The topic of membrane keyboards vs mechanical keyboards is open to great debate. Essentially, where a regular membrane keyboard has a pressure pad that have outlines and symbols printed on a flat, flexible surface, a mechanical keyboard uses spring activated, key switches. The switches vary based on the keyboard’s application or user preference Some love it, some hate it, other don’t really care. While people claim that mechanical keyboards offer superior comfort levels with regard to typing, they also tend to be more on the pricey side. That was the view that I too shared, till I encountered the Gigabyte Force K85 mechanical keyboard.
Gigabyte, a Motherboard manufacturer by definition, have been in the PC component industry for quite a while. Their range of mechanical keyboards began with the Aivia lineup. These, whilst being sturdy and robust, also tended to be on the pricey side. The Gigabyte Force K85 is the cost effective solution to this.
Priced at Rs. 12,500/=, the keyboard is available at Nanotek Computer Solutions and also at Redline Technologies.
The Gigabyte Force K85 comes in a stylish cardboard box that is actually easy to carry around as the dimensions of the box similar to that of the keyboard, doing away with extra space like the Gigabyte Aivia Osmium. Once you open the box, you find the keyboard tucked inside a polythene cover with the cable tied up inside a compartment.
Taking the keyboard out of the box, the first thing you notice that it’s not exactly light, but not too heavy either. Rather, it has just the right amount of weight to keep itself from sliding all over your table when you’re on a button mashing spree.
Speaking of button mashing, the Gigabyte Force K85 used Kailh Blue mechanical switches. Compared to other switches, Blue switches provide a tactile bump as well as an audible click. Though not as good as a Cherry MX Blue switch, the Kailh Blue switch is surprisingly close. I personally love Blue switches for the sound and the tactile bump. They are also recommended if you do a lot of typing, so it seemed the obvious choice for me. Typing a few sentences on the keyboard had me pretty much convinced that this would be my next keyboard.
One thing to note though. Blue switches tend to be a tad loud. So if you’re a person who types fast and also types for an extended period of time, you might find it uncomfortable. Then again, if you’re on the lookout for a relatively quiet mechanical keyboard, you can look at keyboards that have MX Red, Brown or Black keys.
If you have spent most of your time on a membrane keyboard, then making the switch to a mechanical keyboard might take a bit of getting used to but once you get used to it, nothing ever feels the same way again. Typing on it is very comfortable and as each keypress gives you a tactile bump along with a rather satisfying click to go along with it. Since each key has its own switch, you will find that your typing accuracy would definitely improve and you spend less time mistyping words. You will also find that you don’t need to bottom down on the key (where you press the key all the way down to register a keypress).
Just because the Kailh Blue switch is aimed at typists, that doesn’t make it any less of a gaming keyboard either. Rather, I found gaming on the Gigabyte Force K85 quite enjoyable. Each keypress has a proper feedback and the keyboard handled a variety of games ranging from Dota 2 to Overwatch, to Call of Duty Black Ops 3 to Project Cars and a host of other games, all with an equal flair. Since I headphones for gaming, the sound of the key press is not that noticeable but if you are gaming in a relatively quiet environment, then you will definitely hear the sound of these keys.
However, it doesn’t have advanced features such as Macro keys but it does have an anti ghosting feature so you can press multiple keys at the same time and they will all be registered. It also has n-key rollover which means that each key is scanned completely independently by the keyboard hardware, so that each keypress is correctly detected regardless of how many other keys are being pressed or held down at the time.
One thing that I noticed with the Gigabyte Force K85 was the lack of a wrist rest. As the keys are slightly higher than a regular keyboard, your hands tend to hurt after a while, especially if your wrists and your table are not on the same level.
Apart from it having the awesome click that I love, the Gigabyte Force K85 also features RGB backlighting with upto 16.8Million colors. If you’re typing in the dark or in semi dark environments, then this would suit you as well. Though the colors cannot be individually assigned to each key, that wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
Speaking of RGB backlighting, the Gigabyte Force K85 has inbuilt options to change color via shortcut keys on the keyboard itself. You can select one of eight colors ranging from Red, Green, Blue and everything in between. Brightness of the keys can also be changed from within the keyboard itself via shortcut keys. Apart from that, the Force K85 also features lighting effects in the form of a breathing effect where the backlight goes on and off on a rhythmic pattern. It can also cycle through the 8 colors with an adjustable speed. The F keys located on top of the keyboard (F1-F12) also act as shortcut keys to launch functions such as a music player, volume controls, web browser etc. The functions are all etched on to each key making it easier to find even in the dark.
Gigabyte also gives an additional software called K85 Tool which can be downloaded from their website. The tool allows you to fine tune settings such as the exact color of the keys, brightness levels and the speed of the breathing effect. You can also use the tool to create a two tone breathing effect which is pretty cool, especially if you have more than one favorite color. Since the color theme of my PC is now green and purple, those are the two colors I’ve set
Cleaning the keyboard is surprisingly easy as each individual key has a removable keycap. Once you remove the keycap, you are given easy access to clean in between the keys. All you need is a soft paintbrush or a medium bristled toothbrush. One good thing I noticed was that both the Enter key and the Space bar are completely removable. Usually even on mechanical keyboards, this would have a spring mechanism that proves a bit tough to reassemble but with the Force K85, you can simply take it out and pop it back in and you’re good to go.
If you’re like me, then the first thing you do before you take all the keys out would be to take a picture of the keys so you don’t mix up the order. If you know your way around a keyboard, then you should be OK but it always helps to have a backup plan.
Nothing is perfect. The same holds true for the Gigabyte Force K85 as well. The predominant problem that this keyboard faces is that the LEDS present in each switch tend to fail. This would either result in the LED not working at all or only working in certain scenarios. The individual RGB LEDs make use of pulse width modulation to regulate the voltage in order to change between the three colors. The problem occurs when one color is off. So for example, on one key or multiple keys, if red and green work, and blue fails, then any key that needs a combination of blue would either not light up or be a different color. This was confirmed to be a batch issue by the reseller and the issue was fixed in later batches.
Another issue that I noticed was that the spring mechanism on some keys has a bit of a weird sound compared to the other keys. This is probably due to the build of the Kailh Blue switch.
We’re not saying that it’s a cheap keyboard, rather, for the price you pay, it’s actually one of the better mechanical keyboards you can get. For around the Rs. 12,000/- price point, the Gigabyte Force K85 offers pretty good value. It has RGB backlighting, Kailh Blue switches and looks pretty good too. If you’r work involves a lot of typing then this would definitely make work a lot more fun. Some may complain that the price is a bit too steep but considering what you’re getting, I for one, feel that it is a good deal. If you’re in the mood for a new keyboard and are looking for something around that price range, give the Gigabyte Force K85 a go. If you don’t like it, there are other brands and models out there as well.
Have you used the Gigabyte Force K8? Love it? Hate it? Leave a comment below.
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Reviewed: The Gigabyte Force K85 Mechanical Keyboard
Mahesh De Andrado