Author Topic: iKBC G87 review  (Read 29014 times)

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Offline ikonomov

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iKBC G87 review
« on: Sat, 06 February 2016, 22:49:54 »
A few days ago my two iKBC G87 keyboards with Cherry MX blue arrived, and here comes a short but I hope useful review for anybody considering buying this keyboard.  I own a Filco Majestouch and a Ducky Zero, both in TKL form factor and I'll try to make some comparisons.  Below I'll include a few pictures that show specific things that I'll talk about, for more pictures, here are some links:

http://ikbc.com.cn/ - homepage of the manufacturer
http://www.pcwaishe.cn/thread-667015-1-1.html - a review of the C87 (identical case to G87) with great photographs
http://www.dullgeek.com/articles/7_4.html - more photographs of the C87

Some general info:
- The keyboard comes with Blue/Black/Brown/Red/Green Cherry MX switches
- iKBC offers the three most popular form factors, 60%, TKL 87 key and Full size 104 key versions, all in standard ANSI layout to satisfy the needs of mostly everybody.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout#/media/File:ANSI_Keyboard_Layout_Diagram_with_Form_Factor.svg
- Compact case design, similar to Filco and Ducky, both in design and in build quality.  In short, top quality.  I took the case apart as can be seen in the pictures blow and I have found nothing to fault in the construction of the case.
- The PCB is two-layer.
- usbview.exe shows it being a Full speed device, meaning that it is a true NKRO USB keyboard.
- The keyboard is not backlit.  It is advertised as being ready for LED mod, but the holes for the LEDs are filled with solder and would require a bit of extra work to get it done.
- There are exactly 5 function key combinations:
    Fn+F9 - Win key lock (with F9 being also the LED indicator)
    Fn+F10 - swap Caps Lock/Left Ctrl keys (F10 LED indicator)
    Fn+F11 - swap Win/Alt keys (F11 LED indicator)
    Fn+F12 - 6KRO/NKRO toggle (F12 LED indicator)
    Fn+Esc - toggle off/on the F9-F12 LED indicators (no LED indicator on the Esc itself).  What a wonderful idea!  This Fn+Esc functionality in particular by itself shows the great attention to detail by iKBC.  To my knowledge no other keyboard has this much needed functionality.
I have not tried to install LEDs on the other keys to test if it has a built in functionality in the firmware to control the backlighting, but I tried a few popular combinations to try to control the F9-F12 backlighting when their indicator LEDs are turned off and on, and I could not find a way to control it.
- Caps Lock and Scroll Lock have separate LED indicators on the case itself.  YES!
- The USB cable plug looks to be gold plated, the cable is unbraided and permanently attached to the case with channels to be routed straight, left or right.
- The keyboard has double tilt legs allowing three levels of high adjustment, and there are rubber pads glued on each leg.
- The G87 version comes with Vortex Black (black case) or White (white case) Doubleshot Translucent PBT + POM thick keycaps
- Cherry stabilizers.

I really like the keyboard, considering the specs, it is pretty much exactly what I wanted.  I did find some things to fault, and I'll describe them blow.

The main reason to get the G87 over the C87 version is the keycaps.  I have Ducky PBT dyesub on my Ducky keyboard and using them as a reference these Vortex are just not to the same quality standards.  I somehow managed to remove them from the keyboard, but it is a mystery to me how I did not end up breaking a few switches in the process.  They must use a hammer to install them in the factory, and upon very careful inspection I noticed some small chips on the black plastic around the piston of the switches on the two narrower sides.  I wonder if this happened due to the excessive force required to push in the keycaps, or because the stems of the keycaps have larger diameter than they should.  In a few switches they looked almost like dents that seem to interfere with the free movement of the piston.  Other than that, on a few of the keycaps the legends seem to be slightly indented, not completely flush with the PBT surface.

The next negative impression that I got while removing the keycaps is the excessive lubrication on the stabilizers.
127348-0
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There is hardly any need for any lubrication for these slow moving plastic parts.  The fact that they did it speaks well for iKBC, but if done at all, it has to be done correctly.  It is not impossible to imagine that maybe very little can help a bit to smooth the travel, but too much will have the opposite effect only after a few months when all the debris that falls through the keycaps gets attached to the sticky lubrication and starts to rub against the plastic.
The stabilizers themselves are modified Cherry, and I think the same used in the newer Ducky keyboards (edit: I haven't taken apart a Ducky, but based on the feel I think they are different.  Ducky's stabilizers don't seem to make any contact with the PCB, giving the same feel as if they are clipped).  I don't think they are made by Cherry corp.  I compared them to original Cherry stabilizers, and they seem to have slight differences, besides the modified legs.  They are not really clipped, just molded this way.  I think they can still benefit from clipping, like regular Cherry stabilizers, giving them a slightly larger range of motion.
Unclipped, I think when these stabilizers bottom out they do come in contact with the PCB, potentially giving a slightly different feel to the regular keys.
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127352-3

Finally after opening the keyboard I was a bit unpleasantly surprised by the craftsmanship of the soldering on the PCB.  It wasn't cleaned very well, and there were quite a few soldering points with a bit of excessive solder on them.
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All together I really like this keyboard.  The only thing I wish for is to have a firmware version with NKRO as the default mode, with F12 indicator off when in NKRO.  If anybody knows how to edit the firmware, or if somebody from iKBC by chance gets to read this review, please help.  I believe 6KRO should be a compatibility only mode for Full speed USB keyboards.

Finally I think this keyboard is reasonably priced for its quality at $120 shipped.  iKBC seems to have paid attention to details where it matters.  After getting the keyboard, with a bit of time, money and effort I think I have finally concluded my long journey for the search of the perfect keyboard... Until that Model F 87 key comes along, and I might be forced to revisit...

Edit:
I was able to get in touch with iKBC and they were nice enough to make a firmware correction that makes NKRO default mode, as well as add in functionality to control the LED backlighting (in case somebody wants to solder in LEDs to the board).  The backlighting is controlled using the number row and arrow keys.  It is turned ON by default, so as a side effect when using the Fn+ESC it will turn ON F9-F12 indicators rather than term them OFF.  However, by pressing Fn+0 the backlighting can be turned OFF, and the F9-F12 indicators will turn ON/OFF with the Fn+ESC as normal.  Also holding Fn+S for 3 seconds will save the currently selected backlighting and F9-F12 modes into memory and will be retained if the keyboard is unplugged.  Holding Fn+Del for 5 seconds will reset the keyboard to its default settings.  The stock firmware works for both the G104 and G87, so it is likely that the new fixed firmware will work for both keyboards as well.

* ikbc_G10420151012V0105.zip (830.11 kB - downloaded 380 times.) - stock firmware that comes installed with the keyboard
* ikbc_G8720160219V0101.zip (850.86 kB - downloaded 500 times.) - new corrected firmware with NKRO mode default and backlight control functionality

To flash:
1. extract the .zip file
2. run the extracted .exe file
3. enter 123456 when the pop-up message comes up, asking for the password
4. in the main window press the left button to put the keyboard into bootloader mode
5. press the right button to flash the firmware
6. wait for the process to complete
7. press Fn+ESC, followed by F1, F3, F5
8. close the program
9. unplug and plug back in the keyboard


Keyboard functions after flashing the new firmware:

Fn+F9 - Win key lock (with F9 being also the LED indicator)
Fn+F10 - swap Caps Lock/Left Ctrl keys (F10 LED indicator)
Fn+F11 - swap Win/Alt keys (F11 LED indicator)
Fn+F12 - 6KRO/NKRO toggle (F12 LED indicator)
Fn+Esc - toggle off/on the F9-F12 LED indicators (no LED indicator on the Esc itself)

Backlighting:
Fn+0 - OFF
Fn+8 - constantly ON
Fn+9 - breathing
Fn+1~7 - light intensity
Fn+-/+ - cycle throught different light modes
Fn+arrow keys - control the rate the lights change in different modes

Fn+S (hold 3 seconds) - save the backlighting and F9-F12 modes into memory
Fn+Delete (hold 5 seconds) - reset the keyboard to default settings

Edit 2:  After about one year of use many (about 20 on the more used keyboard, and about 10 on the other) of the Cherry MX blue switches on both iKBC G87 keyboards started to click and depress with some inconsistency.  To be more specific certain keys would not click and feel slightly mushy when pressed on certain areas of the keycap surface, but might feel otherwise normal when pressed deliberately with the index finger perfectly centered and vertically.  Prior to buying these two keyboards I had used a Filco and a Ducky with Cherry MX blue switches for couple of years, and I had never noticed such behavior.  Also for the last six months I have been using two Ducky One TKL keyboards and so far I haven't noticed a problem with a single key on either keyboard.  Initially when I bought the iKBC keyboards I did change some of the switches that seemed to have some damage that I attributed to the keycaps, but it is unclear whether the installation of the keycaps alone could have been the culprit of the problem.  There are reports of others noticing similar behavior of Cherry MX blue switches on different somewhat recent keyboards.  Whatever the cause, if it is indeed in the switches themselves, the problem seems to be fixed in the newest batches of the Cherry MX blue switches that have come out of the factory.
« Last Edit: Fri, 18 August 2017, 21:32:52 by ikonomov »

Offline andysun

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 08 February 2016, 16:34:56 »
Great review  :thumb: Been thinking of buying one myself, maybe try out some greens!

Offline ikonomov

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #2 on: Fri, 12 February 2016, 11:43:23 »
If anybody knows a way to contact iKBC support besides their phone number listed on their website (that nobody picks up), please post it here.  Thanks

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 12 February 2016, 11:45:22 »
If anybody knows a way to contact iKBC support besides their phone number listed on their website (that nobody picks up), please post it here.  Thanks

Did you try contacting that phone number on WeChat? Also try contacting Keyboard Hell on Facebook. They're an HK based retailer that seems to carry iKBC. They might be able to help you.

Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 12 February 2016, 21:06:49 »
Considering the amount of Cherry clones coming out China these days, I'm surprised this has authentic Cherry switches, especially at that price point.

how does it compare to your Filco?
Wish I had some gif or quote for this space, but I got nothing

Offline ikonomov

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 13 February 2016, 01:47:53 »
how does it compare to your Filco?

The Build quality of the cases is comparable.  I'd rate all three of my keyboards, Filco Majestouch 1, Ducky Zero DK2087 and the iKBC G87 about equal in terms of build quality.  The original keycaps are not very good, even though the iKBC uses Vortex PBT.  My Filco is the older Majestouch 1, so the PCB is single layer.  I think people praise the Filco's quality mostly because of Majestouch 2, the PCB in the first version is I think a step down from the double layer in the iKBC.  The soldering on my Ducky Zero's double layer PCB is I'd say impeccable, and probably similar to Majestouch 2, while the iKBC is not quite (not that it matters, just a fact).  If one cares for such things, the PCB can be easily cleaned with cotton swabs and alcohol, and the few solder points that have a bit of excess solder can be retouched to make it look as perfect as the other keyboards.  I think it would be safe to assume that the keyboards undergo an extra step or two in the quality control department in Filco and Ducky, and logically it does come with a cost.  I wanted cherry stabilizers so that I won't have problems with thick PBT keycaps.  After clipping cherry stabilizers, in my opinion, they feel just as crisp as costar stabilizers and give the same overall typing experience.  Another disadvantage of Filco is that all of their keyboards have a Low Speed USB controllers with NKRO only with PS2 connection, while the newer Ducky and iKBC have Full Speed USB with USB NKRO.  Overall my biggest concern was the small damage to the switches caused by the Vortex PBT keycaps.  I ended up replacing a few of the cherry mx blue switches, because the free movement of the piston of the switch seemed to be affected by the small dents that must have been made in the factory when the keycaps were installed.  Those Vortex keycaps might seem appealing, but in my opinion they are horrible, definitely not something that should be installed on any well made keyboard.
« Last Edit: Sat, 13 February 2016, 02:52:58 by ikonomov »

Offline ikonomov

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 14 March 2016, 15:50:03 »
I was able to contact iKBC and they were nice enough to make a correction to the firmware and provide the stock firmware, both of which I uploaded to my review in the first post above.

Offline andysun

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 15 March 2016, 04:55:59 »
Do you know if that firmware is compatible with the C87? AFAIK, it is also led-compatible and has nkro right?

Offline ikonomov

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 15 March 2016, 11:52:59 »
Do you know if that firmware is compatible with the C87? AFAIK, it is also led-compatible and has nkro right?

I'm fairly certain that it is not compatible with their C87/C104.  I've looked at the PCBs themselves and they have quite a different layout.  The C87/C104 also have a different controller and different Fn combinations.  It is not just the keycaps that are different.  I think it would be safe to try it, however, on the C87/C104 as I think the program that updates the software recognizes the type of keyboard connected.  The new firmware adds a functionality to control LEDs, if they were to be installed and soldered in.  The keyboard comes stock with a firmware that has no way to turn on or control the LEDs, even if they were installed into the PCB.  Both the stock and the new firmware have NKRO over USB functionality, but the new firmware makes the NKRO mode default.

Offline ikonomov

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 07 July 2016, 01:44:08 »
I just found that holding Fn+s for 3 seconds will save the backlighting and F9-F12 modes into memory and will be retained if the keyboard is unplugged.  Holding Fn+del for 5 seconds will reset the keyboard to its default settings.  YES!

Offline lvd

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 31 August 2016, 11:38:29 »
Can't click bootloader, what can I do?

Offline unluckygamer

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #11 on: Wed, 10 January 2018, 22:54:11 »
Did you by any chance measure the size of the switches hole or did you try using holtites on the board?

Offline ikonomov

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Re: iKBC G87 review
« Reply #12 on: Fri, 12 January 2018, 01:19:47 »
Did you by any chance measure the size of the switches hole or did you try using holtites on the board?

Nope, sorry.  I doubt holtites would fit however, as they were quite small.