Quick Look: PowerColor x Ducky One 2 SF 3

Quick Look: PowerColor x Ducky One 2 SF



PowerColor Logo

Remember the Ducky One 2 SF? It's a 65% form factor keyboard that launched over two years ago and was the base for Ducky's shift towards smaller keyboards, including with its annual year of the Chinese zodiac animal series, as well as higher-end versions, such as the Mecha SF we saw earlier this year. During this time, Ducky had worked on a few collaborations, such as the HyperX x Ducky One 2 Mini I was unable to cover due to being in Taiwan most of last year and away from all my gear, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a second one pop up with a brand I was not expecting.

We have to date covered PowerColor products 56 different times, and but for one, all of them happen to be GPU reviews. So when I saw PowerColor had a new keyboard out, it surprised before it made sense. Everyone else is doing it, so why not PowerColor? Partnering with Ducky and putting out this collaboration is a good first entry too, especially as it is the much easier option of just rebranding an OEM product, which many others have done. That said, it does come with the caveat of the Ducky One 2 SF already having been covered here, and there aren't enough differences to merit a completely separate review. A quick look is what greets the new PowerColor x Ducky One 2 SF thus, and thanks to PowerColor for providing TechPowerUp a review sample.

Packaging and Accessories

The product box for the PowerColor x Ducky One 2 SF ships inside a plastic wrap, removing which reveals a predominantly black packaging. On the front are the company logos to show this is a collaboration between the two, and a render of the keyboard lit up teases what is inside, with the One 2 SF on the bottom-right corner confirming as much. Some minimal specifications are found on the back, which is otherwise taken up by branding galore. This continues on the sides as well, though we do see more marketing features about the keyboard as well as more specific information on the SKU inside. Two double flaps on the side keep the contents in place in transit.

Opening the box, we see the keyboard inside a wax paper wrap under a molded plastic cover, the latter of which doubles up as a dust cover when the keyboard is not being used. There is cardboard all around the keyboard for further protection, with accessories found underneath or in the cardboard layer on the side. We get a small fold-out quick start guide in English and Mandarin, which also has a link reminding you of the more detailed user manual available online. Everything else comes separately packed, and this includes the expected Type-C to Type-A cable, a keycap puller, and some replacement keycaps. Most of these are taken as-is from the One 2 SF packaging, which isn't a bad thing.

Closer Examination

As we saw before, the PowerColor x Ducky One 2 SF comes in a molded plastic cover and wax paper wrap to keep it pristine and free of dust out of the box. Removing it, we get our first good look at the keyboard, and it is smaller than most keyboards owing to the adoption of the 65% form factor. Immediately, we see far fewer dedicated keys than on a full-size 104-key US ANSI keyboard, or even the 105-key UK ISO layout that this particular SKU is most related to since it is a 65% ISO layout keyboard. This of course means there is no function-key row, and past the alphanumeric section, only the Del, Pg Up, Pg Dn, and arrow keys are kept, which isn't easy to tell given the novelty keycaps used. In theory and with practice, this streamlined approach allows for a typing experience meant to retain only often used keys, with layered functions for the others.

This particular version differs from the two-tone black and white case on the original One 2 SF and goes black and red instead to better relate to PowerColor's Red Devil series. We see shades of the red even from the sides, and the rest of the PowerColor customization comes in the form of novelty keycaps on the space bar and three keys in the top-left corner. The keyboard is predominantly black from the front thus, and the keycaps have primary legends in the top center and secondary legends either alongside if general or front-printed if specific to the keyboard. These front-printed legends are typically where we see the pre-programmed layered functions, including those otherwise missing as a result of the smaller form factor. The font typeface is very clean, and Ducky retains its loop-less doubleshot injection technology here.

Flipping the keyboard around, we see all that red fully revealed in its glory. There is a metal badge instead of a sticker for the certification and serial number, and four rubber pads at the corners add friction against the surface and prevent scratches. There are two sets of keyboard feet at the top for three levels of elevation, and rubber pads are on the underside of each section as well.

A set of four dip switches below one section allows for some very specific key layout changes we will get to in due time, and the switches are inset into the case to ensure none are toggled accidentally when moving the keyboard while it rests on a desk. The PowerColor x Ducky branding is present on the side facing away from the user, which also has a small cutout to host access to the Type-C port on the keyboard itself. Most aftermarket cables should work fine, as does the stock cable itself that is black and shorter than average at 5', which will helps the portability of the keyboard. It attaches to an available USB Type A port on your PC. USB 2.0 will suffice for power and data even with all the RGB lighting onboard, although there really is no lack of USB 3.2 Gen 1 these days.

Ducky is using the tried and tested OEM profile with the keycaps, with the usual slanted rows and concave surfaces on top, as well as five instead of the usual six rows, of course. The provided keycap puller works great, having a nice base to hold and wires long enough to allow for multiple keycaps to be taken off without removing each keycap individually every time. With not just the same thick PBT plastic as the replacement keycaps throughout (average wall thickness of 1.36 mm), but also predominantly doubleshot injected legends for durability and longevity, the stock keycaps of either color are excellent. The legends on the front, as well as the PowerColor-specific novelty keycaps, are laser engraved since it is not economically feasible to create a new mold for doubleshot injection just for this specific keycap set, and are not backlit in contrast to those on top. But that is the only sore point in what is otherwise a good keycap set that should last for a long time, especially as the legends on front aren't as prone to wear and tear because of the lack of exposure to finger oils when used.

As I understand it, the switch options for the PowerColor x Ducky One 2 SF are the Kailh BOX Brown and BOX White. I have the Kailh BOX White switches, which we took a closer look at before. This is an RGB keyboard with LEDs associated with each key, and the translucent switch body helps diffuse light passing through and upward. Plate-mounted stabilizers are used on the larger keycaps, which helps with their removal for cleaning or even swapping for the included replacement keycaps. The thick PBT does mitigate that mushy feeling associated with these stabilizers somewhat, resulting in a heavier feel that could have been improved further by lubing the stabilizers, which is unfortunately not done here.

Here's a look at some of the replacement keycaps added, and I chose to retain the PowerColor keycaps while adding some more red up front. Note that the arrow keys are a slightly different profile from the other two bottom rows, so you will feel the discrepancy if you are the type to glide your fingers from key to key. Also, given this is ultimately still a One 2 SF, you can refer to this pagefor the keyboard disassembly.

Lighting and Performance

As all functionality is hardware-based, there are no software drivers for the PowerColor x Ducky One 2 SF. As such, we move on to performance testing and see full NKRO for the keyboard that only works in USB mode. Toggling dip switch 2 on the back to on (off is the default) shifts things over to 6-key rollover USB to debug a few things in the system or run a kernel-based virtual system, for example. Similarly, no key chatter was detected on all the keys using Switch Hitter. The image above also shows what the base layer on the keyboard is pre-programmed to as far as dedicated keys go. As with just about any keyboard these days, there is no right Windows key since it has been substituted by an Fn key.

When first connected, the keyboard lights up in a rainbow wave lighting effect, which is the default pre-programmed effect for the PowerColor x Ducky One 2 SF. The transition animation is smooth, and the effect is a good demonstration that ensures the keyboard is powered on and working properly. Customizing backlighting on the keyboard is all done via onboard controls, and several pre-programmed effects can be accessed by toggling Fn + Alt + T, including the ability to select from a color palette for the color you want. Effects include static, dynamic, and reactive modes, as well as custom modes with individual R/G/B channel level control for the full 16.8 M colors per key. I then used the onboard controls to set the keyboard to white and test for color fidelity since RGB LEDs have a hard time depicting white, and it was one of the more accurate whites, which is always good to see. As expected from previous findings, the front-printed legends are not backlit, so you best be aware of the various layered functions if you plan to use this keyboard in the dark. In a separate test via one of the preset multi-colored options, I tested for light bleed, and it was present at the common edges because of the floating keycaps, though not as heavily as on other floating keycap designs owing to the keycaps barely floating as a result of the two-piece plastic case occupying most of the gap underneath the keycaps.

Read this page for more of my thoughts on the One 2 SF, though based on the US ANSI layout. That particular sample used Cherry MX Blue switches, which is a tactile and clicky switch like the Kailh BOX Whites here. Anyone who's kept up with my work would know I absolutely prefer the BOX White over the MX Blue, so it is nice to see Kailh switches as an option here. These are medium-force switches with a total travel of 3.6 mm over the usual 4.0 mm and a rated actuation distance of 1.8 +/-0.3 mm as opposed to the average switch at 2.0 mm. Rated actuation force is 45 +/-15 gf, which is about average as far as the error bar goes. Peak force is rated at 60 gf, which you will hit when bottoming out. As far as the rated specifications go, this switch is quite similar to the Cherry MX Blue with shorter travel overall, but we see that the tactile bump is nearly at the same point as actuation, with a click force of ~55 gf, which ensures actuation but also tells you exactly when you have hit the actuation point. This is massively beneficial if touch-typing and why I quite like the BOX switch design, in addition to its additional IP56 dust and spill resistance.

Here is what this specific combination sounds like, and this is where the older design of the One 2 SF starts to hurt as there's no noise-dampening foam, lubed switches, or stabilizers, and the click bar in these switches and plastic case add to the reverberations, making for a high-pitched sound signature when typing. It's not a bad thing in itself, just one you need to be aware of lest it's not to your preference. Note also that the clicky feedback and switches bottoming out are two distinct tones as there is a substantial and nearly equal gap between the two during both the downstroke and upstroke. For context, you can find sound clips from other keyboards here, including those with tactile and clicky switches. Personally, I would have preferred a slightly heavier spring or a thicker click bar to further help with touch typing.

The PowerColor x Ducky One 2 SF is not a new keyboard as much as it is applying some new keycaps and switch options on an existing base. It launches the day of this article and will cost the same $109 as the original One 2 SF two years ago. Trouble is the One 2 SF still costs $109 and comes in different switch options, so the only reason to go with this one is if you absolutely want the black and red color scheme and PowerColor keycaps. Personally, I see both versions struggling against newer keyboards with features including hot-swappable switches, wired or wireless connectivity, lubed stabilizers, noise-dampening foam, etc., but there's always a market for relatively well-built two-tone keyboards available in many switch options.
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