Review: Royal Kludge RK84 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard
We live in a tenkeyless world. For a long time, the mechanical keyboard market has been dominated by a few big names including Logitech, Razer, Corsair, etc; building standard full-size keyboards. Then they started embracing tenkeyless form factors and keyboards have continued to shrink. Even Razer offers a 60% keyboard now.
There’s also been a rise in keyboards that act as a canvas for your own personal expression. While keyboards from larger companies, including many of the best wireless keyboards, carry their specific design aesthetic, smaller companies offer keyboards that are meant to be changed. The $79.99 Royal Kludge RK84 is one of those models, offering wired and wireless connectivity, a sizable internal battery, a 75% keyboard design, and hot-swappable switches.
Lighting: RGB backlighting
Onboard Storage: Yes
Media Keys: Secondary FN keys
Connectivity: USB-C Wired, Bluetooth, 2.4GHz dongle
Cable: 5.6 inch USB-A to USB-C cable
Additional Ports: 2x USB 2.0 passthrough
Internal Battery: 3750mAh
Keycaps: ABS Double Shot
Software: Royal Kludge software
Measurements: (LxWxH)12.5 x 5 x 1.75 inches (315 x 125 x 40mm)
Weight: 1.77lbs (803.5g)
Right out of the box, the Royal Kludge RK84 makes a statement about stark simplicity. The entire keyboard is cast in white plastic (also available in black), with the only breaks being the transparent characters on the keycaps and the black Royal Kludge logo. On the rear, there’s a single USB-C port and two USB-A 2.0 ports; the former is for charging the internal battery and wired connections, while the latter keys are for data and charging other devices.
Because this is a tenkeyless model, the numeric keypad is gone, leaving us with a total of 84 keys. Royal Kludge calls this its 80% keyboard, but the layout is really a 75% model. There’s no space between any of the keys, and the right Ctrl key has been cut in half to make space for a Function key. At 12.5 inches across and 5 inches wide the RK84 is pretty small, but it’s 1.75 inches thick and weighs around 1.77 pounds. That means it has a bit of heft to it, making the overall construction feel solid.
On the underside of the RK84, you’ll find four rubber feet, an on-off switch, the Bluetooth / 2.4-GHz wireless toggle, and a slot for the wireless dongle. The rear feet don’t pop out to change the height of the keyboard. Instead, it comes with two magnetic feet that just snap over the existing feet and add 0.375 inches of height. One problem here is there’s no storage spot for the feet, so if you’re traveling you’ll need to stow them in a separate bag.
The model I reviewed had cloned RK-branded Red switches that mirror the standard Cherry MX Reds, but Royal Kludge also offers Blue and Brown switches as an option. However, the RK84 is built for customization. It comes with a keycap puller and switch puller, in addition to four additional switches. The keycaps are ABS doubleshot keycaps with the familiar cross pattern connector on the bottom. The switches are plate-mounted, 3-pin models, but the board looks to have holes allowing the use of PCB-mounted switches.
Both new and veteran keyboard enthusiasts will appreciate the Royal Kludge’s design. The compact 75% format saves desktop space and makes it perfect for carrying around. Its multiple connection options allow you to pair it with multiple devices and switch among them with a flick of a switch or a couple of key presses.
For example, I can connect the keyboard to my desktop computer via the wired USB-C connection and my laptop via the 2.4GHz dongle. I can then connect it via Bluetooth to my smartphone, iPad, and PS5. So, without leaving my desk, I can instantly switch to any of my devices.
The power switch must be off to use the keyboard in wired mode. It will shift to wireless mode and connect via Bluetooth or the 2.4 GHz dongle when you switch it on. You can then move the mode switch between B and G modes. G connects to the USB dongle while B activates Bluetooth.
You have to note that the dongle doesn’t have much range; only about five feet. If solid objects block its line of sight, you might suffer from an unreliable signal. Thankfully, the Bluetooth 5.0 baked into the keyboard more than makes up for this shortcoming.
One more great thing about the RK84 is that it works with Windows, Mac, Android/Chromebook, and iOS. So no matter what device you use, you won’t run into any issues with this keyboard. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t include keycaps for Mac and iOS, so you’re likely stuck with the Win key for your Command key.
For me personally, while I don’t mind using a 75% keyboard, I don’t just game from my PC, I also work from it. So having a full-sized keyboard is important for me especially one with the 10-key. My wife, however, has smaller hands and she much prefers smaller keyboards such as the Royal Kludge RK84. Her biggest compliment about this keyboard is while it is a 75% keyboard, all of the keys are fairly close together giving her the feel of a 60% keyboard with regards to overall size. This is something she really likes due to having smaller hands. So, if you’re like her and you have smaller hands, this is certainly a keyboard worth considering for that very reason.
Since the Royal Kludge RK84 is a wireless keyboard, it has a built-in 3,750mAh battery. This is the biggest capacity battery among Royal Kludge’s wireless offerings. Furthermore, it’s also the only one offering both Bluetooth and 2.4GHz connections.
Royal Kludge assures the keyboard will have up to 200 hours of battery life on 2.4GHz with no backlight, which is more than decent. Even if you’re typing or gaming eight hours a day, the keyboard will last for nearly a month before needing a recharge.
However, you can expect this to drop significantly when using the backlight, as LED lights consume a lot of power. Nevertheless, the lighting will automatically power off after five minutes when the keyboard’s not used.
Recharging the keyboard takes about six to seven hours via the USB-C port. But you can still use the device as you’re charging it, so you don’t lose functionality.
However, there’s no easy way to monitor the keyboard’s battery level. It doesn’t have a battery indicator, nor does it have a low battery warning sign. The only signs you get are the following: the space bar will blink thrice when you plug it in via USB-C and it’s charging, then the spacebar flashes five times once charging is complete.
I haven’t fully tested actual battery life compared to what Royal Kludge states how the battery should perform mainly because I do game from my PC, just as my wife does, and we much prefer to play with a wired keyboard.
With that said, I can tell you that we’ve used the keyboard in wireless mode, with backlighting enabled, and battery life seems really good. While I can’t provide an exact number, I feel it’s very comparable to most any other wireless keyboard when it comes to the battery life.
The RK84 features 22 built-in lighting effects, which is a good number of different effects especially considering how cheap the price is for this keyboard. Those lighting effects include the following:
Layer Upon Layer
Rich And Honored
Royal Kludge Software
This is the biggest drawback of the RK84. While you can perfectly use the keyboard without downloading the app, you need it if you want to unlock custom key settings, macro commands, personalized lighting effects, and update your keyboard’s firmware.
The first significant issue is it doesn’t have a Mac app; you must have a Windows PC to run it. Another thing is the app itself doesn’t feel well built. It feels like a half-baked solution made just so that people can customize their devices. While there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, for me personally I want a really nice looking, easy to work with piece of software that I can quickly go in and make any changes that I wish to make.
You also have to spend considerable time figuring your way around making macros, assigning custom functions, and even disabling keys. Furthermore, creating custom lighting effects isn’t easy to understand. It took me a lot of time to get my desired pattern through trial and error.
Thanks to the awesome folks over at Royal Kludge for allowing me to review this product and others that they have sent over in the past. They have also provided me with a special discount code that anyone can use to save a total of 10% off of your entire purchase across their site. So if you’re interested in purchasing the Royal Kludge RK84, you can manually input DECRYPTED as the code during check out and then you should see your 10% discount applied immediately.
The Royal Kludge RK84 stands up to some serious competition. While most established brands like Corsair and Logitech offer mechanical keyboards way above this price point, models from boutique brands like the Keychron K2 offer an almost similar alternative at the same price.
However, the RK84’s 2.4GHz wireless dongle, removable frame, and unique white design make it an excellent option. This is despite its customization software, which lacks polish and feels like a half-baked effort to have advanced features for keyboard enthusiasts and professionals.
At less than $80, you’re getting a fully-featured 75% wireless mechanical keyboard with a load of customization options. Its low price lets you have extra cash to spend on custom switches, keycaps, and USB-C cables. This makes the Royal Kludge RK84 an excellent entry-level mechanical keyboard for those new to the bespoke keyboard hobby.