Work & Office

Keychron K6 Review: Best compact programming keyboard Windows & Mac

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Despite being a new comer to the mechanical keyboard community, but Keychron is coming with a storm. Founded in 2017, by 2 mechanical keyboard enthusiasts: WIll Ye & Sven Zhu, each has a decade experience in designing & producing industrial products, especially keyboards & switches. Up until now, Oct 2020, Keychron has released 6 iterations of their keyboards: K1, K2, K3, K4, K6, K8. That’s impressive record, considering each of their keyboards has unique features and has different market segments.

The best keyboard for programmers

Today, we have our hands on Keychron K6, a 65% compact mechanical keyboards. The K6 comes in several different packages: Hot swappable with aluminium housing, non-hot swappable with aluminium housing, and non-hot swappable with plastic housing. Customers have the luxury of choice between different type of switches: Gateron Red/Blue/Brown, LK Optical Red/Blue Brown (which is an in-house switches by Keychron). Let’s take a deeper look into the Keychron K6 and find out why we choose it as the best compact keyboard for programming and also to be the best keyboard for programming.

Design

Keychron K6

Unlike the 60% form factor keyboards which lack the dedicated navigation keys (arrow keys), Keychron had chosen 65% form factor which, in our sole opinions, will be appealing to a larger audiences. The frustration of not having dedicated navigation keys is real, as a lot of programmers / developers spend a huge amount of their time to navigate their code or looking through documentation. One other thing to consider is most programmers also play video games in their free time, so having dedicated arrow keys is a plus.

The lack of End key

Looking to the right side of the keyboard we found something unexpected: the disappearance of the End key. Keychron decided to satisfy the End key in place of the Lighting key. We found this decision as unnecessary: one can use a combination of keys to change lighting settings, but replacing End key is not something can be compensated.

The function keys cluster are now integrated into numeric keys

Because of the 65% form factor, the function keys cluster are now integrated into numeric keys into alphanumeric cluster. As the Keychron K6 comes with 2 Fn keys: Fn1 & Fn2; we can have a lot of combinations to functionals. For example: For the dimming the screen, we’ll use the combination of Fn1 + 1; for F1, we’ll use Fn2 + 1.

Keychron K6 with a Macbook Pro 2015

Because of the compact size, I’ve been using the Keychron K6 with my old (but mighty) Macbook Pro 2015 and still be able to reach for the touchpad without any trouble at all. Weighing at 2.44 lbs (or 1.1 kg), traveling with the K6 is possible although we don’t think that’s such a good idea.

Keycaps & backlighting

Keychron K6 keycaps

Similar to the Keychron K2 and the Keychron K4, Keychron K6 still makes use of ABS plastic. Although ABS keycaps can be found to be high in quality, but in K6’s case, the keycaps’ quality is not terrible, but also, not great. We found the K6’s keycaps are somewhat thin, but that’s to be expected in a product with affordable price. Our suggestion is to replace the keycaps with a new set.

Extra keycaps for both Windows & Mac

On the plus side, Keychron has been generous to ship with extra keycaps for both Windows & Mac support. We also found a orange Lighting key to replace with the original matte-black Lighting key. We really appriciate the effort from Keychron for the extra keycaps.

Our version is a Hotswappable keyboard with Gateron Blue switches. Keychron also provide a keycap puller for all versions, and a switch puller for the hotswappable version. Pulling out a keycap is a relatively easy process, on the other hand, pulling out a switch can be proven tricky and you may need some practices.

It’s fun pulling out the switches

With the hotswappable K6, Keychron provides their customers with a unique way of customization: you can have different types of switches for any keys. This unique feature also provides several pros:

  • You can pull out individual switch to clean
  • Dead switches can be replaced with ease
  • Lubing is possible

Despise all that, you should always take precautions as plugging a switch into the board can be tricky and can damage the switch’s legs. Also, the hotswap sockets will be worn out everytime we pull & plug switches. Some keyboard enthusiasts also claim that hotswappable switches are not as rigid as soldered switches, but we don’t notice much of a difference.

Keychron K6’s SMD

Lighting is not Keychron’s strong point. The diffusion of backlighting on the K6 is just acceptable, and we’re being generous here. Keychron have a lot of room for improvement in the lighting department.

Gateron Blue, Red, Black, Brown on the very same Keychron K6 (yes, we’re barbarians, don’t judge us)

Connectivity

The minimal IO setup

Taking a quick peek on the right side of the keyboard, we’ll find a USB Type-C port, a Windows/Android – Mac switch, a Bluetooth – Off – Cable switch. Keychron K6 supports 3 devices with bluetooth. You can switch between the 3 devices by pressing the combination of F1 & either Q/W/E. The switching duration between devices is probably about 1 second, but that depends on the type of devices.

The USB-A to USB-C cable

Opt-in for the L-shape head USB Type-C cable, we really appreciate that Keychron has put the cable management into consideration when designing this K6 keyboard. Although we found ourselves to use bluetooth connection most of the time, and the only time we plug the cable is to recharge the battery.

The Keychron K6 is equipped with a 4000mAh battery, which is impressive by all means (comparing to keyboards from other brands just come with merely few hundreds mAh battery). Charging the battery may take up to 3 hours, while using the K6 on RGB mode will deplete the battery in about 72 hours (yes, 72 hours straight). Turning off the backlighting will improve the time to almost a month.

On the bottom, you’ll find 4 rubber feets, along with 2 risers with 2 different heights: up to 9 degree incline. This design allow to 3 angles of typing to provide the maximum comfort while typing.

Conclusion: the best keyboard for programming

What Keychron has achieved with the K6 is anything but extraordinary. Despise there are several short-comings with the lighting & keycaps, but with the affordable price, the Keychron K6 really stands out above any competitors. We really hope that other brands take note of Keychron’s successes and produce something worthy.

And because of all that, we decided the Keychron K6 to be the best keyboard for programmers. In fact, we recommend choosing any Keychron for programming.

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