LEOBOG K81 Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software

The LEOBOG K81 is an interesting and unique keyboard when it comes to appearance. It is important to note this keyboard comes in four different variations, with them being Pink Bunny, Mint Sea Salt, Star Travel, and Morse Code. Our particular model is the Mint Sea Salt color scheme. For any enthusiasts out there, the LEOBOG K81 is very reminiscent of the IDOBAO ID80 Crystal in terms of design, utilizing a clear case and an exploded 75% layout. LEOBOG opted to use a polycarbonate case with partial polycarbonate keycaps to maintain a consistent appearance throughout the keyboard. The K81 features a standard high-bezel design, keeping the keycaps almost level with the frame of the keyboard. While this does not expose the switches, they are still very noticeable given the clear design. LEOBOG chose to place their written logo on the front lip of the keyboard and actual logo on the knob. Something I appreciate is the fact that even when turning the knob, the logo remains right side up. The knob is very smooth to use, and I had no issues with the functionality at all. The K81 does not come with a wrist rest, but extra feet are included to create a more aggressive typing angle. I found no issue with typing on this keyboard after installing the additional feet, but your experience may vary.

The LEOBOG K81 measures in at 335mm length, 142mm width, and 34mm height. Given the exploded design, this is only slightly noticeably smaller than a TKL keyboard. The size makes sense given the layout, but sits on the larger side of 75% keyboards. In terms of mass, this weighs in at about 1089g not including the detachable cord. This might seem quite heavy for a 75% keyboard, but when considering the weight of the battery, everything makes sense. Going into the build quality, the top deck shows no flex when pushing between the small gaps of the keyboard. When pushing into the keys, there is some flex, but we will talk about that more in detail on the next page. I proceeded to try and twist the keyboard, finding little to no avail due to the excellent build quality of the K81. For being a fully polycarbonate enclosure, the structure is quite solid. I was decently impressed with the build quality.

The LEOBOG K81 comes in a standard exploded 75% QWERTY ANSI layout. The standard 75% layout typically has eighty-four keys, but the K81 has eighty-one. This is due to the exploded layout and use of a knob. The ANSI layout is the standard American layout, which uses a single row Enter key, as seen in some of the previous images. The keyboard does not use a standard bottom row. For those who do not know, 1U stands for a single unit, meaning a 1.25U keycap is 1.25 times wider than a regular one. As such, the only difference in a 75% layout keyboard is the right Alt, Fn, and Ctrl keys are 1U rather than 1.25U. This and the smaller right shift key are so that the arrow cluster can be moved closer in to make for a more compact keyboard. For the average user, it may take some time to get used to, especially given the smaller shift key.

The LEOBOG K81 has full N-key rollover, meaning every single key pressed will register even if they are all pressed simultaneously. This means there will be no ghosting issues, where some keys may not be registered. Gamers and fast typists who have fast actions per minute or words per minute will benefit from this, as it will allow more keys to be recognized at the same time. In reality, people usually only need 6-key rollover, so the addition of N-key rollover is nice for extremely fast typists who can reach about 250 words per minute.

Taking a look at the secondary functions on the top three rows, arrow, and a few extra keys, all of the secondary functions are labeled on the top of the keycaps. These can be accessed by holding down the Fn key on the bottom right side before pressing the indicated key.

Starting on the top row from left to right, we have the Esc key, which has a factory reset secondary function. From F1 to F3, we have Home, Mail, and Conversion Window. Home opens your home screen on your browser, while Mail opens your Mail app. Conversion Window is an interesting key, as I personally found it to be a glorified Alt + Tab with less control. F5 and F6 are Brightness Down and Brightness Up. F7 to F12 are for media control, including Previous Track, Play/Pause, Next Track, Mute, Volume Down, and Volume Up.

On the number row, we have the different connectivity options. The tilde to number 4 keys is for the different operating modes of 2.4GHz wireless, three different devices through Bluetooth, and wired. The Q to R keys change between Android, Windows, Mac, and iOS modes, in that respective order. There are a few random keys such as the U to O Key in the third row that are used as secondary functions for Print Screen, Scroll Lock, and Pause, respectively. Furthermore, Delete and Home double as Insert and End, respectively.

Now here comes the lighting controls. The combination of Backslash and Fn will change the lighting animation, while Tab and Fn will change the color of the animation. The up and down arrows change the brightness of the backlight, while left and right change the speed of the animation. I will say, it is nice that you can use secondary functions to accomplish your goals. However, the redundancy of some of these functions, specifically the brightness ones, is a bit odd. Something else that bothered me was the Fn key always glowed red when the keyboard was plugged in for wired use. As someone who likes being directly connected occasionally, I found this to be a red flag, haha.

As for the keycaps, these are made primarily out of polycarbonate plastic, as previously mentioned. There is a top layer, which I believe to be ABS plastic due to its feel. I personally would have wanted PBT, or polybutylene terephthalate, for the tops, as the material is harder and resists shining better. The lettering is printed out on the ABS portion with a double shot process, which is created by molding two pieces of plastic together. This helps preserve the legending, as the color goes all the way through. The font used is quite standard and consistent with the rest of the board, which is something I personally prefer.

Underneath the keycaps, you can see the typical MX stem. This means you can replace the keycaps with another set. This keyboard uses north-facing lights, which could cause interference issues with Cherry profile keycaps. From my experience, the stock switches do not have this issue, but you should keep it in mind. In regard to thickness, they are about 1.5mm thick, which is good. The significance of the thickness of a keycap is important for the feel and pitch. To keep things simple, thicker ones have more depth and produce a deeper thock, while thinner ones produce a higher pitch sound.

The LEOBOG K81 features their own Ice Crystal Linear and Ice Soul Tactile switches. Our review copy is actually quite interesting, as it uses Ice Crystal Linears for the majority of the keyboard and a single Ice Soul Tactile switch for the space bar. Starting with the Ice Crystal Linears, we have a key travel of 3.7mm and an actuation point of 1.8mm. This would also be an indicator as to why there is no Cherry interference with these switches, as the total key travel is shorter than the typical 4mm. The total force required to actuate is roughly 48g. They have an expected lifespan of 60 million keystrokes. Moving onto the Ice Soul Tactile switches, we have key travel of 3.6mm and an actuation point of 1.7mm. The total force required to actuate is roughly 49g for the bump and 45g to bottom out. Once again, we have an expected lifespan of 60 million keystrokes.

Even with these specifications, it is quite hard to picture what these switches actually feel like, so I will try my best to explain. For a stock switch, the Ice Crystal Linears are more than acceptable. They come pre-lubricated, leaving the switches feeling smoother out-of-the-box. The lubrication job was done well, with a nice, even spread. The stock Ice Soul Tactiles has a top bump, meaning the tactile bump is at the beginning of the switch. This means you will face the most resistance pressing this switch initially. With that said, the Ice Crystal Linears and Ice Soul Tactiles are great switches, but I do wish LEOBOG would include an extra Ice Crystal Linear, so that I can swap out the single tactile switch in the space bar. Instead, they have included four tactile switches.

Moving on to stabilizers, we have plate-mount Cherry stabilizers. If you are unfamiliar, there are two main designs of stabilizers, which are Cherry and Costar. In both cases, these are used to maintain balance in the longer keys and stabilize them, as the name implies. Cherry ones will have stems matching the bottom of most keycaps, while Costar has a wire hooked into a hoop on the keycaps. The main issue with Costar stabilizers is how they are a rattly mess, and there is practically nothing you can do about it. Cherry stabilizers also rattle, but there are ways to reduce the sound, making it the superior choice.

There is also a large difference between plate mount and PCB mount stabilizers. Generally, there are three types of mounting method, including plate mounting, screw-in, and clip-in. The latter two are PCB-mounted. I personally prefer screw-in stabilizers, as they stay in place the best out of the three options, followed by clip-in. Given the keyboards design, plate mount stabilizers make a lot of sense, as they are the easiest to maintain and remove. The ease has a caveat that they can also easily fall out. With a small bit of knowledge, anyone should be able to fit them back into place.

Taking a peek at the bottom of the keyboard, we have four rubber feet. The feet on the bottom side are quite large, doing an excellent job of keeping the keyboard in place. There should be no noticeable unintentional sliding. There is no cable raceway to manage cables as the LEOBOG K81 uses a detachable cable design. This is my personal preference, as it makes swapping between keyboards easier. The included 1m USB Type-C cable is greatly appreciated, but the cable itself is rather short and not braided. A longer braided cable would be beneficial for durability and usability, but in my use, I found myself using 2.4GHz most of the time. The 2.4GHz connection had no noticeable connectivity issues in my setup, being fast and responsive.

After doing my thorough inspection, I put the LEOBOG K81 to use. As these Ice Crystal switches are linear in nature and the Ice Soul switch in the space bar is tactile, I made sure to account for this in the typing test. My first observation was a good bottoming out sound with no ping. I should note I am typing on top of a desk mat, which dampens higher pitched sounds. However, the lack of pinging is more due to the dampening within the keyboard. LEOBOG has provided a great use of foam to prevent unwanted noise. The smooth linear feel was consistent throughout all the keys, which was nice considering they were all factory lubricated. As someone who generally enjoys linear switches, I had a satisfactory experience, especially because the switches were already lubricated. I enjoyed the 1.8mm actuation point, as I never had any unintentional inputs like I did when I used Cherry MX Speed Silvers. The travel distance was good, and I had no issues whatsoever. The space bar was an interesting choice to make tactile. I found the tactile space bar was good for typing, but playing games was a little more difficult. This is not the biggest deal, as I can easily swap it out for another switch. The Ice Soul Tactile switches are also pre-lubed very lightly to maintain the tactile performance. A sound test of the LEOBOG K81 can be found below.

A highlight of the LEOBOG K81 is definitely its lighting effect potential. The clear design allows light to shine through without restriction. The glow is definitely something beautiful, but I would understand if some found it to be a bit much. I personally was a bit overwhelmed before adjusting the lighting, but I was able to find something comfortable. Seventeen different lighting variations can be toggled through by using the aforementioned backslash key. The effects can also be changed through the knob by holding it down, then single pressing the knob to cycle through the effects. Using the Tab key, you can cycle through eight different colors.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
3. A Closer Look - Disassembly and Internals
4. Conclusion