Author Topic: Keychron K8 Review  (Read 3711 times)

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Offline jo.king

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Keychron K8 Review
« on: Sat, 31 October 2020, 21:22:59 »
Keychron K8 Review


Bear with me here. This is my first ever mechanical keyboard, and subsequent review. You could say I'm under-qualified to be weighing my own opinion, but I'll try to hit all the common stats and review points. If you have any questions or critiques, do not hesitate to let me know :) 
Links for anything mentioned will be tossed at the bottom of this post.

Gallery: https://imgur.com/gallery/zGnNjek


TL:DR Dope keyboard that ticks all the boxes for the first step into mechanical keyboards. You are getting quality well above the low price. Optimized for a Mac user but is a great option for Windows who wants to stick to a minimal aesthetic. Will require wrist rest!


Background: Keychron is a fast-growing pre-built keyboard manufacturer from Cambridge, UK (or Hong Kong since they have two headquarters). The K8 is their newest board, a Tenkeyless set up with Mac users in mind. The K8 was originally released on Kickstarter on June 2 starting at around the $60 mark (from now on, I will be using USD if unspecified). They had a plethora of options between red/brown/blue Gateron Switches, hot-swappable PCB, aluminum body*, optical switches, and everyone's favourite; RGB. As mentioned above, I knew next to nothing when making this purchase other than what the different gat switches felt like. I ended up opting for Brown switches, no hot-swap, no aluminium, no optical, but all the RGB.Cost: $87. That's pretty incredible for a perfectly adequate entry-level keyboard. Originally I thought anything over $100 was pricey so I was excited to see such a low sticker price. Of course, you could climb that price into the $110s after the Kickstarter and with a higher spec. It wasn't until further research into this incredible hobby that I realized that $87 would buy me a single keycap from RAMA lol. With custom keebs easily surpassing $300 and some well passed $600, I now appreciate that much more the value this board delivers. There are few keyboards that can undercut the K8 but none offer a similar design nor features. Most of them are the cheaper gaming boards from Amazon, and while they'll get the job done, they are not catered towards an enthusiast but rather the gamer aesthetic. The K8 keeps the price low while appealing to a simple design and function.

Build Quality: I've found that the closest related variable to price is the build quality of a keyboard. Especially at the lower price ranges, a little splurge here or there could really change the feel, sound and look of a board (think plastic case to aluminium or aluminium plate to brass). And while this board is not a polycarbonate plated, stainless steel case with a brass weight and GMK capped board, Keychron has done an amazing job in creating a reliable keyboard at an unbeatable price. For sub-$90, one would expect lateral flex in the case but I was pleasantly surprised that there very little to be had; a big step up from previous Keychron boards who were constantly underwhelming in that category. One common gripe I've heard about the K8 and other Keychron boards is that their "aluminium case" is essential a few pieces of sheet metal screw to the outside of the plastic case. Is that worth the $10? Not in my opinion.

Switches: I think it should be mandatory that before a typist decides what kind of switch they prefer, they must try one from each category. I'm also hypocritical because I have yet to try a clicky switch but I can't bring myself to listen to the sharp click at two in the morning when I'm not trying to wake everyone within a 10-kilometre radius. I will eventually try some of those thick click Box Navy or Jades from Kaihl but that's for another time. The reason why I chose the Browns is that they seemed like a nice in-between the linear and clicky switches (I know that's the most basic reason ever, but it's true). I thought there would be a nice buttery feel, followed by a barely audible clack before returning to the same initial force until bottoming out. Boy was I wrong about that one. Unless you are typing super slowly and waiting for the tactile bump to engage, you'll blow right through with little care given to the fact that it's even there. At 45g of peak force, my heavier hands bottom out those poor springs almost instantly, which is not an inherently bad thing but you have been warned that they are not too tactile. Since ordering the K8 I've built a macropad with Tealios V2s 67g in an effort to explore other switch options. Obviously, these switches are not even close to the same class but the Tealios thrashed the Gat Browns in every way. I would say I now have a linear bias so make of that what you want. Knowing what I do now, I would've gone with the hot-swap variant just to give more flexibility for easy upgrades. Unless you know you're keeping the gaterons then by all means save that little bit of money. I can't speak to the optical switch variant, unfortunately, I still have not looked into optical switches and their benefits.

Keycaps: I wasn't going to initially make a separate category for the caps but I think there a few things worth mentioning. One plus is the fact that Keychron made some right decisions in their colourways. The light and dark greys balance each other very nicely and offer an understated design. The orange accent caps included can be swapped out for matching grey but I'm enjoying the pop of colour in the top corners. The ABS plastic is not double shot so hopefully, they don't wear too quickly but my expectations are not high. The sound of ABS is a little higher pitched than the PBT keycaps I tossed on the Alpha keys to run a quick test. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I prefer a deeper, "thock" than a "clack."

Miscellaneous: Just a few things I need to tack on the end otherwise I'd feel like this review is not complete. First, the hight of the K8. It feels like your trying to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower when reaching to the top row, and not the miniature-sized one in Las Vegas. Without a wrist rest, my forearms were sore within 15 minutes. Next are the function and usability of the preset keys. The dedicated Mac "F" keys make using my keyboard that much more enjoyable. No layers or hidden keys to access volume, lighting, or Mission Control. The ease of setup for a Macbook was a painless venture. No drivers, no mapping, no QMK, just a flip of a switch and pair the Bluetooth. The USB cable is even easier, simply plug and go. Not to mention the braided cable is a very nice touch and it gives it a premium feel. It is clear that this board has been optimized for the MacOs experience but can easily be transitioned to a Windows user seamlessly. Finally, the RGB, while not completely customizable like Corsair's ICue software and other competitors but there are ample presets to work with. A dedicated lighting key can rotate through all the lighting modes with further refinement with the function and arrow keys.


Links:

Keychron product page (not affiliated) - https://www.keychron.com/products/keychron-k8-tenkeyless-wireless-mechanical-keyboard

Potential wrist rests

- https://kbdfans.com/products/wooden-wrist-rest?variant=40221281869

- https://www.keychron.com/ (the K8 wrist rest will available shortly as they are currently available to the preorder purchasers)



Thank you kindly for reading this far, this is the second time I had to write this review since I accidentally deleted the entire thing just as I was about to publish so I hope I'm not missing anything from my original write-up. CHEERS!