Followers of this website know that I have a thing for mechanical keyboards. Well, it has been some time since I reviewed one here but let me assure you that I have many to share with you.
Today we’ll take a look at the Epomaker (Skyloong) SK71S. This is a very compact keyboard that manages to squish not only a 65% sized keyboard and a numpad that fits in almost the same real estate that is taking up for its sister keyboards the SK64S and the GK65XS (and their 61 key counterparts) that I also have lying around here somewhere.
I picked up the SK71S on Drop for $98 USD plus shipping which is actually over the MSRP of the keyboard on Epomaker’s website right now. At the time of order however it was an OK deal.
I received the keyboard about a month ago and have been playing around with it off and on since. There are some compromises here that have been made to make this keyboard as compact as it is. Essentially the keyboard removes some keys and combines others onto different layers. This makes for a bit of a learning curve and in some cases may really be unusable for certain situations.
One of those situations is actually writing things like this review. The keyboard combines the ;: button with the ‘“ button. This can become a bit tiresome when writing. Especially since Epomaker by default makes the ;: primary and the ‘“ secondary. You can change these things in their software but it is a chore to navigate.
I am also not a huge fan of the key profile. The included keycaps use the GSA profile. While I do appreciate the added real estate on the top of the keycaps I really miss the curved profile that comes with MDA keycaps. Of course there is the Cherry profile as well which is fine though the real estate at the top of the keycap is less impressive. It will be hard to find a different profile keycap switch as this keyboard is not a standard layout so I will have to live with these for now. That said, the included keycaps do feel to be of very decent quality and the colourway is relatively attractive.
I ordered my SK71S with hot-swappable Gateron optical yellow linear switches. They are a bit lighter than red which I appreciate though much lighter than this and it may make it hard to type (I’ll have a review of some Akko key switches in the future detailing a very light linear switch). They have a definite hard sound when they bottom out but that may be muted by putting some foam in the case. I personally like hearing my keyboards. Why spend all the money on a mechanical switch keyboard then try and mute the sound? It is important to note that while these switches are hot-swappable they can only be swapped with other Gateron optical switches.
Backlighting is alright. It’s not overly bright and since the legends on the keycaps do not shine through the backlight does little other than to offer some fancy lighting to match your setup rather than any functional use. That does tend to be a theme in the mechanical keyboard world.
While the SK71S is bluetooth compatible I have not used it. The positioning of my desktop and the keyboard makes the connection very flakey so I don’t think I can offer a fair opinion on it’s performance. I can say that the wired connection is USB-C and that it is in a pretty good location at the front and left side of the keyboard. I do prefer Keychron’s approach to the cable location coming out of the side but this position still beats a centred cable.
I should mention that the keyboard does come with it’s own USB cable, keycap and key switch pullers, a couple extra keys and a small instruction pamphlet. This pamphlet is very useful to figure out key combinations and unlock extra functionality of the keyboard such as changing the lighting modes and accessing different layers.
What do I think overall? I think with time and practice this keyboard could have a place on my desk. Right now I think this will be retired for some time until I can really focus on learning to type with some speed. It is comfortable to type on though and if you are able to pick up on the key locations quickly you may really like the SK71S for what it is.