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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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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