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Gateron Optical Switches - GK61 Mechanical Keyboard : REVIEW

February 1, 2019

Budget 60% mechanical keyboards. The market is pretty full of them now, with all of them basically being the same thing. So let’s see what’s different about this one, the GK61 optical mechanical keyboard.

 

Thanks to Banggood.com for providing this keyboard for review, and for their continued support.

 

CONTENTS

 

- GK61 keyboard

- User guide

- Keyswitch puller

- Plastic keycap puller

- Braided USB type C cable

 

DESIGN & BUILD

 

Alrighty, so here it is in all of its 60% glory. It has a very basic build, with a plastic enclosure, and an internal steel plate, so it’s still sturdy with minimal flex. It comes in at about 545g, which is about the same as other comparable boards like the Anne Pro.

 

We have a familiar enclosure, with a mixture of glossy and textured satin plastic. Normally I don’t like glossy plastic on keyboards, but it’s just sparingly used here. There are no flip up feet, so we have this fixed angle. But because of how short it is, like from a top down view, it doesn’t really need them.

 

On the rear there’s a USB type C port. And on the bottom there’s 4 rubber feet to keep it sturdy on the desk.

 

So the case looks nice, you know, they all look pretty similar, BUT I will do another video in the near future modding it, so stay tuned for that.

 

LAYOUT & FORM FACTOR 

 

This has a completely standard ANSI layout, so replacing these keycaps is a total breeze. They do have other layouts in this form factor. So the GK64 is one of them, which I checked out a while back, and that incorporates dedicated arrow keys, and so does the GK62, but in a different way.

 

This however, does not have the proper dedicated arrow keys, instead we have them on a secondary layer, which is down here in the bottom right corner. So to use them, we hold FN, plus one of the keys.

 

And then we have the function row on the number row. The nav cluster, which includes home, end, delete, insert and all that, on the right hand side of the board. So it’s very simple, just like all other 60% boards, in how they put the other keys on other layers.

 

For full lighting demonstration, refer to video.

 

KEYCAPS & LIGHTING

 

The keycaps are pretty interesting, but I have seen them before. They have the standard plastic finish on the top, but then they have a glossy finish on the sides, much like the glossy bits on the case. Might not be for everyone, but it does add a bit of visual edge to the keyboard, especially if you have the light shine on it just right, so I don’t really mind it to be honest.

 

The legends on the keycaps are pretty thick, and not the cleanest, but, they let that RGB backlighting shine through. But because they’re so thick, the lighting looks pretty dull and quite faded. There’s a bunch of effects that we can go through on board, via the FN key.

 

MICROPHONE?

 

So like the GK64 I checked out, this has a microphone under the spacebar. And yeh I get it, your immediate thought would be why? Like this is some pretty sketchy stuff. And yeh that’s what I thought as well, it’s just a novelty thing I guess. All it does is have the lighting react to sound.

 

SOFTWARE 

 

For full software demonstration, refer to video

 

I was just clicking all over the place, had no clue. Stuff like hovering over non-labelled icons and having it not tell you what it is. It makes it all really confusing. And frankly I got a bit lazy here in not wanting to deal with this, so yeh, sorry. It’s just an overcomplicated and messy piece of software that I just don’t like.

 

GATERON OPTICAL KEYSWITCHES - HOTSWAPPABLE?

 

So there are 2 versions of the GK61.

 

- We have the standard hotswappable one, with sockets that allow you to chuck in whatever keyswitch you want.

- And then we have this, which has the Gateron Optical keyswitches, which are also hotswappable.

 

So the Gateron optical keyswitches. I’ve actually already checked these out a while back with the Tesoro Excalibur Spectrum, however back then, I think they had them exclusively, so they had the Tesoro logo on them. But as you can see, they’re exactly the same. There’s no metal contacts, and we have that bulging on the top housing to further disperse the backlighting.

 

But back to how it actually works. So normally we have metal contacts inside the switch which are mechanically triggered by you pressing down the stem. Here, all we’re doing is pushing down the stem, and you can see the stem going up and down.

 

And if we look at the PCB, we have our infrared sensor. So all that’s happening, is that the stem is blocking that signal. And it’s that simple. Therefore no other keyswitches will fit on here, besides optical keyswitches.

 

These ones in particular are the Gateron Red Optical Keyswitches, but with more of a maroon or burgundy colour. These are light linear switches, meaning that it has no bump or click, and is just smooth all the way. It’s basically just the optical version of the Gateron Red switch, which is similar to the Cherry MX Red.

 

The difference here, is that there’s no metal contacts. So the stem has no legs, and therefore there’s none of that usual friction between the leaf and the stem. So it’s a pretty smooth keyswitch. Like Gateron Reds are regarded to be somewhat smooth already, like smoother than Cherry MX Reds, and these are just a bit smoother than those.

 

This keyboard is of course available in other optical keyswitches.

 

Even though it isn’t clicky, it is a loud keyboard, with the bottoming out and top out sounds. I’d say it’s one of the louder linear keyboards I’ve come across, possibly because of its quite hollow enclosure which we’ll see later.

 

The stabs aren’t bad at all, because they do come factory lubed, but it doesn’t look like they did the best job.

 

CONCLUSION

 

So yeh, many of this feels and sounds very repetitive. And it really is. There are a heap of random budget 60% boards out there now, so it can all look the same. And this one from just looking at it, is much of the same, BUT, it really isn’t.

 

Again there are 2 versions. The regular hotswap version, that accepts MX style keyswitches. And then this Gateron Optical version, which also is hotswappable, but just with optical switches. And that’s the big difference between this and the rest. Being able to hotswap keyswitches, and having optical switches which is still very rare.

 

The optical keyswitches feel great. They’re smooth and work like a charm. They should be very durable overtime, since it’s just some stem blocking some light. But does it have enough of an advantage over the standard hotswapversion. And personally, I don’t think so. The standard version allows you to hotswap whatever keyswitch you want, given it has enough room for the SMD LED, which are way more accessible by the way. While this one, is limited to optical switches.

 

But I do appreciate something different, and I’m always happy to see some innovation in mechanical keyboards, especially in keyswitches. But I’d honestly get the standard GK61 for a bit more flexibility. But that’s just me.

 

Thanks to Banggood.com for providing this keyboard for review, and for their continued support.

 

Geek GK61: https://bit.ly/2LPBfnP

15%off coupon code:dcac5f

Gaming Series Big Promotion: https://bit.ly/2AqYbVJ

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