- Brand: Keychron
- No. of Keys: 84
- Switches: Gateron Blue / Brown / Red (Hotswappable)
- Dimensions: 370x180x70mm
- Weight: 794g
- Connection: USB Type C + Bluetooth 5.0
- Release Date: 30 September 2020
- Price: ₱5,650 (discounted to ₱5,089)
One day, I bought beef noodles for takeout. I later spilled some of the hot soup over my old keyboard and my hasty attempts at remedying it left me with a useless (but not completely broken) keyboard and a need to replace it. While browsing Shopee, I found what I thought would be a suitable replacement. It was a 75% keyboard that will give me more desk space and a hotswappable board to try out different switches. After some thought, I got myself a Keychron K2 V2.
The Keychron K2 V2 is the second version of their popular 75% model with Bluetooth connectivity. I opted for that version because I heard from reviews that the front of the first version is too high, which may have made it painful to type on for me. This review was written after much modification and almost three months of daily use.
NOTE: This is a full peripheral review based on the reviewer’s preferences and needs. Your needs may be different and you may find this review to not have the information you need.
I wrote this review as a power user who also likes to mod his keyboards, so most of my gripes are not reflective of a casual user’s experience with the product.
This is a review of the hotswappable version of the Keychron K2 V2, which also has a non-hotswappable version. Reader discretion is advised.
The main visual appeal is the small form factor, which can be both a boon and a detriment. While it lets you save a good bit of desk space, it also has all the keys sticking together, so it may be hard for you to get used to at first if you’re coming from using a full-sized keyboard with spacing between the function keys, the arrow keys, and so on.
For instance, you’ll find it not easy to hit the F4 key when hitting Alt-F4 without looking at it.
In the case of this model I bought, the keycaps are mostly dark shades of gray, which I wanted to change to white keycaps. Also, the legends on the keycaps are pretty thin, so they didn’t let that much light through. At this point, I want a bit more LED lights and whiter keycaps in my life, so I changed most of the keycaps to a Tecware PBT white keycap set.
Unfortunately, due to this form factor, the right shift key is 1.75u, which isn’t standard. You’ll have to find a keycap set that has one. Since I wanted shine-through, it’s a lot harder for me to find a full PBT set that has a 1.75u shift key and shine-through with colors I actually like.
Right now, my Keychron has white Tecware PBT keycaps for letters, numbers, punctuations, and spacebar; and stock keycaps for everything else. It’s not ideal as that makes for a non-uniform look, but it still does look and sound pretty good.
Another minor visual flaw with this keyboard is that the LEDs are north-facing (which will interfere with Cherry profile keycaps) and aren’t that bright. I put the orange Esc and LED keycaps on, and the light only lights up half of those keycaps. It would’ve been better if those orange keycaps were opaque instead of translucent so at least the orange will look better while letting through just a bit of light like all the other stock keycaps.
I have since replaced the Esc, LED, and arrow keys, as well as the spacebar, with blue resin keycaps, which spreads the light out more. They also sound fuller and deeper, especially the spacebar which I worked on a lot to remove the rattle of the stabilizers. But the fact that I was compelled to buy different keycaps for this means that its aesthetics are not exactly to my liking.
The bottom of the housing is hollow enough to fit a 2mm-thick EVA foam pad in it and still provide enough room for switches. This keyboard can definitely use a good bit of modding, even though most people may be satisfied with it out of the box. I’ve since put foam in the housing and between the board and the plate, thus making it sound a lot better.
The housing itself is not aluminum, just the frame consisting of these pieces that slide onto the sides of the housing and are screwed in with star bit screws. If you’re looking for a keyboard with an entirely aluminum housing, this isn’t it. But if you intend to travel with this keyboard, then having the aluminum frame can help make it more durable. Just make sure to not drop it flat on its bottom or you may crack it.
The three main reasons you should check this keyboard out is its form factor, the Bluetooth connectivity, and the hotswappable board. As far as those three things go, this keyboard checks all the boxes. But it’s the little details that make it fall short of its promise.
Disadvantage with Bluetooth-only Wireless Connectivity
Some people want that dedicated wireless dongle, which this dual-mode keyboard doesn’t have. As far as I can determine, the Keychron doesn’t work while you haven’t booted into the operating system — it likely needs the drivers. That means if you need to get into your UEFI/BIOS or safe mode, then you have to plug a different keyboard in to do that.
My Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse combo can do that. It costs 12x less, but it can be used for troubleshooting. I keep it around here anyway, so all I have to do to get into the UEFI on this system is to pull out the dongle from the backup computer (for streaming) and plug it into a front USB port. That’s not really a hardship, but the fact that I have to do that in the first place is a bit of a head-scratcher.
Also, using Bluetooth means you have to pair it first. Every Bluetooth peripheral has a different set of pairing procedures, and that’s even more so with keyboards. The Keychron does it differently from the Rakk Pluma (I’ll review this keyboard next). Since it’s something I have to do every now and then, I don’t get to remember how to do it, so I have to look it up online.
If it had a dedicated wireless dongle, this wouldn’t be a problem at all. I guess this is where Royal Kludge keyboards have a leg up over Keychron keyboards — you can choose to get a Royal Kludge tri-mode functionality to have dedicated wireless dongles. Most wireless keyboards these days just have a small dongle that can be kept in a slot on the bottom.
On the other hand, a dedicated wireless dongle is just another thing to drop and lose while moving your keyboard around, so I understand that some people would just rather have Bluetooth. In fact, if I do choose to buy another wireless keyboard in the near future, I’ll likely get a dual-mode one because I know I’ll likely misplace that dongle.
Another thing I found somewhat annoying is how the right Ctrl and Shift keys are close to the Fn key. There’s no helping it and other keyboards of this form factor have the same problem. But due to how the Fn key is linked to the LED functionality on this keyboard, I end up accidentally changing the LEDs on this keyboard while working.
I’m a writer by trade, and I use hotkeys to do much of my work. I use Ctrl-Shift-Left or Right arrow keys to select multiple words to edit or delete. Moving my right hand to the mouse, then clicking and dragging to select words is too slow and cumbersome for me. But with this keyboard, I would accidentally press Fn-Left or Right and end up changing the color of the LEDs, and I don’t notice until I actually look down to look at the keyboard.
I used to not care about the LEDs on my keyboard (or on anything for that matter), so old me would’ve not cared. But now that I can afford this premium stuff, I’ve since become more enamored by RGB. I just put everything on white just to have some extra aesthetic punch, so it does matter for me nowadays.
It also infamously lacks support in software like VIA, which means you can neither reprogram buttons nor customize RGB as you wish. This is the main thing that keeps Keychron from taking control of the custom mechanical keyboard market. Compared to its counterparts with that support, that makes the Keychron seem rather bland and underwhelming.
If I can modify the hotkeys and LEDs in software, I’d be able to reprogram RGB-related keys to something else and just permanently set the LEDs to my preference. It’s frustrating to know that my mouse has better software support than my keyboard, even though the latter costs almost 7x as much.
Things the Keychron Gets Right
While it does do certain things badly in the long run, that’s underneath everything that the Keychron gets right. The Keychron provides a good out-of-the-box experience, which my friends who got Keychron keyboards before me certainly had. It’s their recommendation that made me get a Keychron as well, which became my entry into the custom mechanical keyboard hobby.
What I didn’t consider is that my friends’ use cases are different from my own use case, thus the complaints.
The build quality is pretty good, the stock Gateron switches are better than the usual Cherry MX switches that come with most keyboards, the stock keycaps look more premium than those of most other keyboards, and the customizable RGB LEDs with different modes are nice. The Keychron is a definite upgrade from even expensive keyboards from brands like Razer, Logitech, SteelSeries, and so on.
It also has extra stuff that many users will find quite nice. It has interchangeable modes for Windows and Mac, so you can go from one machine to another quite easily. You also get extra keycaps to match, whether you’re a Windows or Mac user. The stabilizers also come pre-lubed, so the spacebar and other longer keys don’t sound super rattly out of the box.
I’m sure that if I bought a non-hotswappable Keychron and am not into keyboard modding, that would’ve been fine for me. After all, I was perfectly happy with my old Ducky Shine 2 for many years before I spilled soup on it. But as someone who had been getting into keyboard modding, I needed something that accommodated that increasing fascination, and the Keychron’s lack of software support hamstrings that.
Funny enough, this price range is fairly normal for premium mechanical keyboards. Considering this has a hotswappable board, it’s a good price for it. While there are now affordable barebones kits with hotswappable boards, this does come with stock switches and keycaps. But if you’re looking to have a keyboard with your own choice of switches, you might as well get something like a Feker IK75 and your own choice of switches and keycaps.
Compared to many newer boards available these days, the Keychron K2 V2 is looking to be somewhat outdated as its counterparts now come with knobs and software support. But perhaps it’s due to a difference in what they focus on. The other brands are focusing on customizability, which is what a lot of the enthusiasts want.
Meanwhile, Keychron is likely focusing on the base quality of their products so they provide the best out-of-the-box experience for casual users. It’s not an excuse, but an attempt at a rational explanation. The only problem is that Keychron’s marketing doesn’t help them with that goal because, as far as I know, it’s a brand known mostly by enthusiasts.
Also, their customer service is known to be almost non-existent. They’re there, but their best answer to your troubleshooting questions is to take it to a local technician. Their job is to help you, and they do it by telling you to have it fixed somewhere else. That brings down the value of this product even more, even if it’s quite good on its own.
It’s like being in the lower middle class social bracket. You’re doing fine, paying all of your bills, providing for your family, have a roof over your head, and buying the occasional luxury. But you’re just one emergency, accident, disaster, or terminal illness away from being ruined. The Keychron is fine, but it doesn’t have futureproofing or proper support.
While I scored it pretty highly in my initial review, I had to bump it down a couple of notches due to not measuring up to my expectations over time. In the long term, it doesn’t measure up compared to its counterparts, especially considering the price. Even if it’s considered “budget” as far as custom mechanical keyboards go, ₱5,000 to ₱5,600+ is certainly not what you’d call “affordable”, especially for a keyboard. It’s considered a budget product for enthusiasts, but that’s like drinking Gatorade while you just need a glass of water simply because you can afford it. While Keychron had been a shining star in the custom mechanical keyboard scene when it first arrived, it has since languished and fallen by the wayside as the brand was unable to adapt to changing tastes and demand for more features. While the Glorious GMMK Pro is a lot more expensive and comes with bad stabilizers, it still offers a lot more for its price compared to Keychron's basic set of features for a price that ends up not bringing better value in the long run. It’s not to say that the Keychron is bad since it has indeed been good to me, but I expected it to be nigh perfect after spending over ₱5,000 for it. The Keychron K2 V2 would’ve been absolutely fine for casual users, but I’m certainly not a casual user at all. It would’ve been great if the brand is catered to casual users to begin with, but that’s not exactly so.
While I scored it pretty highly in my initial review, I had to bump it down a couple of notches due to not measuring up to my expectations over time. In the long term, it doesn’t measure up compared to its counterparts, especially considering the price.
Even if it’s considered “budget” as far as custom mechanical keyboards go, ₱5,000 to ₱5,600+ is certainly not what you’d call “affordable”, especially for a keyboard. It’s considered a budget product for enthusiasts, but that’s like drinking Gatorade while you just need a glass of water simply because you can afford it.
While Keychron had been a shining star in the custom mechanical keyboard scene when it first arrived, it has since languished and fallen by the wayside as the brand was unable to adapt to changing tastes and demand for more features.
While the Glorious GMMK Pro is a lot more expensive and comes with bad stabilizers, it still offers a lot more for its price compared to Keychron's basic set of features for a price that ends up not bringing better value in the long run.
It’s not to say that the Keychron is bad since it has indeed been good to me, but I expected it to be nigh perfect after spending over ₱5,000 for it. The Keychron K2 V2 would’ve been absolutely fine for casual users, but I’m certainly not a casual user at all. It would’ve been great if the brand is catered to casual users to begin with, but that’s not exactly so.
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