Hype vs Reality – Keychron K2 Keyboard Review
- Author: Eber Anthony
The interesting product that I’m going to review today is the K2 wireless keyboard from Keychron. Keychron as a company is only a few years old, and it was formed by a group of keyboard enthusiasts. The K2 wireless is their most successfully funded keyboard on Kickstarter and there’s a good reason for that. First off, it starts at $69 USD, which is relatively affordable, it’s a 75% keyboard meaning it’s a little bit smaller than TKL, it works in both wired and wireless modes, and it supports both Windows and Mac. However, most importantly it’s got mechanical switches.
Everyone has been raving about this thing online so naturally I was curious to check it out in person. It’s been here in the studio for a while now and I spent quite some time with it. There are a few things about it that I found interesting/concerning, so let’s discuss that.
The first thing that stood out to me was the design. From the outside it certainly looks like a premium enthusiasts keyboard. It’s compact, it doesn’t take up too much space on your desk, and I love the grey key caps. The orange is ESC key is a nice touch too, though you could swap it out for the regular one that’s included in the kit. I’m certainly not getting any gaming vibes with this keyboard, and I love that, though you could still use it for gaming if you want to.
Upon close inspection I noticed a few things that were really concerning. The first is that this is the thickest keyboard I’ve ever encountered. Above you can see a shot of it compared to my custom Varmillo TKL keyboard and the difference is significant. When next to the thin Logitech Craft the difference is even more apparent. Basically, the K2 is one thick boy and that caused some serious strain on my wrists.
You see the chassis on the K2 comes with a flat base with key caps on top that are slightly angled. It does come with angle adjustments, but that makes it even higher. As soon as I switched to the K2 I actually had difficulty reaching the Control and Shift keys at the bottom. I was putting a lot more stress on my pinky finger and my wrists just weren’t comfortable compared to my Varmillo keyboard, which has an angled chassis from top to bottom. The key caps sort of align in that direction, making typing a lot more comfortable on that versus the K2.
Now the only solution to this comfort issue was to get a wrist rest because I like resting my wrist on my desk, that’s a bit of a tongue twister. Thankfully, Keychron offers a walnut wood palm rest for an extra $25 and it looks and feels amazing. Although it’s obviously not as comfortable as those membrane foam materials found on gaming keyboards. It certainly eliminated some of the strain on my pinky finger, but I still wished Keychron made the K2 a little bit slimmer. I’m hoping that they will address that in the next revision. Now you don’t have to spend $25 on this exact same wrist rest, a cheaper option from Amazon should get the job done. My point is getting the K2 as-is without wrist rest might not be a great idea, because it just gets way too uncomfortable to type on. This is especially true if you’re working on a smaller desk area where the keyboard is closer to you. Again, this can be a subjective thing, maybe you like thicker frames, but if you’re coming from a low profile keyboard I would highly recommend investing in an a wrist rest. The last thing you want is for your wrist to start hurting, and I’m certainly kind of experiencing right now, which sucks.
The toggles to switch between wireless and wired mode are located on the left side of the keyboard. The middle setting can be used to turn off the keyboard to preserve battery life if you’re travelling with it. The toggle right next to it is the Windows and Mac switch option. Speaking of Windows and Mac, Keychron does include appropriate key caps for each respective operating system and key cap puller as well.
This keyboard uses USB Type-C to charge as well as connect to a system, but I’m not a huge fan of its placement. I would have preferred it to be at the back for a sleeker look, but that could just be me. However, the cable that’s included is right angle, so nothing to worry there. Plus it is long enough to wrap behind your PC. This wouldn’t be a huge deal breaker if you’re using the K2 completely in wireless mode, but I was sort of forced to use the K2 in wired mode because my desktop system for some reason refused to pair with the K2 over Bluetooth. I tried multiple troubleshooting steps, it just would not work. However, I did manage to pair it up with my Android smartphone and my Razer Blade 15 and the Bluetooth functionality worked flawlessly with those two devices.
They managed to pack a 4000mAh battery inside this case, which I’m not surprised considering how thick it is. Battery life is supposed to last for 3 to 5 weeks on a regular setting, but if you enable the RGB lighting it’s set to the last for 20 to 80 hours depending on the effect you have it on and the brightness level. Take that for what its worth since unfortunately I wasn’t able to test battery life on this thing because my desktop system just refused to work with the K2 via Bluetooth. I did realize something as I was putting together this review. It would have been really cool if Keychron had included a 2.4GHz wireless receiver, because not only would I have not dealt with multiple Bluetooth issues, but a dedicated wireless receiver gives you a much more reliable connection than relying on Bluetooth with desktop systems. Honestly, I have not had the best of luck with Bluetooth and Windows PCs, maybe it’s a different story for you.
Moving onto build quality, it’s pretty good considering the price. I mean the whole chassis is made out of plastic materials, but there’s barely any flex given how thick the frame is. You can pick this keyboard with an aluminium frame for an extra $20, but keep in mind that’s just aluminium on the sides rather than the whole case. The key caps are just your regular ABS plastic materials, but you can swap them out for PBT Double Shots later on, and the bottom row is standardized. I also really like the font choice on the key caps and the media playback controls are integrated within the function row. By default, they act as secondary keys, but if you want to make them primary simply hold the Function + X + L keys for three seconds and you’re good to go.
Now that we’re into keyboard shortcuts, let’s quickly talk about a few other features that they have implemented on the K2. In Bluetooth mode you can pair up to three devices and you can switch between them by holding Function + 1 or 2 or 3. This is really convenient if you’re switching between multiple systems at the same time. There is also an auto-sleep mode built in to preserve battery life, so the keyboard will basically go to sleep after 10 minutes of just idling. You can disable that feature by just holding the Function + S + O keys.
RGB lighting has made its way into the K2, which is understandable because there is a market for that. It’s a $10 premium over the base $69 model that only comes with white back lighting. If I were you I would just skip the RGB model because it just doesn’t suit the design of the K2. White backlighting is the way to go and it looks very subtle and beautiful. Admittedly it doesn’t get as bright as some of the gaming keyboards on the market. Also keep note that the white lighting isn’t necessarily pure white. It outputs a cooler tone which compliments the gray key caps surprisingly well. Now if you still decide to go for RGB there is a dedicated key located at the top right-hand corner of the keyboard that cycles between different lighting effects like breathing, reacting, RGB wave, etc. If you want to change the colour of the effect you do that by simply holding Function and left or right arrow keys.
Finally, let’s talk about the switches. Keychron decided to offer Gateron instead of traditional Cherry MX style switches, and they come in three flavors: Browns, Blues or Reds. The sample that I have comes with Gateron Brown switches and they are… okay. My personal favorite switches are Cherry MX Speeds, because I love how fast and quiet they are. That being said these Gateron Browns switches offer a good balance between tactility and speed. There is a slight tactile bump that’s not as pronounced as Cherry MX Browns, but I did notice a large variation between switch feedback. For instance, the Enter key has an odd squeak and a different tactile feedback than the Backslash key. It just doesn’t sound consistent. Also some of the keys like the spacebar actually exhibit a metallic reverb within the chassis, and it’s just really not that pleasant. The spacebar also wobbles a lot. Overall, it just feels like some of these switches weren’t binned and I certainly wasn’t expecting that for a $70 keyboard. If I look at the competition, the one keyboard that comes to my mind is the G.Skill KM360. It’s an excellent keyboard for the size, comes with amazing switches, Cherry switches to be more precise, and it’s only $50 USD. So for even less money you get a superior product, at least in terms of switch mechanisms and the way they feel compared to the switches on the Keychron K2.
To wrap up my thoughts on the Keychron K2, I like the design of this board. It is certainly very compact and I love the curved key caps. The font choice is really nice. As far as lighting, I wouldn’t necessarily get the RGB version because it just doesn’t suit the design. The white backlighting is the way to go if you plan on picking this up. Having Bluetooth is also really nice, particularly since it allows you to switch between three different devices, though I wouldn’t rely on it for gaming because the last thing you want is having Bluetooth connectivity issues while you’re in the middle of game play. I would recommend just using it in wired mode on your primary system. My biggest issue is the thickness of this keyboard. It is just way too uncomfortable to type on as-is, you certainly have to invest in a wrist rest to eliminate some of that strain on your wrist. Then again, it’s still very thick. Also, the variation in terms of switches was also a little bit concerning, and hearing that metallic reverb when you’re hitting some of these keys wasn’t pleasant at all. Overall then, it didn’t really impress me.
Also, Keychron’s official website says that it starts at $69 USD, but they are selling it on Amazon for $75 USD, while the most expensive option goes for around a $100 instead of $89. That ain’t cheap compared to the competition. Nevertheless, I’m excited for Keychron as a company, and I’m looking forward to what they have in the pipeline moving forward. However, I’m also hoping that they will take some of the valuable feedback that customers and everyone has and address them in the next revision. So until then, let me know what you all think about the K2. And if you own one of these, what has been your experience like, are you comfortable with this thicker frame?