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In the year 2021, we’re well beyond keyboards having to fulfill a single purpose. Keyboards have to be quick to the draw in First Person Shooters. Or they have to be a comfortable sit for those long evening stretches writing up a blog post. And usually, a keyboard will prioritise one of those things. But here comes the Keychron K1 trying to impress us all.
The brand is a new arrival in South Africa. One that has gotten many people, especially gamers, excited thanks to overseas hype.
Keychron basically offers one kind of keyboard throughout its K-range with multiple key-switch types, length, and backlighting variants to choose from.
For the past few weeks, we’ve played around with the Keychron K1 104-key wireless keyboard, featuring Gateron low-profile brown switches and RGB backlighting. Here’s what we thought…
The Keychron K1 is heavy and handsome
Even before you turn the lights on, the K1 is a very handsome accessory. Keychron avoids colours that can easily get grimy and settles for gunmetal grey caps set against a solid black frame. The keyboard comes with neon orange ESC button and backlighting keycaps that can be switched out for added flair. They are a nice visual addition.
That being said, the black frame can make the thin status lights in the top-right corner hard to read in brightly lit environments. I found myself having to squint to see if I had Caps Lock on.
Compatible with PC, Mac, and Android devices, the symbol layout is easy to interpret and there’s no funny business with how the keys are marked.
Despite being a low-profile keyboard that minimises desk impact thanks to thin borders, the K1 is a heavy device weighing 650 grams. This is thanks to the aluminium frame which feels very solid. It feels like it can take a knock or can knock someone out, depending on your usage.
However, while the keyboard feels very durable, the keycaps have a bit of a rough edge to them. And this creates the worry that constant removals from the frame could end with them getting scuffs.
The gaming and typing type
Keychron has nailed the ease-of-use factor with the K1. It features wired USB Type-C and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity and as mentioned, PC, Mac, and Android compatibility.
With all that, the keyboard is easy to set up with your device and you can immediately get to work with it. The K1 also features memory for multiple devices, so swapping connections between say, your iPad or laptop, can be done instantly.
Our review unit came equipped with Gateron low-profile brown switches. The keyboard is also available with red or blue switches and having been used to using red my whole life, the browns were a jolt to get used to.
Keychron markets the K1 for ‘light’ gaming and it makes sense, the experience of low-profile brown switches lends itself more to typing than wiping out hordes of orcs.
Low-profile keys aren’t for everyone as they have a lower compression depth than traditional ones. But these still have a good weight to them and make a satisfying click.
But therein lies what is the K1’s biggest shortcoming. Despite the aluminium frame and the practical size of the device, there are no back legs for the keyboard to sit on an elevated incline. Instead, it sits on circular rubber pads reinforcing the device’s overall low profile.
The result can be sore wrists after long work and gaming sessions. It can also impact one’s typing speed and accuracy.
Keys to the rainbow
On top of the handsome appearance, the K1 has the power to go full peacock bloom on your desk. The keyboard features full RGB backlighting with 18 lighting variations.
The variants can be cycled through via the dedicated button and honestly, I spent a hearty amount of time just checking the different animations and colour schemes out. The low-profile nature with exposed underbellies means that the colours are vibrant and that lighting from each key is distinct.
The lighting does not come with customisation options so you’re stuck with the preset variants. But I can promise there’s something for everyone.
The backlighting has four brightness levels and at full charge, the colours can show in moderately bright environments.
The keycaps are easily removable thanks to a puller included in the box. That is, the individual regular-sized caps. Larger caps such as the Space and Enter keys are better removed by hand. This is because of the metal stabilisers running below them.
As you can expect, the backlighting does have an effect on the keyboard’s battery life. Keychron says it can last for 38 hours with the backlight on. That proves to be the case thanks to the keyboard’s sleep function, kicking in when it doesn’t register any activity.
With the backlight off, a single charge of the keyboard’s 2000mAh li-polymer pack can last around a week.
Worth its weight
This variation of the Keychron K1 keyboard retails from R2 609. It exists in the upper tiers of computer accessories and therefore has to make a bigger case for itself.
The keyboard does look and feel what it’s worth. It is a well-built product and offers a good level of functionality for its intended uses.
That being said, and I write this as a gamer, it’s always wise to opt for a computer accessory that dedicates itself to what you use it for.
Keychron K1 wireless keyboard review verdict
The Keychron K1 is a high-quality wireless keyboard. While worth the price you pay, the keyboard suffers from some design shortfalls (the lack of back legs alone is enough to drive me away). And there are durability concerns to be had with the individual keys.
But it remains well-built, has a modern yet fun appearance, and offers a very good ease-of-use experience.
Feature image: Sam Spiller/Memeburn