Keyboard update

Aug 7, 2022

I previously wrote that I was using the Cooler Master SK622 keyboard. When I bought it, I choose it for a few key reasons:

These criteria were non-negotiable for me. Surprisingly, they basically knocked every other keyboard out of contention (at least, I couldn't find any other keyboard that hit on all four). So with the Cooler Master keyboard I went.

Well, then, what's the update?

I've switched keyboards.

The short explanation is that, after two years, the Cooler Master keyboard doesn't work any more. It's pretty disappointing. I started noticing problems over six months ago, beginning with the { key. I'd hit it, but nothing would happen. Well, that's not entirely true. Sometimes a few seconds later, five {s in a row would show up. It was frustrating, but bearable, until the same problem started happening with the ( and m keys soon afterward. At first, I thought it was because the keyboard was dusty (I did carry it around mercilessly in my bag, after all) — so I took all the keycaps off and cleaned the keyboard thoroughly. It made no difference.

As more keys developed this behaviour, I discovered that other people with the same keyboard were having the same problem, and often with the same keys! By then, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would have to replace the board. Happily, strong denial let me put it off for another month.

I finally caved last week. By then, I was having problems with the m, c, 7, (, {, and backspace keys. Backspacing in particular was a constant frustrating minefield, with an innocuous typo sometimes slowing me down for minutes on end. On the bright side, now that over two years have passed since I did my first keyboard search, I found a new board that fit my must-haves: the Keychron K7. It arrived this weekend, and I am happily typing this blog post with it.

SK622 Mini-review

Now that the SK622 has been retired, I thought I would conclude my time with it properly by writing a quick review. Of course, the main takeaway has already been said: there seems to be consistent manufacturing quality problems with a lot of the keys! No one should buy this keyboard! But this minor problem aside, what did I think of it?

Let's start with the pros. The typing experience was very pleasant, with a satisfying amount of resistance. It was a perfect portable keyboard: it always connected quickly to my various Bluetooth devices, was low-profile, and had a cute compact layout. All functionalities are listed tersely on the keys themselves, so I never had to look at the manual. And though I got very little out of this feature, I imagine the extensively customisable RGB would be important for some.

The board had two major issues in addition to its obvious main drawback. The first was proper compatibility with the iPad. While you could pair it to an iPad and type with it, the iPad wouldn't recognise it as a hardware keyboard. Because of this oversight, the on-screen iPad keyboard would stay visible at all times, taking up half the screen. All hardware keyboard settings were also unavailable, including remapping the modifier keys. Practically speaking, that meant I couldn't use the command key at all, like for copying and pasting with the keyboard. Not being able to do any keyboard shortcuts was a huge impediment. The second issue was the placement of the right shift key. After two years of use, I still hadn't gotten used to how small it was, routinely hitting the up arrow by accident instead. I even managed to commit many other patterns to muscle memory, like the location of the media keys, but never this one.

K7 first impressions

Finally, let's christen the new keyboard with its own little write up! I haven't used it for very long, so I will keep it brief.

I am so happy that the iPad actually sees this keyboard as an external hardware keyboard. I can copy and paste at last! Another major advantage of the K7 I got is that it is hotswappable, so I can easily replace the switches if they start to fail. Finally, the keyboard is even lower profile than the SK622, though it is one key wider. Because it still fits in my bag, I am don't mind the additional width, especially since it means the right shift key is a normal size. The extra column of keys also allow for a dedicated pgup, pgdown, and home key, but I don't think I will get much use out of them.

Not everything is better about this keyboard. The typing experience is subjectively worse, if quieter. Some switches squeak like a hinge that needs to be reoiled (probably because... they need to be reoiled), rather than the pleasant thunk of the SK622. I also find the keycaps less pleasant in a way I can't fully explain. I think it is because they are wider than the keycaps from the SK622, resulting in less space between the keys, so it's harder for my fingertips to tell apart one key from the next. I'm also not used to the placement of the del key and the extra column of keys in general, but optimistic that a few more days of training muscle memory should solve this problem.

Overall, I'm so relieved to just have a keyboard that works like a keyboard again: it reliably inputs keys once, immediately after they are struck, and I can copy and paste. Imagine!

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