a bit lighter to press than the OEM profile keys on my Ducky keyboard.

Sound test

I made a small sound test, which you can hear below. I LOVE the sound of MX Blues.

Sound test of Vortex Tab 90 with Cherry MX Blue switches.

Supports macro programming but may not be for everyone

The Vortex Tab 90 supports macro programming. However, the fact that you have to do it onboard instead of software is very tedious. The upside is that the programming is stored on board, which means you can bring it with you to another device and save the programming without installing software.

If you’re into macro programming, the customizability is undoubtedly there.

FN keys for people with inhuman memory

There are no FN prints on the keycaps. You will just have to remember them.

I did manage to remember 1-2-3-4-5-6, then whaaaat? I’ve included out-of-the-box FN keys designation below:

Use cases

vortextab 90 review
In the setup.

Typing

The Vortex Tab 90, particularly with the MX Blue switches, provides a great typing experience. Especially if you add in a wrist rest to compensate for the high frame. The layout and keycaps take some time to get used to, but it’s a worthwhile compromise to free up some space on your desk without losing key functionality.

Programming

In a similar vein as typing, the keyboard is also great for programming. You have all the keys you need and the macro programming functionality with onboard memory shines particularly for coders with the added customizability.

Office

With some other switches than the Blues, the keyboard could also work in the office. Bluetooth is an office staple, where you can’t lose a wireless dongle. The fact that you program your macros onboard is also a plus, given that a lot of workplaces restrict the installation of programs.

On the go

I do not recommend the Tab 90 for transport. It is simply too large and bulky to fit in a bag.

Gaming

There is no RGB, which may be an instant dealbreaker for your gaming vibe. Moreover, I would recommend that you get a keyboard with a dedicated wireless 2.4Ghz receiver for gaming. Bluetooth 3.0 is fine for typing but has too much delay for gaming.

References

Vortex Tab 90 manual

Official product page

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