So we’re having a look at the GK61 today. Now this won’t be a full-fledged review, as I have previously reviewed the GK61, and also did the GK61X build more recently. The reason I was keen to try this board again was the Gateron Optical Yellow switches, which are regarded as some of the fastest switches in the world. So this is a speed switch, and the whole premise behind speed switches is that they have a lower actuation force, as well as a lower actuation point and total travel distance. This should theoretically result in increased speed when gaming. The GK61 is also available with the Optical Silvers, which are a little heavier at 45g actuation.
The appeal of these particular switches lies in the fact that they’re optical, so they don’t have debounce delay like normal speed switches. This means the time between the keypress and signal being sent is reduced. We’re talking about a few milliseconds here, so whether or not you’ll feel an actual difference in game is up for debate. But in the world of gaming keyboards, faster is always better, so it’s definitely advantageous using optical switches.
I’ve been really impressed by the smoothness of Gateron’s linear optical switches, having used the reds and blacks previously. The Gateron Optical Reds are some of the smoothest feeling linears I’ve ever used. The Optical Yellows continues the trend, and they feel very smooth as well. With an actuation force of 35g they’re also very light. But not only that, the reduced actuation point of 1mm makes it ridiculously easy to actuate a key. So the switches are good, but this is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. These switches will take some getting used to, especially if you’re coming from a more conventional linear or tactile switch. I also think they will be more suitable for light-handed users. If you’re someone who hits the keys hard, this might not be the keyboard for you.
I use Gateron Reds on my main board, and these are a sweetspot for me. They have an actuation force of 45g with an actuation and travel distance of 2 and 4mm respectively. It wasn’t too hard adjusting to these Optical Yellows, and the actuation force of 35g actually felt really good. But what threw me off a little was the lower actuation point and travel distance. When typing I had to force myself to use lighter keypresses, and not press a key in so far. For gaming, the lower actuation point resulted in accidental keypresses. Just by resting my fingers on the WASD keys in CSGO, I would start strafing left or right without intending to. This is by no means a criticism of the switches, it just means my fingers are too heavy and clumsy. Nonetheless, I was able to adjust to the keyboard over time, and the light typing experience grew on me. The accidental gaming keypresses also decreased as I started adapting to the board.
I definitely think these switches can give you a little boost in speed, but only if they suit your personal style. So if you are someone that is lighthanded, and you press the keys lightly and not very far in, you can definitely tap into the speed potential of these switches. But for me I still prefer the more conventional red switch. I still like the lower actuation force of 35g though, it was mainly the lower actuation point and travel distance that was challenging. So this board has actually made me want to try the Gateron Clears, which are also 35g but have the normal 2mm actuation point.
Apart from the switches, not much has changed from the unit I reviewed last year. I love the look of the white version, and for me the RGB also looks much better on this white unit. Not a big fan of the Fn layer printing, but that can be fixed with a custom set of keycaps. The stabilisers are decent, but I did find the space bar a bit rattly. This is of course a hot swap board, so you can easily fix the stabs. Just remember that only Gateron Opticals are compatible with this board. The typing sound is fairly loud, and this board could definitely benefit from some foam. There are actually two pieces of foam underneath space bar, which does help to reduce the metal ping. I really like the GK61 case. The plastic is nice and thick, and the case is very sturdy.
The GK61 remains one of the top budget 60% offerings, and you’re really getting good value here. If you’re not sure what switch to get, I’d recommend starting with the Optical Reds, and from there you can always move on to the Silvers or Yellows. Gateron Opticals are very affordable so replacing the switches will be easy. I think the reds are a safe choice if you’re looking for your first linear switch.