If you’re a keen observer of the PC peripherals market, you know a good gaming keyboard when you see one, just as you can spot a poseur. You know how would-be gamers sound in experienced company? “Look at me! I’m a gamer! You should see me game…with all the games I have…on my gaming system.” Same thing with gaming peripherals. You can spot a wanna-be a mile off.
A gaming keyboard should enhance the player’s gaming experience beyond what a standard keyboard can provide. Whether that’s accomplished via programmable key backlighting or recorded macros in the keyboard’s supplemental software, gaming keyboards provide an extra something to turn the tides of battle in your favor. To gain cred among true enthusiasts, one does not simply drop the word “gaming” for the sake of self-inflation.
Enter the Aukey KM-G10, a budget-friendly mechanical keyboard that Aukey bills, at least on its Amazon sales page, as a “104-Key Typewriter-Style Keyboard for Typing and Gaming.” We can’t help but wonder if Aukey took its inspiration from the $249 Qwerkywriter, a crowdfunded creation that resembles an early-20th-century typewriter, then said, “I bet we could do something like that for way less…and try to sell it to everyone, even gamers!”
Now, in fairness, looked at through the lens of anything but gaming, the Aukey has plenty of novelty appeal for its design alone. And taken on its own, the KM-G10 is a fair keyboard. The list price is $79.99, but we saw it as low as $39.99 or $49.99, at various times, on Amazon.com while we wrote this review. That’s undeniably cheap for a mechanical-switch keyboard. Typists will like it, maybe even embrace it, with nostalgia and admiration.
But gamers? Well, that is a bit more complicated. Read on.
The KM-G10’s circular keycaps resemble those of an old-school typewriter. While the retro keys may bring back memories of clacky typing classes and copious applications of Wite-Out, transitioning from square to round keys may prove awkward. Due to the unfamiliar keycap size and shape, for the first few days we found ourselves constantly whacking the wrong keys. Fortunately, this transitional phase passes as your brain and fingers adapt.
The old-school-typewriter aesthetic leaves the mechanical switches fully visible, revealing the Outemu Blue switches underneath, around the edges of the keys…
The keyboard itself is matte black and has a metal frame, while the rest of the keyboard is plastic. We’ll pause on this point only because of its curiosity. Aukey’s Amazon product page described the frame as “aluminum” when we started our review, and dialogue with the company led to the term being changed. PR described it to us as “ferruginous,” a term only an English major or metallurgical engineer could love. It means “containing iron or iron-oxides” (of which rust is one of 16 possible types). The marketing specialist added that “[the frame] is processed by anti-rust painting treatment.” Aukey maintains that iron makes the frame more scratch-resistant and durable.
The company also refers to its design as “frameless,” which is keyboard-speak for the exposed-skeleton aesthetic, having no surrounding structure around the key layout. (Corsair, among others, offers some models in a similar vein.) When it comes to display screens, of course, “frameless” is a good thing. Less bulk is better than more, especially if the ferruginous aspect doesn’t sacrifice anything in build quality. (True enough, the keyboard is quite sturdy and exhibits very little flex when you lift it and twist.) And the round keycaps nearly reach beyond the keyboard’s edge, which is a cool effect.
However, this minimized-body design also means that the KM-G10 has zero wrist support, which is a curious omission for a product aimed equally at heavy-duty typists. Perhaps Aukey assumes that its target users (including us) will bring their own gel or foam wrist rests to the party. (We certainly had to.)
In the ergonomic plus column, for tilt you do get a set of flip-up/flip-down feet on the underside…
Aukey places its non-braided USB cable in the center of the front edge, and an “AUKEY” logo sits between the arrow keys and Del/End/PgDn…
Above the numeric keypad, blue LEDs indicate status for Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Scroll Lock. While the KM-G10 has a Windows lock function, no light shows the status of this…
Other than the case, the keyboard is wall-to-wall plastic. The keycaps’ shape leaves much of the baseplate of the keyboard visible, a convenient design choice, as it simplifies the removal of crumbs and dirt when you tilt your keyboard and shake it a little, or run a brush between the keys.
Unlike many gaming keyboards, Aukey omits any backlighting from the KM-G10. Nor do we find any of the increasingly popular “wave” shaping to the sloping key array, or much contouring on the keycaps themselves. They are basically little candy-size discs…
A bit more keytop shaping would have been an ergonomic feature that would have benefited typists. As it is, the KM-G10 feels a bit flat if you’re used to concave keys.
As mentioned earlier, the KM-G10 uses something called “Outemu Blue” switches; the earlier link about these leads to a spec page in Chinese, about all we could find that looked authoritative on these switches. In recent years, a host of companies (among them the popular Kailh), as well as various mainstream keyboard makers, have started manufacturing their own mechanical key switches to compete with Cherry’s gold-standard (but pricey) Cherry MX ones.
The Outemu switches here feel very much like the iconic, clackety Cherry MX Blue switches, except that the Outemus are slightly louder. The round, typewriter-esque keycaps felt strange at first, and even after getting used to them, we still preferred traditional rectangular keys for the extra striking surface area. The circular keys felt less precise, and we frequently hit the wrong key due to muscle memory thinking we were typing on squares, with more room for error.
The KM-G10 lacks dedicated media keys. Instead, users must press the Fn key in combination with F1 through F8, which have legends for the various common media-control functions…
To help accommodate the square-to-circle transition, you can hold Fn and press the Windows key to activate Windows lock, which prevents the Windows key from being used. This saved us headaches, as we repeatedly closed game windows when pressing the wrong keys due to the unfamiliar key shape. This is particularly strange, because the keys measure the usual 1.5 centimeters across. We say “usual” because we measured keys from other in-house desktop keyboards and found a 1.5cm key width across the board, with the exception of special keys, such as Shift or Enter. It’s just the shape that was problematic.
Beyond that, Aukey factored in a key command that we found somewhat pointless, if harmless. If you hold down Fn and press the W key, the WASD cluster and the four arrow keys’ functions will be switched. Try as we might, we couldn’t think of a scenario in which this would be useful. We did consider the perspective of those with left-handed mice who might want their WASD keys on the keyboard’s right side, but this command would only serve to complicate things. If you used this command in an FPS game or a MOBA title, all other actions would still be bound to keys such as E or the left-Shift, far away from the arrows. You’d have to go into the game settings and change these key bindings to be reachable from the arrows. And, if you’re doing that, why not change WASD to arrows from the game settings? We suppose it could be useful if the game didn’t allow for custom key bindings from within the game settings (or the game somehow excluded the arrow keys from your binding options). But that’s not a problem we’ve run across these days, and we’re actually arrow-key loyalists.
As mentioned earlier, the Outemu Blue switches provide the same satisfyingly clicky response as Cherry MX Blues or Razer’s Greens. (The latter have the same pressure and sound specs as Cherry MX Blues.) Aukey even mentions in its product description that the tops of the keys can be switched out with keycaps made for Cherry MX switches, and Aukey includes a convenient cap puller to do that. You can see the familiar Cherry-style key stems here…
While this is an interesting concept, it’s impractical from a value perspective. For the price of this keyboard and a set of keycaps, you likely would be better off buying a keyboard such as, say, one of Razer’s older BlackWidow Ultimate models, which at this writing cost (from some resellers) only an extra $10 or $20. And it would pack way more gaming-specific features than what’s offered on the KM-G10.
Let’s digress briefly and discuss the differences between switch colors. The Cherry MX Black is often good for gaming due to being non-tactile (no clicking) and having the highest actuation force of the Cherry lineup (60g). Twitch-minded gamers might opt for the MX Red, which is essentially the MX Black, but with a much lighter touch to activate. MX Blues (50g) tend to be most popular for typing because of their precision and tactile feel. Admittedly, 10g of pressure difference may not sound like much, but when you’re gaming or typing for hours on end, it can mean the difference between annoyance/aching and a smooth, enjoyable experience. You want the right switches to match your preferences for your application. Lumping typing and gaming together can be a recipe for user frustration, so you’ll want to try out several of these switch types before committing. That said, the price of this keyboard is a lightweight commitment.
The KM-G10 lacks dedicated configuration software, a macro recorder, or any other distinguishable gaming feature except for N-key rollover, a feature that prevents the keyboard from not registering keystrokes when multiple keys are being pressed at the same time. When we asked Aukey to elucidate on the gaming features it provided in the KM-G10, we received no reply.
So, we’d chalk this keyboard up as suited only for casual gamers happy with what they can customize within a game’s own menus. Despite the lack of gaming features, the KM-G10 remains a satisfactory pick for typing, if you’re willing to put in the time to train your fingertips in precision-striking the round keytops. And, in combination with a wrist rest, it has the potential to be a fine office keyboard that’s also a conversation starter. Its key combinations for media functions can open Internet tabs, e-mail tabs, and your calculator, as well as pause and play audio/video.
While Aukey’s KM-G10 won’t deliver most of the features expected in a gaming keyboard, it still provides a pleasant typing experience. If you need a good work keyboard, the KM-G10 might be a proper fit, especially given that its $40 or $50 price tag beats out models with true MX Blue switches, which tend to start around $70 or $80 for full-width models. The Outemu Blue switches met our performance expectations, and the keys are compatible with other keycaps.
If you want a great gaming experience in a mechanical keyboard, though, you’re better off buying one that’s geared for gaming, from a gaming-centric maker that can also leverage its own developed software. That means looking at models from Logitech, Razer, Corsair, or a host of smaller makers. In a casual browse around the shop-o-sphere online, a keyboard like Razer’s older (2014-era) BlackWidow Ultimate was available for about $65 and featured Razer’s own mechanical switches. Or, if you’re looking mechanical and trying to keep costs down, a truncated tenkeyless model (that is, a model without a number pad) that’s just a little more money might fetch you significantly more in the way of gaming features. Check out our roundup of the Best Tenkeyless Keyboards for more options in that vein.
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