Epomaker AK84S review: a great wireless keyboard, plus some quirks

You have two options when it comes to mechanical keyboards: you can either go with a big brand like Razer or Corsair, or buy from smaller enthusiasts manufacturers that offer more unique designs at more affordable prices.
Epomaker is definitely in the latter group of the two. The company's new AK84S wireless keyboard will not be available for purchase at Best Buy and is currently not listed on Amazon. It is now available for preorder from Epomakers website, having been funded through a Kickstarter campaign. For now, the company is focusing on shipping keyboards directly to Kickstarter backers before moving onto orders placed via its website in mid to late September. Epomaker states that shipping can take anywhere between one and two weeks depending on the method you choose.

The Epomaker AK84S keyboard is not one you can buy on impulse and expect to use within 24 hours. It also suffers from a lack documentation and confusing companion software. It starts at $89, and provides one of the most enjoyable typing experiences I've ever had with a mechanical keyboard. It's a good price, overall.

Epomaker AK84S Verge score 8.5 out 10 Great Stuff Amazing typing feeling


Bad Stuff Limited Support and Documentation

Software companion that is not intuitive

Keycaps for PBT are prone to wear. Buy Epomaker for $199.00

There are many configurations available for Epomakers AK84S. It is almost impossible to list all of them. The cheapest Epomakers AK84S configuration, as of this writing, is the one with optical switches, ABS keyscaps and an aluminum frame with a plastic cover. It costs $89. You can also choose from PBT keycaps, which are supposedly stronger (more on that in a moment), or an aluminum case. These options cost $199.

There are many options for switching, including a variety of Gateron-produced Cherry MX Clones. These include reds and blues as well as blacks and yellows. Some have an additional $5 charge. Epomaker also offers its own Chocolate-branded switches with this board. Unfortunately, I was not able to test them out.

This review was done using an AK84S. It has a full aluminum frame and PBT keycaps featuring the panda-design. The switches are clicky blue Gateron. The pictures will show that my model came in a purple case. This option isn't listed on Epomakers website but the company promises to make it more widely available. You won't find adjustable feet on the all-aluminum model.

The layout of the AK84S is 75 percent, which is very similar to that found on modern laptops. It is US (aka ANSI), so if you want a UK or European ISO layout, with a larger Enter key and smaller left Shift, it's not possible. Bottom row keycaps were included in my box for Windows and Mac, so I could switch between Command for Windows and Option keys. You can change the layout of the keyboards between the two operating system by pressing a button shortcut.

Before I go into the details, I want to highlight how great the AK84S's core typing experience is. Keypresses felt crisp on my all-aluminum model. The keyboard itself felt solid and comfortable to type on. The keyboard stabilizers that stop longer keys wobbling around are a problem. They are a little too rattly, which can detract from the overall quality and design of the rest. The keyboard as a whole is enjoyable to use.

Here's how the Epomaker AK84S has Gateron Blue switches sounds.

Although I liked the AK84S's typing experience, there were some issues I experienced with the keyboard. First, the stock Epomakers keycaps are not my favorite. The keycaps look cluttered and have so many functions that they can be confusing. If I had the choice, I would probably switch them for a third-party set. There aren't any non-standard keys on the keyboard. However, pay attention to the bottom row in any keycap set. My PBT keycaps were not very durable. After a month of usage, the legends printed on the home row keys began to fade. If given the choice, I would probably choose the ABS keycaps. ABS plastic is known for being shiny over time. However, the legends for the AK84S versions are double-shot which means that they wont wear down anytime soon. A unique silicone keycap option is also available, which I was not able to test and costs $65. It might be a novelty. I don't know.

The AK84S can be used to swap keycaps. It also has hot-swappable switch technology that makes it simple to replace the switches on your board without the need to use a soldering gun. The small tool in the box can be used to remove each switch from its socket and then insert a new one. This is a simple process that allows you to use a wide variety of strange and wonderful switches with your keyboard.

If a layout of 75 percent is well-thought out, it's possible to accommodate every key that most people use daily. The AK84Ss Windows layout is a bit strange. The default screenshot button is not labeled (its F13 in case you are wondering) and there's a whole key for Insert which I have never used. Personally, I prefer Page Up and Down keys to Home and End, but they are both accessible via a function key.

It is possible to customize layouts, although it can be difficult.

Fortunately, it is possible to modify the layout of the AK84Ss using a piece companion software. However, this process is difficult due to the lack of documentation. First, the Epomakers website does not list the AK84S as a download. However, if you download the software for SK, GK & NT Keyboards, you will get a program called GK6XPlus. This program recognizes the AK84S, and allows you to modify its layout. I asked the company about it, and it replied that it would amend their website. Although it is not intuitive software, I found a layout that worked regardless of the computer into which I connected the keyboard. If you are interested in RGB backlighting for your keyboards, this software is also customizable.

The AK84S was wired over USB C for most of my time. However, it also has Bluetooth connectivity and a 4,000mAh lithium battery. Epomaker claims that the battery should last 50 hours when the RGB lighting is on or up to 880 hours when it is off. Although I was unable to verify these claims, they seem to be far better than Keychrons K2, which can last up to 240 hours. The AK84S, like many wireless keyboards, can remember up three devices it has been paired with and can be switched between them with keyboard shortcuts.

The Epomaker AK84S has many small issues. Its default Windows layout is not great. The printing quality on the PBT keycaps is poor. Also, the support and documentation that you receive with the board is very limited. You also have to be patient when placing orders with this small company, as it ships all its products internationally.

The core typing experience with the Epomaker AK84S was so good that I'm willing to overlook most of them. Its software is slow and its documentation is poor, but these are both issues that can be fixed with patience and then ignored. You can expect the board to last for years if you add in quality-of-life features such as Bluetooth support and hot-swappable switch. You can use it until you feel the need to replace your keyboard.

Jon Porter Photography / The Verge