Amongst the many budget mechanical keyboard options out there, it's difficult to stand out. This mech from Plugable delivers a solid experience at that budget price.
LAYOUT & SIZE
I have the tenkeyless version with 87 keys, so we’re missing the numpad. But this also does come in a full sized version if the joint numpad is needed for work. Tenkeyless keyboards are a great start for people that don’t necessarily require a numpad since we do save a bit more lateral space on the desk, and it makes for a more comfortable experience allowing us to bring our mouse closer to the centre.
DESIGN & BUILD
They’ve gone with a pretty simplistic rectangular design. This is only available in black, so we have the black keycaps and the black exterior. It’s comprised of 2 main parts, with the steel top plate and then a plastic base, which also extends to the top to give a more rounded look with the rounded corners.
We can tell it’s steel because it’s magnetic. Many of these kinds of keyboards that sport this floating key design, exposing the keyswitches from the side, usually have aluminium plates. The advantage of steel is that it’s more heavier and denser than aluminium, and is more rigid and strong.
The steel is quite textured, which is also quite visible, much more than the black plastic, which doesn’t pick up any fingerprints.
This is a case design that I’ve seen on another keyboard, so there’s probably a couple more brands that use this case, but of course change the internals and keycaps.
The top of the keycaps look really nice. It’s quite a matte smooth looking finish which is a bit different to other cheap budget keycaps, and I actually really do dig the look of the tops. However the sides are a glossy finish which personally I don’t like, but it does give an interesting mirror effect with the white LEDs reflecting off the sides, as well as any other lights around, so you might like that.
The bigger issue is just that it attracts and shows dust really well. This is an issue with all black keycaps though, but it’s just a bit more noticeable with these.
The typeface or font on the keycaps is actually good, with nice and simple legends. But because of the double shot nature of the keycaps, they have the gaps in the closed legends which does detract from the look, but that comes with the cost.
These keycaps can of course be replaced if you want to down the line, since it’s using a completely standard ANSI layout.
I’m really happy they’ve gone with a solid white backlight, rather than having stationary colours or something. It keeps it really simple and clean.
The lighting customisability is also kept to a minimum. This is all controlled via the function key. We can change the brightness levels with the minus and plus keys which have the up and down symbols on them.
The only effect is the breathing mode which is done with function and home. With the minus and plus keys controlling the frequency or speed of the mode. And finally function and scroll lock turn the LEDs on and off, which also exits the breathing mode.
KEYSWITCHES & TYPING
Underneath the keycaps we have the Outemu Blue keyswitches. These are just a clone of the Cherry MX Blue switches, and are similar in how they feel and sound, so we have that click and tactile bump, with a medium weight, with a 4mm travel distance.
Overall, they’ve carried out what they set out to do. They’ve produced a budget keyboard that hits all the basics, with a nice solid build with the steel plate, decent aesthetics with the all black construction and white backlighting, which I feel all budget boards should have if it does have lighting.
The double shot ABS keycaps are a good inclusion, but I’m personally not a fan of the more smooth glossy sides of the keycaps, but that may be to your liking. And perhaps the logo could have been relocated somewhere else. But these are just aesthetic things and to my personal taste, and overall it’s pretty minimal.
Another really important thing to consider is that they are based in Seattle in the U.S. So if there’s any problems, you can contact them to work things out.
The low end mechanical keyboard market is a very congested and competitive one. This sells for $43, and $50 for the full sized board.
At the end of the day it provides a solid typing and gaming experience with the Outemu Blue switches, and full NKRO, and would serve well as a starter mechanical keyboard.