Aukey’s Mechanical Keyboard Gives You Clicky Keys for Cheap
Aukey is one of those electronics companies that makes everything. It’s known for battery packs and power solutions, but the Chinese manufacturer also makes Bluetooth speakers, drones, dash cams, VR headsets, clip-on iPhone lenses, flashlights, aromatherapy infusers, and selfie sticks. And of course, it sells all that stuff direct to consumers through Amazon at rock-bottom prices.
A few months ago, I took delivery of an Aukey mechanical keyboard. I was eager to try it because I prefer typing on mechanical keyboards, and I’m always on the lookout for new models to test. But also, I wanted to try it because Aukey makes mechanical keyboards? Most models come from companies that specialize in these tactile typing devices, or at least in hardware for PC gamers. Enthusiasts love the clicky keyboards from Das, Logitech, Razer, WASD, and Corsair—none of whom have built a business selling aromatherapy pods or 5,000 mAh battery bricks. This makes things interesting.
Aukey KM-G3 RGB Mechanical Keyboard
A mechanical typing and gaming experience for under $70. Fun, customizable lighting effects. Full-size, 104-key device with tactile, clicky switches. Comfy ergonomics.
Cheap feel to the construction of the case and especially the ABS plastic keys. Switches are fine, but a little wiggly. Keycap font possibly chosen by a 12-year-old. Hella loud. For real, somebody’s going to call the cops on you.
The Aukey KM-G3 RGB mechanical keyboard is a backlit model with 104 keys, including the 10-key pad and a full row on function keys. Beneath the keycaps on my review unit are blue switches. (Keyboard nerds can skip this part. Key switches come with different stiffnesses, different feel under the fingers, and different noise levels. The variations are discernable by color. Blue switches offer medium stiffness with an extra loud CLICK.) You can get Aukey keyboards with other switches; the KM-G4 variant has browns, for example. The switches in Aukey’s boards aren’t the expensive, revered Cherry MX switches from Germany, but rather a set made in Asia by Outemu. Either way, Aukey says they’re good for 50 million strokes; pretty durable.
The keys look, feel, and sound cheap. There’s a noticeable thinness to the ABS plastic keycap, a bit of wiggle under the fingers when your hands are at rest, and a plasticky inelegance to the sound of the keypress. It’s here that I should mention the KM-G3 RGB sells for $66 on Amazon. In the world of mechanicals, that’s really inexpensive. Most mechanical keyboards for gamers and serious typists sit north of $100, with the best models in the $130 to $170 range. This Aukey keyboard definitely has the feel of something less expensive, but it delivers the real-deal mechanical typing experience with springy keypresses and just the right amount of friction at the middle of the stroke.
Can You Hear Me Now?
On the first day, I plugged the Aukey into my iMac and remapped the modifier keys to work with MacOS, then started blowing through emails. Pretty soon, the Slack notifications began. “What is that NOISE” and “omg mike your keyboard” and “why the FUCK can I hear you typing five desks away?” Apparently the noise pollution I was spraying all over the office was unacceptable—though to be honest, even if my coworkers had been the blushing, shy wallflowers I’ve always taken them for, I should have expected such shaming. Blue switches are notoriously loud. But the switches in this Aukey are super-duper loud. I pulled two other blue-bedecked keyboards out of our storage closet (one Razer, one Cherry MX) to gauge the difference. Typing was much, much louder on the Aukey.
As garish as its honk is its look. The case is a drab olive with silver and black highlights. The typeface on the keycaps follows the unfortunate trend in gaming hardware of being stuck in the future-military universe where all writing is boldly stenciled so as to appear more threatening. Ho hum.
As the RGB in the product name should tell you, there are some crazy lighting effects under those keys. The default setting is a nice red backlight, and you can modulate it to be one of seven colors. But let’s go further. Pressing FN and Home lets you individually set each key to be a different color. You can save up to five custom color layouts. Less tedious is the bank of nine preset light modes. You get the ripples-in-a-pond effect, the slow-breathing effect, and the effect where every key slowly fades out after you press it, which makes it easy for everyone around you to learn your passwords. I found the most annoying but also most delightful setting, a constantly cycling, full-color rainbow that washes over the whole keyboard. Every day is Pride!
It may be cheap, it may be loud, and it may hurt your eyes, but the Aukey RGB offers a totally decent typing experience. It has a mild springiness, similar to but slightly more than what I get from my more expensive keyboards with brown switches. It also sits at a comfortable angle and has a roomy layout, so typing on it for hours at a stretch isn’t an issue. If you’re picky about using a particular brand of switch, or if your officemates demand total silence, the RGB KM-G3 isn’t for you. But if you want to upgrade from the boring, mushy keyboard that came in the box with your Dell—and you want to do it for under $70—the loud and proud Aukey will get you there.
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