Hands-On, Keyboard

Keychron K8 Pro Hands-On: Not Your Typical Pre-Built Keyboard

Pre-built keyboards, while readily available, don’t offer the best typing experience money can buy. Granted, most of them are also quite a bit more affordable than custom keyboards – and some nice creature comforts like wireless support – but you’re still losing out on customisability and overall refinement.

That’s where the Keychron K8 Pro come in. Not only is it budget-friendly, this pre-built wireless TKL keyboard also offers many features typically found on custom keyboards, including a hotswap PCB, screw-in stabilisers, as well as support for QMK and VIA for easy key mapping. The best part? You won’t have to wait long to get it either.

The Keychron K8 Pro is currently available for backing on Kickstarter until 15 April next week. Shipping will begin next month in May 2022, which is really quite fast. Granted, it’s still not as readily available as an off-the-shelf keyboard, but you are getting some neat features with this pre-built.

So how much does the K8 Pro cost? Well, it starts at only $74, which comes up to about RM310. That’s for the barebone version, which doesn’t come with switches or keycaps. If you want the fully assembled version, it will set you back $84 (approximately RM355), though you’ll only get white backlit lighting.

If you want RGB lighting, you’ll have to add on $10 (around RM40). There is also a more premium version of the keyboard with an aluminium frame for $104 (about RM440); this is the version you see in this hands-on.

As mentioned, the K8 Pro is a wireless TKL keyboard. With Bluetooth 5.1, it can be paired with up to three different devices. The key mapping of the keyboard can also be changed through QMK and VIA, though it’s worth noting that VIA doesn’t automatically detect the K8 Pro yet in my testing. It makes sense, given that the keyboard will only start shipping next month.

Anyway, the K8 Pro also has a hotswap PCB, so it’s very easy to swap out switches without desoldering. It also has south-facing LEDs, so you won’t have to worry about compatibility issues with keycaps of various profiles and switches with shorter stem poles.

Okay, so how is it like to type on the K8 Pro? Well, surprisingly nice! I installed the Gazzew Boba U4T Thocky switch on this keyboard, and paired with the Akko Black & Pink ASA keycaps, the K8 Pro can produce quite a deep, “thocky” sound profile. There’s also no pinging of any kind, thanks to the bottom plastic case with a silicone sheet.

However, the K8 Pro is a stiff keyboard. Its combination of a steel plate and a tray-mount system offers no flex at all, so you get a hard, “harsh” feeling whenever you bottom out. This is in stark contrast to, say, the gasket-mounted Keychron Q1, which offers a ton of flex for a soft, comfortable typing feel.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a matter of preference, though I personally prefer a softer typing experience.

Typing feel aside, I’m quite impressed with the stock stabilisers of the K8 Pro. The screw-in nature of these stabilisers make for a tight, secure fit, so the stabilised keys don’t feel…well, loose. This tightness also minimises rattling and ticking on the stabilisers, which is further improved by the factory lube on the wires.

However, while the lube does a decent job of silencing the stabilisers, there are still some ticking and rattling, especially on the enter and left shift keys. But overall, these are pretty darn good stabilisers out of the box, especially for a pre-built keyboard.

With some added lube, I reckon these stabilisers will perform very well. Of course, there’s also the option to just swap them out for a different set of stabilisers if you so desire.

All in all, the Keychron K8 Pro is really quite a good pre-built keyboard. It’s relatively affordable, it has a hotswap PCB, the screw-in stabilisers are more than adequate without tuning, and most of all, you don’t have to wait for months on end to get the keyboard in your hands.

Long waiting time has always been one of the most frustrating aspects of the custom keyboard hobby, so in this regard, the K8 Pro certainly has the edge. Plus, despite its pre-built nature, you’re still getting some convenient features such as wireless support and easy key mapping via QMK or VIA.

If you’re keen to get the K8 Pro, you can back it on Kickstarter now; do note that you’ve only got until 15 April to back the project. We’re currently working on our full video review of the K8 Pro, so stay tuned for that!

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