As for mechanical keyboards, you usually have the option to play it safely with a big brand like Corsair or Razer, or buy from smaller enthusiasts with more interesting models and often cheaper prices.
Of these two groups, Epomaker definitely belongs to the latter. Its recent wireless AK84S keyboard is not the one you plan to buy from the Best Buy shelf and is not yet listed on the company’s Amazon store. Instead, recently funded a Kickstarter campaign, it can now be pre – ordered directly from Epomaker’s own website. The company says it will now focus on supplying keyboards to its Kickstarter supporters before moving on to orders placed on its website in mid-September. Delivery can take one to two weeks depending on the method you choose, Epomaker says.
So yes, the Epomaker AK84S is not a keyboard that you can buy on impulse and you expect to loosen within 24 hours, and it suffers from a lack of documentation and confusing partner software. But it’s only priced at $ 89 and offers one of the finest typing experiences I’ve had on a mechanical keyboard. Overall, I think it’s a price worth paying.
The Epomaker AK84S is available in many different configurations, so it’s almost impossible to list them all. As of this writing, however, the cheapest configuration on the Epomaker website appears to be a version with optical switches, ABS key caps, and an aluminum frame attached to a plastic case, priced at $ 89. If you want other options, such as supposedly more durable PBT key caps (a little more on this), mechanical rather than optical switches, or a fully aluminum case, you can pay up to $ 199.
Switch options include a range of optical or mechanical Cherry MX clones produced by Gateron, including red, blue, black, brown, yellow, silver, green and white (some have a $ 5 surcharge). The Epomaker also has its own Chocolate-branded switches available with this record, but unfortunately I couldn’t try.
For this review, I have used the AK84S with a full aluminum body, PBT key caps with panda design, and snap-on blue Gateron switches. You can see from the pictures that my model came with a purple case, which is not an option on Epomaker’s website, but the company says it will eventually make this model more widely available. The all-aluminum version also lacks the adjustable legs that come with versions with a plastic case.
The AK84S looks 75 percent, which is similar to most modern laptops. Unfortunately, it’s just the US (aka ANSI), which means you’re lucky if you want a UK or European ISO layout with a larger Enter key and a smaller left Shift. My model came with a bottom-line keyboard for both Mac and Windows, so I could swap the Option and Command keys for the Windows and Alt keys. There is no physical switch to change the keyboard layout between the two operating systems, but you can do so with the button.
Before I go into any detail, I just want to highlight how fantastic the AK84S core writing experience is. In my all-aluminum model, the keystrokes felt delightfully fresh, and the keyboard as a whole felt wonderfully solid to type. One rough point is the keyboard stabilizers – a mechanism that prevents longer keys from swinging. They have a touch on the cracked side, which degrades the overall quality of the rest of the disc. But as a whole, the keyboard is a pleasure to type on.
While I enjoy the daily typing of the AK84S, I had a few problems with the keyboard over time. First of all, I don’t like the look of the Epomaker inventory keys. Each key has so many different functions that the key caps eventually look really confusing, and if I choose this option, I’ll probably switch them to a third party (you don’t need to be aware of particularly atypical keys on the keyboard, but pay special attention to the bottom line of the keyboard set you purchased). The printed explanations on my PBT keyboard were also not particularly durable; after a month of use, the legends of the home row keys had begun to fade. Because of the option, I would probably choose ABS keys. ABS as plastic is known to turn shiny over time, but the legends of the AK84S versions are double, which means they won’t wear out soon. There’s also an unusual silicone key cap option that I couldn’t try and that costs $ 65. Maybe it’s a fun novelty? I have no idea.
In addition to replacing the keyboard, the AK84S also has quick-change switches that make it easy to change the switches that come with the board without the use of a soldering iron. Use the small metal tool included in the package to relieve each switch from the outlet before inserting a new one. It’s a painless process that gives you easy access to a wide range of weird and stunning switches on your keyboard.
I tend to think that if the 75 percent layout is well thought out, it’s possible to match all the keys that most people use on a daily basis. But the Windows layout of the AK84S is a bit strange. The default screenshot button is unchecked (it’s F13, if you’re wondering), and there’s also the whole key dedicated to the Add button, which I never intentionally pressed. Personally, I would also have preferred the Home and Exit keys instead of the Page Up and Page Down keys, but the former are available with the function key.
Fortunately, it is possible to customize the layout of the AK84S using additional software, but the lack of documentation makes this… an interesting process. For starters, as of this writing, the Epomaker website really doesn’t list the AK84S download page. But if you decide to download the “SK, GK & NT Keyboards” software, you end up with a program called GK6XPlus that recognized the AK84S and allowed me to edit its layout (after I asked the company, it said it would change its website). I wouldn’t call it intuitive software, but after a little experimentation, I ended up with a layout that switched regardless of which computer I connected the keyboard to. This software can also customize the keyboard RGB backlight if you like.
I spent most of my time on a USB-C wired AK84S, but it also includes Bluetooth connectivity and a 4000 mAh battery that Epomaker claims will get you 50 hours of operation with RGB lighting on or up to 880 hours off. Unfortunately, I could not confirm these claims, but in theory they put it much ahead Keychron’s competing K2, which offers up to 240 hours of operation. Like many other wireless keyboards, the AK84S can remember up to three devices with which it is paired, and you can easily switch between them with keyboard shortcuts.
I have a lot of small problems with the Epomaker AK84S. I don’t think its default layout in Windows is great, the printing of its PBT key covers is of poor quality, and the support and documentation that comes with the disc leaves much to be desired. You’re also dealing with a small company that delivers all of its products internationally, which means you have to be patient with your orders in a way you’re not with a more conventional brand like Corsair or Razer.
But the Epomaker AK84S’s core writing experience is good enough that I’m willing to forgive basically all of these problems. Yes, its software is clumsy, and yes its documentation is poor, but both are problems that can be overcome with a little patience and then ignored. Add other quality of life features like Bluetooth support and removable switches, and you have a disc that will last for years. Or at least until you get itchy to buy another keyboard for no apparent reason.
Photographer Jon Porter / The Verge