So I jumped into Mechanical Keyboards

Mechanical Keyboards (Last Updated On: )

I wanted to upgrade a few of the things I use in my daily life. I decided that my 10 year old full size corded Apple Mac keyboard and my 15 year old corded Logitech G3 gaming mouse needed to be retired. While they have performed greatly in their years of faithful service I think it is time to move on.

I started looking around. I wanted a keyboard with RGB LEDs, that was one of my requirements and what I landed on was mechanical keyboards. There are a ton of mechanical keyboards out there. I’ve been reading on them for a few days now and I still know nothing about them. It is a huge rabbit hole of tech. There are a ton of brands and manufacturers as well as DIY kits so you can build your own from scratch. I don’t know much so I decided to go with a premade keyboard versus building my own. Out of all the brands out there I landed with Keychron, and for one major reason alone – they are the only RGB mechanical keyboard that I could find that was Mac friendly. As far as I can tell Corsair and Logitech are the only two brands with software for their mice and keyboards that support Apple Macs. That is quite limiting for one using said machines, like me. The common answer I found regarding Macs and keyboards was “plug it into a PC to change the settings then move it back”…yeah a big fuck no to that. The Keychron keyboards not only have Mac keys installed out of the box they also do not have any software. While this means I don’t get to map the RGBs and keys and make fancy color combos, which kinda sucks, I do get a mechanical keyboard that supports my OS and has RGB modes. Thats good enough for me.

When it comes to software I usually stay away from devices that have dedicated software as it is most times not mac friendly or the Mac version is way far behind. Look at the Razer products – no Mac love here. I probably would have bought into the Razer  ecosystem too but nope. Since I have been reading into mechanical keyboards I have been reading that Keychron is looking into creating software with QMK compatibility which from what I read is fantastic. I just hope they make Mac versions of whatever they cook up and don’t leave us in the dark like we usually are. I would love the ability to change and map my keys, if the software is decent that is.

I bought a Keychron K8 keyboard. It is an 87 key TKL keyboard with Bluetooth wireless (and wired USB-C), RGB LED keyboard. I needed my arrows and page up/down keys. I use them constantly all day long. It is a must have for me, I wasn’t ready to get rid of the arrows so I got the 87 key. I have noticed that the 60 and 65 keys are quite popular. The number keys I decided to ditch because I thought the TKL keyboards looked way better and I was trying to free up some space too. But my hands do miss the ten key, they go looking for them whenever I type numbers.

There is a switch on the left for Windows/Mac as well as Wired/Bluetooth. I use it wired with its USB-C cable because I can hide my wires easily, but having a Bluetooth option is great. It has a 4000mAH battery. I have not had the keyboard long and I use it wired so I am not sure on the battery life.

I originally got the K8 Hot Swappable with Red Keychron Optical Switches. Kind of a mistake in a way. Not knock the switches but I shot myself in the foot. You can only switch to other Keychron optical switches with this version. They are the same as Gateron but better and faster (allegedly) but proprietary unfortunately and they don’t seem to make too many other switch colors for it. They do make hot swappable Gateron switches but they were out of stock everywhere and they are slow to restock in the mechanical keyboard world and I refused to wait like I should have. I just cant do it, no patience over here. I have read that a lot of mechanical keyboards are small batch productions. They seem to do a lot of group-buy options and small productions runs every couple of months. So being out of stock and having to wait seems to be a common thing. Well, as it turns out I got an email from Keychron the other morning that the keyboard I originally wanted was back in stock. Well, I ordered it and I returned the optical version. In fact, as I write this they are out of stock again. They went out of stock just one day later. I now have a Keychron K8 Aluminum Hot Swappable Keyboard with Brown Gateron Switches. I went brown this time instead of the reds. I had the optical version in reds and while I was getting used to them I found them a bit touchy. They were way too easy to press for me. But I loved the sound they made. I had planned on getting browns to try out, now I don’t have to. From my brief searching I may want yellows in the future. If I may make a recommendation if you are reading this and deciding what switches to get – go with browns. I think they are probably a good base to start off with, unless you like that clicky sound then go with blues. I also added the aluminum frame. I thought I had ordered it from the start but apparently I did not. I would totally suggest going aluminum with the K8. It is a lot heavier and it feels and looks nicer too in my opinion.

They K8 has three custom Keychron keys for the board in the top right. Screenshot, Voice, and the RGB light key. The screenshot key on the Mac is dope as fuck. It immediately gives you crosshairs for a screenshot. The voice key will activate Siri or Cortana if they are setup on your machine. The light key cycles through all the RGB modes. The rest of the keys are pretty standard. I don’t use Siri on my Mac Pro as it is not a MacBook and I also have no microphone connected and at least not one that is always on and listening. Unfortunately you cannot use Karabiner to remap those keys to do something else. Any other key yes, those ones nope.

You will likely need a new USB cable if you are anything like me or anyone I have ever known. My computer is not within 4ft of the mouse, the cable is super short. If your PC is sitting on your desk then you are fine. I had to buy a USB extension cable. So you need a 6″ ft right angle USB-C to USB-A cable or a USB-C to USB-A cable and a USB-C right angle adapter OR… a USB adapter and you can use the original USB cable that it shipped with. Which is what I did. It is a nice cable and it was cheaper to buy a 2-pack of 6ft extensions and USB 3.0 too off Amazon.

I have had this keyboard for a week now and I love it. I am mad at myself for not getting into mechanical keyboards a lot earlier. I have been into computers for 25 years, only 8 of them have been on a Mac recently. I used to be all into that custom stuff and mechanical keyboards just never came up sadly. As far as mech keyboards go if I had a Windows machine I probably would have gotten a GMMK board or one of the DIY type boards out there. They have boards that are DIY so you save money on your build which is great. But if you need wireless or a Mac friendly version the Keychron series is definitely the way to go in my opinion. There are so many options for a Windows PC users it is not funny but for us Mac users the Keychron is a great fit. Maybe I’ll change my mind in a few months/years after I gain some more mechanical keyboard knowledge, who knows.

I wish there was instructions on how to remove the switches and caps or at least video or something they could have pointed to cause I don’t know how to do it and I am slightly hesitant as I don’t wanna break anything and all the modding websites are always like “at your own risk!!” so I am a little worried of busting my expensive (to me) keyboard. I haven’t really looked yet, been busy, but I know YouTube will most likely have a ton on how to do it. Still directions with he keyboard would have been cool. But I guess they are not really responsible for giving me modding instructions. I did buy a switch opener, and after swapping keycaps a few times already I wish I would have bought one of those fancy keycap removal tools, and I probably will. I have no fingernails and I don’t want to break any little plastic tabs off so I get the tools. Safe bet.

I have spent the last week digging around the internet and FaceBook looking up information on mechanical keyboards and joining FaceBook groups. I had no idea that there were so many keycaps and switches out there. No idea. In fact I ended up buying some new keycaps already. While the original stock keycaps are not that bad (I have read that a lot of long time mech kb users don’t like em) the new G.Skill Crystal Crown Pudding Keycaps (in black) I bought are so much better. Not to mention they are super nice to look at. They let so much more of the RGB shine through its awesome. These things just look fucking amazing! Wow, the pictures do not do them justice.

It is rather easy to pull of the old stock keycaps and it is easy to push on the new ones, I found it easier on the Gateron Browns than the Keychron Opticals. Just don’t force them on if they don’t fit at first. The only downside, well for me anyway, is that there is no Mac key included for the “command” or “alt” or “option” button with the new keycaps. I could get by with the other keys they supply but I really want a “command” Apple key for my Mac keyboard not Windows flags. Get with it guys there are Mac users out there too! It is one fucking key – add it, its not hard!! I have noticed that just like with the software issue that there is rarely any Mac love out there in the custom keycap/mechanical keyboard world. Most users are PC Master Race users, sadly I am no longer, and probably wont be again until my Mac Pro kicks the bucket.

On top of being able to customize the keycaps and switches people also customize the USB cables. The cables are almost always USB-C on the keyboard side and then a coil to a detachable aviators plug, which is freaking cool, and a straight cable back to a USB-A plug on the computer side. The custom cables are some of the sweetest cables I have ever seen. A lot of them are likely hand made, which is probably why the cables are all $30 to start and go up to as high as $100 for just the custom USB keyboard cable. Thats nuts. But then again it is a customization hobby and it is not for everyone. Like my wife, she just doesn’t get it…”it’s just a keyboard”.

I picked up a Glorious PC Gaming wrist rest after I got the keyboard, it is the nicest wrist rest I have ever bought. Damn thing was $30 so it better be! I took a chance on it and it was worth it. It is the same material as most wrist pads but it is all stitched on the edges and it covers the sides and the bottom is non slip. It is awesome. It is not the usual gel that globs up and has issues. It feels like it may be regular foam. The new keyboard sits up much higher than the super flat Apple keyboard I have been used to so a wrist rest was required.

I also got a keyboard/mouse mat while I was at it, and it covers my keyboard tray 100%!! How fucking cool is that? I got a $19.99 one off of Amazon. It is all controlled via button on the mat itself – no software. Since none of the software out there for RGB anything is Mac friendly I needed something with a button and no software. This was it, and it fits the bill. It was nicely boxed and it is also of decent quality. I am very happy. It is not super bright but it is bright enough for me, I can still see it in the day light hours. It remembers your last setting when powered off so thats a huge bonus.

Now I just needed a new mouse to round out my upgrade – I ended picking up a Logitech G Pro Wireless mouse. It is a little more mouse than I really need but this thing is really nice. I had originally wanted the cheaper G203 but I decided to go with the more left handed friendly Pro Wireless because of the right sided buttons and it was wireless. Cost me more but being left handed usually does.

 

G.SKILL Crystal Crown Keycaps – Black

https://www.gskill.com/product/341/342/1602504434/Crystal-Crown-Keycaps,-Black-Overview – Amazon link

 

Mac OS only keyboard testing program to use to test the keyboard, duh, after you have changed switches or if you think you are having issues – https://github.com/mhdhejazi/Inspect

 

Keychron Website

Keychron K8 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard

Amazon Keychron K8 Aluminum RGB Brown Gateron Hot Swappable Switches

https://www.keychron.com/blogs/news/gateron-mechanical-switch-guide

Keychron Optical Switches

 

Glorious Padded Keyboard Wrist Rest – Stealth Edition

https://www.keychron.com/pages/keychron-k8-keyboard-keycaps-layout-and-keycap-size-hd-picture

Logitech G Pro Wireless Mouse

https://www.keychron.com/pages/buyers-showcase

 

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