Today I am reviewing the Royal Kludge 61. This keyboard seems to have a lot going for it. An entry level price at forty-five dollars, mechanical switches, backlighting, and Bluetooth. Let’s see how it holds up in real world use though.
This clicky-clacky little number does a fine job at providing a more satisfyingly tactile experience than your usual Bluetooth keyboard. Lots of reviews (and the product description!) suggest that you need to do some goofy key combos to get normal characters like question marks, but hidden in the manual is this handy paragraph:
“Press FN+Shift (shift on the right side of the keyboard), Arrow keys turn into the second function. Press FN+Shift again, arrow keys function recovery.”
Not the best translation, but it does mean you can toggle the arrow keys with a simple keyboard combo. I’ve attached a picture of the entire manual for the convenience of other potential buyers.
And honestly, I recommend it. This keyboard is a steal at this price. It’s probably not the perfect gaming keyboard and your co-workers will murder you if you try to bring it to the office, but it’s a very functional device that’s a lot of fun for casual use. It also seems to be pretty trivial to customize, with easily swappable keycaps and a whole universe of little nerdy doo-dads to get the typing experience of your dreams. One imagines the more expensive models are even better if you’re trying to be some kind of Pro Gamer or you can’t type on anything less than actual ivory keys hand carved by patient artisans in a foreign country, but for the rest of us, it’ll do quite nicely.
Also the whole thing lights up and makes you feel like you’re in a cheap Matrix knock-off movie, which is cool.
I got the RK61 with brown switches. I prefer quieter switches for noise reasons: between gaming and conference calls, the clicky keyboards cause a lot of overhead noise. The keys have a bit of a matte finish on them. I opted for the red-backlit, as I play at night a lot, like to be able to see keys, but don't need the full RGB experience. Key brightness and lighting mode are highly adjustable, I generally use 'always on' mode (actually, it is 'on and dim when pressed'), along with a lowered brightness. Visually, it looks nice. And while it is compact in overall form, these are full sized layout, normal switches and keycaps. So mostly the typing experience of a full keyboard.
I really wanted this more for gaming than anything else. I've played some Apex using the keyboard the last few days. Have no complaints. It is advertised as 10-key rollover, didn't notice any problems whatsoever in heavy keying combat situations. And because it is so narrow, it leaves a ton of space for mouse, without turning it at a crazy angle like many players do.
I certainly can't say I've pushed the battery to the limit. But I have used it on battery connected to an android tablet, trying to test that use case: maybe working at a desk where you don't want cable clutter, or travelling (work or school) and need full keyboard feel but in a small form factor. I had zero problems with bluetooth over the course of a couple hours connected. Halfway through that use, I plugged the usb cable back in, and swapped between bluetooth and usb to work with both tablet and PC. With a hotkey, you swap between them. Obviously if you have it plugged in, battery isn't an issue, but at least on paper, the battery life specs sound good: 10h use, 3h charge, 360h standby. That's enough for a day of work, full time, without charging. Only obvious downside is there is no extra led or set of leds to indicate what device is currently active, but that's minor.
You can also pair up to three devices at a time (PLUS usb). For someone who needs control over multiple machines without re-pairing, that should be a great help. Again, a quick hotkey selects one of the three devices in about a second.
Here's my quick pro/con list.
- multiple device connection -- 1 usb + 3 bt.
- full sized keys, for normal typing feel.
- real switches (pick your desired kind), should last a long time.
- solid build, feels heavy like a metal baseplate, not cheap.
- really compact form factor, easy to take with you, or use on small desk space.
- decent sized battery, lifetime, charging (on specs).
- detachable micro-usb cabling, with normal tip, so any cable can be used (great if you have preferred braided cables or something). Other models they make have usb-C if that's a desire/need for you.
- pretty configurable red LED backlight. Again, I didn't need much. Their higher models apparently have more control via PC software.
- bigger and heavier than my many-years-old travel bt keyboard. If you are throwing it into luggage, you're fine, but might be heavier than desired for carrying around in a backpack all day. (That said, I'm unclear the competition is any different on this point!)
- the base is pretty thick, so you'll likely want a wrist rest to raise your hand up.
- I'd have liked back feet to adjust angle for even better tuning of ergonomics.
- I wish the on-off switch for BT was on the back, and a bit more 'solid'.
- no indication of active device (but none on the competition that I've seen).
Overall given the price point, this is a solid piece of hardware, with a range of flexibility between usb and bt, BYO cable support which also makes it great for travel use and charging, configurable backlighting, and choice of models in white+black, different switches. I'd definitely recommend trying it out if the features hit all your purchasing needs for a compact keyboard.
I tried to take some pictures to give you a better feel for the product (marketing shots often leave something to be desired!). There is one between my Redragon half-keyboard and mouse, one showing it in comparison to my tiny bt travel keyboard, one showing angle comparison to my half-keyboard, and one showing it above one of my favorite tenkeyless usb-only keyboards. I hope those are useful for prospective buyers.
Bluetooth setup was trivial. Hold Fn+P until the P starts to blink, then go to the target device and search for devices. Both on a tablet and a PC, I had no problem detecting and pairing within say ten seconds.