Author Topic: DareU EK820 w/ Kailh low-profile switches  (Read 3637 times)

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Offline Kevadu

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DareU EK820 w/ Kailh low-profile switches
« on: Sat, 19 May 2018, 14:10:52 »
Amazon link

Here's something fun and different.  I was looking for a portable keyboard using Kailh's low-profile switches to use on the go.  There really aren't a ton of options on the market yet so the choices are limited.  The most popular option seems to be Havit's boards but I didn't like them for two reasons.  First of all they were wired-only, no bluetooth.  Second of all they're only available in full-sized (yuck) and TKL varieties, but I was specifcally looking for something very portable.

Which is why I ultimately settled on this one.  I never heard of the maker before but they appear to be Chinese.  The Amazon reviews were pretty mixed so I hesitated a bit but ultimately couldn't find anything else that really met my requirements.  This board is super thin, uses a 65% layout, and has bluetooth support.  So I decided to go for it.

And I'm glad I did because I actually really like it.  It's very light but the construction feels pretty solid with little flex.  It also stays in place on my desk extremely well thanks to some longish rubber pads on the bottom and rubber-tipped flip-out feet.  The latter is something even a lot of more expensive boards skimp out on.  It's a floating keys design which I'm not crazy about but it does help it have some very minimal bezels around the bottom and sides.  The top gets a larger bezel with the DareU logo on it and an indicator light to tell you if you're connected.  That's a bit pointless if you have it connected via a wire but it can be helpful when using bluetooth.  Also I'm pretty sure the battery is stored in that top bezel area because there's not much space anywhere else to put it so it's not completely non-functional.

The keyboard is available in black and white but I went for the white version.  It's also available with both clicky and linear Kailh low-profile switches.  Unfortunately tactile doesn't seem to be an option.  Now normally I like clicky switches but I got this keyboard specifically to use on the go and potential in public places where I didn't want to drive everyone around me nuts with clicky switches so I went for the linear version.  And they feel pretty good to be honest.  There's less travel in these than a normal MX switch (though still a luxurious amount of travel compared to most laptops keyboards) so the lack of feedback from a linear switch feels like less of an issue.  The switches themselves are pretty smooth and quite stable.  It also appears to have N-key rollover, at least according to my high scientific test of opening a rollover testing program and then mashing the keyboard with my palm to see if it missed any keys.

It's 2018 so the keyboard has backlighting of course.  Surprisingly it isn't RGB, only having a single color that's something of a teal-green.  It actually looks pretty good with the white version but if the black one uses the same color LEDs I don't think it would work as well there.  There are some of the usual pointless effects available with breathing, a snake-like pattern, pulses coming from the keys you hit, etc.  But I keep it on just uniform because anything else just feels distracting.  Brightness is also adjustable but the backlighting only works when you have it connected via USB.  If you're connecting via bluetooth then it will always be off.  I can understand wanting to save battery life but it seems weird to me to not even have the option to turn it on.

The keycaps have a surprisingly normal font.  No cyber gamer nonsense here.  Which is good because aftermarket keycaps for Kailh's low-profile switches are still basically non-existent.  I do have some quibbles though.  Secondary legends on things like the number row are written almost like a superscript to the primary legend.  I guess they wanted to put everything where they can be illuminated by the backlighting but it looks odd.  There are also some strange abbreviations.  The backspace key just says 'Back' which I can sort of understand since 'Backspace' is a longish word.  But then the enter key just says 'Ent'...were they seriously unable to fit 'Enter'?  'Shift' is written out just fine and I don't think 'Enter' is much longer.

The keycaps themselves appear to be of the painted transparent plastic variety with the legends etched out of the paint.  That's pretty typical for cheaper shine-through keycaps but it's a little disappointing because it's not the most durable construction.  Also the outer coating, whatever it is, is very slick.  They feel super smooth to an excessive degree.  That said I do like the shape of the keycaps.  They're quite defined, not like chiclet keyboards, and even have a little bit of curvature to them.  If you look at the side profile you can see that they're even slightly sculpted.  They're not very sculpted of course.  It's impossible to do that without making the keycaps thicker which would work against the extremely low-profile nature of the keyboard.  But I think they did about as good a job as they could while keeping the keycaps as thin as they are.

As mentioned this keyboard has a 65% layout.  Personally I like 65% layouts in general but it seems particularly useful here since this keyboard was specifically make for portability.  This board has a pretty standard take on the 65% layout.  The one thing I might complain about is putting the Fn key on the left since of the spacebar, between Ctrl and the Win key.  This pushes Alt pretty far to the right and I frequently end up hitting the Win key when I want to hit Alt.  My only other complaint is that I can't use Fn+arrow keys for PgUp, PgDn, Home, and End which is something I normally like doing on 65% boards.  There's no programmability here but if there was that's about the only thing I would change.

A point not in this keyboard's favor is that the instructions are entirely in Chinese.  Not a word of English, or any other language for that matter.  Of course a non-programmable keyboard generally doesn't need a ton of instructions but this actually did trip me up a bit when it came to the bluetooth functionality.  When accessing the bluetooth functions to sync with a device or switch the device you're connected to (it can store up to 5, which is pretty nice) you have to actually hold Fn plus the appropriate key for a couple seconds.  I just pressed them normally at first and it seemed like the bluetooth wasn't working at all.  Once I figured out that 'trick' it was fine but that's an area where English instructions probably would have been helpful.

So it's not a perfect keyboard, but it's honestly not bad either.  At 75$ it's not the cheapest option either but considering it has bluetooth and a battery and all that it's not an unreasonable price.  If you don't need bluetooth the Havit boards look very similar and are a bit cheaper.  But if you want that bluetooth functionality in a low-profile very portable 65% board this honestly seems like a really good option.  I'm enjoying typing on it more than I thought I would.  I bought it to use on the go but I also connected it to my desktop just to try it out and I've kind of kept it there a lot longer than I thought I would.  I can't speak to the longevity of this board since I haven't had it very long but at least so far I'm really pleased with it.

Offline pixelpusher

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  • Location: Tennessee - USA
Re: DareU EK820 w/ Kailh low-profile switches
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 19 May 2018, 14:40:43 »
Thanks for the review.  Looks like a good board for the money.  I know a lot of people who are looking for low travel, low profile switches/caps.