Author Topic: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches  (Read 823 times)

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Offline dantan

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Full Disclosure:
This review is being offered on Geekhack as a condition of getting a free keyboard from hcman's store on Aliexpress. The links are here:

STORE https://www.aliexpress.com/store/2822092?spm=2114.10010108.100005.1.w00jmS

Keyboard https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Teamwolf-87-Key-Gaming-Mechanical-Keyboard-with-Customize-Blue-Switches-LED-Backlit-Anti-ghosting-Keys-for/2822092_32805410515.html?spm=2114.12010608.0.0.AaS5Vv


First off, I have many keyboards already. I donít need another one. Iím not offering this keyboard review because I wanted something free. Itís cheap enough for me to buy on my own and play around with. However, I am in business, and I routinely analyze businesses. Iím always intrigued by new things and wanted to try out the Outemu CIY (change it yourself) switches anyway. Really wanted to know more about this technology, especially because I feel us geekhackers donít incorporate the CIY technology into our custom boards. So yeah, I got this keyboard not with the desire to use it, but with the desire to tear it apart and peek inside once the review is done.

This is a TKL keyboard and all references are being made to the TKL. Please keep that in mind. They have fullsize versions.

This is a long review so I will break it up into multiple posts to give each one its own heading. I have a business trip to make next week and will be busy for the next 2 weeks, so donít be surprised if I donít update or follow up for the next fortnight.
« Last Edit: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:22:12 by dantan »

Offline dantan

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Packaging and Delivery
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:02:09 »
Packaging

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I have been buying from Aliexpress for a while, and everything has been taking 3-4 weeks and coming in packaged like trash. All of my purchases have come in trash bags. Most of my purchases came with no padding. Thatís Ali for you, totally cut rate and discount. Except for this guy.

I donít know how the seller hcman did it, and I hope he didnít pay extra for the shipping to me because he knew I was reviewing it. But he managed to get this board to me in just 5 working days/ 7 calendar days. I purchased it last Friday, and it is with me today.

This is my fastest, best packaged, and most enjoyable Aliexpress purchase ever. It is also my last, because Ali shut down my account barely a few hours after sending me an email saying seller had shipped. If only I had more experiences like this from Ali to begin with, I wouldnít have filed the complaint that led to my account shutdown. Itís really so Chinese to react to criticism with a thin-skinned aggressive Ďshutdowní response.

As my photos show, there were 2 shipments made. The first seems to some kind of domestic courier  from the shop to a Shenzhen address. It uses the red and white tape. The second address is via another courier to me abroad. It uses a recycled DHL bag turned inside out.167782-1

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Internal protection was highly professional. See that photo where I use my fingers to separate the layers of bubble wrap? There were 7 layers in that photo. In practice, there are 2-3 layers of bubble wrap at every aspect of the packaging. No corner had less than 2 layers of protection.167788-3

I am much more critical of the overpacking for the domestic leg of the journey. This packaging was excessive. It was very hard to get off, and would have been a pain for hcmanís poor employees.167784-4

Are you reading this, hcman? You donít need to overpack. It is unnecessary effort and a waste of resources (tape). It just irritates the buyer and the customs officer alike. Tape in my experience has never prevented or protected the contents from injury. Bubble wrap, foam, or peanuts are protection. Tape is just irritating. Not to mention, it adds to the weight of a package when you use so much of it!

I notice that the courier used a recycled DHL bag to send the package to me from China. Iím perfectly happy with recycling and think it is an excellent idea.

Now take a look at my photos of the boxes.

Let me stress, I am absolutely not complaining. But can you see how the boxes have been dented and squashed a bit? That is so even with a custom courier service and with excellent, professional packaging.
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Also look at the picture of the switches that I purchased along with the keyboard. Hcman is funding me here, and I will later change the switches and review them also.

Do you notice that one of the aluminum switch holders is slightly dented?

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Now if under the best conditions your stuff still gets a fair share of rough handling sufficient to dent boxes protected by plenty of bubble wrap, how do you think most Aliexpress purchases are going to fare in their unprotected trash bags with no padding and being shipped with regular Chinese packages by regular airmail?
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Of course it doesnít matter from a usage point of view. The purpose of the switch holder was to hold switches only. This kind of minor issues arenít the reason for dissatisfaction with aliexpress purchases. Iím just saying this, to drive home the point that stuff needs protection. Hcman did the right thing by insulating the package with 2-3 layers of wrap. This is a metal keyboard and feels very solid so it is unlikely to have taken much damage even with no box and no padding. But if it had been a secondhand Razer keyboard, and if seller had sent it with no box and no padding like so many Aliexpress sellers sell their wares, it would certainly come to me cracked and damaged.

Opening the box, I see that this comes with a keyswitch remover, a small sample of 4 other switches, an instruction manual and a Zhuque piece of waxed paper.
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Let me make a suggestion. Some cheap Chinese keyboards come with a molded transparent dust cover. I think Teamwolf should offer the same. It doesnít cost much, but keyboard owners will appreciate it.

Hcman is giving me this board to review, so itís free for me. But even so, I want to collect it. I really think it looks darn nice. Iíd hate to see dust accumulating all around the exposed switches. This keyboard really could do with a dust cover!

Also, the Zhuque piece of waxed paper could be changed for a piece of foam instead. Like in a Cooler Master keyboard box. By itself, this waxed paper offers no protection and doesnít serve much purpose since Zhuque isnít an established brand.

I notice the box is very thin. Itís thinner than the box for Rosewill or CM or even some Chinese brands. Now Iím not complaining here, just offering feedback. Box is dented too easily and it gives customers a poor impression. Who cares, for a $30 board. But if Teamwolf wants to scale up, it needs to pay attention to packaging. I donít see customers in rich industrial nations wanting to buy dented retail boxes. Parents arenít going to buy dented boxes for their kids. You wonít be giving your brother or friends birthday presents in dented boxes.

For the Chinese market you might offer lower prices and cut corners on the packaging, but for developed countries you need to look good too.

I do feel the foam molds that help pack the keyboard in the box are correctly designed. 167853-13Not too big, not too thick, just right. Some companies like Tesoro and Gigabyte ship their keyboards in big boxes with thick sides and very thick internal foam padding, but that is overpacking. Tesoro and Gigabyte keyboards fail because of their controllers, not because of poor protection when shipping.

I also ordered these switches that I will try out later 167800-14167857-15167859-16
« Last Edit: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:38:55 by dantan »

Offline dantan

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Build and Aesthetics
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:02:42 »
Build:

This keyboard is remarkably light. It is a TKL, but I have had Filco and CM TKLs which are way heavier. Aluminum is really much lighter than steel.

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I donít agree with the people who talk about Ďbuildí of a keyboard all the time. Most boards, including cheap Chinese boards, donít have a problem with the build. It is rigid and durable enough for standard usage conditions. There are no weird plastic flanges sticking out at odd angles. No Razer-style weak plastic surfaces that groan when you press on them. All that talk about being able to drive a car over a Model M or beat someone to death with a Model F is silly.

As long as something isnít too flimsy or likely to break, it should be ok. Teamwolf Zhuque is definitely good enough for me. If I were making a custom board for myself, I would be happy to have a casing like this. It would be cheap, attractive and fully functional.

Aesthetics:

One thing I dislike: visible screws on keyboard. Ugly.
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Worse, screws are made of iron. But the keyboard casing is brushed aluminum. This means the keyboard body will never rust, corrode or tarnish. Nice. But the screws? Theyíll become rust magnets in a few years. Big pity. I suspect this keyboard is very lasting but would totally hate to see  the screws all rusted up.

I do collect my boards. In 25 years I believe the LEDs and switches will still be going strong. The screws... not so much.

Iím also not sure why they used the screws that you can see in my photos. Corsair uses screws that are flush, and hides these screws between switches so that the keycaps hide them. Teamwolf uses visible raised screws which canít be cheaper than flush screws and just ruins the aesthetics.

Also as my photos of slightly misalligned keycaps show, there are minor flaws in the tolerances. Not a problem on a $30 board, but Teamwolf must solve this if they want to enter the $100 market. This may be an unresolvable issue for CIY boards. According to other reviews, CIY boards tend to be like this. You need a bit of freedom to move the switches in order to remove them.

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Cable:
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Zhuque comes with a 4 foot fixed cable. I would say that is ok for a $30 board, but would recommend a 6 foot cable if Teamwolf hopes to break into the $100 market. Nowadays people want the flexibility to put their desktops anywhere, and many gamers have multi-monitor settings on wide desks. 4 foot cable poses no problems for me, but some people may need the additional length.
« Last Edit: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:37:24 by dantan »

Offline dantan

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Installation, Switches and Stabs
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:03:15 »
Installation:
Very quick. No issues. Really plug and play like a good mechanical keyboard should be.
I have had issues with some mechanical keyboards in the past not installing immediately. For some reason, at least two versions of Poker seemed to have problems with my Windows 7 64-bit and always take a bit of time. There are also the usual culprits that wonít install properly like Corsair and Razer.

Switch Feel:

I have another Chinese keyboard with Outemu blue switches. When they first came out, I saw several reviews saying that Outemu blues were nicer and clickier than Cherry blues. And I agree! I love Outemu blues. If I were buying a board I would of course negotiate aggressively because I know Outemu blues are low-priced and lowly-regarded. But in reality I prefer Outemu blues over Cherry blues.

I was looking forward to getting this free board with Outemu blues.

But guess what?

The reviews are also correct: the CIY Blue Outemu switches are not the same as the standard Outemu blues. The CIYs feel a bit less noisy and less clicky.

This keyboard with ABS keycaps comes across more like a Filco Majestouch 2 with SA keycaps. I know my comparison with a $250 Filco-SA profile setup is supposed to be positive, but I donít own a Filco Majestouch 2 anymore. I did not like Filco with high profile SA because the height and the thickness of the keycaps dampened the Cherry Blues too much.

Thanks to being less noisy and clicky, the CIY switches are more like Cherry Blues than the standard Outemu Blues.

If Iíd known they would feel like this, Iíd have chosen to review Outemu Browns instead. Browns are not my fave but at least if I were reviewing Browns I would make the comparison with Cherry Browns and be looking out for a balance between noise and the silence needed in a workplace.

When posting a review I need to maintain an apples to apples comparison. Anyone using Outemu Blues is already in an environment where noise doesnít matter and cares more about actuation and clickiness. So I must regretfully say that Outemu CIY Blues are less enjoyable than regular Outemu Blues.

Stabilizers:

The stabs on this board drew a strongly positive reaction from me. I hope that hcman is reading this, and that he conveys the feedback to his company. This is one innovation I havenít seen before and I hope this is one innovation that becomes more common.
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Firstly, they are NOT mushy. They are nice and crisp like Costar stabs.

Secondly, they are easier than Costars. They share with Cherry stabs the nice ability to be just pulled off without having to do any gymnastics with the fingers.

Thirdly, this is not achieved at the expense of having custom keycaps. See my photos? The white things sticking out of the shift key are actually little plastic tabs plugged into the keycap holes. I was able to pull out these tabs and then youíll see the Zhuque has normal keycaps. In other words, this innovation can be adapted to our keyboards.

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As you can see from the photos, the tabs under the keycaps act like stabilizers by inserting into the holes below. This gives us stabilization without the noise and rattling of a moving piece of metal as per Costar stabs, and it doesnít resist being pushed down unlike the Cherry stabs which causes mushiness. I understand that metal contributes excessively to costs. Well, the plastic here works better than metal, so keep it up!

Stabilizers on this board: awesome!
« Last Edit: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:27:29 by dantan »

Offline dantan

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Keycaps and Keyboard Feet
« Reply #4 on: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:03:52 »
Keycaps:

Pretty good quality considering this is a cheap board. I pressed on the keycaps, and I would say they beat Razer and Corsair and Mionix and Logitech. These are ABS doubleshots. They also feel thicker than Filco and CM stock keycaps. I think doubleshots are the way to go for backlit keyboards. That way you donít have to worry about UV coatings being worn off after a while.

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The legends are fine for me, although Iíd say that the Cooler Master-inspired legends really arenít the most attractive around. But China is a very different market from the USA. For Chinese people, the roman alphabet doesnít have such cultural importance. Thatís why so many Chinese keyboards ship with horrible fonts. If Westerners were to try and print Chinese characters on their products, Iím pretty sure most Chinese would really hate the fonts too.

I know I got this free so I sound biased, but I really prefer the keycaps on this board to almost any other stock ABS keycaps on most of the big names, including the earlier backlit versions of Ducky. I think the doubleshot material made the difference. It adds weight and solidity to the keycap and reduces any cheap feel.

If Teamwolfís goal is merely to beat Razer, they have done it with this board. I prefer Zhuque to Razer.

[Wait for my teardown and lets see if Zhuque has better internals than Razer.]

Let me suggest to hcman and Teamwolf: This keyboard is a metallic gold color and while it is fairly nice with white keycaps, itís not really spectacular.

White keyboard goes with white keycaps, metallic gold keyboard with metallic keycaps, metallic silver with metallic silver keycaps, etc.




Keyboard stability and feet:

This is an all metal casing. Supposed to be brushed aluminum.

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As my photos show, the aluminum is thin. After this review I intend to take apart the keyboard and maybe next month will post the teardowns.

Iím happy with the aesthetics, although I have no idea how lasting such thin aluminum is, if youíre a brutal pro gamer who pounds the board nonstop.

More importantly, I am annoyed by the feet.

To be fully honest, keyboard does not move randomly. It DID NOT move during the entire duration of my review writing. But the plastic feet have no anti-slip padding. So when I stopped typing and gently pushed on the board to mimick any casual brush of the hand, it moved easily.

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Be aware that keyboard will also move if the plastic feet are folded. That is because there are only two non-slip pads underneath. Most manufacturers are wise enough to put 4 non slip pads. The other 2 feet on this board are just aluminum bumps. Aesthetically nice but not practical.
« Last Edit: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:33:12 by dantan »

Offline dantan

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Backlighting
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:04:18 »
LEDs:

This is a board with SMD LEDs. So the LEDs are mounted under the switches as opposed to being on top of the switch which would prevent the switches from being changed.

The LEDs are perfectly bright and even. Under the lowest brightness setting, they are still attractive.  I notice that even the bigger legends eg INS, DEL are fully lit up even on the lowest brightness.

I particularly like the warm white LEDs on this keyboard.

Taking the keycap off and looking directly at the light, I am not blinded at all. Good!

However, I would like to point out that the shift keys and the up arrow keys (see photos) are slightly less attractive. This is because these three keys have legends that reach halfway down the keycap, as opposed to being at the top 1/3 of the keycap. As you can see from my photos, because the keystem is underneath, it blocks the light and hence the bottom part of these three legends is darker. This is a very minor design oversight and not at all relevant for a $30 keyboard, but if Teamwolf wants to challenge Ducky one day in the over $100 category, itís relevant feedback.

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OK Teamwolf, once again I see your problem is with the desire to improve but not actually being there yet.
            
You have three LED brightness levels only. I canít even use your macro keys to turn off the LEDs entirely, unlike on many other keyboards. You guys have an Ďoffice modí (Fn-7) which lights up only the 37 key alphanumerics. But ever considered that someone might want to leave his desk and totally turn off the LEDs?

[There is a mode that seems to turn off the lighting, but actually it will make keys light up if pressed. So thatís not a total turn-off of the lighting.]

The page up and page down keys have what seems to be nearly the same sub-labels as the minus and plus keys. Difference is, minus and plus donít control LED brightness. I donít know what they control, but it is not sound (thatís F10, F11, F12). Until I figure out what they do (not mentioned in the manual), they exist as misleading and confusing additions to the actual macro keys that control brightness.

You can choose from a bunch of lighting effects as well as choose to program which keys you want to light up. I tried them out but am not particularly interested in these. All backlit keyboards have these and few real users use them on a regular basis. I think being able to change the colors is way more important.
« Last Edit: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:31:39 by dantan »

Offline dantan

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Technical Stuff (will be added to later)
« Reply #6 on: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:04:52 »
NKRO and polling rates:

Keyboard offers NKRO and 6KRO. I donít really see the difference. If Teamwolf has bothered to get a PCB with diodes on every switch, why bother to offer an option to reduce to 6KRO?

Polling rates do matter. I never thought about it in the past, but Zhuque ships at a default of 40/MS as the manual says. I find this definition a bit puzzling. What is that in hertz? In any case, if you accidentally press fn-f4, it will make the keystrokes repeat very fast. The default should be fn-f1. Otherwise if you accccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccidentally depress a key, your entire screen could be filled really quick with the same letter. Do you really think that having a high polling rate can help your gaming? Is there no such thing as a cooldown time? I donít think any game would let your Wizard or spaceship shoot 200x a second.

Some of these Chinese offerings are really just gimmicks and selling points. Most users donít care, and the users that do, arenít such a big market. A user who really cared would not be buying Zhuque, to be honest. He would be buying KUL or Deck or DAS.
« Last Edit: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:30:22 by dantan »

Offline dantan

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How it Holds Up against competitors
« Reply #7 on: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:05:22 »
Competitors:
The price of mechanical keyboards has come down tremendously since I first started taking an interest in this hobby. Chinese manufacturers deserve this credit. I also think that they are not being recognized yet for their quality. Theyíre really far better than their pricing suggests.

I believe this is a branding issue. Thanks to all of them competing on basis of price, you canít tell what is quality.

From anecdotal evidence, I would suggest that Chinese brands are at least on par with Razer and Corsair. I really havenít heard of their boards arriving DOA, or individual keys dying after a few gaming sessions, etc. I think Razer and Corsair actually have bigger quality problems, mostly to do with their keyboard controllers.

Teamwolfís Zhuque board is sold on aliexpress and Amazon at a very competitive price.
Nonetheless, to be objective Iíll add a word of caution here. There are unbranded boards with roughly the same specs (aluminum body, Outemu switches, one led color per line) that are going for slightly less.

Iím not sure what to conclude. For one thing, I am sick of Aliexpress quality. On the same reviews section of geekhack you can find my threads ranting about losing my Ali account thanks to Ďexcessiveí (one and a half) disputes. I really do not appreciate the typical unbranded Ali item anymore. I do not want to use a mouse that falls apart literally in my hands on day 2. If you read my Aliexpress review, youíll see that I didnít even complain about this mouse Ė it was other things arriving DOA and Broken and what not.

Even if Jack Ma reinstated my Ali account tomorrow with full apologies and specific instructions to his underlings that I can file as many complaints as I want, I still do not consider filing complaints a fun thing. I do not want to buy things with the knowledge that I can file unlimited complaints. I want to buy things with the confidence that I will rarely need to file complaints. That is not what you can get from Aliexpress.

I believe that branding is the way to go. Brand name = some measure of quality control. Teamwolf is taking the right steps, although it will be some time before they can really establish themselves.


Offline dantan

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Business Analysis
« Reply #8 on: Sat, 06 May 2017, 13:05:53 »
Business analysis:

Iím writing this because I want to. I think this will actually offer more value to hcman store and teamwolf. They come across as very genuine and wanting to improve, rather than like so many Chinese companies that just want to make as much money as possible within a short time before moving on to the next gig.

Too often I come across Chinese companies that want to improve but donít really know how to.

To climb up the ladder, at least you need to have business plans and strategy.

What market are you targeting? How do you differentiate your markets? How do you produce goods that suit these markets more? Can you repackage or make different versions of your stuff so that you can break into different markets?

Teamwolf needs to think about what they want. If they target the mainstream population, Outemu Blues are way too loud. Even Browns would make too much noise, especially in a small urban Shanghai or New York home. If they want a high end Western market, the box is too flimsy to give a solid impression. The keyboard is too light to challenge other metal-bodied keyboards. If they want to target enthusiasts, their stuff is not upscale enough. Brands take years to establish and Outemu hasnít built a reputation for reliable switches over 10, 20 years of usage. Offering 3 or 5 years of warranty might go very far towards establishing brand awareness, but it could also attract bad tempered, rough gamers who pound the keyboard past any reasonable manufacturing specs. You donít want to offer warranties for abusive buyers as it just loses money.

I have a laptop bag that is nearly 20 years old. It came with Lifetime Warranty. Some parts are indeed slightly worn. But as a whole, this bag is still intact. No holes. Thatís Targus for you. I can no longer claim that warranty because I lost the receipt long ago, but the very fact that they made this bag for lifetime warranty means that it is probably still good for another 20 years. Is this what Teamwolf hopes for? In the modern business environment, things change so fast that I donít know if it is worth building a keyboard to last a lifetime. You might not make money that way.

This is a difficult market to please and a competitive market with many players. I have yet to peek into the internals of the Zhuque, but I like it as much as my old Filco Majestouch with blues.

If they want to go mass-market China and target kids who change keyboards every Chinese New Year, Zhuque quality is too high and therefore costs are too high. The Zhuque doubleshot keycaps feel way better than Razerís which means Razer probably spends less on its keycaps. The casing is higher quality than Razer which means Razer is saving money hawking its inferior cases. Teamwolf canít compare with Razer in branding, but already its costs must be higher. Yet the design is not fancy enough to please the average 14 year old Asian teen. How does one establish oneís niche?

One more note, hcman. This has been a nice experience. Iím happy to review anything you want in future.

Another business suggestion [added later]:

Teamwolf, I like your stuff, but I totally do not think you guys are going to make much money selling your CIY switch keyboards. It takes at least 20 minutes to take off all keycaps, change all switches, and put all keycaps back. Most people are only going to customize once. Once theyíre happy, they donít change switches again.

As much as I liked your CIY and appreciated how fuss free it was, I am not going to change switches any more often than I change keycaps.

I recommend that you create different product lines. Sell normal keyboards to most people. That will allow you to lower costs.

Then, set up a business model for custom keyboards using the CIY switch. These must be the best of every batch, because custom keyboard builders are fussy. Sell the casings, the PCB, keyswitches separately. Offer programmable RGB leds on your PCB soldered in already, so that you totally donít need any technical skills (apart from handling a screwdriver) to put together a keyboard.

I believe many people will buy your keyboard kits and parts. If I had zero problems with changing 15x2=30 switches on my Zhuque, Iíd like to see your quality replicated on your kit boards. Let people build and customize their own boards. People are fussy with keycaps, so you can just sell your own keycaps at a low price but expect that far fewer people will buy your keycaps than the basic PCB-Casing kits.

Right now Geekhack and other enthusiast forums are full of people who ask questions about soldering because they want to build and customize their own keyboards. But even a single metal plate produced at a low MOQ, already costs as much as your entire CIY Zhuque keyboard, shipping included. I believe you guys can use your CIY designs and production lines to make money catering to the needs of people who want to buy custom kits without going through the soldering.

Gaote

At this point I believe that Gaote (Outemuís company) needs to hire good business people and establish good business relationships. Being called a Cherry Clone has poor implications. If Gaoteís switches are really as good as they seem to be, this is a reputation that needs time to build and good marketing skills to attain. With Outemu switches feeling so good and priced so cheaply, I suspect it is Cherry that is dramatically overpriced. But I canít be certain, until many big keyboard manufacturers start relying on Gaote switches.

Bear in mind that Kailh has already entered this market earlier, and created a poor reputation for switch failure. Zalmans, Rapoos, these guys were dying six months into usage. With Razer using Kailh switches now, I just donít feel like touching anything with the name Kailh on it.

Computers and business equipment are typically expensed or capitalized over 2-5 years. Businesses hate it when theyíve accounted for a capital asset over 5 years, only to have that asset fail and must be written off in year 2. To be safe, keyboards for businesses must have a 99.9% chance of lasting at least 5 years in the most intensive usage situations. Macdonaldís and KFC workers with greasy hands, hammering away on the keyboard serving customers in 24-hour outlets. Macdonaldís is not going to hear your keyboard makerís excuses when their workers enter $1000000 instead of $10 or $1.0 instead of $10. Youíll just never get a second chance to supply Macdonaldís.

Some Chinese sellers seem to think a 60, 70% survival rate is ok. It is NOT ok. Nobodyís going to get an expensive equipment, capitalize it over 5 years, but worry about the switches having a 70% chance of dying on their equipment within the year.

The actual pro gamer market is small, but the PC Cafe/ Netbangs/ whatever is way larger. Many Asian kids donít have the funds or space at home to build a fancy rig, so they go to professional shops and hammer away like mad on keyboards. I know these shops consume keyboards and mice like crazy. They wonít appreciate having to replace boards every few months.

While the gamer market may look attractive, I suspect the make or break for Gaote is in the commercial field. Can Gaote persuade every single Walmart in China to use cash registers with Gaote switches? Can Gaote persuade Chinese government departments and accounting firms to buy keyboards with Gaote switches? If Gaote can deliver, meaning their keyboards and switches hold up for the purposes of serious business use after 5 years of intense typing, I believe Gaote can safely proclaim itself as a peer of Cherry Corp.
« Last Edit: Sat, 06 May 2017, 22:44:54 by dantan »

Offline dantan

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Switch Changing
« Reply #9 on: Sat, 06 May 2017, 15:56:12 »
Switch Changing

This is a VERY interesting thing for me and really the main reason why I agreed to do this review.

I came in a bit wary because some older reviews say that itís actually quite hard to change switches in practice.

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However, I had zero problems.

The tool is the correct one. As you can see, it is a very innovative tool, removing keycaps at one end and removing switches at the other.

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The switches are held in place by tabs at top and bottom, so to remove them you need to use the tool like a pincer and grab the top and bottom tabs. Then by tightening your grip, it would depress both top and bottom tabs. Then just pull, and the switch comes out. You donít need to pull hard at all.

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All switches were firm on my Zhuque. There was a bit of keycap wobble, but no more than on my other mechanical keyboards. Iíve had a Steelseries with some severe wobble, but not on this board. Although the switches were so easy to remove, the switches themselves were very firmly placed. Gaote/Outemuís design is good.

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The one problem I have an issue with, is not an issue per se with their quality. It is the fact that they had to redesign their switch housings. See my pictures? Now Gaote/Outemu switches canít be used interchangeably anymore with Cherry switches.

Furthermore their switch housings canít be taken apart. I wasnít able to take apart a single one. This means I canít just snap apart the switch housing as we are used to doing for Cherry MX, and change the stems inside. If you want to change switch types, you canít put in a Cherry and you canít put in Cherry stems. You will have to buy other Gaote/Outemu switches.

Inability to take apart the switch housings just means I canít customize the switches by sticking Cherry Clears inside or using springs of different weightings. For most people it wonít matter, but for geekhackers, well, itís a minus. No Ghetto mods, no Jailhouse mods.

Inserting the switch is not a press down process like when you put Cherry MX switches into a metal plate. You also have to depress the tabs using the tool before inserting. But it is a totally painless and minimal-skill process. There is practically no learning curve to overcome.

This can be done very quickly. In just a few seconds. Older reviews sometimes had problems with switch removal and insertion, and I suspect that Outemu/Gaote hadnít gotten their tolerances done right at that point. If they can do this right now, going forward should not be a problem.

It is possible that Teamwolf got an aluminum casing because you would need a metal tool to remove the switches. A plastic tool would break. I managed to remove all switches without any visible damage to the aluminum, but seeing that this is a steel tool and the plate is aluminum, I suspect that if you did this too often eventually the aluminum would get scratched around the places where you put the switches.

Looking inside, I can see that the SMD diodes used in the LEDs are small and a distance from the plate. Yet they managed to make this keyboard as bright as how a surface mount LED would have made it, sitting on top of the switch. This is a very good thing.

Although switch changing was so fuss free, I was severely disappointed nonetheless for reasons not to do with Outemu or Teamwolf. I can't substitute Cherry and I can't take apart these switches and customize. At the very least I think Outemu needs to offer different types of switches equivalent to Cherry's Silent Reds and Clears. Even if these cost more, Outemu switches are cheap, so I'm sure people will buy.


Red and Black Switches

I changed the switches, then fired up a game I hadnít played in ages: Starcraft. Iím sorry, but since I havenít played SC2 in a while I wound up going all crazy because Iíd forgotten all the hotkeys. I was beaten and humiliated on the Essence of Eternity mission in Legacy of the Void, and had to finish on Casual. For someone who once finished 95% of all SC2 missions on Brutal, this is a huge comedown.

The good thing is that my painless switch change was accompanied by a totally smooth transition to my gaming Win10 computer. Immediate recognition on the Win10 64 bit system. Everything worked flawlessly. So I immediately plunged into gaming and barely even had the time or interest to think about how the red and black switches work in a gaming situation.

167890-4167892-5167894-6

I am out of time now and need a while to get back with a proper review of the Zhuque on black or red switches. But I think theyíre good. Thatís what gamers want. Change switch, and immediately commence battle without having to be self-conscious about the keyboard. Typing on them, I donít feel much difference with Cherry Reds or Blacks.

If you look at the keyboard photos, you may notice that I changed some keycaps to Vortex doubleshot PBT keycaps. When typing on thick PBT next to the stock doubleshots, the stock keycaps didn't feel cheap. It was probably the presence of the translucent doubleshotting material, which I'm guessing is POM? I have none of the usual Razer/ Filco thin ABS echo-y response on Blue clicky switches. If using Thick PBT next to cheapo Coolermaster Stock keycaps or Razer stock, I always felt the difference immediately.

Underneath the keycaps in my photos are a mix of black, red and blue Outemu switches. (Remember, I bought 15 blacks and 15 reds as well, and I stuck them all into the keyboard.) When gaming I was hammering away and they all felt pretty good. I think for the purposes of my gaming it made sense to differentiate switch type by row. The difference in tactile response is also information in itself when I am staring at the screen. However, in retrospect I think I should have arranged the different switch types by column instead. That way I will be less likely to make mistakes between Q W and E, all of which are important Starcraft hotkeys.

 I feel Outemu Reds are heavier than Cherry Reds. This is not a bad thing for me because I find Cherry reds too light, but I feel the contrast between Outemu Reds and Outemu Blacks is a bit less than the contrast between Cherry reds and Cherry blacks.

Outemu has a bit of rep for producing linear switches that are smooth, and the rep is upheld here. Theyíre totally not scratchy. Not one switch made noise or gave me scratchy feedback.

I have yet to try out Outemu browns on a keyboard, but their switch sample was helpful here. I took the Brown and my opinion is that it is on par with Cherry browns.


PCB:


167888-7
The PCB looks black. Reminds me of Razer and Corsair PCBs. I know most of you guys donít like Razer, but I suspect in the long run Teamwolf wants to take on Razer, and it is not a bad thing. The Zhuque is inferior to Filco or KUL at this point, but it sure as hell can take on Razer. Just make the Zhuque programmable including the lighting, and you can leave Razer in the dust. [Note that right now lighting IS programmable, but the keyboard is not.]

I very strongly recommend that Teamwolf look into making the Zhuque programmable. Right now Zhuque is already a bit more expensive than unbranded boards that look similiar, but there is no other product differentiation. Teamwolf might as well go all the way, add a chip that cost $1 at the factory, spend a bit of time with the software guys and the manual guys, and they can legitimately sell the keyboard at $15 more with programmable key functions on it.

Competing on price with other cut rate makers wonít make Teamwolf rich. Give people a reason to buy the board. Even in a lower income country like China, people are willing to put down hard earned money to get a Razer. Teamwolf can give people better keyboards than Razer at a fraction of the price, and I want to see them do it. At the very least, Teamwolfís Zhuque looks way better than a Razer or one of those weirdly named Chinese boards with crazy plastic flanges and moldings.

If Royal Kludge and Plum can do it, I donít see why Teamwolf canít. Teamwolf can probably buy the same chip from the chip makers as RK and Plum, and benefit from economies of scale. RK and Plum are being sold at far higher prices than the Zhuque and similar boards right now. So far I have not heard of anyoneís Plum keyboard controller getting bricked during the programming process, which is already better than Corsair. RK/Plumís software is reported very easy to use with no more learning curve than Corsair or Razer, and no need to use internet connection or cloud or whatever unlike R and C.
« Last Edit: Sat, 06 May 2017, 23:02:59 by dantan »

Offline leech

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  • Ölerves 'em Chinese budget knockoffsÖ :D
Re: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #10 on: Thu, 11 May 2017, 10:50:29 »
tl;dr

 :p

Offline tp4tissue

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Re: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 11 May 2017, 18:38:19 »
tl;dr

 :p


I, dantan love the sound of my own voice.

I, dantan am an expert business man/ analyst

I, dantan have tramendous freetime so super busy that I have the time to write these expert level reviews.

I, dantan think this keyboard is ok.

I, dantan think the chinese are trying to cheap out on features

I, dantan using my business acumen have the following thoughts on business for the chinese producers, 

The Chinese producers don't know what they're doing,

--these guys who produce 90% of ALL personal computers, 80% of all air conditioners, 75% of all solar cells, 70% of all mobile phones, 45% of all sea ships, 80% of all ccfl bulbs..

Yea,  these guys,  must listen to me Dantan, because Dantan = BEST xpert ever,  they don't know what they're doing..


hahahahhahaha

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 11 May 2017, 21:49:39 »
That keyboard doesn't claim to be MX compatible and looking at those switches, they wouldn't be.
It's pretty bold to strike out on a new format like this, but if this design does take off, which it could, other switch manufacturers could find themselves in a lurch.

Outemu does sell MX compatible switches though, so beware.


By the way, swap the screws with some nice stainless allen screws, it will look better, especially long term.
« Last Edit: Thu, 11 May 2017, 21:51:30 by Leslieann »
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/Vortex case, hand milled case, custom feet, custom paint, Klaxxon key caps, lubed and o-ringed Jailhouse Blues made from vintage Cherry MX Blues, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, removable cord, sound dampened. Winkey blockoff plate | Magicforce 68 w/Outemu Blues |KBT Race S L.E. w/Ergo-Clears, custom WASD keyset | Das Pro w/browns (Costar model) | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline klennkellon

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Re: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #13 on: Fri, 12 May 2017, 06:57:04 »
That keyboard doesn't claim to be MX compatible and looking at those switches, they wouldn't be.
It's pretty bold to strike out on a new format like this, but if this design does take off, which it could, other switch manufacturers could find themselves in a lurch.

Outemu does sell MX compatible switches though, so beware.


By the way, swap the screws with some nice stainless allen screws, it will look better, especially long term.
what are you talking about? switches are MX compatible and you can swap any switch in
Packard Bell KCLEA907L Alps SKCL Brown

KBParadise V80 Matias QC

IBM Model M 1391401

Keycool 87 PBT

Cherry are good Alps is just nicer

Offline tp4tissue

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Re: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 12 May 2017, 07:49:53 »
Also,  Dantan, you are not a representative of Geekhack.

We sincerely hope you are not telling people you represent us in ANY WAY to get free keyboards..




Full Disclosure:
This review is being offered on Geekhack as a condition of getting a free keyboard from hcman's store on Aliexpress. The links are here:

STORE https://www.aliexpress.com/store/2822092?spm=2114.10010108.100005.1.w00jmS

Keyboard https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Teamwolf-87-Key-Gaming-Mechanical-Keyboard-with-Customize-Blue-Switches-LED-Backlit-Anti-ghosting-Keys-for/2822092_32805410515.html?spm=2114.12010608.0.0.AaS5Vv


Offline Leslieann

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Re: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #15 on: Sat, 13 May 2017, 00:16:36 »
That keyboard doesn't claim to be MX compatible and looking at those switches, they wouldn't be.
It's pretty bold to strike out on a new format like this, but if this design does take off, which it could, other switch manufacturers could find themselves in a lurch.

Outemu does sell MX compatible switches though, so beware.


By the way, swap the screws with some nice stainless allen screws, it will look better, especially long term.
what are you talking about? switches are MX compatible and you can swap any switch in

I misread what you wrote, your formatting is kind of all over the place.
Note, the web page never does mention Cherry or MX.

Also, telling them you have anything to do with Geekhack can get you into some trouble.
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/Vortex case, hand milled case, custom feet, custom paint, Klaxxon key caps, lubed and o-ringed Jailhouse Blues made from vintage Cherry MX Blues, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, removable cord, sound dampened. Winkey blockoff plate | Magicforce 68 w/Outemu Blues |KBT Race S L.E. w/Ergo-Clears, custom WASD keyset | Das Pro w/browns (Costar model) | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline PleaseBeMyFriend

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Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #16 on: Sat, 13 May 2017, 17:47:37 »
Why's that?

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #17 on: Sat, 13 May 2017, 19:20:01 »
Because it's false representation and can qualify as theft depending one what was said between the reviewer and vendor.

This could just be a language issue, he may have said he would simply post a review on Geekhack to the vendor and phrased it differently here, however on some sites I have been on, and even owned, people claimed they worked for the site and guaranteed a review and exclusive coverage, which was something they had zero authority to actually guarantee would happen.
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/Vortex case, hand milled case, custom feet, custom paint, Klaxxon key caps, lubed and o-ringed Jailhouse Blues made from vintage Cherry MX Blues, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, removable cord, sound dampened. Winkey blockoff plate | Magicforce 68 w/Outemu Blues |KBT Race S L.E. w/Ergo-Clears, custom WASD keyset | Das Pro w/browns (Costar model) | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline dantan

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Re: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #18 on: Sun, 21 May 2017, 22:41:44 »
just a follow up, I haven't had the time to take apart the keyboard which would probably be a lot more interesting to most people here.

As I've had problems with Aliexpress, here's an exchange that shows how frustrated I have been. If you like the Zhuque, best for you to buy from Amazon as I understand they have a shop there.

Dear, thanks for your kind reply, and we have received the confirmation on Ali, I just wonder that have you recovered your Ali account? Or just confirmed by Ali? And the e-mail to let you confirm receipt is sent by Ali, not Hcman, hope that you can understand. Waiting for your reply.

NO, I have no access to my ali account. EG, the email that you say was sent by Ali, I can read the email but when I follow the link in the email, it says account is unavailable.

"Your account is temporarily unavailable.


If you have any questions, please contact our customer service team."

Customer service team CANNOT do anything about it so please stop asking. This is an automated system issue and no human supervisor has access to aliexpress's system to recover an account that is suspended. I have wasted a lot of time already.

Aliexpress has wasted a lot of my time and caused me many problems. I appreciate your hardware and enjoyed making my review, and wish I could do more reviews in exchange for your interesting hardware, but I will not be revisiting Aliexpress anymore.

I just bought from Amazon again. Amazon has never let me down in more than 16 years of history with them. If you want I can review via your Amazon store, but not touching Aliexpress anymore.[/color]

Offline dantan

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Re: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #19 on: Sun, 21 May 2017, 23:10:09 »
To reply to others on this thread:

Hcman (as gamingboy) approached me. I never represented myself as Geekhack staff or having any power to produce an exclusive or whatever review.

Keycaps are totally MX compatible, but the switches, although they look similar, are iffy.

There is also another ď

Hcman (Outemu Blue) TKL Backlit "Gaming" mechanical keyboard

On geekhack, although it was done via amazon. I have no idea why hcman would ask two people to review, since itís only a question of buying from two different sites and not different items.

I think the people who say tl;dr are being unfair also. I provided a detailed review to the best of my ability. I think posting a few paragraphs and one photo is simply not enough to earn a keyboard and switches that I received abut $58 via paypal for. Thatís the lazy manís way and also doesnít furnish information on every aspect of this board.

I suspect it would not take you any longer to read this review than to follow one of these 15 or 30 minute videos.

I admit the excessive length reflects my lack of experience. I do business consulting for small businesses, not keyboard reviews for teens.

Tp4, Iím giving my best for this. My suggestions, like all reviews, are based on my experiences only. Unlike you (tech support, used to making snide insulting remarks to drive away customers on the phone?) Iím in business as a consultant so its natural to me to use many words. Like it or not, most clients like many words in the body of a report because they feel itís giving them more value. In any case every aspect of a business is relevant to their final performance, so it makes sense to look at all angles.

For example, I once advised a Chinese business guy not to dress his staff in red. Chinese think that red is auspicious, but when you are in charge of RETURNS, youíre dealing with irate customers. Why dress your girls in red flags which just make the irate customer treat them as a target? I even told that business guy to ban Chinese pop music in that department, and play soothing music instead. Even if changing color and music reduce only 10% of a customerís anger, that could mean 9 difficult customers instead of 10. No big deal to TP4, but every one less angry customer is a big deal to the poor girl in charge of returns. It is tweaking 5% here, 2% there, 9% here, that eventually snowballs into 200% better business profitability.

So even trivial stuff like this make sense to discuss in a report. Youíre paying people to use their brains, so it is the consultantís responsibility to deliver an intelligent opinion.

I bet TP4 doesnít understand a word of this. Heís enjoyed his time on geekhackís lunatic fringe posting insults and mocking people, but none of his conduct is marginally responsible.

TP4 I find your derogatory comments really insulting. Would you be happier if I gave a five minute, 3 paragraph review with 1 photo? Maybe you will praise me, but wouldnít that be unfair to hcman then, because he gave me a keyboard and switches in exchange for 5 minutes of my time?

Offline drewafx

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Re: Review of Teamwolf CIY Zhuque Keyboard with Blue Outemu switches
« Reply #20 on: Thu, 25 May 2017, 14:25:58 »
Ty...for killing my review of the "gaming" mechanical keyboard.
Obviously I'm no pro reviewer, but the general reader is not gonna care about a chinese company business. They're gonna be more looking for information as player and user perspective. I asked gamingboy if that's ok, and he told me to do exactly what I did in my previous short comparison video between Topre and rubberdome.
You did a lot of work for what was given, but did it actually help out a potential customer?