The RK71 is tailor-made for users who want a smaller form factor without sacrificing productivity
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Today we’re looking at a wireless 71-key keyboard, the Royal Kludge RK71. This is a fairly rare layout, extending the 60% form factor by two rows to make room for dedicated arrow keys and a full Nav Cluster. The RK71 comes with RK’s own mechanical Red, Brown and Blue switches with ABS keycaps and full RGB backlighting. At $65 it promises good bang for buck.
While the 68-key layout is one row wider than 60%, the 71-key layout adds two rows. This gives you more Nav Cluster functionality, and the board also retains the 2.75U right Shift as opposed to the smaller 1.75U right Shift. Personally I don’t see a huge productivity boost over the 68-key layout, but the extra 3 keys might be useful to some. If you aren’t a fan of the non-standard 1.75U right Shift of 65% and 75% layouts, the conventional right Shift on the RK71 can also be regarded as an advantage. Additionally, the modifiers to the right of space bar retain their 1.25U size as opposed to the typical 1U sizing on smaller form factors.
The RK71 makes use of Bluetooth 5.1 with a 1000mAh battery. You can save up to five pairings on the keyboard and switch between devices on the fly. Bluetooth setup is very straightforward: make sure the switch on the bottom of the board is On, then you simply hold Fn + Q for three seconds to enter pairing mode. The LED (on Q) will flash white to indicate that the board is ready to pair. The backlighting will automatically go off after a minute of idle, and then there is a standby mode after five minutes and deep sleep after ten minutes. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to adjust these timings, as the one minute for the backlighting was a little short for me. The battery will give you around ten hours of usage, and I was able to get two days out of a single charge with the backlighting on. Recharge time is around three hours and the space bar LED will turn red when charging. The Bluetooth connection was more than passable for casual gaming, however for competitive gaming modes I still prefer wired or 2.4Ghz.
The RK71 features Royal Kludge’s own switches as denoted by the RK nameplate. I couldn’t find any official specifications on the RK Reds, but they feel very similar to Outemu Red and I would put the actuation force at around 50g. Little bit of scratchiness but definitely passable for a $65 board. The switches are soldered to the PCB which means no hot-swap. As with the RK61, the stabilisers offered surprisingly good stock performance and the modifier keys had minimal rattle. They come pre-lubed and it was actually done pretty thoroughly. It’s good to see Royal Kludge paying attention to the smaller details. The keyboard has a nice soft sound, although it is somewhat thin and high-pitched, which is partly due to the ABS keycaps. But overall I was satisfied with the typing and gaming performance.
The RK71 has some punchy RGB: the LEDs shine through the legends evenly and it looks silky smooth. There are a whopping 18 RGB modes and it’s always nice to be spoiled for choice. You can cycle through the modes with Fn + Home, and then you have your brightness and speed controls on the arrow keys. It is also possible to select from 8 preset colours with Fn + End, although there is an RGB colour picker on the software for greater flexibility. I love thinner fonts on my keyboards, so needless to say I was very pleased with the font selection on the RK71. The font creates a clean and professional aesthetic, which is slightly marred by the clunky Fn icons, but just a personal nitpick. The RK71 also features side lighting: there are blue panels on the sides with diagonal lighting strips, and these strips can be set to Wave, Colour Cycle or Static, controlled with Fn + Ins.
The Fn layer has all the expected features with the F-row, RGB controls, Bluetooth profile switching and a Windows lock. By pressing Fn + A/S you can switch between Windows and Mac mode, which is always a nice feature to have. It does look like the older RK71 version had media controls, however it seems to have been removed on this updated model. As I only really use Home and End, with Delete on Caps Lock, there were quite a few open Nav Cluster keys I could use for dedicated media controls and other functions.
The software has everything you would expect. There is single key remapping, which will definitely be useful if you’re looking to remap those extra keys. The lighting controls give you a few extra features that cannot be achieved with the Fn layer, namely an RGB colour picker and a customisable static colour mode that is saved under UserDefine. The software also allows you to finetune the behaviour of Windows lock, and you can record your own macros.
Build quality is decent. We have a plastic chassis with a metal mounting plate. The keyboard feels quite weighty at 800g. I like the case design and it features some appreciable aesthetic curves on the bottom and sides. I’ve never been big on side lighting, but I’m sure the younger generation will appreciate the extra RGB shininess. There is actually an opening on the back of the case for a 2.4Ghz receiver, which left me somewhat puzzled as the RK71 only has Bluetooth. It could be that this case is also used for a 2.4Ghz version of the RK71 (which I am yet to track down). You’ll find two little magnetic feet included in the packaging. These are quite nice, as fold-out feet can sometimes feel flimsy and break from heavy downward force. Just watch for these magnetic feet coming loose when moving the keyboard. The USB-C port sits on the back left of the case and we have a detachable cable of 1.8m in length.
In summary, the RK71 is a good choice if you need that extra bit of productivity over the more common 68-key layout. There is no need to adjust to non-standard modifier keys either, so it’ll be a natural transition from the more conventional layouts. Considering that the RK71 has Bluetooth connectivity, $65 is a very competitive price and the lack of PBT keycaps are forgivable.