Epomaker B21 Review: Retro With A Twist

Epomaker has pioneered the budget side of mechanical keyboards making some fantastic value boards. This is no different with the Epomaker B21 mechanical keyboard that features a retro-style design. The B21 is a wireless, 65% mechanical keyboard with a few unique features to pair with its classic design.

Today we will take a look at Epomaker’s B21 to see if the retro board is the one for you.

The Verdict

Top view of Epomaker B21 mecahnical keyboard.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Epomaker B21 is a 65% budget wireless keyboard, perfect for those on a budget and want a retro-looking Bluetooth board. The things boasted on the B21 are dynamic backlighting, a 4000mAh battery, media keys, dials, and Mac & Windows support. Now I’ll be honest in this review, the looks definitely are not for me, but it will still attract the eye of those wanting a retro-looking board.

You get a few different switch options in the Cherry MX line, decent stabilizers, and a pretty nice keycap set for the price. The B21 is certainly a unique board and it stands out with a ton of features.

For anyone that wants a retro design, dials, and an overall solid prebuilt package, the Epomaker B21 is a great option.


In the Box

Inside the box, Epomaker gives you everything you need to enjoy the B21.

Keyboard: The keyboard comes wrapped and surrounded by protective foam to ensure that it is in perfect condition when it arrives.

USB-C Power Cable: You get a rubberized cable that seems well made and is detachable. It matches the color scheme of the board.

Manual: The manual will explain how to use the board as well as get it up and running.

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Build Quality

Side view of the Epomaker B21 mechanical keyboard

With the B21, Epomaker elected to use strong plastic with this board with a smooth feel. The dials are made of metal and the media keys, although not mechanical, still feel pretty good.

The design is love or hate. The retro theme is something that definitely appeals to a certain audience but I think it is pretty decent. For some, they may really dislike the board. The use of glossy plastic, the combination of pink dials with green and off-white keycaps, and rounded edges make this board look a bit childish. This impression was confirmed when my friend’s first impression was that the board belongs in a nursery, which is quite unfortunate when you think of all the benefits it carries.

The top part of the B21 definitely makes this board taller than most 65% options on the market but the width is not any bigger than most 65%s so when for gaming you should still have plenty of mouse space. If you want something that is very portable, this board is still pretty good but there are a few other options that we may recommend like Epomaker’s GX68 XS.

The Epomaker B21 has a decent build for the price and your thoughts on the design depend highly on what you are looking for. If you are looking for a retro design, you may love this board, otherwise, you could see the board as more of a toy than a tool.

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The Keycaps

Keycaps for the Epomaker B21 mechanical keyboard.

Epomaker ties in the retro theme with some off-white, grey, and green keycaps. The keycaps are made from PBT in the ASA profile. The ASA profile is a higher profile that is a bit taller than the standard OEM profile on gaming keyboards but slightly shorter than SA keycaps seen on some custom keyboards.

The keycaps are rounded and sculpted for comfort but the higher profile could take some time to get used to for those who have never experienced something similar. The keycaps feel quite smooth but due to the concave shape, they still are able to hold your fingers and don’t feel too slippery.

The legends are big and centered. Epomaker uses double-shot legends for peak quality and they don’t seem to have any major issues.

Overall the keycaps feel quite good and seem to be a pretty good profile. I do like how they tie in with the theme of the B21.

The Switches and Stabilizers

Epomaker B21 keyboard with keycaps taken off.

You can order the Epomaker B21 with a few options from Cherry. You get linear, tactile, and clicky options.

Cherry MX RedA light linear switch with a smooth travel.
Actuation force: 45 g         
Travel distance: 2 mm
Cherry MX BrownA medium-weight tactile switch with a light tactile bump.
Actuation force: 55 g         
Travel distance: 2 mm
Cherry MX BlueA medium-weight clicky switch. It has a loud sound and sharp tactility.
Actuation force: 60 g         
Travel distance: 2 mm

Cherry is known for providing some of the best switches for pre-built keyboards, especially in terms of reliability. The linear switches are not the smoothest in the world but they get the job done and are perfectly fine for those who do not have an interest in modding your keyboard. The tactile and clicky switches are great alternatives for those who want a bump in their keypress.

The stabilizers are cherry-style plate mount stabs. They were alright. They definitely stood out as being better than the stabilizers of gaming keyboards from brands like Logitech or Razer with some factory lubing applied to the stabs. The stabs won’t make this board sound amazing but are quite good for a prebuilt keyboard.

One of my biggest disappointments with the board is that it is not hotswap. This means that the user will need to manually desolder each and every switch to replace or modify switches and stabilizers. If you want to buy a keyboard and play around with it, the B21 is not the best option for that. For those that want a keyboard that does the job and does it quite well, the B21 does deliver quite a good stock experience.

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Back Lighting and RGB

RGB Led lighting on the Epomaker B21 mechanical keyboard.

As of right now, there is only one color offered on the B21. The board is backlit with white lighting rather than multicolor RGB lighting. The lights are decently bright but because the keycaps are not shine-through the lighting is not that big of a deal.

A nice thing with the lights on the B21 is that you can change the brightness of the lights via the dials on top. Epomaker has not released any information yet on what, if any, software will be available for this board.

Wireless Connectivity

The Bluetooth on the Epomaker B21 is my favorite part of this board. The convenience of switching between three different devices is an amenity that is so useful and easy to use.

So let’s talk about connecting it to just one device first, and the B21 handles that perfectly, so seamlessly. It took me less time to connect the keyboard than it did to plug my charger into my phone the other day. Bluetooth can be easily controlled by the dedicated buttons at the top of the keyboard.

The B21 carries a 4000mAH battery which can get you a few weeks of use with the lighting on and if you opt to turn it off you can use it for over a month. To charge the board, there is a USB-C port, which is pretty standard. On the B21 users can opt to toggle between wireless and wired connectivity modes.

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Media Keys and Dials

Arguably one of the most defining features of the B21 is the media keycaps and dials. The dials are quite a unique feature and allow you to control volume and change the brightness of the lighting.

The media keys are helpful if you are in the middle of working on something and you want to quickly change background music or stop it to focus better. I also am a fan of multimedia keys while gaming so I don’t have to tab out just to change the song.

A nice little quick feature is the ability to open the calculator with a push of a button.

Overall I think the dials and multimedia keys on the Epomaker B21 are quite useful. My only disappointment is the fact that the pink of the dials kind of takes away from this retro theme and feels a little off.

Conclusion

Angled view of the Epomaker B21 mechanical keyboard.

If you want a retro look and a solid prebuilt all at a good price the Epomaker B21 is an excellent option. It delivers good performance and packs quite a few features making it sound out in the market.

The B21 gives you dials, multimedia keys, Bluetooth, and very long battery life. The board also features pretty decent switches, keycaps, and stabilizers.

The only main downsides were the lack of hotswap sockets and the design. Although the design is very subjective I felt like it was a bit childish but if you do love that retro look then it certainly is a nice theme. As a keyboard enthusiast, I would like to see hotswap sockets at this price to allow users to change keys or modify different parts of the board to personalize the feel to their liking if they choose.

All that being said I have enjoyed my experience with the B21 and love to see unique designs like this hit the market.

Thanks for reading this article! If you want updates on our articles, and more information about tech, make sure to join our discord.

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Epomaker NT68: Revolutionizing Portability

Epomaker NT68 keyboard with an iPad and mug.

Epomaker has pioneered the budget side of mechanical keyboards making some of the most well-priced and well-built keyboards ever. Epomaker are responsible for the widely popular GK61 and GK68, many other starter keyboards, and even some more higher end keyboards.

One of their upcoming releases is the NT68. The NT68 is a wireless, 65%, hotswap keyboard with a few tricks up its sleeve to separate it from the other 65% keyboards.

For transparency Epomaker did send this to us for review, that being said I will try my best to not let that influence my review. Let this just be a reminder to take all subjective things I have said (like switch feel, sound, etc.) with a grain of salt.

Our Verdict

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Epomaker NT68 is a budget hotswap keyboard with wireless, it also features a kickstand making it ideal for laptop and tablet use. Some subjective problems like the unstandardized layout set it back a bit for me but your mileage may vary. Overall, a fun and good buy if you’re a laptop user and primarily work on the go.

Sign up for the NT68 by clicking here!

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In The Box

The unboxing was very textbook; the keyboard was there wrapped in its kickstand with all the other goods in a separate divided compartment.

It came with:

  • Keyboard
  • Documentation
  • Cables – They are kind of small
  • Keycap and Switch Pullers
  • Extra Keycaps
  • Some kickstand Stuff
  • Replacement Switches

Overall, pretty good stuff. The one catch is that the cables the NT68 comes with are 3 inches long, prompting me to believe this keyboard is meant to be used wirelessly most of the time.

Cables for the Epomaker NT68.
A bit small

The Case

Side view of the Epomaker NT68 keyboard.

Starting from the bottom of the keyboard, the NT68 features a minimalistic CNCd aluminum case, which is quite nice. The quality of the aluminum is that off the Drop ALT and its brethren, like the CTRL. That being said its quite light for aluminum weighing in at 572 grams. For comparison my acrylic GK61 weighs in at about 715 grams.

The entire assembly is made from one giant aluminum block sans a removable plate at the bottom made from ABS plastic.

The mounting mechanism is integrated plate which provides for a stiffer typing experience and pingy sound. Although with how thin the top part of the aluminum is, the ping is not nearly as noticeable as other keyboards that use an integrated plate mount method.

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The Keycaps

Keycaps for the Epomaker NT68 keyboard.

The unit we received came with white keycaps with gray keycaps on the modifiers and some dark red accents on the arrow keys and the escape key. Stock they have MAC modifiers but you can add windows modifiers as they are included in the packaging.

Epomaker uses PBT plastic that is semi-textured compared to other PBT keycaps. Overall, they feel quite nice and definitely will not shine up after a while.

The legends are pretty clean. They look a bit more rounded than the standard GMK font which I like since it really adds to the simplistic and modern aesthetic of the keyboard.

The keyboard features flat profile keycaps, similar to XDA except slightly shorter. It is known as GSA and is on a lot of Epomaker’s keyboards. I personally don’t really like flat profile keycaps but you may like it.

Wireless Connectivity

Be gone tangling wires, this keyboard features Bluetooth 5.1, and it’s awesome. It’s easy to connect, pretty fast, and has 6 key roll-over, meaning you can press up to 6 keys at a time.

The NT68 only randomly disconnected for me once which is pretty good compared to keychron just not connecting at all for me until I gave it a full charge.

It connects up to three devices so you can use the NT68 seamlessly between your devices as changing between the devices can be done in a matter of seconds.

To charge the keyboard there is a USB-C connector on the left-hand side of the keyboard along with an on-off switch. I am not too big on the connector being on the side but since this is designed to be primarily a take it and go keeb for laptops and tablets, it makes sense. You can also use this keyboard wired if your heart desires but I would not recommend it considering how short the cables they offer are.

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The Layout

Epomaker NT68 below a Keychron K6 keyboard.
Unstandard bottom row of the NT68 (bottom) vs fully standard Keychron K6 (top)

The layout of this keyboard might make it or break it for you. I’ll say right off the bat that it unfortunately is not standard. But it, fortunately, is not too unstandard. And most 65% keycap sets will fit this keyboard.

Now what makes the NT68 unstandard is that there is an extra function key at the left-hand bottom row of the keyboard. It is a 1.25u sized key alongside 3 other 1u keycaps with the standard control, alt, and windows keys but these are 1u. And for those who are wondering, the spacebar is 6.25u so you don’t have to worry about having weirdly sized spacebars if you want to use an aftermarket keycap set.

Now, when designing really anything, there’s a reason behind all design choices. I personally think the reason for this layout change is to match most laptop keyboards. In a lot of laptops, the function key is where it is on the NT68. This is one of the primary reasons why I believe that this keyboard is designed for laptops and why it is supposed to be used on the go.

Of course, if you don’t like this change and find it unnecessary you can always use the software to change the key mappings, mapping the fn key to control, and so on.

Switches & Stabilizers

Close up of Epomaker Chocolate Brown keyboard switches on a desk.

As far as stock switches go this keyboard comes with the standard Gateron Black, Red, Blue, and Brown switches but it also comes with Epomaker’s custom “chocolate” switches. We got chocolate brown switches which are a tactile switch with similar weighting to Gateron Brown switches. They are pre-lubed with quite good acoustics and feel. Overall, a nice stock switch experience.

Of course, if you don’t like the switches then you can replace them easily with the hotswap mechanic. Thankfully it’s good old hotswap, accepts all switches unlike the Outemu sockets of the K530 and K522 from Redragon.

The stabilizers were hit or miss. Like a lot of prebuilt the pre-lube job was alright. Your mileage definitely may vary but since this is a hotswap board, modding the plate mount stabilizers is very easy.

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Backlighting & RGB

The NT68 features per-key RGB which is quite bright and visible despite the keycaps not being shine through. The keyboard has a plethora of RGB modes saved on board but can all be changed via the software Ppomaker provides.

For now, a software has not been provided but when the keyboard does get launched there will be a software as said on Epomaker’s website.

The Invisible Kickstand

Epomarke NT68 being used as a keyboard for an Apple iPad.

This is the why of the keyboard. The reason you should buy it, its main attraction. It is a foldable kickstand that can hold tablets of many sorts, including phones. It can also prop up a laptop and your keyboard sits on the laptop while the laptop is raised with a bit of an angle.

Another good feature is it covers the keyboard when not in use which will more or less protect your keyboard if it’s stored in your backpack or something like that.

Overall, the feature is pretty cool. I used this keyboard at my desk mostly so I used the stand to prop the board up a bit since the stock typing angle was a bit too low for me. While I was using it on my laptop I used the stand for the same reason and not to prop the laptop up, I tried it but did not work out for me. Wasn’t my chalice of tea but might be yours.


Conclusion

Epomaker NT68 being hidden by its cover.
Stealthy

If you enjoyed this article and you want to talk more about tech then consider joining our Discord and as always thanks for reading!

Sign up for the NT68 Kickstarter by clicking here!

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Are Ergonomic Keyboards Worth It?

Arisu ergonomic keyboard sitting on a wall.

If you spend a lot of time typing at your setup you may be looking to improve the ergonomics and comfort of your setup. One of the best ways to improve long-term comfort is by using an ergonomic keyboard.

Ergonomic keyboards position your hands and wrists better for a more comfortable experience and potentially better posture.

Many people consider ergonomic keyboards but understanding if getting one is worth it for you depends on your situation. Having good ergonomics is always a good thing but if you don’t spend much time typing or you spend most of your time gaming, investing in an ergonomic keyboard may not be the right option for you. In contrast, those that are at a computer typing throughout the day could definitely see comfort and even health benefits by using an ergonomic board.

So if you want to find out more and see if you could benefit from an ergonomic keyboard, keep reading to see if they are worth the investment.

Ergonomic vs Normal Keyboards

Ergonomic keyboard next to a regular mechanical keyboard.

Ergonomic and normal keyboards definitely have their differences but both have their benefits. One isn’t better than another as it truly depends on your situation.

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Size and Form Factors

There are a variety of sizes and form factors with keyboards. Normal keyboards have more layouts to choose from including 40%, 60%, 65%, 75%, TKL, and full-size boards. With ergonomic keyboards, it is a little more complicated.

It is important to note that there are two types of ergonomic keyboards, unibody and split. Unibody keyboards are an ergonomic keyboard in a single case. Split keyboards usually have two parts for each side of the keyboard. This allows you to use only one have of the split board for things like gaming to safe as much space as possible.

With split style boards, you can have any layout of a regular keyboard but with unibody style boards there are 2 popular layouts. The Arisu and Alice layouts. The Alice layout is most similar to a 60% keyboard with some macros on the left-hand side while the Arisu layout is most similar to a 65% keyboard.

In general normal keyboards are smaller for the same amount of functions and there are more layouts available for them but ergonomic boards also have some very unique layouts.

Comfort Level

The biggest benefit of ergonomic keyboards is their improved comfort over regular boards. They were specifically designed to help you type over long periods.

While you are typing you won’t get pains or cramps in your hands, wrists, and arms.

Also, you may find that you have better posture or it is easier to keep good posture. This is because ergonomic keyboards support better hand and arm positioning to promote better posture. As a result, you will be more comfortable throughout your body and this is actually more healthy for you.

If you find that you game most of the time then this is one case where a regular keyboard may help you to be more comfortable. Since many gamers tilt their keyboards and you are interacting with both a mouse and a keyboard there are some reasons to go with a regular keyboard. A regular board will save space and will be just as comfortable as an ergonomic keyboard but will allow you to have more comfort with your hand using the mouse.

If you are looking for comfort but you don’t have the budget for a new keyboard then switching to a new keyboard layout could also help provide better comfort with no cost except the time to switch.

Arm and Wrist Pain

A problem that you may encounter when typing for long periods is that you may suffer from arm and wrist pains. Ergonomic keyboards are great for fixing these issues.

Since ergonomic keyboards are designed for optimal comfort and as a result they greatly reduce the effects of pains or the chance of getting them.

When talking about ergonomic keyboards RSI (Repetitive Strain Injuries) and carpal tunnel are two common topics. Ergonomic keyboards greatly reduce the chance of getting RSI and carpal tunnel by reducing the strain on your wrists.

It is important to note that if you are considering an ergonomic board because you have some sort of arm, wrist, or hand problem then a new keyboard will not be a magical fix for you. You should notice benefits to all your problems won’t necessarily go away depending on the severity of the condition.

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Typing Speed

Ideally, your fastest typing speed should be similar between an ergonomic keyboard and a normal keyboard if you’re used to both types of keyboards.

This isn’t always the case. In my experience, I found that I can type fastest with a regular keyboard but I type faster for longer with my ergonomic board. Between ergonomic keyboards, you will typically type faster with a unibody board than a split alternative.

The fastest typists in the world still use regular mechanical keyboards as their primary boards. Ultimately if you just are looking for that fastest peak time a regular board still may be the option for you but if you want to have a consistently fast speed all day then an ergonomic board is something you should consider.

Price

So ergonomic keyboards have all these benefits but do they cost more as a result? For the same construction, sound, and feel, ergonomic keyboards are often priced quite well.

Ergonomic keyboards often are more expensive but that is because they are often higher-end keyboards. This is because many ergonomic keyboards are made by creators who also want premium build materials, a nice design, and a thoccy sound.

Although you can find some good value ergonomic boards, the cheapest boards that you will find are normal keyboards. Often you will pay a bit more for an ergo design compared to the regular designed counterparts, especially if looking at a membrane keyboard.

Modding and Accessories

One important factor for those building ergonomic mechanical keyboards, especially enthusiasts, is how easy ergonomic keyboards are to build, mod, and get parts for.

The difficulty of all keyboards vary but building an ergonomic keyboard should be no harder to build than a regular keyboard. Finding parts for modding ergo keyboards or parts may be harder because typically smaller manufactures make ergonomic keyboards but this is common across all limited run and high-end keyboards.

The main issue that you will run into if you are considering an ergonomic mechanical keyboard is access to compatible keycap sets.

All ergonomic keyboards have split spacebars. This means that if you are buying a keycap set you need to make sure that it supports the needed spacebars. Additionally some ergo boards also have an additional ‘B’ key or have macros on the left-hand side.

Overall it isn’t hard to find keycaps but it is an important thing to keep in mind.

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Is An Ergonomic Keyboard Right For You?

Gaming keyboard next to a gaming mouse.

Understanding how you use your computer will best help you understand if an ergonomic or regular keyboard is best for you.

Developers, writers, managers, and other people who spend some if not the whole workday typing can definitively benefit from an ergonomic keyboard. An ergonomic keyboard can reduce wrist problems in the future and provide better comfort throughout the day.

If you don’t really use a computer much or don’t use your computer for work then an ergonomic keyboard may not be the best for you. Taking the time to switch to an ergonomic keyboard is especially not worth it if you find that you game more than you work.

Ergonomic keyboards are bigger than regular size keyboards for having the same layout or amount of keys. Since having more mouse space is very important for gaming using a regular board that will help give you more mouse space.

The thing is this concept doesn’t apply to all ergonomic keyboards. Split ergonomic boards can be an interesting option to consider for some gamers. Since split keyboards have two parts of the board if you play FPS games you can use only one of the two parts and have a lot more mouse room. The extra investment is most likely not worth it but it can be an interesting option to consider.

Generally, ergonomic keyboards are better for productivity and regular boards are better for gaming or those who don’t use their computer that much.

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Is It Difficult To Transition?

Time

Depending on if you can get a split or unibody board it can take more or less time but will a unibody board will generally take less time. With split keyboards you not only need to get used to this new format but it may also take time to find the right placement for both halves of the board.

With a unibody board, it could take a few days to a couple of weeks while a split keyboard could take you a few weeks to even a month to get used to.

Difficulty

Since ergonomic boards have different hand placements it will feel like you are using a slightly different layout. Switching to an ergonomic keyboard isn’t very hard to get used to but time is the main issue with the transition process.

In general, you should not be worried about the difficulty in transitioning to an ergonomic keyboard as the end result will be well worth it.

Different Types Of Ergonomic Keyboards

If you are looking for an ergonomic keyboard, there are two options to consider. Unibody and split.

Unibody

Angled view of a unibody ergonomic keyboard.

The first type of ergonomic keyboard is the Unibody style. Unibody boards are the easiest to get used to and typically the cheapest options.

A Unibody style board is just one board that is together, as the name suggests. This means that you can get an ergonomic experience without the complexity of a split keyboard. The ergonomics may not be as great as a split keyboard but they will still be superior to the comfort of just a standard keyboard.

If you want something clean and simple while still getting a comfortable experience then a unibody board is the option for you. Unibody boards are all in one package which means you don’t have to worry about cables between different parts.

Split

Top view of a split ergonomic keyboard.

The other style of ergonomic keyboards is the split layout. A split style keyboard has more customizability in the sense that you can move each side around but this comes at a cost. Typically split keyboards have another set of wires that you have to deal with between both halves. Also, split keyboards are often harder to get used to.

Some split-style keyboards can be combined back into one regular board but these often sacrifice on looks for this extra function.

In general, a split keyboard will sacrifice looks but will give maximum comfort. Since you can adjust a split keyboard to your liking, if you are looking for the best comfort then a split board will best suit you.

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Conclusion

Side view of an ergonomic keyboard.

Switching to an ergonomic keyboard is a fantastic way to improve your comfort while working. They can solve pains, reduce the chance of long-term problems, and promote better posture. Problems such as carpal tunnel or RSI can be greatly reduced.

While ergonomic keyboards have these benefits, normal keyboards still allow for slightly faster typing speeds, are more available, support many more sizes and layouts.

There are a few different styles for ergonomic keyboards to choose from depending on what you do daily. With Unibody and Split keyboards and a few different layouts for each type of board, there is something that will suit you.

For additional ergonomics, tips check out some home office tips from the University of Washington.

As always thanks for reading and I hope you learned a lot!

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Epomaker GK68XS Review: Features, Performance, and A Great Price

Are you looking for a keyboard with a ton features and a great value. Epomaker’s GK68XS is a 65% mechanical keyboard that is packed with features like Bluetooth connectivity and a hotswappable PCB.

Today we will take a deep look at Epomaker’s GK68XS and see if it is right for you.

The Verdict

Top view of the Epomaker GK68XS mechanical keyboard
GK68XS with a custom keycap set

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Epomaker GK68XS is a great value keyboard for those wanting to join the custom mechanical scene without spending their life savings. For the price, it is one of the better 65% keyboards you can get coming with a whole host of features such as Bluetooth and a hotswapable PCB.

You also get a variety of switch choices, pretty decent stabilizers, and a decent keycap set.

For anyone wanting to start modding their keyboard but don’t want to give up the arrow keys with a 60% board, Epomaker’s GK68XS is a great option.


In The Box

The Epomaker GK68XS is packed with things in the box. Besides the keyboard, inside you will see:

USB-C Power Cable: You get a braided cable that is well made and is detachable. The cable does the job and looks pretty decent.

Split Spacebar Module: This can be swapped with the big spacebar to allow 3 buttons rather than just one. Changing it in and out is as simple as removing 3 screws.

Extra Keycaps: In addition to the keycaps already on the board there are a few extra keycaps for things like a split spacebar, mac specific keys, and for alternate modifier keys.

Extra Switches: If you use the split spacebar there are some extra included switches. They will be the same kind of switch as the rest of your switches.

Keycap and Switch Puller: A wired keycap puller is included. It is better than the cheap plastic one that many companies throw in the box. The wire puller won’t scratch your keycaps. The keycap puller also functions as a switch puller on the other side so you can swap out the stock switches for anything of your choice.

Manual: The manual will explain how to control the RGB lighting, where to download the software, and how to control the secondary functions and shortcuts on the board.

The board has tons of features and it gives you everything that you need to make the most of them. It is very nice to see at a board at such a good price.

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Build Quality

Side view of the Epomaker GK68XS mechanical keyboard

The build quality is adequate for the price with a plastic case with a tilt for more comfort. It is quite simple which I appreciate and has a nice angular design to the case where it tapers down. There are also acrylic and aluminum versions of this case albeit at a much higher cost.

In my opinion, it looks nice however, it has a hollow sound. This is especially bad when you press the space bar since there is some reverb in the sound. If you get this board I’d highly encourage you to put some foam. It is a quick mod that takes about five minutes and makes it sound so much better.

At the back of the case, it has an indented USB-C port. This is quite nice to see because many budget boards still have not switched to USB-C or allow a detachable cable at all.

On the bottom, four rubber feet keep the board from sliding around too much however there are no flip-up feet so you cannot adjust the height. This is not too much of an issue because the case is already at a comfortable height.

The Keycaps

PBT DSA keycaps for the Epomaker GK68XS mechanical keyboard

Epomaker’s GK68XS comes with a pretty nice set of PBT keycaps in the GSA keycaps profile. The legends are dye-sublimated for long-lasting quality. There are also a few extra keycaps in case you want legends for mac or you want to use the split spacebar.

PBT material means that the keycaps will not develop a shine over time. They have a slight texture to them so they are easier to grip onto.

The GSA profile has a uniform height among the keys and is a pretty low profile. There is a slight curvature in the center of each keycap so they mold to the shape of your finger. These keycaps are quite comfortable to use but may take a couple of days to get accustomed to.

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The Switches

Gateron Black mechanical keyboard switch

You can order the GK 68 XS with a variety of Gateron switches. You get linear, tactile, and clicky options.

Gateron Red
A light linear switch with a smooth travel.
Actuation force: 45 g         
Travel distance: 2 mm
Gateron BlackA heavy linear switch with a smooth travel.
Actuation force: 60 g         
Travel distance: 2 mm
Gateron BrownA medium weight tactile switch with a light tactile bump.
Actuation force: 55 g         
Travel distance: 2 mm
Gateron BlueA medium weight clicky switch. It has a loud sound and sharp tactility.
Actuation force: 60 g         
Travel distance: 2 mm

Gateron provides some of the best switches for pre-built keyboards. Their linear switches are often smoother than the competition and their tactile switches have a slightly more noticeable bump than Cherry options. Also since this board is hotswap, you can just change out the switches if you want to.

The Stabilizers

Stabilizers from the Epomaker GK68XS mechanical keyboard

With the GK68XS you will find minimally lubed plate mount stabs. Stock they sound rattly and are a bit scratchy but they have quite a bit of potential if you are willing to mod them.

Stabilizers are very important to how a board sounds and in this case, the GK68’s stabilizers are much better than boards from bigger gaming brands such as Logitech or Corsair.

We found that after making some mods to the board by lubing the stabilizers and adding foam to the bottom of the board helped the stabilizers feel quite smooth and not sound nearly as rattly. If you want that perfect sound for your stabs we would recommend going with some better plate amount stabs from either Durock or Novelkeys for a better experience.

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The Software

Although the GK68 does have software support, it is one of the weaker areas of the board. The software does provide useful functionality but it is complicated to use. It took us some time to understand the software. We found that the interface is not that easy to work with or nice to look at.

While the software does have some issues, it provides a ton of functionality. If you want to remap buttons or have more in-depth lighting then this is the way for you.

In our experience, we found that we did not need it that much as most functions like changing lighting or using a macro can be enabled with a simple key combination but having dedicated software is very nice to see.

RGB Backlighting

Top view of the Epomaker GK68XS mechanical keyboard with RGB lighting on

The GK68 XS features per-key RGB backlighting with a variety of onboard presets. You can change them using different key combinations or via the software.

The onboard solution is a quick way to change lighting but if you want more control the software provides tons of options. It is important to mention that using the software will take some time to understand.

The only issue I faced was that there is seemingly no combination to make a static color unless you want a simple white backlight. I figured you can change to the color-changing mode and just pause it on the color you like but I would have still liked a dedicated key combination.

Hotswap PCB

One of the most exciting features about this board is the fact that it features a hotswappable PCB. This means that you can change out the switches without needing to solder any switches. It takes just a few seconds to replace a switch.

The PCB supports both 3 and 5 pin switches and it is north-facing. This means that the keyboard supports switches from most switch manufactures including Kailh, Cherry, and more. The fact that the sockets are north-facing means that there could be interference with Cherry Profile keycaps.

A hotswap PCB is great for those who want to mod their keyboard to make it sound or feel better. They are also great for those who may want to try different switches.

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Bluetooth Connectivity

Another exciting feature of the GK68 XS is Bluetooth 5.1. You can connect up to three devices. With the 1900mAH battery, you can get a day or two of use out of it depending on if the lighting is on and how much you use the keyboard.

The latency is quite good but I did sometimes notice a delay when playing video games or typing very quickly. In most cases, this is not an issue and I found the connectivity to be quite good.


Conclusion: Should You Get The GK68XS?

Angled view of the Epomaker GK68XS mechanical keyboard

If you heavily rely on arrow keys and want a good value board the Epomaker GK68XS is an excellent option. It delivers excellent performance and tons of features.

For the price, it comes with some good options such as Bluetooth and hotswap sockets which just makes modding and using the board a lot more convenient. The board also has great switches, keycaps, and stabilizers considering the price and the competition.

The main downsides are the plastic case which, unfoamed, sounds quite hollow, and the north-facing switches, causing interference with cherry profile keycaps. There are other boards that may address these issues but if you want a board now and do not want to wait months for a board to arrive or you prioritize Bluetooth, this is a fantastic option.

If you are interested in the Epomaker GK68XS, consider checking it out on Amazon for a great price.

As always thanks for reading and if you are interested in more keyboard content check out our keyboard page.

Please join our Discord if you have any more questions.

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Best Tactile Switches [2021]

A variety of switches on a desk.

There are a plethora of tactile switches on the market, but which one is the best?

A tactile switch is a keyboard switch that produces a bump somewhere in the travel while still retaining its quietness compared to clicky switches. In theory the perfect blend between the sweet sound of linears and the lovely click of clickies. Tactile switches are perfect if you prefer a feedback when typing, most membrane keyboards will have a small and round feedback when typing, so tactiles are most similar to membranes in that way.

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Terminology

To get started, when talking about tactile switches many people will refer to types of bump and cool sciency terms like pre-travel, post-travel, actuation, and much more. Well, don’t let these big words intimidate you because I will explain them all.

Tactile Event: The bump in the switches travel.

Pre-Travel: Any linear or smooth uninterrupted travel before the tactile event.

Post-Travel: Post-travel is the linear travel after the tactile event.

Actuation: Actuation is when the switch actually activates and outputs to the device.

Bottom out: When the switch finishes traveling and hits the bottom housing.

Leaf: The metallic contacts in a switch, these themselves actually actuate the switch. The leaf is in the bottom housing as the picture shows.

Diagram pointing to the leaf of a mechanical keyboard switch.

Ping / Spring Ping / Leaf Ping: This is a metallic reverb produced by the sound of the spring, leaf, or both. In most cases it can be fixed by lube.

Disclaimer… Please Read!

This review is largely preference, my rankings will likely be very different from yours. Do not base your opinions based of mine, the best way to get opinions on a switch is to just try them yourself, guides like this, sound tests, and keyboard senpais like Taeha Types is not a good way to understand how switches feel. Just hit up your local vendor and buy a pack of whatever switch your fingers and ears desire to try them out. Use this guide to gain a general understanding on the switch and where enthusiasts like me stand on these switches.

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1. Boba U4t: Fantastic Acoustics and Hefty Tactility

U4T switch with plant.

Boba U4T is a tactile switch designed by gazzew and manufactured by outemu. It’s the sister switch of the Boba U4 which is a silent switch and is mentioned below. It produces a relatively sharp bump which is quite prominent throughout the switch. It comes in both 62g and 68g bottom out.

We recommend lubing this switch but not filming as the housings are extremely tight and well built and may not close with film.

The reason Boba U4t earn such a high position on this list is because of the sound and at what price it comes at. The T in U4T stands for thocc and it definitely lives up to its name as this may be one of the thocciest tactiles I have heard.

2. Durock T1s: Bumpy and Smooth

T1 switch with plant.

Durock T1s are a tactile switch designed by Durock and manufactured by JWK. It features a roundish bump at the top of the switch with no pre-travel. It features a few weighting options ranging from 62 to 67 grams.

These are so high up because of the tactility and how it closely resembles the wildly sought after Holy Pandas at a very affordable price. They also have unrivaled smoothness since they do copy the material of Gateron Ink switches which are among the smoothest linears.

These aren’t number 1 since they don’t have the best sound and they have very loose housings. This can, of course, be fixed by film. These switches are pre-lubed with a thin coating of oil which makes lubing not required.

3. Glorious Pandas: Budget Snappiness… Relatively

Glorious Panda switch with plant.

Glorious Pandas are Glorious PC Masterrace’s attempt at recreating the wildly popular Holy Panda frankenswitch. It features a sharp P bump with a quick and sharp bump at the top.

These switches recreate the feel of the sought after holy pandas without the price and pain of having to frankenswitch. Although this switch is far from perfect, it has immense spring and leaf ping. Although the springs can be fixed with a spring swap the leaf ping is still there and still plays a large part in the acoustics of the switch.

Even though these have a similar feel to the Holy Pandas which are a staple in the keyboard world its spring and leaf ping bring it down to number 3.

4. TKC x C^3 Equalz Kiwis: Ideal if You don’t Like Heavy Tactility

Kiwi switches on a desk.
Picture Creds: Caughtquick, check him out at https://www.caughtquick.tech

Kiwis are the 2nd installment in the fruit switches by TKC in collaboration with C^3, and it does not disappoint. They feature medium-level tactility which is a nice breath of fresh air with all the high tactility switches on the market. With around a 67g bottom out the switch has a prominent P Bump with smooth pre-travel after a quick bump at the top. This switch does feature light lubing which makes it very smooth.

Personally, I think these switches are great if you don’t like heavy tactility and do benefit from gasket films and lubing.

These are number 4 because I prefer a heavier tactility and recently TKC has been having quality control issues where there fruit switches have been having actuation inconsistencies due to problems with the switch molds.

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5. Invyr Holy Pandas: Tactile Switch Royalty Sharp and Quick

Holy Panda switch with plant.

For years Holy Pandas have been the pinnacle of tactile switches, since then companies like glorious and in this case, Invyr has tried to replicate these switches. Similar to glorious pandas these switches have a sharp p bump at the top followed by smooth linear travel.

These switches benefit from both lube and film. Although the housings are quite tight the acoustics won’t be negatively affected by film. From my testing lubing these switches is a must as they are quite scratchy on the linear travel and there is quite a bit of spring ping, so lubing them is a must.

These aren’t number 1 because they have quite the hefty price tag at above 1 dollar per switch. This is quite expensive especially with the problems these switches are known for like spring and leaf ping. While you can’t go wrong with these switches they can be a bit disappointing especially with how much you are paying for them.

6. NovelKeys x Kailh Blueberries: Heavy Weight with Heavy Tactility

 NovelKeys x Kailh Blueberry switch with plant.

Blueberries are Novelkeys and Kailhs take at a tactile switch after the critical reception of Novelkey Creams. They feature a D-Bump with about 1 mm of post-travel and little pre-travel. The bump on these things is massive in duration but very round.

While filming these is optional lubing is necessary otherwise the switch will be very scratchy and pingy. These switches have the exact same material composition as Novelkey Creams which means they are quite scratchy before break in.

These switches are sixth on the list because they are very scratchy and the bump is frankly nothing special compared to the other switches on this list although it does get points for being a very long bump. Acoustics are also not very pleasant as they sound quite scratchy.

7. Zealios V2: Sharp Cheddar Cheese… Except in Switches

Zealios V2 switch on a mousepad.

These switches are like the bigger stronger and older brother too Holy Pandas, the tactility is as sharp as a knife and maybe even sharper. They boast a P-Bump with no pre-travel and about 3 millimeters of post-travel which is quite smooth out of the box. Zealios V2s are the product of a collaboration between ZealPC and Gateron.

Filming these is optional and same with lubing. From my research even lubing the stems of legs, which is not normally done in tactile switches but is common in these because of how sharp and harsh the tactility in the switch is.

These are seventh because of the price of these switches at about a dollar per switch they have mediocre sound as the tactility is so sharp you can hear the reverb from the leaf flicking back into place after the tactile event.

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8. Boba U4: Best Silent Tactile

Boba U4 switch with plant

This switch designed by gazzew is a silenced version of the U4t. These switches definitely take the cake when talking about silenced switches, they feature a nice round bump which takes up most of the switch and they have very little pre-travel. The stem wobble control is excellent with very tight housings.

Filming and lubing these is optional as they have very tight housings and quite a smooth switch. If you are lubing these to improve acoustics no need because it produces a mush sound which cant be improved much. Filming is not necessary, in fact recommended against, since they have a nice and tight housing.

These are eight because silent switches really aren’t my thing unless I’m at a public place. When you think of mechanical you think of clickity calckity and thoccity thaccity not mush mush, for that reason silent switches just got boring after a couple days of daily use. They made this list because they have quite an amazing tactile event and are a great experience for when I want to use a mechanical keyboard without disturbing others.

9. Cherry MX Clears: Solid Potential

 Cherry MX Clear switch on a rock.

This is one of three tactile switches by cherry, the others being the MX Browns and the MX Gray. These are considered to be the best out of those two. They feature a medium-sized bump with 2 millimeters of pre-travel and about 1 millimeter of post-travel. While they aren’t the greatest stock they still quite nice. Many people do swap the springs on them to something a bit lighter as the stock ones are quite heavy with around an 80 gram bottom-out force.

While filming these aren’t required they will still benefit from filming. Lubing these switches is definitely recommended since the nylon cherry housings are quite scratchy stock. As I was saying previously the springs on these switches are quite heavy and do benefit from a spring swap.

These switches don’t have the greatest stock form nor do they have very good acoustics and feel. For that reason, they ended up at number 9.

10. Cherry MX Browns: Mainstream

Cherry MX Brown switch surrounded by keycaps.

Cherry MX Browns are super common and what most people think off when tactile switches are mentioned. They are featured on almost every gaming board as the tactile option. Well, you may be asking since there on practically every mainstream prebuilt then why isn’t it number 1 on this list? It’s because these switches are not very tactile after all, especially in comparison to many other switches on this list. Wildly popular YouTubers like Glarses have dedicated their existence to hating these switches but he along with many others are joking about this, no functional switch is objectively bad and nearly everything in this hobby is up to your preference.

That being said this switch has quite a small bump and does not feel as tactile nor as smooth as other switches on this list. And I prefer more pronounced tactility over light tactility, but everybody is different and has their own preferences. These switches start out at about 45 grams of actuation and bottom out at 55 grams making it quite light especially considering how light the tactility is.

While filming this switch isn’t necessary lubing this switch is advisable since it has quite a scratchy and pingy housing. Filming this switch isn’t necessary but won’t hurt the sound nor the feel of the switch.

This switch is number 10 because the tactility is light which is not my preference but, it may be yours.

Where To Start?

If you wanna try these or any switches check out your local vendor! Who are those you may ask? Take a look at our vendor list. It’s a great compilation of all the keyboard related vendors sorted by region.

As always thank you for reading and please check out our discord and chat a little. We will happily answer any questions you have!

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