Vortex Race 3 Quick Reference

I tried to post a shorter version of this as a review for the Vortex Race 3 Mechanical Keyboard on Amazon, but they rejected it because I linked to external (non-Amazon) sites. Anyway, if you're considering getting a Race 3, or already have one, here's what you need to know:


A fantastic keyboard at an amazing price. The milled-aluminum case is stellar, and the thick PBT dye-subbed keycaps look & feel fantastic. Here is a great video review of the keyboard by someone who knows what they are talking about:


If you aren't sure "what color" of Cherry MX switches to get, here is a great quick reference.

If you have never tried different Cherry switches before, I highly recommend you buy a switch tester so you can try them out (or find someone that has a mechanical keyboard with Cherry switches) - you might find you prefer a different one than you expected. Amazon sells a variety of switch testers that you can get pretty cheaply: http://amzn.to/2yLonZ8


A number of the reviews are from people complaining about how hard it is to get the keycaps off, and in some cases destroying switches. There was even a post on Reddit from someone who did this two minutes after opening it up.

I bought the Race 3 with Cherry Clears, which are actually even tighter than normal Cherry switches, and had no issues getting the caps off. The key is that you SHOULD NOT PULL UPWARDS ON THE KEYCAPS. You need a key cap puller (like these: http://amzn.to/2yMr2n0), which you put around the corners of the keycap diagonally, and then wiggle back and forth. Do not apply upward pressure. Just wiggle back and forth, and the cap will pop off eventually. [Note that the Race 3 does not come with a keycap puller on its own, so you'll need to buy them separately.]

User Manual

The location of the user manual changed on Vortex's website, and there are a number of posts from people looking for it. You can find it here.

Firmware and macOS Support

A previous version of the firmware had not-so-great support for macOS. The version the board ships with will work just fine with macOS, and when you plug in the board macOS will prompt you to set it up. The issue with the shipping version of the firmware is that it doesn't map the keys in a good way for macOS. This is relatively easy to fix with the key programming feature (below), but if you update the firmware it will take care of this for you, anyway.

My biggest complaint with the board, actually, is that the firmware update utility only runs in Windows. Not a total showstopper, but certainly a pain for macOS and Linux users.

Using the Key Programming Feature

I didn't originally anticipate actually using this feature, but ended up using it almost immediately to re-map keys independent of the OS. It's especially nice because the programs persist in the board's on-board storage.

The manual for the Race 3 refers you to the Vortex Pok3r manual for the programming procedure, but I had a bit of trouble figuring it out - primarily because a key step is missing from the manual.

The board OS modes (Windows, Linux, OSX), layout modes (QWERTY, Dvorak, Colemak), and layers. The OS modes and layout modes are pre-defined and controlled by the firmware. The layers, however, are programmable by you. You cannot modify the default layer, but you can create key programs for any of the other three.

To program keys, do the following:

  1. Select a non-default layer. If no LED is on under the left side of the space bar, you're in the default layer. Press FN+SHIFT to cycle layers.
  2. Press FN+RIGHT-CTRL to enter programming mode. Now a LED under the right side of the space bar should come on.
  3. Press the key you want to program. The right LED under the space bar should start flashing.
  4. Press the key sequence you want to program, then press PN.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for as many keys as you want.
  6. Press FN+RIGHT-CTRL to exit programming mode.

This is identical to the Pok3r programming instructions, except for step 1, which uses different keys.


Everything else should be covered by the Manual on the page linked above. I've been using the board at work for a few weeks now, and am really enjoying it. If you're interested in diving further down the rabbit hole of mechanical keyboards, I recommend /r/mechanicalkeyboards subreddit community. Cheers! =)

Ben Hilburn

Ben Hilburn

bits, nibbles, bytes, and words
D.C. Metro Area