a great wireless keyboard, plus a few quirks – .

a great wireless keyboard, plus a few quirks – .

When it comes to mechanical keyboards, you usually have the option of playing it safe with a big brand like Corsair or Razer, or buying from small, passionate manufacturers with more interesting designs and often more affordable prices.

Of the two groups, Epomaker definitely falls into the latter. Its recent AK84S wireless keyboard isn’t something you’ll be able to buy off-the-shelf from Best Buy, and it’s not currently listed on the company’s Amazon storefront. Instead, after being recently funded via a Kickstarter campaign, it’s now available for pre-order directly from Epomaker’s own site. The company says it is focusing for now on shipping keyboards to its Kickstarter backers before moving on to orders placed through its website from mid-September to the end of September. Shipping can take between one and two weeks, depending on which method you choose, Epomaker explains.

So yes, the Epomaker AK84S isn’t a keyboard that you can buy on impulse and expect to snap within 24 hours, and it suffers from a lack of documentation and confusing companion software. But it also has a starting price of just $ 89 and offers one of the best typing experiences I’ve had with a mechanical keyboard. Overall I think that’s a price to pay.

Epomaker’s AK84S comes in a variety of different configurations, so much so that it’s almost impossible to list them all. As of this writing, however, the cheapest configuration on Epomaker’s website appears to be the version with optical switches, ABS keys, and an aluminum frame paired with a plastic casing, priced at $ 89. If you want other options, like supposedly more durable PBT keys (we’ll talk about that in a moment), mechanical rather than optical switches, or an all-aluminum housing, you can pay up to $ 199.

Switching options include a range of optical or mechanical Cherry MX clones produced by Gateron, including reds, blues, blacks, browns, yellows, silvers, greens, and whites (some have an additional charge of $ 5). Epomaker also has their own Chocolate brand switches available with this board, which unfortunately I couldn’t try.

For this review, I used an AK84S with a full aluminum frame, PBT keys with the panda design, and clickable blue Gateron switches. You’ll see from the photos that my model comes with a purple case, which is not an option listed on the Epomaker website, but the company has said it plans to make this model more widely available. The all-aluminum version also lacks adjustable feet, which you get on versions with a plastic housing.

Fortunately, this default layout can be customized.

Some keys may seem cluttered with all the different functions they perform.

The AK84S has a 75% layout, which is similar to what you’ll find on most modern laptops. Unfortunately, this is only the United States (aka ANSI), which means you’re out of luck if you prefer a British or European ISO layout with a larger Enter key and a smaller Left Shift key. My model came with bottom row keys for Mac and Windows in the box, which allowed me to swap the Option and Command keys for Windows and Alt. There is no physical switch to change the keyboard layout between the two operating systems, but you can do so with a button shortcut.

Before I get into the finer details, I just want to point out how fantastic the basic typing experience of the AK84S is. On my all-aluminum model, the key presses had a nice crisp feel, and the keyboard as a whole was wonderfully solid for typing. One hard point is the keyboard stabilizers – the mechanism that prevents longer keys from wobbling. They are a bit harsh which detracts from the overall quality of the rest of the board. But overall, the keyboard is a pleasure to type.

While I enjoyed the AK84S everyday typing experience, I have had a few issues with the keyboard over time. For starters, I don’t like the look of Epomaker’s stock keys. Each key has so many different functions that the keys end up looking really cluttered, and given the option, I would probably swap them out for a third-party set (there aren’t any particularly non-standard keys you need to know. on this keyboard, but pay close attention to the bottom row of any key set you purchase). The captions printed on my PBT keys weren’t particularly durable either; after a month of use, the captions on the home row keys had started to fade. Given the option, I would probably go for the ABS keys. ABS as a plastic has a reputation for shining over time, but the legends about the versions available for the AK84S are double-barreled, meaning they’re not going to wear out anytime soon. There is also an unusual silicone cap option that I couldn’t try that costs $ 65. Maybe this is a fun novelty? I have no idea.

Notice the discoloration, especially on the “K” and “L” keys.

In addition to swapping out the keys, the AK84S also features hot-swappable switches, making it easy to swap out the switches that came with your board without having to use a soldering iron. You use the small metal tool that came in the box to remove each switch from its socket, before inserting a replacement. It’s a painless process that gives you the ability to easily operate a huge range of weird and wonderful switches with the keyboard.

I generally think that if a 75% layout is well thought out then it is possible to adapt all the keys that most people use on a daily basis. But the Windows layout of the AK84S is a bit odd. The default screenshot button isn’t labeled (it’s F13, in case you were wondering), and there’s also an entire key dedicated to Insert, a button I didn’t have. never pressed on purpose. Personally, I would have preferred the Home and End keys to Page Up and Page Down as well, but the former are accessible via a function button.

Fortunately, it is possible to customize the layout of the AK84S using companion software, but the lack of documentation makes it an… interesting process. For starters, as of this writing, Epomaker’s website doesn’t actually list the AK84S on its download page. But if you choose to download the software available for “SK, GK, and NT keyboards,” you’ll end up with a program called GK6XPlus, which recognizes the AK84S and allowed me to customize its layout (after asking the company about it, he said he would modify his website). I wouldn’t say this is intuitive software to use, but after a bit of experimentation I ended up with a layout that held up regardless of which computer I plugged into. the keyboard. This software can also customize the RGB keyboard backlighting, if you like that sort of thing.

I’ve used the AK84S wired over USB-C for most of my time, but it also includes Bluetooth connectivity and a 4000mAh battery which Epomaker says should give you 50 hours of use with its lighting. RGB on, or as much as 880 hours with it off. Unfortunately, I couldn’t validate these claims, but in theory they put it far ahead of Keychron’s competitor K2, which offers up to 240 hours of use. Like many other wireless keyboards, the AK84S can remember up to three devices with which it has been paired, and you can easily switch between them with keyboard shortcuts.

The aluminum housing does not have adjustable feet.

They are called Panda keycaps for a reason.

I have quite a few small problems with the Epomaker AK84S. I think its default Windows layout isn’t great, the printing on its PBT keys is poor, and the support and documentation you get with the card leaves a lot to be desired. You’re also dealing with a small company that ships all of their products internationally, which means you have to be patient with orders in a way you don’t with a more traditional brand like Corsair or Razer.

But the basic typing experience of the Epomaker AK84S is good enough that I’m willing to basically forgive all of these issues. Yes, its software is clunky, and yes its documentation is bad, but these are two issues that can be overcome with a little patience and then ignored. Add in other quality of life features like Bluetooth support and hot-swappable switches, and you’ve got a card that should last for years. Or at least until you feel like buying another keyboard for no apparent reason.

Photography by Jon Porter / The Verge


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