When it comes to my peripherals, I am a simple man; I like my mouse multi-buttoned and my keyboard functional. So, in the midst of the RGB haze and mechanical keyboard craze, I have been incredulous. I grew up with a technical keyboard that was attached to an Apple IIgs. The keys were thunderous and cumbersome and I saw the headache of fixing mechanical switches. No, thank you.
Thankfully, technology has advanced from there and we have a market flooded with options on the keyboard front. We have been reviewing several mechanical keyboards here at MMORPG.com, but today I will be reviewing a horse-of-a-different-color, so to speak, in the AORUS K9 by GIGABYTE. Let’s dive in.
- MSRP: $139.99
- Flaretech Optical Switches rated for 100 Million Strokes
- 4mm Travel Distance
- 2mm Activation Distance
- 0.03ms Debounce Time
- Sturdy Metal Chassis with Splash- and Dust-proof Design
- Swappable Switches
- Includes 9 PBT Caps for WASD, Arrow, and ESC keys
- Available in RED and BLUE variants - 9 Opposite Switches Included
- AORUS Engine - For Full RGB Control
Function, Design, and Construction
As mentioned above, the AORUS K9 comes in two varieties: RED and BLUE. For this review, I will be looking at the RED. If you are new to mechanical or optical keyboards, the associate key “color” has less to do with aesthetics, more to do with tactile feel. RED switches feel more linear in their travel while BLUE are distinguished as being more clicky. Flaretech switches are supposed to emulate the function of their Cherry MX counterparts.
Tactile feel aside, the Flaretech switches are an optical switch. Rather than relying on the switch mechanism itself, they rely on surface-mounted infra-red optoelectronic components. These components partner with a prism within the key module’s transparent slider. Because of this, optical keyboards have a faster response time to them (0.03ms, to be exact), reducing the debounce rate.
Because of the nature of this connection between the individual keys and the PC board under the hood, it also means that the Flaretech switches are easily swappable without much fuss. If you find yourself with an AORUS K9 and are curious about what the other switch sounds and feels like, the good news is that it includes nine of the opposite variant so that you can mix and match switches. The keys and caps are fairly simple to swap out, especially with the tool included in the package. It also comes with nine PBT caps - a material that is sturdier than the stock ABS keys. It’s just too bad that they are orange.
All of this in planted firmly on a rock-solid, metal base with a plastic casting, rubber non-slip pads, height adjustment kickstands, and a cable management channel for it’s braided USB 2.0 cable. Because of the nature of this design and the K9’s hydrophobic conformal coasting making it dust- and splash-proof, GIGABYTE boasts that it would function underwater. I did not test this theory. I have seen enough toasters thrown in bathtubs to know that this isn’t a good idea… Don’t ask.
The K9 is a full sized keyboard complete with a number pad and function keys which include a Win-Lock key (so you don’t accidentally lose that hard fought for chicken dinner by thumbing the Windows key) and controller key for to cycle the keyboard’s RGB functionality. Let’s talk about that for a minute.
All of the Colors
By pressing your function key and F1, you can cycle through the K9’s various color modes. As far as color options, each key has a range of 16.8 million colors and five modes. These modes consist of a Static Color, Breathing Mode (pulsing color), directional Rainbow Waves, Waves that ripple out from every key press, and Rain Drops. In Rain Drop mode, keys illuminate at random with a random color.
You can also use the AORUS Graphics Engine by GIGABYTE. This… is where I had some issues and it seems like most of the Internet has as well. If you can get the software to run, it’s a no-frills with a decent GUI and it gets the job done. I just struggled to keep it from crashing on my machine. (Granted, my setup is not standard - I am running a Bootcamp’d iMac with an eGPU attached running both macOS and Windows 10. But, that’s a topic for another day.)
Price and Value
At a pricing standpoint, the AORUS K9 is a tough pill to swallow at $140. This puts it into a price bracket with other high end optical keyboard like the GAMDIAS Hermes P2 RGB and the Tesoro Gram SE Spectrum, but also above the average RGB-equipped mechanical keyboard.
So, is it worth it?
Well, I’m not even sure that is the right question to ask. What are you looking for in a keyboard?
If you are looking for customization, the AORUS K9 offers full RGB lighting control as well as swappable caps and switches to suit your needs. If you’re after speed and agility, the swift debounce time is only limited to the user. If you are simply looking for functionality, there are far less expensive keyboards on the market. However, you will likely need to replace those every couple years.
With the longevity of the switches, the ease of replacement, resistance to the elements (at least the ones found around the average desktop), and the sturdy build quality, the K9 makes an argument for being a one-and-done type of board. This is worth consideration, especially if you’re a heavy typer/button masher and are prone to break button.
Rest in peace, Space bar (2009 - 2015)... I hardly knew you.
Peripherals are often personal to the user’s taste. You have to figure out what works best for you and use it. For some, this board just simply isn’t it. The price point puts it far out of reach of the average “Oh Crap!” moment when you bust a key and have to pick up an immediate replacement. However, if you were planning the move to a mechanical board and are looking for a faster response time than the average switch along with options for both aesthetic and mechanical customization, this may be a keyboard to look into.
While my early usage of the AORUS K9 brought me back to my Apple IIgs days of clattery keys, over the past two weeks with this keyboard, I have grown accustomed to it. The fast travel between keys and the satisfyingly tactile experience of a mechanical keyboard were an unexpected and welcome change.
I can see now why people are nuts about these things.
- Solid construction, smart design
- Easily swappable switches and caps
- Fast debounce enables quicker input
- Extra switches provided for mixing and matching
- GIGABYTE’s AORUS Graphics Engine is spotty
- It’s expensive - putting it into the realm of more enthusiast user boards
- Orange PBT caps…
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.