Since starting to work from a local co-working space once a week, I had been considering getting a smaller keyboard. My WASD v3 is still serving me very well at home, but it's a full size keyboard and I'm either walking or riding to the co-working space (unlike when I used to go to the office by car). The TKL, or "tenkeyless" (no number pad), form factor had been something I considered previously, but I avoided it as I use the number pad a lot. As this smaller keyboard would primarily be used while travelling I suspected I could cope with that.
So, with that in mind I started to research and landed on the Keychron K8 as a keyboard that had the two features I wanted: shorter board (TKL) plus wired and Bluetooth connectivity. Then I saw there was a Pro version that ran the popular QMK keyboard firmware that made the board programmable. I use a number of macros on my WASD v3, so the K8 Pro seemed the logical choice.
I'm writing this review on my K8 Pro and will take you through my experience so far.
Usual disclaimer: This keyboard was purchased by me, with my own funds. Beyond providing me with their service, neither Keychron nor KeyboardCo have influenced this review in any way (they didn't know I'd be writing it). When I review a product, my intention is to always write an honest review.
Cost & purchase
I switched to mechanical keyboards a while ago, and wrote about my reasons in a 2019 blog post. Mechanical keyboards are generally more expensive, but I much prefer the typing experience and, considering a keyboard is a tool of my trade, I can justify the cost. In this case, I paid £99 for the Keychron K8 Pro already assembled.
I bought my K8 Pro from The Keyboard Company, which was nice given I mentioned them in my initial research post back in 2019 and they had been very supportive during my original research.
What's in the box?
The box is very sturdy and has foam padding to protect the keyboard in transit. A holographic cover design is on the outside, which looks nice enough. Inside you'll find:
- Quick start guide
- Product manual
- Warning card about hot-swapping switches
- Windows keycaps
- Small screwdriver
- Braided USB-A to USB-C cable (right angled USB-C end)
- Keycap puller
- Switch puller
and of course:
- Keychron K8 Pro
The Keyboard Company also included two coasters - every typist needs a beverage!
I went with a tactile "brown" switch again, although I did consider having my secondary keyboard as a linear "red". In the end I decided I wanted consistency across my two keyboards. My Keychron K8 Pro is using Gateron brown, hot swappable, switches. This means that I can literally pull a switch off the board while it's in use and swap another one in - either because the switch has failed, or because I want a different feel under that key.
The keyboard weights 1.096 KG, and for its size (35.5 cm wide, 12.5 cm deep, 4 cm tall with key caps) feels substantial. Some of this weight will, of course, be down to the battery.
As part of the build, the switches were lubricated, and there's a sound dampening foam pad under the switch layer. Fortunately I didn't have to do the assembly, as I suspect I'd lose a spring or something!
Colour scheme wise these keys are predominantly a mid grey and blue grey, with the exception of the escape key which I've left red - I had two options. The corners are rounded, meaning the keys feel smaller than I'm used to. They also have a sort of velvetty feel, as can be applied to some plastics, and I'm getting used to that. I found the keys a bit more fiddly to install than on my WASD keyboard, but not too difficult.
Light from the keyboard does shine through the white legends, and does so at the right level not to be too bright.
QWERTY vs Dvorak
My K8 Pro is a QWERTY layout, which isn't my primary layout any more (I moved to Dvorak). I'm still able to switch between the layouts without problems, so I'll be keeping this board QWERTY for now. This does mean that any macros / additional shortcuts won't be in their "normal" places though - typically I write my name using
Fn + J, which on my Dvorak WASD v3 puts the
J key where
C would be normally. I'll need to remember that.
As I mentioned, this keyboard can either be connected via cable or by using Bluetooth. Pairing via Bluetooth was quick to do and I've not had any drop outs after a week of wireless connectivity.
Yes, you read that correctly - there was some assembly required unless you want to use the Apple Mac layout. The K8 Pro comes set up in "Mac mode" by default, so has the command and options keys fitted along with keys in their MacOS positions. Using the included keycap puller I quickly changed over the keys for their Windows counterparts - the image shown above.
I'd seen in reviews that this was a tall keyboard, at aroung 4 cm. After setting up the board and typing a few paragraphs I can confirm you'll definitely want to use a wrist rest with the K8 Pro if you want to avoid wrist strain. This isn't a huge concern for me, and after putting my wrist rest by the board things feel much better.
For each platform (Windows or MacOS) the K8 Pro has two layers, I'll refer to them as the primary and secondary. The primary layer gives you the letters, numbers, punctuation and functions that you see on the keycaps - it's where you spend most of your time. To reach the secondary layer you press the
Fn key down. Clearly you can't type much like this, so I'd say the secondary layer was more for mapping macros and advanced functionality. That's how I'll be using it until I learn of a better use.
Lighting & effects
The keyboard is backlit and has around thirteen different lighting effects. I say about, because some are similar and I may have miscounted. I'm not a massive fan of whizzy or distracting lighting effects, so can't see myself using most of these - so either "always on" or possibly "feedback mode" (seems to be setting number nine if you start at "always on") which results in the key you press lighting up briefly on using it. There are 21 light brightness levels, plus "off".
Experience after a week
After using the K8 Pro almost exclusively for a week I'm happy with my purchase. I'm definitely still getting used to it - it's not unusual for a typist to have to adjust to a new board - but I've been typing fine.
On a few occassions I have instinctively reached to the non-existant number pad on the right, usually to press
+ though as I've generally remembered that there's no numbers there!
I do like the dedicated screenshot button, which works in Windows and ChromeOS - I've not tested with MacOS yet.
I'll publish a part two in due course, to cover programming the board and comparing it to my WASD v3.
Banner image: The keyboard, although note the letters are bluer than I was able to catch.