Keychron K2 Keyboard Review
Santa Claus brought me a Keychron K2 mechanical keyboard for Christmas and I have to admit, I’ve been pretty excited about trying this out for the last few months. Unfortunately, Mrs. Claus has prevented me from accessing this present early, so now, here I sit on Christmas day, writing up this review.
If you’re of a certain vintage — let’s say you’re over 40 years old, and you’ve always had an interest in computers, then there is a better than average chance that you learned to touch type on a mechanical keyboard.
Mechanic keyboards use and individual mechanism for each key that actuates when you press down on a key to fire off a signal.
The more common, modern keyboards are generally membrane keyboards which use a silicone sheet with small domes representing each key so that when you press down on a key it the stem pressed into the dome creating a contact between the membrane and the conductive trace layer.
For the average person, the difference is less about the technical aspects of how the keyboards work and more about the “feel” to the keyboards when you type on them.
There is a lot of jargon associated with this differing sensation and for the most part, I’m going to dispel with most of it because if you’re an average person, you probably don’t care about any of that.
This review is going to be about my experience in using the keyboard thus far and when I talk about “feel” it’s not going to be a technical conversation so much as it will be more about my own tactile sensations.
Why Did I Buy The Keychron K2?
Probably the first thing that is worth discussing is what led me down this path in the first place.
I type a lot and lately, I’ve started to find that typing on my Apple Magic Keyboard has resulted in more joint pain in my knuckles.
The Apple Magic Keyboard is a very high-quality membrane keyboard, but the short “travel” of the keys and the lack of tactile feedback beyond when I “bottom out” the keystroke means that my fingers are jarring into the underside plastic a lot more than I would like.
I think that’s what’s been causing my sore knuckles.
(“Travel” is the distance that your key goes up and down, and when you say that a keystroke has “bottomed out”, we’re talking about the point at which the stem hits the bottom of the casing and comes to a hard stop)
With that in mind, I started looking into mechanical keyboards a bit more and more specifically, keyboards that are designed for the Mac as a first-class citizen.
Frankly, there aren’t that many.
Mechanical keyboards are largely the domain of hobbyists and gamers, so the primary customer base for them is Windows users.
The Das 4 Pro is a full-sized keyboard with a lot of features including a number pad and dedicated media keys with a volume knob that works natively with MacOS. It also comes with authentic Cherry MX switches and a built-in USB 2.0 hub.
The problem for me was that it was wired — I really didn’t want a wired keyboard. I’m trying to get rid of cables, not add more.
On the other hand, the Keychron K2 was Bluetooth wireless so it had no stupid USB dongle to take up a port unnecessarily on my Mac Mini. The Keychron K2 also had the same media key layout as the Apple Magic Keyboard which is where everything is shared across the F-keys on the top row.
The other thing that led me down the path of the Keychron K2 originally was, candidly, price.
Don’t get me wrong, the showstopper feature for me was the Bluetooth connectivity, but the Keychron K2 was AUD$100 for the top feature model versus the Das 4 which was AUD$250.
When you’re trying out a new type of hardware to see if you like it and it solves a particular problem, you would rather spend $100 than $250.
Basically, the Keychron ticked a lot of boxes and some of the early reviews from people who picked it up via the Kickstarter campaign that was used to launch it were very positive.
Features of the Keychron K2 that I like
The K2 uses Gateron switches as opposed to the Cherry MX variety — for all intents and purposes for the average person, there is no difference.
While I’ve been researching these keyboards, I spent a lot of time testing out various switch technologies from different vendors and basically I came to the landing that they are all much of muchness.
The variation in keys is predominantly based on sound and tactile response. Cherry MX has largely set the standard, Gateron follows it, so here’s what you will mostly see:
- Blue Switches — they are “clicky” and have a small bump when the actuation is triggered to give your fingers a response that the keystroke has been registered
- Red Switches — they are quieter, the tactile bump is less pronounced and the force required to actuate is slightly reduced from the blue
- Brown Switches — these fall right in the middle of the Red and Blue in that they don’t have the “clicky” sound of the Blue, but they do have the tactile response bump when you type
I went for the Brown Switches because I liked the feel of the Blue switches better than the Red, but the noise was a bit much for me.
I type really quickly, somewhere around 70–75 words per minute with >90% accuracy for the most part. When I use Blue switches at that speed the noise actually disturbs my wife and son if they are in other rooms on this floor of the house with their doors open.
The Brown switches are therefore the sweet spot for me, and you’ll find that most non-gamers who like mechanical keyboards will say something similar from my research.
Obviously, I’m also a fan of the Bluetooth wireless feature.
I can’t stress enough how much I hate USB dongles for wireless devices — aside from taking up a port, it’s one more thing that can go wrong.
On my Dell laptop that I use for work, I have a Microsoft mouse that has a dongle and after about 18 months of taking it in and out of my bag, the dongle must have snagged so many times that the exterior plastic case broke away and I had to pry the metal connector out of the USB port with tweezers.
Then to add insult to injury, I had to replace the ENTIRE mouse because you can’t just buy a replacement dongle — think about all that plastic waste for such a small piece of broken plastic, never mind the expense.
So, yeah… Bluetooth wireless is a feature that I looked for.
I love the layout — the “Tenkeyless” style is perfect for me in terms of functionality and footprint.
The Tenkeyless format just means that the number pad has been removed and the Keychron K2 falls into the 84-key space. It’s very compact, which is what I want, but without sacrificing any of the keys or more importantly, the size of the keys themselves.
Another selling point of the K2 was that the rechargeable battery was quite large and according to Keychron if I turn off the RGB backlighting features then my battery will last for weeks.
Charging the battery is easy enough — the keyboard has a USB-C connector and they include a USB-C to USB-A cable, so you can plug in and charge it periodically.
Another nifty little feature is that I can hold down the function key and hit “B” — this will cause the keys to light up and indicate what the charge status of the keyboard is: green is >70%, between 30–70% will be blue, and if you have below 30% then the keys will flash telling you it’s time to plug in your keyboard.
Lastly, let me talk about the build quality which is really high — I have the full aluminum version which is both heavy and solid, good things for a keyboard in my opinion.
The keys are smooth like butter to type on and they don’t make any janky sounds when you press down on them like some cheaper switches will occasionally have.
In particular, the longer keys like the spacebar, backspace and enter keys are all very solid with good stabilizers. They are well lubricated too which was a concern that I had because the potential squeaking noise would have driven me nuts.
To be honest, for the extra $20 that I paid for the aluminum top-end model, I’m pretty happy.
Features of the Keychron K2 the I am indifferent about
RGB… Let’s just start with that.
The Keychron K2 comes in a couple of different models with backlighting and the top-end model that I bought comes with a full RGB backlight option.
You can cycle through 15 different RGB patterns with a single onboard key as well as altering some of the color patterns with function and arrow keys.
My favorite part of the RGB feature is that I can quickly turn it off.
This has the added benefit of saving on battery life which is far more important for me.
The Keychron K2 also comes with the ability to connect to different Bluetooth devices, so I can pair it to my iPhone, an iPad, and my Mac Mini, then with just a keyboard toggle switch between the different devices on the fly.
It’s a nice feature, but I’ll almost certainly never use it.
Similarly, there is a switch on the keyboard that allows you to quickly move between MacOS/iOS mode and Windows/Android mode.
This switch is a hardware toggle for the firmware to ensure that it sends the right signals to your chosen platform — so if you’re using a Mac and hit F3, it will show you your open windows whereas on a Windows machine it will just be whatever feature your software pins to the F3 key, if any.
Again, it’s a handy feature… But it’s unlikely that I’ll ever use it.
I have used an iPhone for over a decade, never had an Android, and my primary computing device at home is the new Mac Mini.
I’m considering building out a personal Windows gaming rig in 2020, so maybe that will change, but for right now, that’s a handy feature that serves no purpose for me.
Keychron includes in the package a handy keycap puller and the Windows keys if you want to switch to using the keyboard for Windows, which makes the whole process easier.
Things I dislike about the Keychron K2
It’s probably a pretty unfair assessment to say that I “dislike” something about this keyboard after only a couple hours of usage, but maybe it’s better to say that there are a couple of natural irritants that I may need to address at some point.
The biggest one is the height of the keyboard… It’s really high off the desk.
This elevation will inevitably create some strain for my wrists unless I put in a wrist pad or wrist rest to offset the new elevation.
In fact, that’s going to be a priority for me on Boxing Day because I don’t want to run the risk of getting RSI from typing.
The most immediate irritant that I need to figure out what to do with relates to the bottom left corner of the keyboard case.
The K2 is small and the construction is a bit boxy.
The corners are rounded, but I have a fairly weird typing style with a slightly odd hand position for my left hand.
As a result, my left palm runs and rubs against the bottom left corner of the keyboard’s case and it’s already starting to irritate my palm.
I may need to put some kind of soft foam pad over that corner of the keyboard because it’s unlikely that I’m going to change my typing style after all this time to accommodate a new keyboard.
The dislikes are a pretty small list if we’re being honest — this keyboard has so far delivered everything I wanted and expected from it.
In fairness, reading about it before I purchased it, I knew that the height might be an issue and while it’s not hurting me right now, it’s something I’m going to address proactively.
There was really no way of knowing the corner issue and the palm of my hand and to be fair to Keychron, my typing style, and hand movements are the problem rather than any design feature on their part.
Beyond that, the keyboard is a joy to type on.
The Gateron Brown switches behave exactly as expected, the size of the keycaps and the overall layout of the keyboard is great, and getting it to work out of the box took me less than a minute.
The overall feel of the keys and the travel are perfect for me and it’s entirely reminiscent of the keyboards that I learned to type on back in the early 1980's.
I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that this keyboard generates some kind of sense of nostalgia, but that’s not all there is to it.
The tactile nature of the typing experience and the sounds that are made from typing on it create an overall better typing experience for me.
Time will tell if my typing adjusts to stop bottoming out the keystrokes as much and my knuckle pain diminishes, but even if it doesn’t, this keyboard makes it an absolute joy to type, so that’s worth the money in and of itself.
Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions in this review are my own, I’ve not been paid for this review, and I paid for the Keychron K2 keyboard personally.