Epomaker NT68 Low Profile Keyboard Review 0

Epomaker NT68 Low Profile Keyboard Review

Value & Conclusion »

Lighting and Performance

The Epomaker NT68 keyboard supports N-key rollover USB out of the box, which tested successfully using Aqua's test. In wireless mode, it goes down to the expected 6KRO with Bluetooth. Switch Hitter confirmed no chatter with these keys. Also note the base layer above, which shows which functions have dedicated keys on the keyboard. Finally, Switch Hitter does not care about the order in which the keys were pressed, but the bottom row is still different from the usual.

Given the different color and material options available with the NT68, I didn't want to spend much time on the backlighting options and effects, especially with this article covering the NT68 Low Profile that is only available with these thin black ABS keycaps. It will look different from the other options thus, and seen above is the keyboard lit up in a rainbow wave effect. Light bleed is about average on this sample, with the floating keycaps adding to it, but the darker base taking away as much as the more squared-off keycaps themselves. Similarly, testing for color fidelity by switching all LEDs to white gave a light pink hue, which in itself isn't surprising. The NT68, as with most Skyloong keyboards, gets most of the way there for functionality and needs some further tuning for finesse.

Profile switching and the various other functions necessary on this 65% keyboard are all pre-programmed and tied to the Fn key layer, which is critical on smaller form factor keyboard. Epomaker/Skyloong has also added some multimedia and volume controls in addition to other program shortcuts. These are denoted by extra legends on the keycaps, which reduces the learning curve significantly, but layers are your friend here, and key mapping is just as useful in making your time with the keyboard a pleasure rather than a pain. You might ask why you should go through all of this and have fewer keys than a TKL or full-size keyboard. The general answer for all smaller form-factor keyboards tends to be ergonomics, with shorter finger travel leading to lower fatigue over longer typing sessions. You can also have the mouse closer to the keyboard and in line with your shoulder. Many companies these days make a 60–65% keyboard for other reasons, the biggest of which is aesthetics. The smaller form factor allows for different materials and designs without the increased cost when scaled up to a full-size keyboard. This also goes for custom keycaps, such as the three keycap sets available with the NT68; keycap sets can at times also end up more expensive than the keyboard itself.

One thing I did have an issue with was that Epomaker has clearly targeted macOS users here, particular those with MacBooks. The regular version also comes with OS-specific keycaps that replicate the MacBook keyboard to a tee, so much so that Windows users may find the bottom-row layout weird. The NT68 is also sized to be used on top of a MacBook Pro 13, as with the magnets themselves that are positioned to work best with those. Many Windows laptops simply don't have this option, and the more expensive metal-shell laptops tend to have very good keyboards to begin with. I did try to position the NT68 on my new laptop which has a magnesium alloy chassis, and the larger chassis and material choice clearly aren't as helpful here. Using the included stand worked until it did not. The NT68 with or without the stand might well be a more handy keyboard for MacBook users, but don't look at me to say how well it fairs there.

What I can say is that besides the key layout, the NT68 Low Profile has a secret strength when it comes to trying out non-QWERTY typing layouts. This no doubt is courtesy the software that allows key mapping, but also the flatter keycap profile for fingers to move between rows far more easily. This combined with the smaller form factor allows for an experimental keyboard build you can also try out with different switches as needed. Having Bluetooth connectivity helps expand the user case beyond wired connections where those short cables really force you to use it one particular way only. However, I do wish the battery were larger since 1900 mAh will only go so far if you have backlighting on. When turned off—there is already a default sleep mode for the keyboard when in wireless mode—you can get a couple of weeks of average typing in. The NT68 can also connect to up to three devices simultaneously, and Bluetooth 5.1 has matured enough and is available on a lot more PCs today. Charging takes a few hours; it really comes down to whether you want to have backlighting turned on or not. There are also onboard controls to change the backlighting brightness and go through several presets stored on the device itself.

As always, the sound of a keyboard is based on more than just the switch type. So when comparing sound clips, consider the keyboard as a whole. In this case, I have provided above an example sound clip of me typing on the Epomaker NT68 Low Profile as it comes out of the box with the Gateron Low Profile Brown RGB switches. For context, you can find sound clips from other keyboards here, including those with tactile switches. The lower-profile case and switches result in lower up and down motion, which also dampens the keystrokes more than you would think. The ABS plastic on the keycaps also changes things somewhat since there isn't much pinging off the aluminium frame. The Gateron Low Profile Brown switches are rated for an actuation force of 55 +/-15 gf at ~1.5 mm, with total travel of just 2.5 mm. This also means actuation itself isn't that far off from the average full-size keyboard; in fact, it occurs after the same travel distance on some speed switches. You will inevitably bottom out owing to the minimal distance left post actuation, and this is why I would have liked a foam sheet in this otherwise empty case. I also wonder what PBT keycaps on this would be like, but it would be very resource intensive to dedicate a mold to the same shape and dimensions as the stock keycaps.
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