Right here’s the rule with peripherals: As soon as is a gimmick, twice is a development, and thrice is a class. And our newest class? Low-profile mechanical keyboards, which deliver components of the laptop computer typing expertise to desktops. These hybrid keyboards began to indicate up late final yr, first with the Roccat Vulcan 120 Aimo, then with Corsair’s Okay70 RGB Mk.2 Low Profile.
Now we’ve got a 3rd contender, Cooler Grasp’s new SK630. With a tenkeyless design and removable cable it’s definitely essentially the most cellular of the bunch, although just a few odd decisions might show polarizing.
Notice: This overview is a part of our greatest gaming keyboards roundup. Go there for particulars about competing merchandise and the way we examined them.
Cooler Grasp’s quick changing into one in all my favourite firms, from an aesthetics standpoint. Those that’ve learn my keyboard evaluations for some time know that I’m a sucker for a minimalist design—one you should use within the workplace with out feeling embarrassed, actually. And whereas most firms have improved on that entrance in recent times, Cooler Grasp is simply nailing it.
Like my beloved Mionix Wei, the SK630 is a gaming keyboard that doesn’t look the half in any respect. The brushed aluminum backplate, wedge-shaped chassis, and clear sans-serif lettering are lifted straight from the fanatic keyboard boilerplate. It’s very fairly, and clearly somebody at Cooler Grasp has been keeping track of tendencies outdoors the gaming bubble. The SK630 even makes use of a removable USB-C cable as a substitute of the MicroUSB utilized by (as an illustration) HyperX. Once more, forward of the curve right here.
And maybe that’s as a result of the SK630 appeals extra to a non-gaming viewers. It doesn’t break up the distinction between a laptop computer and desktop typing expertise actually. It is a laptop computer keyboard, packaged for a desktop PC.
It’s an essential distinction. Corsair’s Okay70 Low Profile, as an illustration, nonetheless rounded the perimeters of every key so as to add house between them, and staggered the rows vertically to offer higher ergonomics. Roccat’s aforementioned Vulcan 120 Aimo had much less vertical displacement, however keys had been broadly spaced and the caps nonetheless had an outlined curve to them.
Not so, on the SK630. After I say it’s flat, I imply it’s flat. The entire discipline is tilted barely ahead to permit higher entry, however the edges of every key are squared off and degree with its neighbors. This additionally minimizes the quantity of house between keys, which makes the keyboard really feel extra cramped than typical—sufficient in order that I introduced out a HyperX Alloy FPS to check the 2 side-by-side. The SK630 isn’t really any smaller than a typical keyboard but it surely feels smaller, and I discovered the shortage of delineation between keys resulted in additional typos.
It additionally made it a bit tougher to play video games. Is the SK630 a gaming keyboard? Solely insofar as there’s a big overlap between “keyboard fanatic” and “gaming fanatic.” However hey, it comes from a gaming peripheral firm, is decked out in RGB lighting, and the product web page references gaming, so we must always handle that facet.
In any case, the SK630’s flattened ergonomics make it tough to select keys in aggravating conditions. Not not possible, thoughts you—like several enter system, you get used to the SK630’s quirks and reply accordingly. That mentioned, you’re placing your self at a drawback. So long as you’re locked all the way down to WASD the remaining (“R,” “E,” “Ctrl,” and so forth) follows naturally, however I discovered it a lot tougher to blind-fire “I” or “M” on the SK630 than on a conventional keyboard.
Two more complaints, and they both concern build quality.
First of all, the keycaps wiggle. This isn’t unique to Cooler Master, and indeed most keyboards will have a bit of wiggle or wobble to the keycaps. But I found it uniquely problematic on the SK630 because of its clean, squared-off design. The keys actually rotate slightly—not enough to cause problems when typing, and you won’t suddenly look down and find the “H” key’s gone sideways or anything. But they rotate maybe 5 or 10 degrees in either direction, and the result is that after a few nights of typing the SK630’s once-uniform rows all appear a bit skewed, one key leaning right, another leaning left, all down the line.
Is it a big deal? Absolutely not, and only close inspection reveals the problem. For a while I noticed something felt a bit “off” though, and realized it was these disorderly rows that were the culprit.
A more substantial problem? There are no feet, nor height adjustments of any kind. That in itself is annoying but not necessarily surprising, as the SK630’s flattened keys would probably prove awkward at an exaggerated angle, especially the upper rows.
But my SK630 wasn’t level either. At first I thought it was a problem with my desk, so I moved the SK630 to a handful of different surfaces—but no, it was the keyboard. I eventually folded some paper and tucked it under the back-left corner of the SK630 which “solved” the problem, but come on, this is a $130 keyboard. I shouldn’t need a hack solution to keep it from rocking back and forth on my desk.
As for the switch, the SK630 is the first time we’ve gotten to try Cherry’s Low Profile MX Red. As I noted when reviewing the K70, the Low Profile MX Speed switch is almost identical to the full-size Speed, but takes up half the space—an impressive feat of engineering. The Low Profile MX Red makes more substantial changes though, at least on paper.
So let’s go over the stats. A traditional Cherry MX Red switch features a travel distance of 4.0mm and an actuation point at 2.0mm. The Low Profile MX Red, by comparison, has a travel distance of 3.2mm and an actuation point at 1.2mm. And just for comparison, the Low Profile MX Speed has a travel of 3.2mm and an actuation at 1.0mm. All three require the same 45 grams of force.
We’re really splitting hairs with those numbers, and I think the biggest question is why Cherry decided it needed a Low Profile MX Red and a Low Profile MX Speed. The full size Red and Speed/Silver switches are significantly different, but the low profile versions are nearly identical. They have the same exact travel distance, the same force requirement, and the only statistical difference is that the Speed switches actuate 0.2mm sooner. Again, that’s one fifth of a millimeter.
Why even bother with separating the two? I have no idea. But the point is, having now used both the Low Profile MX Red and the Low Profile MX Speed switches, you’re probably fine with either. I’ve tried more than my fair share of keyboard switches, and consider myself an expert at picking out minute differences that contribute to a better or worse typing feel. I couldn’t tell you the difference between these two Low Profile MX switches. Both offer the same gaming-first experience, and both are fine.
Better than fine, really. I still consider these Low Profile MX switches more of an ergonomic choice than a necessity, and personally prefer the feel of a full-sized desktop keyboard. If you love your laptop keyboard though and want a similar feel on your desktop, Cooler Master’s the latest company to oblige—and comes the closest I’ve seen to a truly flat chiclet design.
That said, the lack of wrist rest makes the SK630 an odd ergonomic fit. It reminds me of one of those laptops where the keyboard’s in the front, with no place to put your hands. In theory it shouldn’t make a huge difference, but it does, and it’s awkward. Add in the lack of feet, the rocking, and the tendency for the keycaps to skew sideways, and I think Cooler Master might need a second pass at this trend. There are a few too many flaws, especially when you could have Cooler Master’s near-perfect CK552 for nearly half the price.