My review: LC-Power TKL wireless mechanical 'gaming' keyboard ►

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2024-01-26 📌 My review: Asus RoG PBT UK/US key caps with Logitech G413 SE TKL

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The last few weeks have been a bit of a crash course in the cheap end of the mechanical keyboard market and options, due to elbow strain that was becoming concerning. I ended up getting a couple of TKL keyboards since they don't have an integrated numpad and your arms are therefore less constantly twisted to accommodate the space needed by a mouse next to a full sized keyboard. Most TKL models are aimed at gamers and most seem to be backlit. However, the Logitech one was more problematic. Either too bright, bearable with minimum setting further reduced by a responsive typing feature, or completely unreadable when not lit. And I don't touch type perfectly with complex passwords.

It turns out that the excessive brightness is due to the second colour in the double shot moulding process. On the Logitech keys this is basically transparent plastic. On the Asus keys it's a translucent white. This very, very significantly reduces the light bleed, and intensity, which might not be what you want if you're looking for a bling gaming keyboard... but if you want a fancy keyboard, the G413 models probably don't have enough features to satisfy you. In the photos below, taken during switching the keys over, it should be quite clear which of each of the two rows in each photo are Logitech and which Asus. Ignore the cat hair.

Like the other keyboard I bought, the Asus caps are faint but readable when not lit. But by not being blindingly distracting in the first place, and since this is a wired keyboard, it's actually quite nice having them dimly lit. The B key is slightly brighter than all of the other keys but I appreciate it's difficult to keep this sort of thing perfectly consistent. And the new caps are the best of both worlds, allowing options built into the keyboard to be used.

They are slightly shallower than the full height Logitech ones, and that was initially more noticeable than I expected. I ended up lowering the surface the mouse is on to match, and getting a large desk sized mouse mat to use instead of the mat and cutting board I was using as a surface protector previously. Really big mouse mats seem to be another innovation driven by gaming and then adopted a lot more widely.

It's a 124 key set that includes UK and US keys plus some variant keys. Due to the type of plastic and two step moulding they shouldn't wear noticeably. I got a set listed as refurb from a company called Tab Retail, which were still sealed so I assume they're returns or liquidation stock of some sort. After a few days they've proven to be very comfortable on the brown switches Logitech use in G413 SE models, and should fit any Cherry style switches with + type connectors.

I can't say whether the improvement over the last week or so has been more the TKL keyboards or more an awareness of posture and trying to spend a bit more time away from one, but it genuinely does feel more comfortable having the mouse in the area that would previously have been a numpad. QWERTY was never designed for the health of users in the first place, but if you look at the keyboards of early home computers it's very obvious how over the years layouts got wider. It's interesting that it's taken gamers to drive manufacturers to offer more options with navigation keys in the same place but skip what's effectively a set of less frequently used (by most people) calculator layout keys. I'm going to keep trying to stick with the top row number keys, which I find fairly convenient when using a keyboard with both hands, rather than using a wireless numpad.

The presentation in a box with four trays of clamshell protected keys is very nice, and the keys you're replacing will probably store in it just as well. A key puller is included but I mostly used one I got previously for three quid from Amazon which has wires that stretch to catch the large keys. The included one is handy for the space bar though. Also I'd like to credit Asus with serving a bit of a gap in the market, as there aren't that many black key cap sets available on eBay, Amazon, etc, presumably due to keyboards tending to come with black initially.

If I had to change anything, it would be the number keys having their symbol equivalents printed rather than moulded. I guess this is a production process cost saving measure meaning fewer moulds needed. And as far as the keys they've replaced go it's disappointing that Logitech didn't do better in the first place, particularly as they also cut corners by not making the USB cable separate. Both points would have been reasonable adjustments within a production budget and in light of its RRP being on the high side.

If I was doing this again without looking at mechanical keyboards or fancy keys, Cherry do a wired non-backlit Stream TKL UK model with ABS keys that's well-priced, reportedly very quiet and gets good reviews for quality and robustness. It's also rather retro with its wide surround. The only thing that would annoy me is that I dislike layouts with media keys that can get knocked. I've picked one up as a spare and I'm not going to do a full review, but would comment that it's much lower profile than a top down photo may make it seem, the key action seems fine, and that like with the Logitech one I think it's worth adding a cable protector at the point it meets the keyboard. It definitely feels solidly built despite how thin it is, and isn't noisy to type on.

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