My review: Logitech G413 SE TKL mechanical 'gaming' keyboard ►

◄ My review: Asus RoG PBT UK/US key caps with Logitech G413 SE TKL

2024-01-19 📌 My review: LC-Power TKL wireless mechanical 'gaming' keyboard

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I got a Logitech G413 SE TKL for work because it had the same key layout as other UK keyboards I have, and being my first foray into mechanical keyboards sticking with a known brand seemed sensible. That longer write-up with more discussion about keyboards in general is the previous entry.

LC-Power aren't a brand known to me and LC-KEY-MECH-2-RGB-C-W doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. Plus the Amazon listing showed a typical European layout despite clearly stating it was UK. So it was mainly the fact it was marked down to half the retail price of the one I'd just bought that made me consider taking a gamble, plus wanting something I could bring into and out of play easily rather than take up space on the desk.

I wasn't immediately sure how successful that'd be... first of all this thing has serious weight to it. It reminds me very charmingly of pre-32-bit 80s home computers with integrated keyboards, as it has a very deep tray surrounding the keys and a Spectrum +2A feel (even the LC-Power branding is similar to the Sinclair font) except the +2s were hefty but still distinctly plastic. This thing you could do lethal damage with and is definitely heavy enough to be the computer rather than just a keyboard. It's allegedly 981 grams, versus the Logitech's 884, but feels like far more of a difference. The main downside is that it's a bit too high on a desk (as far from low profile as you can get) and has no functional reason to be so tall or so heavy. I assume there's a metal plate in the base so that it feels 'premium' but can't see where the screws are to check or remove (and more importantly to check how the battery has been implemented). The weight does mean that it balances on your knee if using two computers simultaneously, although most people obviously won't be using it like that.

Straight out of the box the switch for the Enter key was depressed and had a spongy feel that loosened up a little after a few presses but hasn't gone away. So before going any further I figured I was going to try to switch a switch with the ` key (which I never use) and then see if the Gateron red switch can be replaced as they're only a couple of quid on eBay. Swapping didn't work out as that isn't the issue, and judging by another review plus gently trying to remove a couple they're probably soldered on. Taking off some keys to investigate makes you realise where a false economy cost saving has been made... they're moulded in a semi transparent white and apparently dyed or powder coated, so they're probably not going to last and could scratch. And PBT plastic double shot UK layout keys (cast in two pieces, basically) are a bit less common, although they definitely exist for standard switches. Underneath, the stickiness apparently isn't due to the switch, but to two stabilisers either side of it which are greased, and apparently the application of that was a bit less than properly covering. Having sprayed it with some silicone lubricant it's better although still not having quite the same response as any other key, so I might try to do that again.

Apart from that I do like the feel of the actual switches a bit more than the G413 brown equivalents, they're noisier than the Dell SK-8115 membrane keyboard which is my reference but about equal in feel. Definitely a lot lighter to press and more responsive than I remember any Spectrum being too. Some people would doubtless find these didn't give sufficient tactile feedback, such that they'd knock keys accidentally. There's an annoying tiny green LED when keys are in use that's rather badly positioned so that it shines under the top of the case (you can put a piece of folded black electrical tape down behind the Ins/Home/PgUp row and it'll stay there and not interfere with anything). I can't fathom who thought that the position of the LED would be a good idea. The light goes red when charging and turns green when done. I haven't been using the keyboard long enough to determine whether the colour when in use is related to the battery level, but wouldn't be surprised if it turned orange or red if low. This seems quite an important thing to have left out of the instruction leaflet of a device most people are buying because it's wireless. There's a blue LED for caps lock being on.

Update from the future, 6th May: the top right LED flashes red a few times if you're typing and the keyboard is low on battery. And it's cycling through red/amber/green now that I've plugged it into a USB charger. Provided the battery doesn't start losing significant capacity after this, over three months of light use is good going.

Backlights and batteries aren't a good match, so it's easy to see why this has an integrated battery to avoid chewing through alkaline ones. It comes with a USB-C cable to charge and the wireless functionality should work either with a supplied 2.4GHz dongle or Bluetooth for compatibility with tablets and phones. I'm hoping that without the backlight on the battery life will be considerably better than the eight or so hours with it that a review mentions, and that standby drain will be bearable. Without being lit a properly designed wireless keyboard should only make a circuit when in use, which is why AA and AAA ones in the wireless Logitechs I have last for years (no hyperbole) of light use. I'd rather not have to remember to use the power switch on the underside, or wear that switch out, and anything that doesn't take disposable batteries is annoying when they run out. So, I charged it on the 16th or 17th January and we'll see how it goes.

A review on Amazon suggests it works with software that's Windows only, but I have no intention of finding out or using it with the lights. This is possible because unlike the Logitech one you can actually see the numbers / letters on the keys with it off. Another review suggests it doesn't use additional software. The manufacturer's product page doesn't offer much more detail and doesn't seem to mention the existence of a UK variant. There's definitely also a US variant, because that's what's pictured on the box it came in.

Offering UK layout is fairly straightforward for manufacturers targeting German or French speaking countries because the physical key layout for QWERTZ and AZERTY is usually the same even if in this case they have language specific tops that have translucent inlays rather than just being printed. I wonder if the significant markdown on Amazon is because they haven't sold well over here... although if that's the case, the ambiguous listing and using QWERTZ product images can't have helped. Besides the £/$ difference and some other transpositions of characters, US QWERTY keyboards lack a \ key next to Shift and have a larger Shift and smaller Enter. Otherwise I'd have looked harder at one of the other retro styled wireless TKL keyboards such as the 87 key Attack Shark models. The closest I've seen to that which was definitely UK layout was an Akko 5087B Plus 9009 which might get a look in if something goes wrong with the Logitech one; it has printed keys and its backlight is apparently underneath them rather than using per key LEDs. Like I say, this LC-Power one was almost suspiciously cheap and why I rolled the dice on it after discovering the RRP is genuine and that they had a presence in Europe.

Would I buy it again? Maybe not at anything like RRP. But assuming the battery life doesn't kill the wireless idea, I can improve the Enter key a bit more and the keys don't wear too badly... it was less than the RRP of a Logitech K270. In any case, I like the Spectrum homage, even if it's not intentional, and I think it'll do nicely.

Update: I removed the Enter key again and took a chance on twisting off the upper stabiliser with needle nose pliers. Whilst I can't exactly recommend that, there's still a solid connection to the lower stabiliser and the switch itself, and it seems to have cured the 'stuck' feeling of the key. I think part of the problem is that since on a non-US keyboard the Enter key has twice the vertical size, and is at a slight angle as there's a subtle bowl curve from the top row of keys to the bottom one, alignment is difficult to get right. All of the keys with stabilisers sound/feel subtly different to single connection ones, but this is the only key with them set vertically.

I've also wiped off the company branding with alcohol and personalised things a bit, as now shown in the badly lit photo at the top since I couldn't find product images of the UK QWERTY version anywhere.

Looking around online, it seems to me that LC-Power have been "heavily inspired" in their design by Filco Majestouch keyboards, which have a similar deep surround and the same layout to within a few millimetres. Filco are clearly targeting a much higher-end market with lots of options for switches, keys, etc, and have bothered to put diffusing lenses over the indicator LEDs.

Update: I'm making a note here of some important LC-Power keyboard shortcuts, since it's possible to hit the wrong keys (or it fall face down and depress keys) and e.g. switch modes so that it no longer tries to connect to its wireless dongle. The manual is here (in German).
Fn + 1,2,3 use a bluetooth channel, Fn + 4 the 2.4GHz wireless dongle, Fn + 5 a wired connection.
Fn + F keys are media key and application shortcuts.
Fn + Win locks the Windows key.
Fn + Esc toggles LEDs on/off, Fn + PgUp/PgDn controls brightness, Fn+PrtSc changes colour patterns.

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