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iKBC CD108 Bluetooth Mechanical Keyboard Review

By Christopher Coke on September 09, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

iKBC CD108 Bluetooth Mechanical Keyboard Review

iKBC may be a new name to you, but if you’re a fan of mechanical keyboards, you should definitely know who they are. We looked at their awesomely metal-framed MF108 RGB V.2 last year. Today we have their latest entry, the Bluetooth-capable CD108BT. If you’re looking for a high-end keyboard without all the gamer-frills, this is definitely one you’ll want to check out.

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Specifications

  • MSRP: $129.99
  • Layout: 108-key US ANSI (QWERTY, COLEMAK, DVORAK supported)
  • Interface: USB or Bluetooth
  • Key Switches: Cherry MX Red, Blue, Clear, Brown (tested)
  • Switch Life: 50M Actuations
  • Material: ABS plastic case
  • Key Caps: Textured PBT (Cherry OEM Profile)
  • Cable: Rubberized, 6ft
  • Batteries: x2 AAA (included)
  • Battery Life: 3-4 months
  • Media Keys: Yes
  • Software: No
  • Macro Support: No
  • Illumination: None (but supported)
  • Anti-Ghosting: Six-Key rollover Bluetooth, NKRO for USB
  • Dimensions: 136mm (L) x 438mm (W) x 41mm (H) mm
  • Weight: 2.75 lbs
  • Warranty: One year

The iKBC CD108 arrives well-packaged and safe inside a dust jacket and plastic sleeve. First impressions are positive: the care in packaging is actually substantially higher than most gaming keyboards we see, despite coming in well under their prices. Make no mistake, though: for $129, this is a premium-priced keyboard but the target audience is different than your hardcore gamers. For real keyboard enthusiasts, it’s the small details that really make the experience and a nice unboxing certainly makes you feel good about spending all that money.

Taking it out of the box, it’s immediately apparent that this isn’t a keyboard targeted at “gamers.” I suspect, however, that a lot of readers might actually appreciate this. There are no bright colors, flashy lights, or angles sharp enough to cut yourself on. You have a down to business keyboard that’s exceptionally well built, uses genuine Cherry key switches and PBT ‘caps, and a heavy steel plate for mounting. This is a keyboard that simply feels great to use - way better than most gaming keyboards - and is just as responsive as those slates to boot.

That said, if you’re looking to the CD108BT for the usual collection of gaming features, you won’t find them. It doesn’t come with software for remapping every button (though you can perform some key swaps using the DIP switches on the back), it doesn’t record macros, and it’s not going to be launching anything other than the calculator without some outside intervention (seriously - there’s a calculator button). This is just a keyboard, no more, no less, and it’s a good one.

But then, we have to ask, what makes a gaming keyboard anyway? I would contend that in 2018 it’s purely  programmability, possibly a few macros keys, and RGB lighting. Do any of those really make you a better gamer? Since most of it is software based, you can plop those same features on a $29 keyboard from Amazon and get close to those back of the box bullets. No, the more important quality in any keyboard is how it’s built and feels to use. There the CD108BT excels. If you have AutoHotKey, most of those gaming features are only a program away.

If you do want a little extra flair for your flavor, iKBC packs in 10 extra keycaps in red and blue. The pre-installed caps and thick ABS case are more of a “midnight blue” than black and the accenting looks great, in my opinion.

The CD108BT also supports LED backlighting but only if you’re willing to solder it in yourself. It’s nice that the ability is there but I shudder to think about the impact this would have on battery life. Using the two AAA batteries that come with the keyboard iKBC tells us that we should expect 3-4 months of battery life. Adding LEDs to the equation would dramatically reduce that, so if you’re in the mood for a little DIY, just be sure to use USB or keep a few spare batteries on hand.

I’ve had the keyboard for several weeks now and have swapped between USB and Bluetooth modes. During that time, I haven’t had the low battery indicator come up; though, without software, I have no way of knowing what my remaining battery life actually is. That’s too bad, but with a quote from the company promising 3-4 months, if you’re swapping between USB and Bluetooth modes, you’ll probably get well beyond that, despite using Bluetooth 3.0 instead of 4.0 which provides for low-energy operation.

What really impresses me, though, is that we’ve come to a point where you can have full mechanical keyboards that connect wirelessly. The CD108BT isn’t the first, of course, but it’s certainly the highest quality wireless mech I’ve laid hands on.

Coming in right about 1250g, it’s a heavy board. You probably won’t be traveling much with it, especially because it’s not compact in any way, but it’s the polar opposite of the chintzy wireless keyboards of yesteryear. In my own use case, I’ll use it for writing in my office and then use a quick key switch to chat on my PS4. If I’m at work, I can swap to another of the four bluetooth profiles and switch between my company PC and my Note 8 for personal notes. It’s quick and seamless and works great.

For gaming - surprise! - this office-friendly keyboard works perfectly well. Connected over USB it has a full 1000Hz polling rate and NKRO so you can mash as many keys as you like without hitting a wall - figuratively speaking, you will for sure hit a wall in a game if you mash all the keys. Over Bluetooth, that rate drops, of course, but is still perfectly fine for slower paced games and most MMOs.

If there’s one thing iKBC is known for, it’s their keycaps. They use nice, thick-walled PBT on top of Cherry MX switches. They both feel and sound great to type on. The light texturing on the top feels nice under the finger and is another small touch to prevent wear and tear and oily build up over time. The only downside is that they’ve opted for laser-etching instead of providing full doubleshot keycaps. It’s likely that this was a cost saving measure but still left me a bit disappointed after the excellent MF108.

Final Thoughts

The iKBC CD108BT is an excellent keyboard for users who don’t care about the gamer “extras.” If you’re not one to program all of your keys and don’t need RGB lighting, the CD108 provides a more “grown up” option that’s just at home in an office as in front of a high-end gaming rig. Most importantly, it feels great to type on and is better built than the vast majority of gaming keyboards on the market today. In that scope, the Bluetooth connectivity is icing on the cake, even if it requires AAA batteries you’ll need to swap out from time to time.

Pros

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Well-built and weighty
  • PBT keycaps top off the Cherry switches
  • Feels great to type on and is responsive in games
  • Promises decent battery life

Cons

  • Single-shot keycaps, laser etched
  • Requires AAA batteries

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.