ZeroAir Reviews: Motospeed K87S RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Preface

I’ve been talking to GearBest about more keyboards, and I talked them into stocking the Anne Pro, which should be in stock soon.  In the meantime of getting one of those for review, they send me this Motospeed K87S.  I’ve had a very similar Motospeed before (the CK104), and liked it, so I don’t expect much difference here!

Coupon

I did get this keyboard from GearBest for review.  But reddit hasn’t liked links to GB lately so I won’t link it here.  I will direct you to my coupon spreadsheet, though, where I have a bunch of coupons.  I don’t have one (yet) for this Motospeet K87S, but I do have one for the venerable Obins Anne Pro.  I hope to have one of those in for review (and teardown) before long.  I have applied for a coupon for this board, too.


Official Specs and Features

Versions

There are basically two versions of this exact board.  A white board with white keycaps, and the option of blue or red Outemu switches.  (What I have here is red, just like my CK104).  Motospeed has many other similar keyboards, though, like the K87, which has a similar layout but different case and an actual MiniUSB connection port.

MSRP

Motospeed official doesn’t cite a MSRP, but the going price on GearBest currently is around $57, and has been as low as 50ish.


Short Review

I like this board just as much as I liked the CK104, and the 87 key is great.  If you find yourself not needing the number pad, then I think this would be a great board to start with.  You may find that this is the only board you need, and never “shop up” after it!

Long Review

What’s Included

  • Motospeed K87S mechanical keyboard
  • Manual
  • Warranty card

20170623-IMG_2268.jpg

Note: No keycap puller is included!

Pictures

Here’s the full album of photos.

Package and Manual

As with the Motospeed CK104, the K87S ships in a protective corrugated black box.  It’s nicely embossed with the Motospeed logo, in red.  It’s a fairly typical keyboard box.  Inside, the keyboard is suspended by foam on the ends.  The bottom has a plastic cover, and the whole keyboard is in a plastic bag.  The cord has it’s own.

All in all, it’s a well protected package, great for shipment.  It should arrive safely, with no damage.

The manual is a small booklet, with many different languages.  Each language occupies 4 pages of the manual.  I think everything you’ll need to know is included in the manual, and while it’s clear what the manual means, it’s not always immediately easy to understand the words actually being used.  But the manual is good enough.

Size

This is a Ten Key Less(TKL) board. There’s no number pad, but there is a function row, full sized spacebar and … basically everything else a full sized keyboard has. A small caveat about size is that the Fn row is not spaced away from the number row, so while the K87S has the usual host of keys for a TKL, the overall footprint is smaller. Also the keyboard is on an aluminum plate, in a plastic case with no surrounding support. So the footprint is especially small.

20170623-IMG_2269.jpg

Build Quality and Disassembly

Without disassembling the board, the quality feels fantastic.  Most of the “build quality” thoughts will come in during individual parts discussion below, but suffice to say that this board feels very sturdy, and I’m pleased with the build quality overall. There are a number of Torx screws along the top of the case (FN row dividers, basically).  These aren’t decorative – if one wishes to access the PCB, these must be removed.  Not only that, but there are a series of Phillips screws that must be removed to separate the plate from the PCB.

20170623-IMG_2287

Plate and Case

The case is clear plastic, and has RGB LEDs around the edges.  As the case is clear (not opaque, but very clear), the LEDs aren’t diffused evenly – they’re more of a spot.  I don’t think this is bad, but if it’s not your thing, then just some light modification of the case can make it opaque enough to diffuse the LEDs pretty evenly.  I would imagine a light brushing with acetone (or whatever kind of fingernail polish remover you can get your hands on) would opaque-this-right-up.  The spottedness of these LEDs doesn’t bother me at all though.

The color strip in the case can be turned completely off, too.

Layout and Keycaps

This is a TKL 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, and while that’s bothered me on other boards (ie it bothered me on the CK104), I haven’t found it to be noticeable here.

20170623-IMG_2288.jpg

These keycaps are similar to the CK104 by Motospeed, but I don’t think these keycaps are quite as…. bad….  These are fine – they’re good, in any case.  I have other caps that have a different feel, but it’s hard to say if they’re better.  The feel 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.  This allows the LEDs on the board to show through very well.  These caps  could be replaced with another keycap set easily.

20170623-IMG_2289.jpg

Life ain’t nothing but Switches and money

Outemu Reds grace this red pcb. My main board has Cherry Speeds. My secondary board has Gateron Browns. So these Outemu Reds were and interesting difference. Unlike the [same exact] switches on the CK104, I didn’t find these to be very scratchy at all. They aren’t quite as smooth as my Gaterons, but they aren’t bad.  The switches work fantastically though, and I have no problem with them actually registering keystrokes. Maybe some lube make that perfect? I honestly don’t know if it would. I think it’d be a good test.

20170623-IMG_2270.jpg

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).

Connectivity

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.

20170623-IMG_2271.jpg

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 K87S, will be done using keystrokes. There aren’t even any lighting switches to raise/lower the brightness (directly) – 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.

One may always use FN+ ESC to get the board back to the starting configuration.  I am not sure if this is just for the coloration settings (ie, bouncing the board back to a certain [starting] state), or if that action erases the EEPROM also.  I’m fairly sure FN+ESC doesn’t erase the EEPROM.  The manual is a touch fuzzy on this, but I take the wording to mean that any custom items you put in the memory (which is possible!!), will stay in memory.  Here’s the actual wording:

FN+ESC: Restore the default (display boot animation “Three color rotation”, restoring the default light setting of game superior.

Note that “Game superior” is a specific set of colorways for the key LEDs.

RGB

As I said, I won’t go through all the RGB settings, but I will put something specific for posterity.  All color changes must be made using the FN key, which is two spots to the right of the space bar.  Hold the FN key and then any number of other keys, to do any number of other things to the coloring.  Here’s a general rundown:

FN+1-5: Game specific modes
FN+[left/right arrow]: Speed of action, if RGB mode has action
FN+[up/down arrow]: Brightness of RGB (Note: I don’t believe the case and key brightness can be set independently (except insomuch as they can be turned on or off independently)
FN+PS [print screen]: Key switch LED on/off
FN+DEL: Change color of the key switch LED
FN+PU [page up]: Change case lighting style
FN+PD [page down]: Change case lighting color
FN+[+/-]a: Change case speed up/down

For what it’s worth, note that there’s some consistency in the color switching tied to the FN key.  To switch modes for the keys or the case, it’s the upper option in the INS/DEL/PU/PD area.  To switch colors for the keys or the case, it’s the lower option.  That’s a nice bit of consistency.

I won’t say that’s all the features of the RGB aspect of this board, but that should at the very least get you started.  Most of the rest, I’d estimate that you could futz with and grasp easily.

I will say that I have the same gripe about the RGB on this Motospeed as I had on the CK104.  Again I’ll call it “pwm” for lack of knowing the proper term.  Each led in each key on this board and in the case has the three primary colors as part of it’s LED.  Those three colors are used to make any of the colors that this board has as options.  The cpu mixes the colors as shown in this chart:

(roughly, anyway).  The cpu will cycle the colors very quickly so that what we see is the color we’ve chosen. So when I say the board has “bad PWM” (which means “pulse width modulation”), what I mean is that the cpu cycles these primary colors too slowly, and I end up seeing the primary colors as well as the intended color mix.  That’s why with this board, as with the CK104, I tend to keep all the colors set to red, simply. Why is that?  Well red is one of the primary colors that makes up the LED anyway, and so no mixing is necessary! Therefore there’s no PWM for me to notice anyway.

Here’s a small gallery of some of the RGB coloring displays on this board.

Random Comparisons and Competitive Options….

There are a ton of 87 key keyboards out there.  I won’t even try to list them all, so I’m not going to list any of them.  Compared to all the others, this board with fine RGB and good Outemu switches is a good choice.

Conclusion

What I like

  • Mechanical nature of the keyboard (ie, it’s a mechanical keyboard)
  • RGB
  • 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 a primary color anyway (ie, it doesn’t require any mixing).
  • 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

Up Next

I do have another keyboard to review and should have it up soon enough.  It’s a James Donkey 619, with Gateron Browns.  Before during and after that, however, I’ll have a whole host of flashlights.


Notes:

  • Thanks to GearBest for sending this keyboard for review!
  • This post originally appeared on my blog, zeroair.wordpress.com.  The format is best there, so even if you read it elsewhere, have a look at the blog for best formatting.
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