Most users don’t think about the type of keyboard they use on a day-to-day basis. In fact, many laptop users don’t get a choice of default keyboard. The Epomaker AK84S Mechanical Keyboard by Skyloong looks to change this, with a sturdy and sleek mechanical keyboard suitable for all Windows machines and Apple devices. Follow along with this review and see how it performs.
The Difference Between a Mechanical and Optical Keyboard
Before we get into the keyboard itself, it’s a good idea to discuss the difference between a mechanical keyboard and its optical variant.
Starting with the latter, this is the most common type of keyboard switch type, as it’s cheap to produce and requires less moving parts. It works through light, with each key emitting a small light not visible to the user under the keyboard itself. When you press a key, it obstructs the light, sending a signal to the computer.
In contrast, mechanical keyboards have many more moving parts and are often heavier as a result. These switches use electrical currents to determine which keys are active. The result is often a smoother experience. You may want to switch to a mechanical keyboard for longevity, flexibility, and feel.
Introducing the Epomaker AK84S Mechanical Keyboard
The Epomaker AK84S Mechanical Keyboard has an 84-key design with over 75 percent coverage. It’s optimized for macOS, although you can set the keyboard up with any operating system (OS).
You can choose from a number of different switch types, with Gateron Mechanical switches as the default. The model I tested uses the proprietary Chocolate switches, which promise a greater lifespan and better ergonomics.
The Epomaker AK84S offers wireless connection through Bluetooth, although the box does include a USB-C cable. Skyloong claims you’ll get around 50 hours use from the 4,000 mAh battery and a whopping 880 hours without the backlighting.
Speaking of which, you’re able to use a full gamut of nearly 17 million colors for the backlights, which gives you a large scope to customize your experience.
Assessing the Build Quality of the Epomaker AK84S
Upon opening the box, the AK84S felt chunky and heavy. This is to be expected, given that it’s a mechanical keyboard, and I appreciate that it felt solid. Other generic keyboards often feel flimsy and can go missing at times under the fingers (depending on the brand).
The USB-C cable is woven of nylon and gold connections.
There are also a couple of boxes containing a “key puller” to remove switches and a whole set of extra Chocolate and Gateron switches.
I liked the build quality, and it met my standards.
Using the Epomaker AK84S
Upacking the Epomaker AK84S was straightforward, and so was setting it up. On macOS, I opened “System Preferences -> Keyboard screen” and set the keyboard up as a Bluetooth device. It’s a simple process of turning the keyboard on from the underside, then using the function keys to toggle Bluetooth.
The documentation includes a raft of shortcuts you’ll want to digest in order to get the keyboard set up to your requirements.
In its most basic setup, the keys feel pleasant to the touch, and it didn’t take long to get a feel for the layout.
There’s always a learning period, especially if you are a user of specific layouts and brands. Though, we’d suggest that the home key markers won’t feel pronounced enough for touch typists – I got lost a couple of times, and it’s hard to feel each marker when running your finger over each one.
I’d also prefer a more conventional layout for macOS machines. There were many times I looked to press the Function key but hit the Control key instead. On the flip side, I do like the shortcuts and the separate Function key bar. The keys all map to the right functions, so there are no complaints there.
Pricing: How the Epomaker AK84S Stacks Up
Because you can customize the keyboard in a number of ways, you’ll piece together a final price from the elements you select. In most cases, the price is determined by the keyboard material:
- An aluminum frame with plastic keycaps is around $109.
- The full aluminum frame is $199.
- A translucent acrylic model is also available for $199.
You can choose Gateron or Chocolate keys, a choice of key cap color, and more without extra cost. If you want silicon keycaps instead, this is an extra $65. Note that there are other add-ons as well, such as a USB-C cable and felt bag for the keyboard, and these range from $25 to $45.
The Epomaker AK84S Mechanical Keyboard is not presented at a throwaway price, so it will end up being a considerable purchase. This is a good thing, as you can make sure you piece together the right components and features for your workflow.
The keyboard feels good under the fingers, has many applications in darker rooms because of the lighting customization, and offers a range of extra shortcuts not found on a regular Mac keyboard.
If you are looking for a keyboard that can outperform your current default model and have a need for the extra functionality on offer, consider the Epomaker AK82S a top-tier option.