Trending Games | World of Warcraft | Overwatch | Lost Ark | Lord of the Rings Online

    Facebook Twitter YouTube Twitch.tv YouTube.Gaming Discord
Register
Quick Game Jump
Members:3,821,903 Users Online:0
Games:974 

Input Club K-Type Mechanical Keyboard: For Enthusiasts, By Enthusiasts

By Christopher Coke on January 06, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Input Club K-Type Mechanical Keyboard: For Enthusiasts, By Enthusiasts

Input Club aren’t just any keyboard company. In fact, they’re not like any other keyboard company. This small, six-man team out of California is made up of some of the most passionate members of the mechanical keyboard community out there. In short, if you’re a mechanical keyboard fan, they are exactly the kind of people you would want calling the shots on your next board. They’ve released a number of keyboards in the past, but today we’re looking at what might be their most direct courtship with the gaming community yet: the K-Type. It’s small, it’s beautiful, and open source, but should you buy in? Let’s find out.

 advertisement 

Specifications

  • MSRP: $199.99
  • ANSI tenkeyless layout (TKL, 87 keys)
  • Fully programmable
  • CNC anodized aluminum frame
  • Kaihua mechanical switches with light pipe casings
  • Cherry stabilizers
  • PBT doubleshot backlit keycaps (OEM profile)
  • Hot-swappable switch inserts
  • Floating key design
  • Detachable magnetic aluminum foot
  • Dual USB type-C connectors
  • USB type-C cable included
  • Programmable RGB LED backlighting and underlighting (16.8 million colors, over 100 FPS)
  • Open-source hardware
  • Keyboard Layout Language (KLL) firmware
  • Dimensions: 14.5 x 5.5 x 1.4 in (36.8 x 14 x 3.6 cm)
  • Weight: 34 oz (964 g)

If you’re a stalwart in the gaming keyboard space, you might be surprised to hear that the K-Type has quite the amount of buzz around it. It’s true - true enough, in fact, that Gizmodo flew one of their reporters to a mechanical keyboard meet-up to interview one of the keyboard’s most well known developers, Jacob Alexander. Jacob, who goes by “Haata” in the keyboard community, owns a massive collection of more than 500 keyboards. He’s the kind of enthusiast who treats keyboards as a science - literally.

From the Gizmodo article:

Nearly every night, when most of us would be turning our brains off after working all day, Jacob makes the trek to his lab, gathers a handful of keys, and tests them, often staying until eleven or later. “I can get through thirty in a night,” he admits.

Using a special machine, Jacob has studied the intricacies of every major switch on the market, mapping out their curves using a force gauge and specialized software. You can view some of the results in Input Club’s comparative guide to mechanical keyswitches here. But Input Club’s passion for keyboards extends beyond switches. Theirs is a viewpoint that values every part of the keyboard and there’s a specialist on the team for each element, from keycap to PCB to the software that drives it all. No one on the team is getting rich from this passion and, in fact, most of them still have day jobs. Their goal is simple: to push keyboards to the next level, one design at a time.

If you don’t know the name,you might know some of their previous projects. They first garnered attention with keyboards like the community-driven Infinity Ergodox. This was followed super stylish and impeccably designed Whitefox keyboard. With the Whitefox, they partnered with Matteo Spinelli, the godfather of the custom keyboard movement, to design the ultimate keyboard. To date, all of their keyboards have been met with lavish praise from the keyboard community.

With the K-Type, we have a different beast. It’s still impeccably designed and includes a number of unique features sure to appeal to keyboard fans and gamers alike, but rather than stick with the minimalist, keycap-centric stylings of the Whitefox, Input Club has gone all-in with some of the most vibrant LED lighting we’ve seen. Combined with the white keys and aluminum body, it can be downright stunning in action, even causing my wife (not an RGB keyboard fan) to pause an note that it was “definitely the prettiest” I’ve had in. And I’ve had a lot of RGB keyboards. 

Every key features an independent LED capable of the full 16.7 million color range. They’re brighter than most, easily staying vibrant through the double-shot PBT keycaps’ translucent legends. Running along the edge is another LED strip, offering an eye-grabbing underglow that elevates the entire aesthetic. Like many of the flagship keyboards from corporate brands like Razer and Corsair, the keyboard can be programmed to display intricate animations. The K-Type includes a handful of customizable preset lighting schemes and you can easily set any static layout you’d like. Programming your own unique animation has a learning curve, however, as it’s all done with basic code inside a text editor.

Thankfully, Input Club has a community actively building and sharing lighting schemes on the company’s Discord. I was able to hop in and immediately grab some new options to load onto my K-Type using their configurator software. At the moment, you can only load one scheme onto the board at a time, which is a bit disappointing, but  Unlike those brands, that’s not where the involvement ends.

One of the most unique aspects of the K-Type’s development is that it’s completely open source. Take, for example, macro development. On a call earlier this week, I spoke with Andrew Lekashman, the company’s business advisor, about when that feature might become fully available. Right now, macros are available as modified keybinds - think, Ctrl+S, Alt+P, that kind of thing. What gamers usually think of is chained macros, however, where their inputs are recorded and they can modify delays with precision. That feature is expected to roll out within the next few months, but, he told us, because it’s open source, anyone can contribute and bring this feature out faster. Or, perhaps, develop a feature of their own. For Input Club, their biggest asset may be the community that supports them.

Typing on the K-Type is just as good as you would expect it to be from a team composed of such fans. The keycaps are thick-walled PBT, a denser, more resilient plastic than the ABS used in most gaming keyboards. They’re also textured to further avoid shine and are double-shot with two-piece plastic to ensure the legends will never fade. The unit we were sent features Jacob Alexander’s custom Hako Clear switches, manufactured by Kaihl and available from their web store. Currently, the K-Type is only available from Massdrop and features the original Halo switches in Clear or True (also original from Jacob). The Hakos, however, offer less movement in the key stem and a greater resilience to dust and accidental spills. They’re a medium weight switch, requiring about 55g of force to actuate, but that resistance scales all the way up to 79g at bottom out. It took me about a day of typing to get used to the heavier weight, but they train you not to bottom out, leading to a much quieter typing experience with keys that are distinctly springier than other mechanical keyboards I’ve used.

The beauty of the K-Type, though, is that the key switches themselves can be swapped out without soldering. Using the included switch puller, changing switches is as easy as pulling the old one out and pressing the new one in. If you happen to buy the K-Type on Massdrop and would rather have the stabler Hako switches, there’s nothing stopping even the least technically inclined among us from making the change.

The build quality on display is just phenomenal. The solid aluminum body lends a nice heft to this tenkeyless keyboard and the denseness of its frame also mutes any bottom-outs that do occur. It’s incredibly satisfying to type on. Around the back are two USB-C ports so you can route your cable out the most convenient side. The cable is also reinforced to avoid any breakage. A magnetized riser is also included in the box to add some extra angling. There’s an air of indestructability about the K-Type that only comes from being solid as a rock. It’s as good as you would hope it would be.

For gaming, it will absolutely deliver. One of the biggest misconceptions that exists between gaming keyboards and custom, enthusiast boards is that they’re somehow less capable because they’re not “designed for gaming.” This is pure, unadulterated marketing in the vast majority of cases. With the K-Type, as well as most premium mechanical keyboards, you’ll find the same responsiveness. The difference, by and large, comes down to where the money is spent. With a board like the K-Type, you’re paying for quality materials not marketing hype.

Where gamers might find the K-Type lacking is the software. It’s a bit of a mixed bag compared to their corporate competition. One of the biggest selling points is that the layout (key mappings) can all be controlled using the online configurator. The downside, however, is that it’s not as simple as pressing “confirm” and having your changes take. Right now, the firmware itself must be flashed, which means pressing a button to enter flash mode, and uploading the new firmware. Is it hard? Not at all, but it does mean that there’s a few extra steps in there. 

Getting the software running also requires a couple of additional steps, as the driver is not currently certified by Microsoft, requiring the use of an additional program to configure the driver. This should change in the future and, like flashing, isn’t hard to do. The overall impression is that the software is just not as user friendly as it could be.

When I raised this question with Input Club, they explained that they didn’t want users to have to install any additional software (or have the keyboard do it secretly). Since your changes are flashing how the keyboard works on such a fundamental level, you can take it to any machine and operating system and have it function identically. Removing the software layer also makes the keyboard overall more responsive.

Final Thoughts

Current software challenges aside, the K-Type is an impressive keyboard. Made by a team of the most dedicated enthusiasts, it absolutely delivers in the ways a premium keyboard should. It feels great to type on, has an excellent aluminum body, and stellar keycaps. The lighting is also some of the most vibrant we’ve seen, though I do wish it allowed you to store multiple profiles on the board without re-flashing. As a gamer, I’ve found it up to any game I’ve thrown at it, but if you’re a heavy user of chain macros, you’ll need to pair it with AutoHotKey. One thing is for sure, though - in the world of RGB keyboards, this the one of the best in the ways that matter most.

Note: Currently Massdrop has exclusive rights to sell the K-Type mechanical keyboard. It is frequently available; however, at the time of this writing is in a “request” phase. It can be found here with the original Halo switches. The Hako box switches are available from Input Club’s webstore at this link.

Pros

  • Stellar build quality
  • Vibrant lighting with a nice underglow
  • Changing the layout is quick and easy once the software is installed
  • The Hako switch is more stable and feels great

Cons

  • Premium priced
  • Software is less user friendly than some may be used to

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

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.