First things first: While this is my first mechanical keyboard review, I’ve been reviewing flashlights over at r/flashlight for a while. You can see those here. I get many of my flashlights from GearBest and they approached me about doing reviews for a few other categories than just flashlights. I said sure (!) here are my other interests (knives and keyboards!)…. So GearBest sent me this Motospeed CK104 keyboard for reviewing here r/mechanicalkeyboards.
I am not a professional reviewer. I do not get paid for this review. I did receive this keyboard for free, but that will not influence my review of it. And please forgive me if this review is a bit… polished ….. for me being so new here – as I said I’ve reviewed a bunch and I really prefer strong structure. I also have a background with mechanicals – I do most of my typing on a Corsair K70 (don’t hate, it’s what work would pay for), with Cherry Speeds, and I just bought an Anne Pro with Browns for home use. Also I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
Anyway, let’s see how this ~$45 keyboard performs.
Official Specs and Features…
Can be found here. I won’t reiterate them here because generally I’ll cover all that anyway, and I don’t want to clog up the review. I can do that well enough alone.
Motospeed does have an official site but the CK104 isn’t listed there (that I could find).
There are three case colors (Silver, Red, and Rose Gold), and two switch options (Red, and Blue). Red switches are only available with “Silver”; blue switches are available with all 3. What is shown in this review is **red switches with a silver plate**.
There might be a “real” MSRP somewhere, but it’s hard not to just cite GearBest’s price as the starting point. That price (for this exact board) is $48.48. I have a coupon to take a little off that price: CK104REDS – that makes the price $43.99. I am not sure how long that coupon price will last (typically GearBest puts a usage limit, or a time limit, or even both.)
The ergonomics of this board are perfect for me – I’m a touch typist, and I type in the 90wpm range. I like that the FN row is slightly closer but I do sometimes overshoot and accidentally hit those. The switches are absolutely fantastic except for just a very slight grainy feel in the actuation. But they’re very crisp and I have had zero issues the whole time using this board. For the price point, I’d consider it pretty hard to beat.
- Motospeed Inflictor CK104 mechanical keyboard
- Warranty card
Note: No keycap puller is included!
Package and Manual
As I say with my flashlight reviews, this keyboard comes in my favorite kind of package. It’s just a simple cardboard box,
which has a couple of sticker labels.
Gearbest usually puts a paper inventory sticker
on their inventory, and this is no exception. Here’s the label
Inside the package, the keyboard is held in place
by foam end pieces, and covered in a plastic bag. The manual
lay on top.
The manual is good. Not too long, but describes what needs to be said. Basically the verbiage is mainly about the RGB functions of the keyboard, and how to activate and manipulate the lighting. The language is in English but…. it’s not English English. There are some phrasings that a user will have to infer meaning from as the wording isn’t… quite right. Still, it can be understood by a reasonable person.
and the warranty card.
This is a Ten Key (TK) board
– full sized as it were. There’s a number pad, a function row, full sized spacebar and … basically everything a full sized keyboard has. The only slight caveat about size is that the Fn row is not spaced away from the number row, so while the CK104 has the usual host of keys for a TK, the keyed area is smaller than normal. Also the keyboard is on an aluminum plate, in a plastic case with no surrounding support. So the footprint is especially small. Basically it ends up being long and narrow. Perfect for Fight Club-esque usage.
Build Quality and Disassembly
Plate and Case
The plate is aluminum, of normal thickness and quality. There’s a brushed finish, which is an absolute magnet for fingerprints,
which are then quite difficult to remove. The plate has a printed logo “MOTOSPEED”
but that’s the only text. There are markings for caps lock and whatnot.
The case is plastic
and is not anything terribly special but it does hold the plate very snugly. It holds the plate snugly because it’s got a ton (18)
of screw posts. The case also has supports
for stability. That overall combination of plastic case and good fitment, gives the CK104 a higher quality feel than it might “deserve”. There’s no wrist wrest, but there looks to be three slots where one might fit. There’s also very little… “bezel?” sorry I’m not sure what to call this….. The case has about 2mm of surround past the plate, but nothing else. (Unlike the K70 for example which has a much bigger housing (of course, the K70 has a full aluminum plate top, so it’s really different altogether in that regard).
I’ll note that while most of the screws are just Philips screws,
the top row are decorative Torx (T8) screws,
but are also functional.
So if you’d like to remove this plate, bear in mind you’ll need two tools.
There are two feet
too, which can be in or out. They raise the back of the board by about 1 cm. Here is the side profile
with the feet up, and with the feet down.
The case doesn’t extend above the plate.
The back of the case
has branding, and some specs.
I’m a really huge DOF junkie…
PCB / Controller
The red PCB
is a typical mechanical keyboard pcb,
nothing special and nothing to write home about. The soldering is well done, and the plate looks to be nice quality, too. The only even partially suspect soldering
is the power cable, and while that’s a bit dirty, it’s not sloppy.
The controller is a BYK870 NCT48 1681.
You’d have to know way more than me (not hard) to know much about that chip. But I hope you’ll find that useful. 🙂
The board itself sports full n-key rollover (NKRO) and anti-ghosting. I push a lot of keys, and I type pretty fast, and I have not had any issues at all. I don’t, however, game with a keyboard (well, I play Threes, does that count?). Sorry if you just lost your day to that game. Worth it.
Layout and Keycaps
This is a full 100% keyboard layout, with the only slight variation being that the FN row sits right at the top of the number row without the normal spacing. That’s a difference of maybe 4mm, but I’ve found it to be noticeable. I guess I overshoot when aiming at the NUM row, so sometimes I hit the FN row accidentally. Otherwise, everything is the same as a normal 100% 104 key board.
One of my light complaints come against the keycaps. They’re fine but just fine. They have a decided plasticy feel. This may be more due to the switches than the actual keycap, so I won’t fault the caps too much. But I will fault the font.
I absolutely hate the font. I’ve let my kids play around with this board a lot, and I’d love to be able to just let them type. But they’ve had to ask me what some keys are, or help finding some keys (they’re fledgling typists). That’s frustrating, dumb, and needless. If the letters looked like the right letters, I probably wouldn’t even dislike the keycaps at all (ie I’d overlook the feel).
They are double-shot injection molded,
though the white part (the inlay?) is more opaque than white, and isn’t to my taste. They could be replaced with another keycap set easily.
Life ain’t nothing but Switches and money
grace this red pcb. My main board has Cherry Speeds. My secondary board has Gateron Browns. So these Outemu Reds
were and interesting difference. I noticed immediately that they’re *scratchy*. It’s not bad in the way that makes me hate the board, but it is *quite* noticeable. They switches work fantastically though, and I have no problem with them actually registering keystrokes. It’s just that the travel isn’t quite as clean as I want it to be. Would some lube clean that up? I honestly don’t know if it would. I think it’d be a good test, and maybe some day I’ll get around to doing that if I can stop buying and start modding.
All of that said, the Outemu switches aren’t that bad. They’re crisp, have a nice weight to them (waaaay more than these feather light Cherry Speeds, of course). Here is the keyboard science on those switches, and here’s what they say:
The Outemu Red switch is a relatively smooth linear switch, much firmer and with more total actuation force required than the Cherry MX Red switch. This makes the Outemu Red almost a lighter, less steep version of the Cherry MX Black switch. [source]
They add that these switches have a 47g activation force, and 4mm of travel. The switches have Cherry style stabilizers,
which tend to stay in the cap
(but come out easily).
A single USB cable
connects this keyboard to your device. There’s no bluetooth or anything else. The USB cable
is hard wired,
and just regular plastic coated. The contacts on the USB plug are quite nice – probably gold plated.
While I might wish this was a usb/micro-usb cable, at this budget price it’s hard to really complain. Even my K70 doesn’t have that kind of cable….
User Interface and Operation
Input for the keyboard is…. through…. the… switches…. I mean, is that obvious? Fairly obvious. My Anne Pro though, has an app. My K70, though, has Corsair software sits in the background eating 67mb of ram all the time. But any changes you want to make on the CK104, will be done using keystrokes. There aren’t even any lighting switches to raise/lower the brightness – all that’s done through the function key.
I won’t go through all the settings. The manual does ok with that, and anyway, part of the fun is playing around with how things work. And the manual is easy to understand, though some of their terminology isn’t really what English speakers would call things. For example, I’m not really sure what “bum steady model” is, but I can click through and see. Or “colorful horse race.” It is hard to know which mode you’re on, especially since the wording in the manual is just a little unrelated sometimes, to how the mode actually looks. It’d be nice if the click through was actually done with FN and a specific key. That’d be more accurate since I’d always know what color/mode I’d be getting.
And FN+ ESC can always get the board back to the starting configuration.
The RGB is a nice addition. And I like it. It works fairly well. It helps show the double shot aspect, pretty well
(though I suppose ideally the inlay would be perfectly flush there – it really is, to the touch.) I do have a complaint though, and that is that the color mixing is just not great. I can display that photographically (and will, later) but ….
Here are the primary gaming colorways.
and dimmest red.
Another colorway – I think this one is “colorful horse race.”
Ah well I’m going to get started anyway. The thing about this board, (and this bleeds a little over from r/flashlight), is that non-primary colors are made up of a mix of R[ed],G[reen], and B[lue]. So any non RGB color, is some mix of RGB. The way that happens is the controller cycles the component primary colors in such a way that we visualize a smooth single [non-primary] color. Good controllers use a high frequency cycle – you may never notice any of the primary colors. This CK104 uses a cycle that I can actually see. (The similarity in this and flashlights is that some flashlights use “PWM” – pulse width modulation – to achieve low modes… good ones use a very high frequency. bad ones use a low frequency. PWM lights have two states -off or on. To achieve low modes, the off/on is cycled where on is more or less than off depending on the mode desired (ie, “low” is more off than on). Low frequency PWM is visible to the naked eye….) end rant….
Anyway, this board uses such a slow cycle that I can see it. You may not (I am particularly susceptible to PWM and slow cycle speed, with my Pigeon-like vision). But I can visualize it photographically. Let me explain.
At a low shutter speed (similar to what you or I may have visually) the colors on a board will look solid. If I ramp up the shutter speed, there will come a time where the shutter is cycling faster than the keyboard controller is cycling the individual colors to make any certain color mix. If I keep speeding up the shutter, I can see the cycling more dramatically. At first (closer to human perception shutter speeds), you’ll see the board fully lit, but with some primary (non mixed) color. Then you’ll see maybe a bunch of different primary colors. As I speed the shutter, you may even notice that the board is dark for some of the time. The transition point between smooth color mix and the camera picking up the primary colors, is approximately 1/125 (fairly slow!!). Here are some examples.
Solid red, low brightness, but at 1/1250.
I believe this is “horse chase” again, @ 1/200 sec @ f4, iso 3200.
But at 1/125 sec @ f4, iso 3200,
the colors appear almost as they should. And at even slower shutter speeds, the colors look as we see them.
Again at 1/125 sec @ f4, iso 3200
there begins to be some darkened places.
Here is a better comparison. The Anne Pro also has RGB. With primary colors, they look about the same.
With non-primary (ie color mix), they look about the same to they eye
(unless you’re sensitive to it!). But if we dial the shutter faster, we can see the difference in controllers immediately. Bear in mind that in all of the following set of photos, the boards were intending to display the same color! (Fuchsia, I guess it’s fuchsia. idk. pinkish something.)
1/125 sec @ f6, iso 6400
Clearly the Anne Pro is cycling the RGB much faster than the Motospeed, though the CK104 to the eye looks fuchsia too.
1/250 sec @ f4, iso 6400
At an even higher shutter speed, we can see the color mix for the Anne pro, and the CK104 is now so slow we can actually see the whole board being one single primary color (with some unlit keys, too). Still the Anne Pro is doing well because it’s still barely split, and still mostly fuchsia.
1/640 sec @ f4 iso 6400
Now we see the Anne pro doing it’s mixing, but mostly PWM. And the CK104 is too.
Maybe this isn’t a big deal, and I certainly don’t hate the board because of it. But I do wish the controller cycled much faster!!
Even with primary colors on the low brightness setting, PWM can be seen
(with a camera). (This isn’t bad, just a demonstration of PWM in general.)
Now, you may all know this. Probably. You’re a smart bunch. But I haven’t seen it demonstrated photographically, so I figured why not!
Random Comparisons and Competitive Options….
Magicforce make some similar keyboards. There’s also a MantisTek GK1, which looks very similar. In this price range these boards will probably all be very similar. But the switches on this board are probably a little better. They aren’t a “name brand” but they’re a “known brand.” At $43, this board is hard to beat.
What I like
- Mechanical nature of the keyboard (ie, it’s a mechanical keyboard)
- Size is nice – I like that it’s short and the case has very little bezel
- It’s a joy to type on, ergonomically
- I like the aluminum plate, and the pcb seems to be of high quality.
What I don’t like
- Really the RGB color mixing bothers me. Not so much though, because I typically just keep the board on red, which is primary anyway.
- It’s hard to spot the FN key when the board is off and it’s dark… that’s minor. But it’d be nice to have a backlight option so I could always see that key
- The scratchy keys. They aren’t that bad and lube might help, but compared to my other two boards, it’s noteworthy
I have a coupon to take a little off that price: CK104REDS – that makes the price $43.99. I am not sure how long that coupon price will last (typically GearBest puts a usage limit, or a time limit, or even both.)
Up next, I’ll be reviewing a flashlight over at r/flashlight, and a couple of knives elsewhere. Not sure what’s to come after that!? Maybe I’ll review this Anne Pro, but that’s too over done? I’m open to suggestions, and if you guys like this, I’ll try to keep improving. Let me know what you think!
Catch me at the Space Bar.
- Thanks to GearBest for sending this keyboard for review!