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REVIEW : Teamwolf Zhuque X05 CIY Mechanical Keyboard

June 17, 2016

 

More in depth with visuals. This written review doesn't cover everything; just what I deemed to be worthy.

 

VERSIONS

 

These are available with Gateron switches, but more than likely, you will see the Outemu versions with online retailers. So just check item descriptions to see what switches yours come with.

 

CONTENTS

  • Team Wolf Zhuque X05 Keyboard

  • Guide

  • 4 extra keyswitches (red, blue, black, brown)

  • Wire keycap puller / keyswitch remover combo tool

  • Packaged with soft cell foam

 

LAYOUT & SIZE

 

The Zhuque X05 is a tenkeyless keyboard, meaning it has no number pad on the right hand side of the board, and has 87 keys. It also features a fully standard ANSI layout, so there's a standard bottom row - making replacing these keycaps with aftermarket ones; very easy.

 

A tenkeyless board is also arguably more ergonomic in comparison to a full sized board, as it allows your mouse to be brought closer to the centre. However, you do lose the advantage of having a dedicated number grid.

 

DESIGN & BUILD

 

Overall it's quite a minimal and sleek design. It's constructed of predominantly metal - being sandblasted aluminium. There is no plastic top shell, so it has an exposed metal mounting plate (switch backplate). So it has a 'floating key' design, like what's seen on the Corsair keyboards. This allows the switches to be seen a bit, and also allows for the lighting to be more exposed.

 

The aluminium mounting plate is flush with the beautiful chamfered edge of the bottom shell - and I think that adds a bit of style to the keyboard. The bottom shell is a unibody aluminium shell, which feels nice and looks nice, but it doesn't have any screw bosses or any connections since that is all handled by a small plastic plate inside of it.

 

This plastic plate features all the screw bosses and the reinforcing ribbing to make the board more sturdy. Furthermore, having a plastic plate above the aluminium bottom shell, ensures that there's no potential shorts (if the electronics come in contact with the metal).

 

The branding however is too much for me. The 'ZHUQUE' branding is quite large, and takes away from the sleekness of the board. It's also elevated, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way of removing this unfortunately. The CIY sticker is removable. And the 'Teamwolf' branding is done in the right way, and is nice and subtle.

The keycaps are actually quite nice, being double shot and ABS plastic. This is nice to see with backlit keycaps, because what tends to be done is the cheaper black coating over the cap and laser etched legends, which will be damaged overtime. However, this is unfortunately brought down by the 'gamery' font on the caps.

KEY SWITCHES

This will most likely come with Outemu key switches, which are just Chinese clones of the famous Cherry MX key switches. Meaning that these have the same cross stems and what not, so these are compatible with Cherry MX keycaps. These however are known to be a touch less consistent in comparison, and feature slightly larger tolerances. Therefore the quality is also slightly lacking, and that may impact on the durability of the switches. But they do state that these will last 60 million key strokes each. 

 

The Outemu keyswitches mimic they're Cherry MX counterparts in colours and characteristics. But all are just slightly different - whether it be more heavier, more clickier, or more smooth.

 

CIY HOTSWAPPABLE KEYSWITCHES

 

This is where it get's interesting. CIY = Change It Yourself.

 

Meaning, we can swap out these keyswitches with absolutely no soldering / desoldering needed. Now this is extremely attractive to people who don't have soldering equipment, and don't want to pry open their keyboards, but want to tinker and customise their boards to a degree. 

 

Basically, there are 2 contacts at the back of the PCB that act like a bridge, so that there's no solder needed to make the connection. And yes, this pretty much works with all of the Cherry MX clones, from Gateron to Kailh, Razer, Greetech etc.

 

All you have to do is pull out the switch with the included keyswitch remover, and then line up the 2 pins with the 2 holes in the PCB, and click it in. And that's it!

 

The problems however start with the subtle variances between the brands of switches. First is the casings - some are transparent, some translucent, and some opaque black. This has a major impact on the lighting, since these are SMD LEDs, meaning that the diodes are surface mounted. Traditionally the 2 pin LED pops up through the top of the keyswitch. Therefore on these Outemu switches, there is a large hole for the light to shine through, as well as a clear casing. But on the Cherry MX ones, this is not the case, and the light doesn't shine through.

 

The heights also differ on each brand of switch. When you put on the keycaps, the Cherry MX switches are much higher than the Outemu. Pretty much every other switch is higher than the Outemu, which is unfortunate, and does impact on the typing experience with all these staggered heights. However, if they were organised in clusters, then I don't see this as much of a problem.

 

LIGHTING

 

The board lights up different colours in different areas. They use an unusual colour combination of white, blue, and green, which in my opinion detracts from the appearance of the keyboard. Lighting modes seen in the video.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The true interest lies in the CIY aspect of the board. Being able to change keyswitches at will is a very cool concept, and isn't very common at all. However, I would be hesitant on constant changing, as the clips on the switches are plastic and will eventually snap. 

The build is nice, and is nearly all metal. And overall does look quite nice. But what brings it down in the aesthetics department is the large 'ZHUQUE' logo, and the unfortunate 'gamery' font on the actually quite nice ABS double shot backlit keycaps. There's also the issues with various keyswitches. But overall I see this as a tinkerers or novelty keyboard, although can easily be used as a main keyboard.

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