The latest addition to my collection arrived today in the form of a Keychron K4. I got interested in the 96% layout after seeing a few reviews, and was looking for the cheapest way to try one out.
My observations about the Keychron K4:
- Generally great build quality for the price
- Hate the gateron reds it came with. I knew I would so ordered a bag of Kailh Box Whites to go with. My first time with a full board of these switches. Definitely on the loud side (they are clicky) but like these much better than Cherry Blue’s. Lighter feel and a quieter click.
- Keycaps feel like they are ABS and very smooth. Also OEM profile, which is not my favorite. Will likely switch out with PBT cherry profile caps soon.
- First impression of 96% layout is great. Barely 3 keys wider than my 65% Leopold FC660C. Much smaller than I was expecting. Major question will be how well I will be able to blindly locate the arrow key cluster.
- Surprisingly nice to have bluetooth on a proper mech board. So far no problems paired up with the iMac.
- Preinstalled switches were a pretty snug fit. Not sure if the tolerances on the mounting plate cutouts are really tight, but the switches take a lot of force to remove.
- Adjustable slant makes the board generally more comfortable than the Drop Alt for me. The flattest setting is flatter than the Drop, and it has two sets of kick stands that can add more tilt.
General tips when exploring the keyboard space.. (what I’ve learned over the last 9 months)
- Go for the cheap stuff first. Figure out what you like. If you’re getting into this you’re likely going to end up with multiple keyboards. Just embrace it.
- For boards this means plastic chassis and hotswap pcb’s. Plastic models can usually be had for < $100, and hotswap means you don’t have to keep buying new boards to test out different switches
- For switches this means starting with cheaper brands like Gateron and Kailh. Only step up to more expensive stuff like ZealPC or Holy Pandas once you know what you really like. Costs of these switches really add up fast.
- For keycaps, this means usually cheaper YMDK or HK gaming stuff you see on amazon. You can test out different profiles here for much less than some of the custom runs you see costing 100$+
- If you’re in the US always check on Amazon before ordering from keyboard enthusiasts sites. Most of those sites ship from China and have steep shipping fees and long transit times. If Amazon has something in stock, you can often get prime shipping which is a much better experience.
- Once you know what you want… then go look at the higher quality stuff. Aluminum boards. DIY kits. Soldering equipment. Switches that go for > $1 a piece. Fancy limited run keycaps. It’s easy to end up spending 250$+ on a custom board, so make sure you’re getting something that you really know you want.