The SK61 offers a unique experience: a flatter profile in combination with the retro keycaps and bassy sound
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The Epomaker SK61 is a 60% board with a distinctive set of keycaps. In addition to the black version, there is also a grey and pink version. What’s nice is that it has full RGB backlighting and a white mounting plate, so the keycaps are embellished by an underglow effect. The end result is very easy on the eye, and I especially like the look of the grey version. The SK61 comes with Gateron Optical switches and it is hot swappable, so you can pop in any other Gateron Optical variant. This board comes with a detachable USB-C cable and has N-key rollover. With a price of $65, I’d put this at the very end of the budget price range.
The black version has a cool retro vibe with the light and dark grey colours. The red Escape key is a nice little touch. What I really like about this board is that the Fn icons are not printed on the keys, which creates a very clean look. It’s really easy to memorise all the Fn combinations after using the keyboard for a few days, and you can always consult the manual if you’re lost. The keycaps are made of PBT so they are shine-resistant, and they’re also dye-sublimated which means the legends won’t fade. I must say, these keycaps are thick and feel very sturdy, and I’m happy to pay a few dollars more for quality like this. The case is made of thick plastic, and again no unnecessary logos or branding. The keyboard has a quaint yet professional look. There are 9 RGB modes that can be accessed with the keyboard, but tons more to be found on the software. The LEDs are bright and the colour is vibrant. The SK61 has the standard ANSI layout, so keycap customisation is easy. The HyperX White Pudding keycaps looked absolutely stunning on here.
As far as performance goes, the SK61 was an absolute joy to use. The keyboard really grew on me. These Gateron Optical Reds are just buttery smooth and are quickly becoming my favourite linear switches. The stabs are factory lubed, and overall the bigger keys feel good with the exception of a rattly space bar, but the hot swap feature makes it easy to do a mod. These keycaps have a GSA profile, which means that all the rows are uniform and flat. This will take some getting used to as most of us are accustomed to the OEM profile, but I really enjoyed the flatter typing experience. The SK61 makes a thick and bassy sound, and it is quite loud for a linear keyboard. If you prefer something quieter, you can always try some foam or O-rings, but for me the bassy sound matched the retro vibe of the keycaps, and it was a very satisfying typing experience. Initially I found it a bit loud, but I ended up liking the unique experience: the flatter profile in combination with the retro keycaps and bassy sound. The Optical Reds also worked great for gaming, and the flat profile of the keycaps was comfortable on the wrist. My only nitpick here would be that there was some metal ping, especially on some Row 4 keys like Q and W, so it was more noticeable during gaming.
The Fn layer is exactly the same as the GK61. For the first few days you’ll just have to keep the manual at hand to memorise all the Fn combinations. There is access to F1-12, the full Nav Cluster and my favourite of all, a complete set of media controls. I like the bottom right positioning of Fn, and it’s very convenient to access the Fn layer arrows. If you want dedicated arrow keys, it’s as easy as switching to Layer 1. This is the best Fn layer of all 60% keyboards in my opinion. There is a standard layer, a Layer 1 – 3 and a Driver layer. As I mentioned, Layer 1 will give you access to dedicated arrow keys. Just note that on Layer 1, right Shift will point to Layer 3 by default. I had to remap the digit keys on Layer 3, as I couldn’t make any symbols with right Shift after switching to Layer 1.
The software is extensive and offers plenty of useful features. There is comprehensive key remapping, including macros and multimedia. You can record your own macros, and also pretty cool to see some game-specific macros that comes with the software. You can choose which five RGB modes are saved on the keyboard, at least the ones accessed with Fn + ]}. You don’t seem to have any control over the reactive ones saved on Fn + \. As with the GK61, you can create your own RGB schemes. It’s not very intuitive though, and would’ve been nice to have a few examples in the manual.
The build quality is stellar. The SK61 features a plastic enclosure that feels strong and doesn’t bend easily. The mounting plate is made of steel. On the bottom there are four fixed rubber feet, and the angle of the keyboard felt perfect. The mainboard is dustproof and also IPX6 waterproof, which means it can withstand high-pressure, heavy sprays of water. In a more practical sense, it’s spill resistant.
The SK61 really grew on me. It’s a board that offers a unique experience, which is nice as a lot of these $50 boards have a samey feel. So if you like the custom keycaps and don’t mind a keyboard that’s a bit louder than your typical mech, this is great value.