Alright well, it was bound to happen eventually. I’ve taken my first few steps into the world of mechanical keyboards. Honestly, it was only a matter of time. I wouldn’t call it a huge leap.
There were many contenders, but in the end I decided on the Keychron K4. This is a 96% mechanical keyboard with Bluetooth connectivity, full RGB back lighting, and Gateron brown switches. First let’s take a closer look at all of those features, what they mean, and why I decided on this particular model.
What’s In The Box?
Each Keychron board ships with the USB Type-C to USB-A charge cable, a keycap puller, and a set of function keycaps for both Windows and Mac/iOS. There is also an alternate orange keycap for the dedicated RGB control key, which is a nice little extra.
The K4 is Keychron’s 96% size keyboard, meaning it features only 100 keys rather than the typical 104. This layout shrinks the overall footprint of the board without sacrificing any important functionality. Keychron’s layout organizes the keys in such a way that there is no extra empty space on the board, giving the K4 a very clean and organized look.
The keycaps and body of this keyboard are made of ABS plastic, and an aluminum frame version available for an additional $10. There are several switch options available, though I chose the Gateron Brown switches. These feature a slight tactile feel without the loud mechanical *click* along with each keystroke.
Okay so this is where mechanical keyboards get tricky. There are several types and manufacturers of these switches, but for the purposes of this review, I’ll just cover the three most common types. I’m still learning myself, but here is what I’ve learned after intensive shopping.
So, like I said, there are three switch types common to most mechanical keyboard manufacturers; Red, Blue, and Brown. Red switches are classified as linear and quiet, meaning they travel in a smooth straight line when pressed, with no physical tactile feedback when actuated. The Blue switches are clicky, both in sound and feel. When pressed, the Blues will give tactile feedback when actuated, as well as an audible click. Brown switches fall somewhere in the middle, giving some tactile feedback when pressed, but no intentional audible noise. These are not completely silent, but the sound level is entirely subjective to the typing speed and force. To relate it back to pens (as I so often find a way to do), Reds are like the soft Schmidt rollerball pen clicker, and Blues are like the Parker Jotter.
I selected the Brown switch option. The tactile feedback is nice, and the keystrokes are quiet enough that I wont have to worry too much about noise in an office setting.
Using The Keyboard
The difference in feel between standard and mechanical keyboards is immediately noticeable when you start typing. Each keystroke has an audible click and a tactile bump and, as generic as that description sounds, it’s a much more satisfying experience.
This version of the K4 features 18 different light-up modes with the RGB LEDs beneath the keys. White LED and non-backlit versions are available, but if you’re investing in a keyboard upgrade like this, the $10ish price difference for full color back-lighting is an easy addon.
The particular layout of the K4 did take a little getting used to. The spacing around the arrow keys and number pad can at times feel a little cramped, but the board is so aesthetically pleasing that I’m adapting quickly.
The keycaps are made of standard ABS plastic. They’re firm when typing, reasonably comfortable, and allow the back-lighting to shine through illuminating each key. They keys appear to be a single layer of white ABS, painted or finished with a flat bronze and grey color, giving the board a dynamic and segmented look. While I do like the non-uniform look of this color scheme, these keys do tend to pick up fingerprints and smudges very quickly. Luckily, one feature of any good mechanical keyboard is that all of these keycaps are easily replaceable. At any point, I could pull all of these caps off and replace them with keys from any number of manufacturers, or even make my own! (Yay, more hobbies!)
The wireless connectivity with up to 3 devices, compatibility with multiple operating systems, and the long battery life all make the Keychron K4 a fantastic general purpose mechanical keyboard. Combine that with the starting price tag of just $69 ($79 as configured here) and you’ve got a VERY generous first step into the world of Mechanical Keyboards.
We’re all spending a lot of time at our computers, you may as well have some fun with it!
Check out the Keychron K4 Here!
Disclaimer: This product was purchased by The Poor Penman. All opinions stated are my own.