So the last time around when I got the deals email from Monoprice.com, the subject mentioned their new “essentials” keyboard for $5.99 USD. That’s right, 6 bucks for a keyboard.
Those who know me know that I have an affinity for keyboards. I have a ton of the things in the basement, and in general it’s one of my favorite things to impulse buy. At this price point? I was hopeless to resist. It’s worth noting that this $5.99 keyboard cost me $7.49. According to the market, the service of getting this item to me was worth more than the item itself. Nevertheless my morbid curiosity would not be denied, and a few short days later it arrived.
First surprise: The box contained two single serving boxes of Reese’s Puffs.
I mean, they tasted fine. No complaints there. And I suppose if this was an Amazon package, it would at least make sense in a very stretching way that they probably also sell this. This order, however, was from Monoprice and I’m so curious why on Earth these were included. No explanation was given, no indicator of the strangest marketing partnership ever, but I digress. The keyboard.
Very nice quality box, and no sarcasm intended. I wouldn’t say Apple packaging but I wouldn’t say Dell either. More importantly, keyboard was unscathed from it’s $7.49 journey. Let’s begin.
Not a lot of frills here, it’s wrapped in a plastic bag to keep the crap off, the cable is wrapped in a couple twist ties.
Once I get it out of the package, moment of truth: start tapping keys. Initially it felt cheap (shocker) but the more I tried it out and gave it a shot, the better it felt. It’s no cherry MX-switched mechanical beast-mode keyboard, but remember, this is a $6 keyboard and I was expecting bad. This was not bad. Dare I say, it was pretty good.
Took it upstairs to the office and hooked it up to my Alienware, which caused Windows 10 to blue screen. I don’t blame the keyboard for this, it turns out my graphic driver was having issues at the same time, and after a reboot it was perfectly fine. So let’s give it a go.
Honestly, this is not bad. I have an Alienware keyboard (the cheap one, not the neat one) that came with this PC, I have an HP stock keyboard and I have a stock Apple keyboard from back in the day when they used thick keys, and for real, I would choose this over all of those. The keys have a surprisingly good feel, very little squish, and even though it’s distinctly the feel of a rubber switch, it’s a firm rubber that gives a satisfying key travel and a good tactile return to indicate “button pushed.”
It’s worth noting that when they say “essentials” they mean it. This thing has nothing it doesn’t need, kind of like a formula one car. Where a lot of keyboards now are laden with media controls, browser controls, shortcut buttons and all the rest of it, this has nothing. No air conditioning, no traction control, just you and a good keyboard.
Now, the gripes: The layout of the enter key is really odd, I’m not sure if this is maybe some kind of International thing or what, but it was severely messing me up:
Basically the slash key has been moved next to the quote key, and made smaller, and the void where it once was has been replaced with a growth on top of the enter key. I’ve never seen this before, leading me to think again that it’s probably something from another country. After a little while I was used to it for the most part, but using a shell was extremely hard.
My other gripe: The numlock, capslock, etc. lights up top are not diffused at all. It literally is a bunch of holes, shaped somewhat like contrast icons for some reason, just injection molded into the case of the keyboard. When these are on, it’s just a raw LED shining out which is fine, until you hit that perfect angle and it just becomes mind shatteringly bright. This could be solved with a tiny piece of diffuse plastic, but apparently that was out of the budget.
So overall? It’s far from the best I’ve ever used but I’ll be honest: I’ve used far, far worse keyboards than this that cost a lot more. If you’re looking for something barebones and get-the-job-done with no frills, I’d consider this. Worst case you’re out $14. In the meantime I’m going to try and get used to this weird enter key.
Take it easy.