Hands-On, Keyboard

Iqunix F96 KAT Hands-On – Nice Keycaps, So-So Keyboard

Pre-built keyboards, while lacking the customisation and refined typing experience of a custom keyboard, can still be a good buy for certain folks. The Iqunix F96 KAT is one such pre-built…to an extent.

What makes the F96 KAT particularly interesting is the KAT keycap set that comes with the keyboard. This keycap profile is typically only available in the aftermarket scene; rarely is it offered on a pre-built keyboard like this.

But beyond the KAT keycap set, the F96 KAT falls short in other areas. Can it still be a good buy? Of course, but for the same amount of money, other options – such as the Keychron Q1 – may serve you better.

So how much does the F96 KAT costs? For the Malaysian market, this pre-built keyboard is brought in by Keybot, which is listing it for exactly RM679.20 now. Yes, that’s quite a steep price tag, but the KAT keycap set and aluminium chassis of this full-size keyboard are not exactly cheap.

Since the KAT keycap of the F96 KAT is one of its best qualities, let’s talk about that first. Compared to, say, GMK keycaps, KAT has a taller profile. It is also slightly sculpted, so it doesn’t feel as “flat” to type on. This, in turn, makes for quite a comfortable typing experience.

The sound profile of the KAT keycap is also quite pleasant. Thanks to its thick nature, PBT plastic material, and reasonably tall profile, KAT keycaps are known to produce a deep, thocky sound signature. While this quality isn’t particularly obvious on the F96 KAT – more on this later – you can still hear a semblance of it.

Oh, the texture of the KAT keycap is worth a mention too. Despite the fact that it is made from PBT plastic, which usually feels rough, that’s not the case at all with this keycap. In fact, it feels relatively smooth, almost as smooth as a well-worn GMK keycap made from ABS plastic – almost.

Okay, now let’s talk about the F96 KAT itself, starting with its sound profile. The particular unit I tried was fitted with Gateron Red switches, and…well, even with the KAT keycaps, the keyboard still sounds quite hollow with a clacky sound signature.

Granted, it’s not the worst-sounding pre-built keyboard I’ve tried, but it doesn’t exactly sound pleasant either. Then again, a pre-built keyboard rarely sounds great, so it’s not like the F96 KAT is an outlier here.

On the bright side, the F96 KAT does have good build quality. The aluminium chassis gives it a nice amount of heft, and it feels solid. I also love the fact that the screws are positioned on the sides of the keyboard, so there’s no exposed screw holes on the bottom case.

And then there’s the “compact” nature of the F96 KAT. Even though it has a full-size layout, the keys are all compressed together instead of a more traditional exploded layout. Personally, I find this quite jarring and too easy to mistakenly hit the wrong key, but if you want a compact full-size keyboard, I reckon you’ll appreciate this layout.

What I do appreciate is the wireless nature of the F96 KAT. It can be connected to three different devices via Bluetooth, and if your PC doesn’t have Bluetooth support, no worries – Iqunix bundled a Bluetooth dongle for such a scenario. It’s quite a neat touch, in my opinion.

Okay, how is it like to type on the F96 KAT? It’s…decent. It offers a stiff typing experience, so if that’s what you want, great. What’s not great are the keyboard’s costar stabilisers. Not only is it tricky to swap keycaps with this type of stabiliser, it’s even trickier to tune well.

Out of the box, the stabilisers seem to be lubed with some form of grease (likely dielectric grease), which works well enough to minimise rattling and ticking on the backspace and enter keys. But that’s not the case with the spacebar: it’s so rattly and noisy, it almost feels like the spacebar is installed with a clicky switch – it’s not.

Yes, it’s possible to make the stabiliser sound and feel better, but it’s not an easy task due to the design of the costar stabiliser. Plus, if you’re willing to put in the effort to tune this keyboard, you’re better off doing the same with a proper custom keyboard instead.

In my opinion, the Iqunix F96 KAT is not meant for keyboard enthusiasts. Rather, it’s made for folks that want a full-size keyboard with wireless support and an aluminium chassis that works right out of the box. As an added bonus, it also comes with a nice KAT keycap set.

If that’s exactly what you want, then the F96 KAT is a good buy. But if you’re thinking of getting it in hopes of tuning it to offer an even better typing experience (you certainly can), consider spending the same amount of money on a custom keyboard instead – your effort is better spent that way.

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