Royal Kludge RK84
What do you do when you have a perfectly fine desktop keyboard? Buy another one!
This is going to be a somewhat short post as this keyboard is pretty similar to the Royal Kludge 68 Pro I've already written quite a bit about, however, there are a few minor differences and I may discover more so I'll do what I like to do; endlessly babble about stuff only I care about and maybe someday someone on the internet will find it and think; huh, I needed to know that! So I suggest if you're interested in Royal Kludge keyboards in general, read the 68 Pro post first, then return here if you're specifically interested in the RK84 as most of this post will be referring to differences in the two models.
RK68 Pro vs RK84 Highlights
The primary physical difference between the RK68 and RK84 is the addition of a row of keys at the top for F keys, which also puts Esc and ` in the normal places and gives the keyboard a few more navigation keys. I do a lot of cursoring around, home, end, etc, and having these keys directly on the keyboard is important for me. I have attempted to use a 60% keyboard at work and it drives me completely insane having to use FN so much; I know some "ergo" nuts out there feel that the fewer keys there are the better the keyboard is, but that's not for me.
I will primarily be using this keyboard at my desk at work, so Bluetooth reliability will be less of a concern for me on this keyboard, however, I will be testing it extensively on Bluetooth to determine if this keyboard has any connectivity issues which seem to be common on cheaper keyboards. It was a hard requirement on my RK68Pro which passed with mostly flying colors, so I hope this board will as well. All the other requirements from my RK68Pro still hold true (remapping keys, reliability, etc).
Features, functions, software, etc, for the most part, is almost completely common between the two boards so I won't go into any details there. I'm pretty sure the software is even exactly the same; I installed the one for the RK84 and it updated the existing one, and both keyboards seem to work fine with it. I was a bit concerned about it keeping track of the 68 vs the 84 but it seems fine. So I won't get into any deep details in this area.
The stock keyboard out of the box was unfortunately basically the same as the 68 Pro as well; hollow, cheap switches, and horrible keycaps. The RK68Pro came with real Gateron switches but the RK84 had switches labeled "RK". I did not spend a lot of time evaluating them, but they seemed fine, but I already had switches lined up to populate the keyboard. I had read some reviews saying the keyboard was overly light, felt cheap, and flexed terribly. This non-Pro version is a plastic case so it is lighter, but it does not feel cheap and does not flex. As I've used this keyboard a bit more I am actually appreciating the lighter weight vs my RK68 Pro.
Besides the really trash keycaps they put on the keyboard this, similar to the RK68Pro, would be a fine keyboard to use out of the box even for keyboard nerds. I spent some time (and money) putting in a felt layer between PCB and Plate, put in Kaihl Box Pink switches and some thicker OEM profile keycaps from LTC and it sounds and feels a lot better now. However, I did screw up a bit on the felt; it interferes with the space bar stabilizer so I may have to fix this at some point. I'm hoping it'll "wear in" a bit but right now the space is a bit stiff and can sometimes not return if I hit it certain ways. Time will tell as I actually use the keyboard. Unfortunately, it means taking the entire keyboard apart again unless I can figure out a way to pull the felt downwards and clip out the offending bits without taking everything apart. Protip; don't remove your stabs when doing a felt or foam lining between Plate and PCB so you notice these things earlier!
Side note on Kaihl Pink switches; I've been using Jades in all of my portable keyboards but I wanted something just a touch lighter for this keyboard so I went with Pink. They are a bit higher-pitched which is unfortunate but it's not too significant and they actually feel a bit heavier than Jades, which I did not expect. The force curves/specs do show them being 5 grams heavier on Peak and Operating force, and 5 grams lighter on Bottom Out. Maybe I should have gone with White, oh well! Time will tell, but even with their slightly higher operating force, they feel lighter. I had heard a few reviews saying they were a "lighter Jade" which is why I purchased them.
I'll re-iterate one thing I did not like about the 68 Pro that is common on the 84; the On/Off and Bluetooth/2.4ghz switches are very small and fiddly. I really wish they'd make these better; they really feel awful and I fear they will eventually break and when they do it'll be pretty hard to fix as they're soldered directly onto the keyboard. I wish they would just mount them on the back of the keyboard.
I've used the keyboard on the same tablet I use all of the time and have zero issues with the RK68; however, I have had a few issues of stuttering from the RK84 unfortunately. Of the three nights I've used the RK84 with my Android tablet, the first night I saw no stuttering, the second night I saw it several times, and the third night I didn't see it again. I am beginning to suspect that it's not just the keyboard having issues but perhaps also tablet issues. However, I am pretty sure that this keyboard is worse than my RK68, so perhaps different hardware, firmware, etc. It would be disappointing if I were using this as a Bluetooth keyboard, however, I plan to primarily only use it on USB.
So the Bluetooth stability is nowhere as bad as the Kemove Shadow, but still enough to be concerning if my primary use case were Bluetooth, however, this keyboard will primarily be used on USB. If you're using it on Bluetooth this may be more of an issue for you. I will continue to use Bluetooth periodically for testing and update as necessary.
And as for USB; I've used this keyboard for a week at work on USB; not a single flaw.
Battery and Charging
I've heard the battery life is terrific on this keyboard, and it has the same poor indication of charging/full/empty as the other RK keyboards, unfortunately. In theory, when you plug in the keyboard it will flash the space bar 3 times to indicate charging, and 5 times to indicate it's full. In reality, I always see it flash 3 times. I'll keep an eye out to see if it gives battery levels over Bluetooth, the RK68Pro was a bit weird here in that it did not show any battery level until it was at 30%. I don't know that I'll ever see a low battery on this keyboard as I'll primarily use it USB, but I'll update if I ever do!
Both keyboards appear to use the exact same software, so anything on the RK68Pro applies here. A lot of people hate this software but I don't think it's that bad. The only thing I wish it would allow is setting FN sequences; the same as the RK68Pro.
Since this keyboard is physically different than the RK68Pro, I'll completely write out all of the keyboard layout/shortcuts here rather than any kind of delta.
Bluetooth Keys (Long press to pair)
- FN+Q - Connect to Device 1
- FN+W - Connect to Device 2
- FN+E - Connect to Device 3
- FN+P - Pair to 2.4GHz dongle (should not be needed in normal use)
Note; to switch between Bluetooth and 2.4GHz use the switch on the bottom of the keyboard. Also if you see the P key flashing, that indicates it's trying to connect to the 2.4GHz dongle. If you don't intend to use it you may have accidentally flipped the Bluetooth/2.4GHz switch on the bottom of the keyboard.
- FN+PrtSc - Insert
- FN+Pause - Scroll Lock
- FN+Home - Switch light setting, including back to a user-set color scheme
- FN+End - Cycle through backlight patterns? Not sure, seems very similar to FN+Home but they don't do the same thing
- FN+Up - Increase Brightness
- FN+Down - Decrease Brightness
- FN+Left - Reduce Speed
- FN+Right - Increase Speed
- FN+F1 - Computer
- FN+F2 - Browser
- FN+F3 - Email
- FN+F4 - Calculator
- FN+F5 - Media Player
- FN+F6 - Stop
- FN+F7 - Previous Song
- FN+F8 - Play/Pause
- FN+F9 - Next Song
- FN+F10 - Mute
- FN+F11 - Volume Down
- FN+F12 - Volume Up
- FN+A - Windows Layout
- FN+S - Mac Layout
- FN+Win - Toggle Windows key function on/off
Reset Key Sequence
- FN+Space for 3s - Reset back to factory defaults
- The floating frame option is nice, but if you attempt to pick up the keyboard from the top with the frame on you're likely to wind up dropping the keyboard
- I've done it twice, but I could just start picking it up from the side or maybe just stop being clumsy
- I've also found that every time I put it in my backpack when I get it out, the frame is detached
- They really should have made this frame clip on more securely, perhaps put a few screws in it. Who would take it on/off (intentionally!) frequently?
Royal Kludge seems to make little changes and improvements over time to these keyboards so what I bought and what you buy may not be the same thing, so just fair warning. You could get old stock or could get an updated model. Even when I purchased mine, there were reviews saying that the keyboard came with foam in it; mine did not for example. My keyboard was a Black model with a serial number starting in 21, purchased in May of 2022.
I think this will be an excellent typical office keyboard for me; it has all of the keys I need daily without any FN combinations, yet it's compact. With some tweaking the sound is pretty well dampened and the keys are as quiet as they're going to be given I use Kaihl Jade clicky switches. The stabs sound fine and if they ever were a problem they could be replaced cheaply. The build quality on this keyboard is fine; it has a total of a dozen screws holding the PCB, Plate, and Case together so there's really no flex in the body and even though the body of the keyboard is plastic it feels plenty solid enough while remaining light. The plate is a thick piece of metal so there's no flex from it and it's tightly integrated with the bottom half and well screwed down. I wish my specific model had come with foam etc built into it, as doing it myself was pretty tedious but I'm really happy with the keyboard so far. If anything of concern comes up I will update this review.
- Good value for the price
- Solid keyboard that's compact, yet complete
- Lightweight, but not flimsy
- Thin poppy horrid keycaps
Whoops; I forgot to get these when I originally took the keyboard apart and unless I absolutely have to I likely won't be taking it apart again. I wish I had remembered to do this.