Not resting on their laurels after releasing the GK75, the first mechanical keyboard with hot swap sockets that accepted both knobs and switches, Skyloong has recently release the GK980 series of keyboards, in this review, I am taking a look at the Deep Blue CNC aluminum version, which usually sells barebone, but Skyloong loaded this up for this unit they sent me for review. It has Skyloong Glacier Rose switches, a heavy tactile (65g) that delivers a very "Holy" tactile event, and their own GK6 profile (1.3mm thick), doubleshot ABS Miami Night keycap set.
The 980+, the CNC'd aluminum top, ABS bottom starts @ $189, is available in Deep Blue and Gray, with the choice of PC or fiberglass plate, as well as wired or wireless connectivity, which brings the price to $199. They have a "bare" barebone ABS GK980 with a steel plate for $39.90 wired, $49.90 three mode. The basic kit, which does include knob modules, stabilizers, and the split spacebar is also available in either White or Black starting at $85.
Perhaps it's the combination of aluminum and ABS on the light gasket mount, or maybe it's the mix of Glacier Rose switches on top of the decently shaped GK6 caps, but this keyboard felt and sounded exceedingly good in it's stock form. I will admit though, for the price it's listed for, I was expecting a fully aluminum keyboard, not that this one isn't nice, it truly is, I just think it could be priced more competitively seeing as more and more prebuilts are coming truly ready to go out of the box.
Though the stabilizers are plate mounted and slightly loose, they performed quite well, in my opinion. The channel for the USB cable and the USB-C port sit pretty deep down the underside of the case and when plugged in, blocks the pocket for the 2.4G dongle, which is a Nordic Semiconductor. Configuration for this keyboard is available for both Mac and Windows operating systems.
What surely makes this keyboard stands out from the rest of the pack though are the hot swap knobs. For over a year now knobs have been all of the rage on mechanical keyboards and Skyloong decided to turn the volume up to eleven! This keyboard has six sockets that will accept either a 5 pin switch or a 4 pin POGO knob. These sockets are above the number pad (4), the Escape key, and the Del/F13. Now this one did come preloaded with four knobs which all matched, but there was two more in the box which had a different style. There was no note, but perhaps they sent me both styles of knob to review. 🤷
While the GK75 did have the ability to hot swap the knob and switches, this one requires a little more effort. In order to go from switch to knob or vice versa, first the case has to be disassembled starting with removing any knob attached. At this point I should clarify that the knob is actually made up of three pieces; the knob, which one turns, the knob mechanism that has the pins for the PCB, and the knob collar that holds everything together. Removing the knobs is not the easiest of tasks as they are quite well attached to the assembly and it took some budging and force with a wire keycap remover to take them all off. Once done, flipping over the keyboard and folding out the feet reveals two phillips head screws, which once removed allows the top frame to come right off. Then the collar either has to be screwed in with two tiny soft screws or removed, very carefully as to not strip the screw. I think I'm going to leave it at three knobs total, programmed for volume, scroll, and zoom, but will decide for certain when I come back to mod this keyboard.
Being that this is an aluminum keyboard, at least the top half, I was expecting the gasket mount to be more rigid but was happily surprised at how much flex it has, which I believe helps in the sound and feel of this keyboard stock. The Rose Glacier switch gave me a very Holy Panda "vibe" with a forceful yet rounded bump and a satisfying bottom out, which in my opinion, also attributes a good deal to the satisfying stock experience.
Typing on this keyboard is actually quite pleasant, the wireless functionality is a plus, though the 4000 mAh battery is not tiny, I feel like they could have gone bigger, especially when the latest IK75 comes with a 10,000 mAh. The LEDs are North facing and decently bright, the PC plate helps diffuse the lights so that they peek through from between the keys satisfying the RGB lover in me.
From the exploded view of this keyboard on Skyloong's website, the dampening layer between the plate and PCB, the o-ring gasket, also- serves as a "foam" mod, as the material extends to each corner of the switch sockets, and but its name would imply that it's a part of what provides that flex that's quite noticeable.
Overall, I like this keyboard; it doesn't just rely on it's highlight feature and delivers in practically every department. The primary complaint I would have is that in my opinion, the price tag is too high. Perhaps a year and a half a go, this price tag would have been more than fair for this unit of a keyboard, but sans the knobs, there are many comparable 1800 keyboards with significantly lower price tags. my only other complaint, though minor, I feel it still speaks as to the direction many of in the hobby would like to see software go, is the lack of even a choice of a QMK/VIA firmware. Skyloong has been making popular keyboards for some time now. As a leader in the keyboard manufacturing market, they should be leading the charge to open source software, newer companies like Monsgeek is doing, as are others; I think it's in Skyloong's interest to get in front of the curve and set the trend of offering alternative open source firmwares.
But what do I know?
Here is my review video, I am trying to come up with a new format for reviews and appreciate any and all feedback.
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