Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
On the website and promotional material, Gigabyte advertises this AORUS K1 to have "Neonpunk" styling to display "future aesthetics in the darkness of the night". As such, around the keyboard we have some engraved edges in different areas of the keyboard. These sort of look like claw marks or scratches, but they are all straight and parallel. On the side, we have some engraved words on the left side that says "Team Up. Fight On". While it could be seen as cheesy, I actually like this sort of subtle gamer look. AORUS branding is generally kept to a minimum with an "AORUS" silver marking on the top right corner. Otherwise, I think this keyboard is pretty minimal in its look with its island-style floating keys design. As such, the mechanical key switches are installed on top of the exposed backplate for a floating look. Overall. I really like the subtle gamer marks on and around the keyboard. It might not be as "neonpunk" as some might expect, but I think it looks quite good.
In terms of measurements, the Gigabyte AORUS K1 measures 440mm in width, 130mm in depth, and 40mm in height. This is quite similar to the Gigabyte AORUS K9 Optical, though this keyboard is not as deep as the K9 Optical. In terms of mass, this keyboard weighs in at 1.125kg, which is about expected for a keyboard of this size. In terms of build quality, the keyboard is very sturdy. There is a very tiny bit of action if you really try to torque the keyboard, but this is not a realistic scenario at all. When pressing the backplate in exposed areas, there is no flex or bending. The top backplate is made up of metal, but the sides and the bottom of the enclosure are plastic. Even so, there is no creaking or strange noises when pushing these areas, which is great to see. Otherwise, there is no wrist rest included here, which is disappointing. I would have liked to see one, especially since gamers would appreciate having a place to rest their palms while gaming or typing.
As with most of the keyboards we see here, the Gigabyte AORUS K1 comes to us in a standard 104-key QWERTY ANSI layout. We have a standard bottom row with the Windows, Fn, Ctrl, Alt, and dedicated WinLk keys all being the same size. As for the indicator LEDs, these are found on the top right side of the keyboard, above the number pad. These three indicator LEDs are marked with a 2, A, and W. These refer to number lock, caps lock, and Windows lock. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, while the last one just illuminates when you hit the WinLk key on the bottom row. This means we do not have a light for scroll lock, which is alright with me.
As for secondary functions, the Gigabyte AORUS K1 has secondary functions up the wazoo around the keyboard. All of these are activated by pressing the Fn key on the bottom right side before pressing the intended key. Starting from the top, F1 to F3 are used for volume controls, including Mute/Unmute, Volume Down, and Volume Up. F5 to F7 are used for media controls, which are Previous, Play/Pause, and Next. F9 to F11 are used for shortcut keys so you can open your default music player, Internet browser, and calculator. I really appreciate that all of these keys are grouped and separated into their own section, with an unused function key in between each grouping. The lighting secondary functions are also available, but I will cover these later on in the review.
As for key rollover, the Gigabyte AORUS K1 offers NKRO over USB. NKRO is abbreviated for N-key rollover, which refers to the number of keys independently scanned by the hardware. In essence, this feature fixes ghosting issues found in cheaper and/or laptop keyboards. While ghosting is a marketing term, there are cases where keyboards will not be able to recognize more than one keystroke at a time, causing for missed keys. This can be frustrating when you are playing games or even if you are just a very fast typist. On an aside, the original usage of ghosting in keyboards actually referred to a third key being registered when two other keys were pressed, which thankfully is not a problem with most modern keyboards.
Before continuing on, one of the selling points of the Gigabyte AORUS K1 is the mechanical key switches. There are three main types of keyboards in the market today. The cheapest but most common is the membrane keyboard, which is the easiest to make, but also has poor typing feel and response due to squishy keys. Next is a scissor switch keyboard. This can be thought of as an enhanced rubber dome with two extra interlocking plastic pieces connected to the key and the keyboard. This creates a better tactile response and typing experience in comparison to the aforementioned membrane. Mechanical keyboards, such as the AORUS K1, cost the most, because each key switch is an independent part. These switches are generally composed of a base, stem, and spring, with varying degrees of tactile and audible feedback.
The Gigabyte AORUS K1 comes in only one variant, which uses Cherry MX Red switches. These linear switches are often favored by gamers, as they feature a quiet typing experience and a relatively low actuation force to trigger them. However, unlike traditional Cherry MX switches, these are rated to last up to 100 million keystrokes. They have a 45g actuation force, a travel distance of 4mm, and actuation distance of 2mm. Otherwise, you can see there is a clear enclosure for each switch, allowing the RGB lighting to spill out. The keycaps on top of these switches are made of ABS plastic. I prefer PBT, or polybutylene terephthalate, keycaps because the material is harder and keeps its color better. This means you should not see things like fingerprint staining. I also like the durable feel of PBT over the smooth finish of ABS keycaps. The lettering is printed on with a laser etching process, which removes the black cover to reveal the translucent plastic. This is a typical and cost-effective solution for keycap printing. The choice of font here is good and allows light to come through, but we will talk more about this later on.
Flipping to the back side, you can see the label with some certification information as well as a serial number to identify your Gigabyte AORUS K1. In the center, above said label, is where the braided cable comes out. This cable measures approximately 1.8m in length and is actually quite flexible for a braided cable. Another thing related to the cable is the fact Gigabyte implemented routing lanes underneath the keyboard. This lets users lead the cable out either the left, right, or middle of the keyboard so the cable does not get in the way of the rest of the setup. There is also another valley that leads from the front to the back. These are supposed to be used to route headphone or microphone cables, so the keyboard can sit on top of it. Otherwise, you can see we have quadrilateral rubber pads on each corner to keep the keyboard in place. At the back, we have retracting feet that swing out the sides to prop up the keyboard. This should reduce the accidental retraction when the keyboard is moved back and forth. These are also capped with rubber to again hold the placement of the keyboard when it is propped up.
Once I finished my inspections, I plugged the Gigabyte AORUS K1 into my main system and tested it out. Unsurprisingly, I felt at home with this keyboard. I have been using Cherry MX Red switches for my daily switches, so it did not take much to adjust to this keyboard, at least in terms of feel. These are linear switches, so it makes the most sense to test the keyboard while gaming. In these circumstances, the keyboard provides good feedback. The linear motion and travel were smooth and did not have any irregularities. When it comes to typing, the light feel is as expected for a lighter linear switch at 45g. There was no metallic ping heard when typing, unless I pecked at the keys aggressively or slammed on the keys. In typical typing, the metallic noise is kept to a minimum. These Cherry switches are generally well manufactured and thankfully the feel was consistent across the keys. No issues like debouncing or chattering occurred while in use. In reality, the only thing I had to get used to with this keyboard was the size of the AORUS K1, which is larger than the 87-key keyboard I usually use.
One area I wanted to see improvements over the AORUS K9 Optical was the lighting, but unfortunately this is one of the weaker areas for the AORUS K1 as well. On the good side, we do have the full 16.7M RGB lights here on a per key basis. However, the weakness is in terms of their brightness. As all of the lettering on the keys are etched in, they should allow for the backlight to illuminate the full key. However, the lighting on the AORUS K1 is on the top of each switch, so only the top row of each keycap shines through while the rest of it not as bright. This is clearly seen above as the numbers in the number row are not illuminated to the same degree as the top of the key. This is a bit disappointing, especially since I think I would prefer the numbers to be lit rather than the secondary symbols. The lower brightness can also be attributed to the print of font used. While I do like the finer print, it does mean we sacrifice the amount of light that bleeds through. Finally, I think the lights just do not get as bright as I have seen on other Cherry MX switches, which is a shame.
As mentioned previously, all of the lighting effects and colors can be changed on the fly with secondary functions on and above the arrow keys. Starting from the top, Scroll Lock can be used to cycle through the different lighting effects. The Insert key cycles through different colors for applicable effects, while the Delete key turns off lighting altogether. Home and End are used to increase and decrease the speed of moving lighting effects, while Page Up and Page Down are used to increase and decrease the brightness. There is a total of ten different levels. Finally, the secondary functions on the arrow keys can be used to change the direction for the rainbow wave effect, letting users pick where the wave moves towards. I do appreciate more controls being available to the user on-the-fly, rather than forcing users to use an application.
Another area I think Gigabyte could improve upon is their software. Once again, we need to download two pieces of software. One is AORUS Engine, which is a 112MB download. This is where you can change the key assignments for the keyboard and record macros. The other is RGB Fusion, which is where you control the lighting on the product. While these two pieces of software are separate since they are used for other Gigabyte products, I do not like the fact they are separate. Once installed, you can update the firmware for the AORUS K1, though I ran into a strange issue where I was unable to do so, even after trying different systems. This seems like a one-off issue, so I would not worry too much about it.
Starting with AORUS Engine, Gigabyte lets you record macros from the keyboard or mouse to be replayed with a single keystroke. There are no additional macro keys, so this means you will be reassigning any key to play your macro. From here, you can also create different profiles, though profile changing is done in the utility. RGB Fusion is used for selecting and customizing different lighting effects. All of these effects are found on the keyboard, but the software is used for more custom colors. Overall, the Gigabyte software does function as intended, though it is really only necessary to install if you want to reprogram the keys on your keyboard or record macros.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software