Sometimes, Cheaper Is Better

Image: Kotaku

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.

Image: iKBC

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.


Comments

    That sounds pretty awesome, and damn tempting too. Except I still have no idea what type of keys I'd want.

    Also looks like the 129 price might only be til the 16th. Hmm.

      I've had a Ducky with Red keys for a few years now and it's great to game with, I prefer the keys in my Macbook or even my old low-profile Razer keyboard for typing on though (when it wasn't glitching out and locking on keys). I'd say Red if you game more than you type, otherwise maybe Brown or Blue.

        Gross, I can't stand laptop keyboard :P Actually nevermind standing, I can't even type on them. All ability just completely falls to pieces.

          I much prefer some real travel to type on too, but make a lot of errors with the Red keys compared to other boards. They are just so easy to push and give no feedback as to when they have engaged. Great for games though.

            As a safeguard: if you're not sure, always go Browns. They're the best middle ground, for sound, tactile response and feel TBH.

      It basically comes down to three choices. If you only game and never type, get reds. If you only type and never game (and don't mind a loud but super satisfying keyboard) get blues. If you do both or are uncertain, get browns.

        Well I do game, but I don't use a keyboard for that :P
        All the talk of just how loud blues are makes me second guess whether they'd be too annoying for others, who already complain about how loud and clacky I am on membrane keyboards. But then other still seem to say there's not even that much difference between them... just need to actually get some hands-on time with them I guess.

    I settled on a K70 RGB LUX - Cherry Brown this year. My first mechanical keyboard, and damn I'm over the moon with it. I already type awfully quick, maybe it's the click-clack of a mech keyboard but it feels like I type even faster with the K70.

    I would definitely get an iKBC or a Ducky keyboard for work.

      Very nice. I always found I typed the most accurately on browns, although I'm a little faster with reds.

    Ugh, as a touch typist it upset me @ 1:16 to see her fingers spamming roughly all over the keyboard like that.

    Get back to us in 5 years to see if cheaper is better. I payed more than I ever thought I would for a Logitech mouse 7 years ago. Daily use still works like new.

      I still have a Logitech G9x from like 2009 still works like a dream. I find cheaper things can be great but they don't have the longevity. I also still use my blackwidow keyboard with blue from the same time worth every penny. I have a cheap mx blue keyboard for work and it has barely lasted more than 2 years and all the key caps are fucked and it keeps losing signal to USB. You definitely get what you pay for these days.

    IKBC 87 (non RGB) Cherry browns is my daily workhorse and it's a great no-nonsense keeb.

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