Whirlwind FX Atom review: a super-compact, super-customisable gaming keyboard

The Whirlwind FX Atom is a 60 percent keyboard aimed firmly at gamers

Whirlwind FX Atom
(Image credit: Whirlwind FX)
T3 Verdict

The Whirlwind FX Atom brings with it superb performance and customisable lighting at a very compact 60 percent size. While we had a few minor issues with the Atom, it's one of the best gaming keyboards around at the moment – as long as you like the form factor.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    High polling rate

  • +

    Customisable lighting

  • +

    Compact size

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No wireless option

  • -

    Not great for productivity

  • -

    Compact size

The Whirlwind FX Atom is a best gaming keyboard contender in a very specific keyboard category: the 60 percent keyboard, where function keys, cursor keys and the number pad are all chopped off, leaving you with a peripheral that's portable and ultra compact.

You can input the commands associated with the missing keys, but they require a specific keyboard shortcut. On the Atom, the number keys along the top of the keyboard double up as function keys, while the I, J, K and L keys are also doubling up as the cursor keys.

So is the Whirlwind FX Atom the right gaming keyboard for you? We've been tapping away at it for a few days and can give you our verdict – though your considerations need to include whether or not you want a 60 percent keyboard, as well as the Atom specifically.

Whirlwind FX Atom review: design and setup

Whirlwind FX Atom

(Image credit: Future)

We've been very impressed with the build quality and design of other Whirlwind FX keyboards that we've crossed paths with, and the Atom is more of the same: this is a superbly put together bit of kit, giving off a feel of both robustness and style at the same time. Being a 60 percent keyboard, it is of course compact – it measures a mere 319 mm x 145 mm x 48 mm and weighs in at 771 grams. It's perfect if you need a keyboard that isn't going to take up a whole lot of space on your desk.

The ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastic matte keycaps look the part, and although the choice of font on the keys isn't the most appealing we've ever seen, that's something of a personal preference. There's a white, anodised aluminium backplate under the keys that adds an extra layer of polish and enhances the premium aesthetics of the Atom, while we can't fault the chunky, rubberised flip-out feet underneath the keyboard either.

There's no wireless option here, but the braided USB-C cable is a decent length and detachable – it adds to the feel of portability that you get with these keyboard, because not only does it take up very little room, it's also very easy to pick up and move around (whether that's to another desk or another building). If you need a keyboard that can go anywhere with you, this is definitely worth considering.

The free software that you can download for the Whirlwind FX Atom gives you a host of lighting effects and some 16.8 million colours to choose from – from sparkling rainbows to minimal monochrome, you can really dive in and get tweaking with this keyboard's RGB lighting. Plenty of preset lighting configurations are available for you to download and use, and you can even go down to the level of individual keys when it comes to setting up colours and brightness. The software is Windows-only, it's worth noting.

Whirlwind FX Atom review: features and performance

Whirlwind FX Atom

(Image credit: Whirlwind FX)

The Whirlwind FX Atom comes with Gateron keys, with your choice of red linear, blue clicky or brown tactile switches. We had the blue clicky version, which let out a satisfying rattle as you move your fingers over them, but you can of course opt for one of the alternatives if you want a different experience. Key travel and responsiveness feels superb, and while the layout of this keyboard means you're not likely to pick it for productivity, it nevertheless gives a solid and pleasing typing experience.

The Atom comes with full N-key rollover, so you can press as many keys as you want simultaneously without any of them being ignored, and the 3,000 Hz polling rate that the Atom boasts is impressive too. We certainly noticed no problems at all when it came to switching quickly between keys and shortcuts – whether your gaming sessions find you in a tight spot or soaring through the skies, the Whirlwind FX Atom is going to serve you well in terms of responsiveness.

We've mentioned the RGB lighting, but we should also point out the 50+ game integrations that come as standard with the Atom – that means the lighting on the keyboard will adjust to match the gameplay on screen. There's a full list of supported games here, and titles such as Minecraft, Cyberpunk 2077, Fortnite, PUBG, Among Us, Fall Guys, Valorant, Apex Legends, CS:GO, Overwatch, Doom Eternal, No Man's Sky and The Witcher 3 are all supported. It's a comprehensive list, and if your favourite game is missing then you can put in a request for it to be added.

While it's fair to say that some of these game integrations are more in-depth and expensive than others, it's another reason to buy the Whirlwind FX Atom over one of its rivals. The company has always excelled in terms of the lighting customisation that it offers, and this particular model is no different – if you want a keyboard where you've got full control over the way it lights up at any time of the day, then you probably want something from Whirlwind FX on your shortlist.

Whirlwind FX Atom review: price and verdict

Whirlwind FX Atom

(Image credit: Whirlwind FX)

We liked just about everything that the Whirlwind FX Atom had to offer, including the solid build quality and the clackety feel of the Gateron keys as they're hit (remember you've got three different key types to choose from). There's no doubt that this is a keyboard that feels like a premium bit of kit, whether you're actually using it or just looking at it, and it's first class in terms of its responsiveness.

Whether or not you need a 60 percent keyboard is really a separate question to whether or not you should buy the Whirlwind FX Atom. The compactness you get with this type of keyboard is great, but it's fair to say that living without dedicated arrow keys and function keys is going to get some getting used to for many people. If you do decide that this is a form factor that you're interested in, then we think this is one of the best options.

Not only do you get a fantastically detailed piece of software for managing the RGB lighting, you also get all of those game integrations that we mentioned above. For games that aren't supported (and for movies and so on), the keyboard can try and analyse what's on screen and adjust the lighting accordingly, if you'd like. You'll struggle to find a more comprehensive option in terms of the software you get with your keyboard, and it's another area where this model shines.

The Whirlwind FX Atom is available in the US for $99.99 (about £73) right now, and we're still waiting on details when it comes to international availability. Despite its diminutive size, that's a respectable price for everything you get. While there are a few minor drawbacks to the Atom – some of them more to do with this choice of form factor rather than the actual keyboard itself – it's one of the best gaming keyboards out there at the moment.