The keyboard is the single most overlooked peripheral, yet a good keyboard can make the difference between a productive computing experience and a downright frustrating one. Mechanical keyboards offer the best experience, and due to the higher requirements, mechanical gaming keyboards even more so. But they can be expensive. Today we take a look at a budget gaming keyboard, the E-Blue K727, which has some essential gaming features as well as some more frivolous ones.
Available for $68 from GearBest.com, the E-Blue K727 “Mazer” is supplied with blue, red, black or brown cherry MX switches (what’s the difference?), and with white or black keys. Ours came in white with black switches – and we’ve got another to give away to one lucky reader. Scroll down to enter the competition, and watch the video review below to get a code for some bonus entries.
The main body of the device is a brushed steel plate that will divide opinions on looks, at least during the daytime – at night, the diffuse mirrored surface offers a pleasant glow from the underlit keys that no one would deny looks cool. By day, it might be construed as a little kitsch. In either case, it does add durability.
The USB cable is covered with a woven nylon sheath, and non-detachable from the keyboard. The woven cable is a good choice to extend the life of the cable and prevent fraying, along with a chunky USB connector that’ll prevent the contacts from going bad.
The keys are labelled with a non-standard futuristic-style of font, that while somewhat cliché, doesn’t detract from the overall design – but doesn’t particularly add much either.
The underside of the keyboard is a smokey semi-translucent white, allowing the blue LEDs to shine through. Four rubber feet hold the device stable with even a rigorous mashing of keys, though I miss having adjustable feet at the back to tilt it upwards – it sits just a little too flat for my taste.
Your choice of MX switches under the keys is going to be the main factor in determining typing comfort here, but black are the original mechanical design from the 1980s with a high actuation force, which suits me – every keystroke feels purposeful. Although they don’t have a tactile switch, they do offer up a satisfying thunk at they hit the bottom.
Again though: there are choices. If you want the tactile click, go for blue; brown is a good balance between gaming and everyday typing; while red tend to be regarded as best for gaming because of the low actuation force needed. If this is your first mechanical keyboard, you might want to head into a physical shop to try out the various switch types yourself.
The keys are nicely spaced and full size, and compared to my Microsoft Sidewinder X4, I found typing easier with less accidental keystrokes.
Additional Keys and Gaming Features
As a compact keyboard, it’s missing the number keypad. While this won’t be a problem for gaming, it may be restrictive if your everyday use-case includes the most noble of computing tasks: spreadsheets. If that’s the case, consider the K901 full size mechanical gaming keyboard ($100) instead, with an otherwise identical feature set.
Sadly, there are no macro keys. While I can’t admit to ever having the used the ones I did have on my last gaming keyboard, I’m sure it’s a vital feature for some. There is however a full complement of dual purpose function keys, offering media control and app shortcuts (which you can customize with third party software anyway).
One feature I am particularly appreciative of is the Windows key lock. It’s especially frustrating to be in the middle of twitchy gaming session, only to accidentally hit the Windows key and be booted back out to the desktop – sometimes crashing the game in the process. To enable or disable the Windows key, simply hit FN + the key. It’ll light up to indicate it’s active.
Light Show on Your Desk
Although it might not be much to look at in the light, the keyboard comes alive in low light, with a rainbow of colored LEDs under every key and a soothing ambient blue underneath.
The blue underlight can simply be toggled on or off, while the rainbow LEDs under the keys have a variety of modes, some of which are more for fun. I should note that each row of keys is a different color – these aren’t configurable RGB LEDs.
The first mode is a marquee or search pattern, which runs from left to right, top to bottom, and doesn’t change regardless of what keys you’re pressing. It’s a cute mode for showing off, but probably going to get distracting quickly.
The second mode is a ripple effect that emanates from every key press – again, distracting, but cool nonetheless. The next mode is similar, but doesn’t ripple out – the key just stays lit for a short time before the light decays away.
Lastly, and probably most importantly for gamers, is a programmable mode where you can turn specific keys permanently on – you can have up to four profiles saved, and the process is easy. Simply cycle through the saved modes until you find one you want to overwrite, hit FN + program, then tap away to turn on or off individual keys. Hit the FN + program key again to save. It’s all saved to the hardware, and there’s no accompanying software to reconfigure these or load profiles.
While looking at a screen in low light situations is said to be bad for your eyes, there’s no denying that being able to identify keys with a backlight is a very useful feature. The marquee mode is good for showing off while your machine is idling, but ultimately most of the LED features should really be considered an added bonus.
There is however a significant long term benefit of having backlit keys as opposed to printed ones: the characters won’t wear off after a year or so of use – they’ll visible and clearly defined, though it’s difficult to judge how long the LEDs will last (probably longer than the useful life of the keyboard).
Gaming on a Budget
Building a gaming PC can get expensive really quickly, but a good quality mechanical keyboard is essential. In general use, mechanical keyboards are a thing for personal preference: I love to feel the keys travel and give a nice solid thump when they’ve hit the bottom. Some can’t stand the noise. With a selection of cherry MX switches to suit every taste, the E-Blue K727 offers excellent value for money.
The E-Blue K727 feels great, and offers a superior gaming experience, at a price point anyone can afford.
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