The K6 has a compelling feature-set, including Bluetooth, Mac compatibility and hot-swap
Keychron K6 on Amazon
I’ve been meaning to review a Keychron board for a while, and with Takealot offering these at reasonable prices I just couldn’t resist! Keychron makes prebuilt boards that are aimed at keyboard enthusiasts and professionals. What separates these boards from your typical prebuilt is the unique layout, Mac compatibility and professional aesthetic. The K-Series offers a good variety of layouts and you’re almost guaranteed to find something tailored for your use case.
Today we’re looking at the K6 model which has a 68-key layout. Each model is available in different versions, allowing you to choose a set of features based on your needs. This K6 has all the bells and whistles, featuring RGB backlighting, a hot-swap PCB and aluminium frame.
Keychron boards are often lauded for their stock typing experience, more specifically the pre-lubed stabilisers. And indeed the positive feedback is warranted—these stabs are seriously good! Stock performance like this is a rarity on prebuilts, and I will only perform a band-aid mod on space bar for sound dampening. The mechanical hot-swap version of the K6 is available with Gateron Red, Brown and Blue. The Browns offer moderate tactile feedback and are somewhat wobbly with perceptible metal ping, but even so, they still punch way above their weight for a budget switch. I’d take these over Cherry MX Brown or Outemu Brown any day. I have a new Krytox 205g0 and 105 mix that I’ve been aching to use, and this is an ideal opportunity as the lower viscosity works great on tactile switches. You should also get a noticeable improvement with films.
For a prebuilt of around $90 the typing experience is good, but I think we can get a much better sound with some basic mods like lube and case foam. I would also suggest replacing these ABS keycaps, as they are quite thin and give the board a slightly tinny sound.
Bluetooth is becoming increasingly important, as many working professionals require that portability. The K6 makes use of the Bluetooth 5.1 protocol with a 4000mAh battery. Keychron promises up to four weeks of use on a single charge, and that is with the backlighting off. You can pair up to three devices, and setup is painless and easy. As per Rtings, we have a wireless latency of 27.1ms. Bluetooth mode should be just fine for general use and casual gaming, but if you play competitively you might want to switch to wired. The wireless latency was perceptible when playing CSGO and I had to change to wired mode. The keyboard will go into Auto Sleep after 10 minutes of idle, however you can disable this feature. I experienced no issues with the bluetooth connection dropping or random input strings after waking from sleep mode.
Another great feature of Keychron boards is Windows and Mac compatibility. Switching between Windows and Mac is as easy as flipping a switch on the side of the case, and you also get two sets of keycaps to match your operating system.
The 68-key layout is similar to a 60% board, with the addition of dedicated arrows and some Nav cluster keys. The K6 has two Fn layers: Fn1 corresponds to the yellow icons and Fn2 works with the blue icons. The Fn layers have everything you would expect, including the F-row, media controls and Nav cluster.
It’s a curious design choice to include a dedicated lighting key while putting Delete on the Fn layer, and there isn’t any software for the K6 so you’ll have to use something like AutoHotkey or Carabiner for remapping. I was able to remap Caps Lock to Delete, and you can also remap the Home, Page Up and Page Down keys on the right. It isn’t possible to remap the lighting key, which has been a source of frustration for users looking to use this as a dedicated Delete. I asked Keychron if they’re planning to release software for the K6, and it looks like they’re focusing on QMK compatibility, but whether they were referring to the K6 or Q1 I’m not sure.
The lighting key allows you to cycle through 15 RGB modes, and single colours can be assigned with Fn1 + Left and Right arrow. Then it is also possible to toggle the RGB by pressing Fn1 + the lighting key. Aesthetically this is a stunning board and I really like the professional look. You can use this at home but it wouldn’t look out of place at the office either. The smaller legends look fantastic and the grey/dark grey colourway exudes elegance.
You’ll have to fork out $10 more for the aluminium frame, but it adds some good heft and sturdiness to the board (weight: 693g). The case is made of plastic and has a natural incline, unlike the previous K6 version that was completely flat. The old version received a lot of complaints about the front case height and the keyboard was almost unusable without a wrist rest. This unit felt a lot more ergonomic with the natural incline and a front height of 2.4cm. You might still want to grab a wrist rest if you don’t hover.
On the bottom we find dual flip-out feet offering typing angles of 6 and 10 degrees. I didn’t have any use for these as the natural angle of the case was preferable. The PCB features Gateron hot-swap sockets and we have a north-facing switch configuration, so I would stay away from Cherry keycaps as you may run into interference. Then we have a 1.5mm aluminium mounting plate. The USB-C port sits on the side of the case, which is a fairly uncommon positioning but it’s going to save space when hooked up to a laptop. The K6 includes a braided cable with an angled USB-C connector.
As with most sub $100 mechs there are compromises, and the biggest one on the K6 is the keycaps. Even though they look stunning with the tiny legends, they feel and sound pretty cheap. These keycaps are 1mm ABS with laser-etched legends, and after only a few hours of use I was already noticing finger smudges. The keycaps will invariably develop shine after a few months—or even weeks. They honestly don’t feel that great to type on, with a smooth and slightly sticky surface. I would’ve been happy to pay $10-$15 extra for a proper PBT set. For me this is a strange design choice and it detracted from the overall experience.
Nonetheless I think the K6 offers really good value at $80-$100. I was impressed with the stock performance of the stabs, and the board boasts good build quality with a professional aesthetic. It has a compelling feature-set, including Bluetooth, Mac compatibility and hot-swap. Barring the poor quality of the keycaps, this is an excellent mech.