Epomaker AK84S Review - Chocolate Switches, Silicone Keycaps 11

Epomaker AK84S Review - Chocolate Switches, Silicone Keycaps

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Introduction

Epomaker Logo

Epomaker has been on a roll of sorts, working first with Ajazz to release the K620T V2.0 we saw recently and then putting out the B21 on Indiegogo that will get a review here shortly. That campaign was funded on day 1, which tends to be reassuring for marketing and is some advance capital for mass manufacturing. This model has worked well enough for the company to put out another keyboard on Kickstarter shortly after, and we take a look at this entry today to coincide with the crowdfunding campaign. Thanks again to Epomaker for sending a review sample to TechPowerUp!


The B21 is a cute 65% keyboard that may not have enough keys for everyone. With the new AK84S, Epomaker sought to address this by putting out the company's first 80% keyboard. As the same suggests, it employs an 84-key form factor similar to the Akko 3084, which gives the average user much more flexibility in how to use this keyboard. In addition to the base layer, Epomaker is using the AK84S to trial a few other new things, including its own brand-new switches launching alongside and a replacement silicone keycap set. We go over all of this and more, but start with a look at the specifications in the table below.

Specifications

Epomaker AK84S Wireless Keyboard
Layout:84-key, 80% form factor in a modified US ANSI layout
Case:Choice of ABS plastic/CNC plate, acrylic, or CNC machined aluminium
Keycaps:Choice of ABS or PBT plastic in different colors and themes, as well as a silicone set
Macro Support:Yes
Wrist Rest:No
Anti-ghosting:Full N-Key rollover USB, 6KRO with Bluetooth
Media Keys:Available as a secondary function
Dimensions:128 (L) x 316 (W) x 40 (H) mm
Cable Length:6 ft / 1.8 m
Software:Yes
Switch Type:Choice of several Gateron optical or mechanical switches, as well as 1st-party Epomaker Chocolate switches
Backlighting:Yes, per-key 16.8 M colors
Interface:USB or Bluetooth 5.1
Warranty:One year

Packaging and Accessories


Epomaker has partnered with Skyloong, a local factory to them, for the production of the AK84S. As such, the first round of keyboards produced for sampling use the Skyloong name on the packaging (and then some). That said, retail units at launch will ship in a keyboard box with the Epomaker logo. Indeed, only the sticker on the side shows that an AK84S is inside, with the box out of fairly standard-duty cardboard with a double flap in the middle and two side flaps to keep the contents in place during transit.


Opening the box, we see the keyboard inside a plastic wrap to keep it clean and free of dust. It is protected by cardboard on all sides, and a manual contains information about the pre-programmed functions. It is also here that we find out that the AK84S supports both Windows and MacOS as various shortcuts for both are listed. The other side ends up being an ad for other Epomaker products and support for the manual in Mandarin. The other accessories come inside a separate cardboard layer at the top, and we see three smaller boxes in addition to the keyboard cable. It is a braided male USB Type-A to male USB Type-C cable for the Type-C connectivity on the keyboard. One of the boxes also contains a plastic ring keycap puller as well as a switch remover, but I suspect the actual retail packaging will have the better combo remover tool we saw included with the Epomaker GK96LS.


The second of the three boxes has a host of Gateron switches, and the third some samples of the new Epomaker-branded Chocolate switches. This is to showcase in which switch options the AK84S is available, be it Gateron optical switches, Gateron mechanical switches, or the aforementioned Epomaker Chocolate switches that also come in optical or 5-pin mechanical flavors. The label on the side of the packaging confirms that my sample uses the "GK Chocolate Optical Silver" switches, which of course means the PCB is customized to only work with optical switches, and I thus have samples of the Gateron and Epomaker Chocolate optical switches here. The Chocolate Optical Silver is what I took a closer look at as well thus. We see a translucent pink housing and top with a silver stem, so I am not sure why it's named "Chocolate" necessarily. Regardless, the GK branding appears on the top and bottom, and Epomaker says the switches were made to their design and specifications by a partner factory. There is a cutout to accommodate backlighting, and on the back is the interesting bit: This is an optical switch, so we do not need as many pins as usual. But there is a single "pin" of sorts in the center with a cutout that lets the stem briefly poke out; it is technically only a "pin" if going with the nomenclature used for mechanical switches. Optical switches work by interrupting a light signal, thus allowing for faster response times and minimal debouncing while also decoupling feedback with actuation. The Chocolate Optical Silver is a linear switch based on the Cherry MX Speed (Silver) we will talk about more over the course of the review.
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Jul 2nd, 2022 13:27 EDT change timezone

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