Whether it was the white plastic USB model that came with our first iMac, or the Bluetooth Magic Keyboard we use with our MacBook Pro, we have always used an official Apple keyboard with our computer. But we have heard from several of our readers that they don’t like the Apple keyboard for a number of reasons, so we decided to look at a couple of alternative AUKEY Mechanical Keyboards.
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Apple Tech talk Scorecard
|Mechanical keys provide positive|
|No USB-C support|
|Water resistant design|
|Works well with a USB-C hub|
When considering a third party keyboard, there are a several decisions you need to make. First, do you want a keyboard that connects to your computer via a USB cable or wireless? If you opt for wireless, you need to decide if the keyboard will connect directly via the internal Bluetooth of your Mac or whether the keyboard comes with its own USB adapter to make the connection. Finally, and perhaps most important, is the keyboard designed for a Mac or Windows?
The primary difference between a Mac and Windows keyboard is the control keys located on either side of the Space bar. On the Mac Keyboard the Keys are marked Control, Option (sometimes referred to as the Apple key) and Command. On a Windows keyboard they are labeled CTRL (Control), the Windows Key and the Alt key. For the most part you can do the same functions with these keys, although not with the same key combinations. More on that later. You will also find that the Function keys, which control various Mac actions, either use different keys or don’t work at all. But there are other keys on a Windows style keyboard, like Page Up, Page Down, Home and End which are easier to use than the key combinations needed for an Apple keyboard. Finally, you will probably find a bigger selection of keyboards in a wider range of prices that are made for Windows as compared to Mac keyboards.
AUKEY 104-Key LED Backlit Mechanical Keyboard
Our first keyboard is the AUKEY 104-key LED Backlit Keyboard (Model # KM-G6). In the box is the keyboard with an attached cable with a USB-A male plug at the end, a Keycap removal tool, a multi-language User Guide and the AUKEY warranty card.
The keyboard measures 17.09” (424mm) x 5.31” (135mm) x 1.46” (37mm) and weighs 2.47lb (1.12kg). The USB cable measures 4.92” (1.5m), which should be more than enough to connect to your computer, even across the largest desk.
On the bottom of the keyboard are two rubber feet that flip out to provide a slight incline to the keyboard when sitting on your desk. They can be folded back into the keyboard when not in use or if you prefer a flatter style.
Being a mechanical keyboard, it uses Outemu Blue switches. These are tactile switches which means they produce a “clicking” sound with each key press. Some people consider Outemu Blue switches to be the loudest on the market. That is neither a positive or a negative and is really a matter of personal choice. Admittedly, while you may like the sound and feel of a tactile keyboard, your office mates may find the constant clicking sound annoying so keep that in mind with any keyboard selection. The biggest feature of the AUKEY 104-Key LED Backlit Mechanical Keyboard is its multi-colored LED backlighting. Upon connecting it to your computer, it lights up in a rainbow of colors with each row having a different color starting with blue across the top function keys and ending in red along the bottom. The lights can be changed to a number of pre-set color combinations or you have the option of setting up your own custom color combinations.
We are not gamers but from what we can tell, some of the pre-set patterns help to highlight the keys that are often used solely for game play.
One of the preset options turns off all of the lights and then lights the keys as you press them until they slowly fade back to the off position. For people that are not touch typists this can be a big help in detecting a mis-key before you get too far into your document. Some of the other patterns are just flashing lights around the keyboard. Frankly, we found these to be distracting since we sometimes need to look at the keyboard as we type and the flashing lights became confusing. Take a look at the Youtube video below to see some of the available patterns.
It took us awhile but we finally found a pre-set that allows you to turn off the LEDs completely. The letters on the keycaps are basically clear to allow the LEDs to shine through, so there isn’t a lot of contrast with the LEDs off. Even so, we had no trouble seeing the keys.
The keyboard itself worked well. Functions like Cut/Copy/Paste which uses the Command key on the Apple keyboard worked equally well using the Windows key on the AUKEY 104-Key LED Backlit Mechanical Keyboard. Some of the Function Keys labels aligned with the macOS functions like the F9, F10 and F11 which are labeled for mute, decrease and increase volume, provided you also held down the FN key. On our Apple keyboard, these are controlled by the F10, F11 and F12 keys with no other key press needed.
We also liked the numeric keypad which worked well. That said, we did notice that the NUM key, which usually turns the numeric keypad on and off did not work at all meaning that the keypad was always in the numeric keypad state and functions like arrow keys, Home and End, did not function. This wasn’t really an issue since there are other keys on the keyboard which serve those purposes and they worked as expected. In addition, we actually always want the numeric keypad active so we did not see this as an issue. We tested the AUKEY 104-Key LED Backlit Mechanical Keyboard by connecting it to our LENTION USB-C Hub and the keyboard worked perfectly. We did not experience any delay in the key presses nor were there any mis-keys.
AUKEY recommends that you make a direct connection to your computer rather than using a hub. Because the AUKEY 104-Key LED Backlit Mechanical Keyboard only has a USB-A plug at the end of the cable, you will need some form of adapter if you intend to connect it to any of the current Mac laptops, which now only have USB-C ports. Consider something like this AUKEY USB-C Adapter.
The AUKEY 104-Key LED Backlit Mechanical Keyboard is available directly on the AUKEY web site.
AUKEY 87-Key Mechanical Keyboard
If you have no need for a numeric keypad and you prefer a smaller profile to a keyboard, consider the AUKEY 87-Key Mechanical Keyboard (Model # KM-G9).
This keyboard measures 14” (355mm) x 4.8” (122mm) x 1.5” (37mm) and weighs 1.83lb (830g). It also has the fold-out rubber feet and uses the same Outemu Blue mechanical switches.
Like the KM-G6 keyboard, this is also laid out as a Windows keyboard but acted the same for functions like Cut/Copy/Paste using the Windows key. Interestingly, the Function keys also controlled volume but unlike the larger LED backlit keyboard, this model used the F2, F3 and F4 keys.
Like the LED Backlit keyboard, the imprints on the keycaps seem almost clear as if they should have some form of backlight so you may find them a little hard to see if you need to rely on seeing the letters on the keys as you type. They may also be difficult to see in a low light situation.
Beyond that, the keyboard functioned well and in all other ways was just like the larger LED model.
Also, like the LED model, AUKEY suggests a direct connection to your computer and while we had no issues connecting it through our USB-C Hub, you will still need a USB-A adapter to make the USB-C connection to your Mac laptop.
The AUKEY 87-KEY Mechanical keyboard and many other fine products is available directly from the AUKEY web site.
The Bottom Line
The type of keyboard you use is a very personal decision. While some people prefer to use an official Apple keyboard, many people don’t like the style and prefer a mechanical keyboard that gives a much more tactile response.
Whether you are a gamer or prefer the effects of a multi-color LED Backlit keyboard, do number intensive work that would benefit from an included Numeric Keypad, or like the smaller format of an 87-key style, the folks at AUKEY have a wide variety of keyboard styles that may be to your liking. You can see the entire line of AUKEY keyboards here. Like all AUKEY products, these keyboards come with a 24-month warranty against manufacturers defects
We would like to thank the folks at AUKEY for proving the AUKEY 104-Key LED Backlit Mechanical Keyboard and the AUKEY 87-Key Mechanical Keyboard for our testing and review.
What is your favorite keyboard style? Do you prefer the original Apple keyboards or do you like the added functionality that a Windows keyboard provides? Why not join the conversation and leave a comment below.
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