This is a review of the AUKEY 'Blue Switch' mechanical keyboard, available for a little over $50 on Amazon.
For years, I've used the various versions of Apple's USB and Bluetooth keyboards, mostly because they lasted forever (I still have a couple spares that have most of the home row letters worn off), and they're pretty comfortable for my typing style. Also, they're pretty quiet. And the switches are robust. And the body is sturdy aluminum so there's no flexing while typing (a lot of plasticky keyboards have that problem).
Every now and then I try another style of keyboard, e.g. a Logitech keyboard or a Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard... but I always go back to my Apple keyboard. Partly because it's more familiar, but also because I feel like I can type slightly faster and with more accuracy on it. It also helps that it feels almost identical to my MacBook Pros' internal keyboard—though it's funny Apple hasn't made an external keyboard with the much-derided (but IMO not bad at all) 'butterfly' switches from the latest laptop models.
A representative from AUKEY reached out to me and asked if I might be interested in trying out one of the modern 'gaming-style' keyboards with programmable RGB LED backlit keys, 'cherry' switches (though the blue switches, not the more trendy 'red' ones), and a solid aluminum body.
But then the representative told me I really should try it, because I could fall in love with it. And it seems that most people I know who use this style of 'clickety-clack' keyboards seem to love them, too. So I thought, what have I got to lose?
So here I am, typing this blog post on the AUKEY keyboard after a week or so of using it as my primary keyboard. What do I think? Well, read on:
Below is a short video review from my YouTube channel with some quick thoughts on how it works, along with some close-ups showing the lighting modes, loudness, and key travel:
Hardware Build Quality
As far as keyboards go, this one feels like it will stand up pretty well to a few years of use. The keys are solid (no real wobble like you can find in many cheaper keyboards), every switch felt the same, and the core of the keyboard is solid aluminum. When you pick it up, there's no flex, and it comes in a tidy box which contains everything nicely, if you want to transport it in the original box.
I really like having a dedicated numpad and full-size arrow keys (this is something I've decided to sacrifice on my desktop keyboards so my muscle memory is transferrable between my laptop keyboard and desktop keyboard), and everything feels pretty nice. The lettering is not painted on, so it's not going to wear off any time soon. The RGB LEDs light each key individually, and they seemed to work great in all my testing.
One thing about the hardware that did annoy me was that the cable is hard-wired to the back. It doesn't have to be detachable, but it seems like a nice single point of failure since I often push my keyboard back on my desk a bit to make some room, and that means the cord will squish there where the < 1" of strain relief is present. A detachable cord is a mixed bag too (at least for wired keyboards), but my favorite is when the cord comes out from underneath, and bonus points if you can route it to the left, right, or middle of the back of the keyboard!
That said, the cord is plenty long for any situation I am in, and it's thick and feels like a decent stranded USB cord which would hold up to a fair bit of transport.
Feel (for general typing)
For general typing, there is a lot of key travel, and it requires a tiny bit more force overall per key stroke than a standard 'chicklet' style keyboard (or considerably more than the butterfly switches on my Apple laptop). Sometimes this is nice—it feels great to have a solid CLACK every time you hit a key... but overall it's loud, and my hands were more tired by the end of the day using this keyboard than when I used my Apple Magic keyboard.
Wow. CLACK CLACK. What was I even thinking before I started typing? Honestly you get a little numb to the sound after a bit, but any time you're on a conference call and you're not on mute, you can't even hit the spacebar without someone noticing. And if you want to type some snarky chat messages during a meeting and forget to stay on mute... everyone will know it was you!
I didn't borrow my Dad's decibel meter, so I'm not sure the exact difference, but it is pretty amazing how loud an intense typing session can be!
Feel (for gaming)
This is one area where I see a distinct advantage for a gaming-centric keyboard like this over a standard chicklet keyboard. Just like it's important to have big, easy-to-find-and-press buttons on industrial equipment, you need big, easy-to-find-and-press buttons when trying to get that last kill in a Battle Royale. Positive feedback—even auditory feedback—is helpful in training your fingers.
I haven't done much PC gaming for years (I have mostly played on an Xbox, or PC games with an Xbox controller), but last time I did so, I used the Apple Extended Keyboard II, with an ADB-to-USB adapter, and loved it. Maybe partially for the nostalgia (I learned how to play computer games like Glypha, Aladdin, and Dark Castle with a similar model). This keyboard has a similar feel, though the keys have a larger surface area (a good thing, IMO), and they have a lot more distinct 'clack' when you depress them.
Plus, there's that...
That Gaming look
Imagine going to a LAN party where everyone else has a dazzling array of juicy colors emanating from their keys as they gain XP. And you don't. I guess that's the main purpose for all these keyboards to have LEDs? It is nice to at least have dimmable solid color LEDs so you can see the keys backlit in certain scenarios. But I don't quite see the point of having hundreds of options for a dozen color modes, a full rainbow of colors, etc.
I guess I'm getting to old for this stuff ⌨️.
Anyways, if you're after that 'gaming look', this keyboard's got it where it counts. So that's that!
Use with a Mac
The keyboard was easy to get accustomed to overall, though if you use it with macOS, you have to make one quick change to make sure the Command and Option keys are in the right place. On the AUKEY keyboard the 'Windows' key should be the 'Option' key on Mac, and the 'Alt' key should be the Command key.
It's pretty quick to update the configuration for just this keyboard in System Preferences > Keyboard > Modifier Keys...
Bonus points to Apple for making these settings keyboard-specific, so if you swap in a different keyboard (e.g. one for typing, one for gaming), your settings for key mappings will be preserved.
Overall, this is a solid keyboard. It's definitely geared towards the gaming crowd, but it's not a bad keyboard for almost any purpose. If you solely use a keyboard for typing, and don't particularly love the mechanical 'clacky' keyboard, you might not enjoy typing on this keyboard for long stretches of time. And if you are in an open-office environment and/or in many audio conference calls where you sometimes need to type, it might not be the most considerate option for others' ears.
You can buy the AUKEY 'Blue Switch' mechanical keyboard for about $50 on Amazon.