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REVIEW : Ajazz AK33, AK33S Mechanical Keyboard

June 19, 2016

 

Apologies for lack of photos in this review. All can be seen in the video above.

 

VERSIONS

  • AK33 White (White shell and keycaps, blue backlighting)

  • AK33 Black (Black shell and keycaps, white backlighting)

  • AK33S Flame (Black shell and keycaps, yellow-red gradient backlighting)

See RGB Video for RGB version, as it's slightly different.

 

CONTENTS

  • AK33 Keyboard

  • USB mini cable
     

Customers have also been given various different accessories, with some receiving none. So unfortunately, customers will have no idea in which extra items they are getting. These include :

  • Plastic ring keycap puller 

  • Small mousepad - various designs and colours

  • Small brush for cleaning - various designs and colours
     

LAYOUT & SIZE

 

The AK33 is a 75% mechanical keyboard. For context, a standard full sized keyboard is 100%. Therefore it is between the popular sizes of 60% keyboards and tenkeyless keyboards. However, this 75%(82 keys) keyboard is only slightly larger than a 60%(61 keys), but is a lot smaller than a TKL(87 keys) board. And that's the best part - it provides a large amount of primary functionality in a compact form factor.

 

The layout of this however takes a bit of getting used to. For casual typing, it's pretty much normal, except that the right shift key is a 1.25u key, which is much smaller than usual (2.75u). Depending on how you type, this can be something that may take a while to get used to, which was the case for me. As every time I wanted to type something like brackets '(', I would hit the UP directional arrow key instead.

 

The right CONTROL key is also right next to the right ALT, which makes space for the large dedicated 1.25u directional arrow keys - which is probably one of the main features that people avoid 60% boards for.

 

At the top we have our function row, which also features a few secondary functions, mainly for media and lighting. Flanking them, are the oversized ESC & DEL keys, which I actually quite like, since I use them frequently.

 

With all these quirks, it's obviously not like a standard layout, and therefore keycaps for these guys will be a touch harder to acquire, and also more expensive. But they are still out there. If it used the other 75% layout, which features 84 keys like seen on the Noppoo Choc Mini, then keycaps wouldn't be as much of a problem.

 

DESIGN & BUILD

 

It's a very minimalistic aesthetic by function. Since it's a 75%, it features no bezel or gaps between clusters of keys, meaning that it has no plastic top shell, that is commonly seen on most traditional tenkeyless and full sized keyboards.

 

The aluminium mounting plate is plain and simple, but has a bit of shine with the chamfered edge. Unfortunately the bottom shell is in a glossy ABS plastic, which isn't as much of an issue on the white version. But these finishes still easily attract dirt and fingerprints, but at least it is minimised by not being a large surface area around the sides. It's also nice for the branding to just be at the bottom of the shell, keeping the keyboard very clean.

 

It's an extremely light keyboard. Aluminium is already a very light metal, and being quite thin, it's no surprise that it's light. But it's not so thin, that it would bend, as it is supported by the shell and PCB. The bottom plastic shell is made from ABS plastic, and is also quite thin, but it does feature a bit of ribbing on the bottom surface; reinforcing the plastic.

 

The keycaps are also ABS plastic, with a black coating over it and laser etched legends. While the font is great and simple, the coating will eventually start to wear - depending on how clean you keep your fingers. The tall keycaps seem to have a problem with being coated properly. 

 

KEY SWITCHES

 

Zorro keyswitches are used, which is another Chinese Cherry MX clone keyswitch. It comes in Blue and Black, which both mimic the characteristics of their Cherry MX counterparts. However I was only able to play with the Black keyswitches.

 

These are linear switches, meaning they go straight down with no click or tactile bump. These are listed to be 60g+/-15g switches, which are quite large tolerances, but is to be expected from a cheaper switch. But these felt much lighter than that, and managed to nearly reach the lightness of the Cherry MX Reds (45g). And to my surprise, some actually did feel pretty much identical to the MX Reds, with most of them feeling to have about a 50g-55g actuation force. So nothing really in the realms of the 60g Cherry MX Blacks. So I guess these inconsistencies are due to the poorer quality control. Which also leads us to question the durability of them, but unfortunately this can only be tested with time, and time that we do not have.

 

They also have clear casings, which allows the LEDs to glow a bit more on the metal mounting plate.

 

LIGHTING

 

This is a backlit keyboard, which feature a bunch of modes. See video for all the lighting modes (5:23).

 

CONCLUSION

 

The main thing to consider is the extremely low price (for a mech) of approximately $35USD. It has its flaws, with the cheaper keyswitches and keycaps. As well as a very lightweight build (which may be an advantage for some).

 

However, I really love that someone like Ajazz has made a cheap 75% keyboard - considering that there's hardly any others out there, and they're much more expensive. It's just a great balance between functionality and size. 

 

Overall, I'm willing to sacrifice a few quality deficiencies, for a clean and simple 75% Ajazz AK33 mechanical keyboard - at such a low price point.

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