Sometimes, Cheaper Is Better

Earlier this year CORSAIR refreshed their mechanical keyboards with the LUX RGB line, and I liked them so much that I ended up buying one for myself.

And I thought that’d be it for the year. They were the best keyboards I’d used in a good while. They were small, did everything I wanted, and didn’t break the bank.

But then iKBC came along.

At first glance, there’s nothing particularly flashy about the iKBC F87 mechanical keyboard. It’s a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard with RGB lighting. You’ve seen (metaphorically) a million of these already, ranging from the affordable to console levels of expensive.

iKBC is well and truly on the lower end. Available only through MWAVE, it’ll cost you $130 for versions with Cherry MX Brown, Blue, Red or Black switches. That’s becoming increasingly rare, with Cherry manufacturing their own keyboards and limiting supply of their switches to others.

There’s an awful lot about the whole package that screams “budget”, too.

The exterior of the F87, for instance, feels like moulded plastic. Regardless of colour (it comes in black and white variants), the F87 isn’t built from the fancier and sturdier anodised aluminium or metal on more expensive offerings.

You certainly don’t get as many options or customisations. The USB cable isn’t removable. There’s no USB port on the front or sides to plug a phone, mouse or other device into. You get a keycap puller, some spare keycaps and a fairly sparse manual, but that’s it. No wrist support. No volume controls. There’s four rubber non-slip feet and two flip-up feet that can extend half way or completely, effectively giving you three positions for the keyboard.

And there’s no software either. Want the keyboard to cycle through lights non-stop? Or would you just like individual keys to light up when they’re pressed? All of the customisations are handled through a series of key combinations. It’s disappointing if you like syncing up your keyboard to your game of preference (like with Razer’s Chroma software), but it’s a huge boon if you prefer not to have additional middleware running in the background.

No-frills: perhaps that’s the best way to describe the iKBC F87.

It’s a good reminder that price isn’t always a guarantee of value. The keycaps, for instance, feel quite light and it’s pretty easy to bottom out if you’re a heavy typist (like myself). But they’re actually surprisingly sturdy: having PBT double shot injection keycaps means the keys won’t fade or wear out quite as easily. They also make a thoroughly satisfying sound when you’re bashing out paragraphs, but the lighter frame of the keycaps and the whole board means your co-workers won’t have the urge to beat you to death.

Not that most Australians will care, but there’s also Dvorak and Colemak layouts built in. Like the RGB settings, you can toggle these with a key combination although it’s probably easier to handle that through the Windows/Mac system settings.

There isn’t a great deal more to explain about the iKBC: it’s a cheaper, pared down mechanical keyboard for people who don’t want the bells and whistles. It’s a board that does the job, with no fuss, no bloat, and at no extra expense. And if you’re prepared to muck around with the keys manually, you can get some good lighting effects going on; the function keys will let you customise the colour of each individual key if you so choose.

Don’t get me wrong: the K70 is still a fantastic keyboard, and one of the best I’ve used this year.

But for the last few weeks it has gone unused. Because even though it has more features – that pass-through USB port is a godsend sometimes – and it’s certainly built from nicer materials, sometimes cheaper really is better.

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