Well, since we keep talking about RedDragon in other hardware blogs…..
It should be fitting that we get ourselves some RedDragon hardware to try out because after working on Corsair and Razer gear pretty much calling it garbage. We’re pretty certain a lot of people get going to ask us
Why S? Why do you like RedDragon so much? Is Eastern Times Technology paying you? – rando
Hah! No company pays this site because they’d have to get ahold of us first. Hardly anyone really pays us but ourselves! We’re doing this article because we can. It’s just that simple. This blog entry will serve as a reference point whenever someone asks me what type of keyboard do recommend. To which they’ll probably laugh and purchase a name-brand piece of garbage for $200 only to throw it away in 6 months. So lets get started shall we?
In case you have no-script enabled or for some reason cannot see the title video on this website. I have provided direct links for these videos.
- WebM – Link – This is the newest video standard, works great on Opera, Firefox, Chrome, and newer android phones, not good for Safari, IE, Apple.
- MP4 – Link – The most compatible codec but also rather large in file size. Make take a while to download.
- OGV – Link – the fallback codec for older PC’s and Linux USB stick OS’s. 1st generation web video streaming based on Ogg-Vorbis encoding.
- Passmark Keyboard Tester – Was used in the video tutorial.
Cost of Mechanical Keyboards.
Initially I was recommending RedDragon hardware to my friends for the number one factor which is the dreaded cost! How much is this going to set me back? And more importantly,
Why are mechanical gaming keyboards so damned expensive!??!?
This question can’t be easily answered in one sentence because it’s multi-faced and in some cases to which we will admit is speculation. Part of it is because the gaming and keyboard typist community can be extremely picky about the type of keyboard that they type on. Many will live and die by the Cherry MX product without giving other mechanical switches a second chance. The think of Cherry switches as this fine German engineered product when in fact a lot of it was founded by some dude in Illinois and eventually purchased by a German group. When you start pigeon holing yourself to certain companies which create limited run artisan hardware you’re going to pay a hell of a lot more then that keyboard that came FREE with your dell or HP unit! Uniqueness comes also with the process of how a keyboard is made. That although key-caps are ABS plastics which frankly is one of the cheapest manufacturing processes in the world. Things change because of the different dimensions, sizes, and types of keys installed between hardware manufacturers. This gives to it’s “Uniqueness” which in turn drives the price up. If you wear out the key-caps on your board you can’t simply go out and buy a generic set. You will most likely have things like the space bar, alt, control, function, and windows keys sized differently. resulting in a mismatched set.
Mechanical keyboards are bought based on the promise that similar to the original IBM 8088 keyboards this is a product that you buy once in your lifetime. Because of this notion of longevity is the reason why these style of keyboards have a much higher re-sale value then the membrane throw-away keyboards that were introduced in the late 80’s. When hardware becomes used the price halves out on it. A lot of people think this is the reason why mechanical keyboards and hardware retain their value. But as we’ve discovered through out own repair journeys in keyboards. This isn’t necessarily true. We’ve Found Razer Chroma keyboards for $30(USD) not because anything was wrong with them but because it was an older 2014 model which no gamer appears to want. Hyper-Consumerism at it’s finest boys and girls.
E-Sports and promotional campaigns.
One of the final aspects as to why Mechanical Keyboards and most importantly anything labeled as gaming hardware always costs more is that the majority of the money gets poured into events and promotions. Much like Nascar; Millions of dollars are spent on E-Sports teams and their competitions in an effort to get you the user to buy their product. That if you don’t buy said product then in effect you will never be as good at they are. Put forth the effort on Twitch by washed up ESPN sports announcers telling you about the lives of teams who in turn could give very few shits about who you are! But still they demand that attention onto themselves because they’re pushing a product. E-Sports is the cancer that eats away the gaming community. All except for the “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” team. Those guys are legit with their horrific Cthulhu level mutations.
Enter the RedDragon keyboard.
The RedDragon/ Eastern Times Technology has chosen to do almost none of this! Instead they use their own switches made my manufacturer called “Outemu.” As far as their marketing is concerned we honestly think they haven’t done any really! While they spent a bit of time on the graphics of their box and even their website. And then handed it over to Amazon saying
You sell our keyboards Amazon. Bye!
This is a gaming keyboard which we think was marketed towards the Asian audience more-so then the American/European gaming community. Because of this there’s no major E-sports team that is sporting this brand (at least not one we are aware of at the time of this article.) Because of all of these factors a company is able to deliver a mechanical keyboard to the market at a much lower price-point then one which does use the Cherry MX keys, and one which pays for gaming teams to wear and use their equipment. We would be complete hypocrites if we didn’t buy the very thing we recommend others to buy. So! We bought two from different vendors. This is the RedDragon Devarajas K556 keyboard! Now we know what you may me asking. Why is one with round keys and the other with normal keys? Initially we wanted to buy two K556’s? The second vendor we saw the rounded keyboard for $15 less then the standard keys totalling only $30(USD) shipping and handling included! We bought it without paying much attention. The one pictured above has a “-RK” at the end indicating the model number having round keys and that it! We bought two keyboards. One for a friend and the other to use at the workplace. As we’ve discovered with our Corsair Scimitar mouse my workplace can get a little brutal on the equipment laying around when entering work orders as fast as humanly possible while also working on graphic arts designs in between calls. Because all of the keyboards at our jobs were shit we figured why not and drop a “gaming” keyboard into the worksite as well. Even though it was a mistake to buy the -RK series we were glad we still did as we’ll explain below. But before we continue on it should be noted that this is one of the few times where everything on the box is exactly what you get. You get a RGB keyboard that is fully responsive in their keys which can have the windows lock enabled and has a gold plated connector. The only thing that’s a little questionable is the “12 Media keys” which is sorta true! You have to hold the function keys to access them. But not the end of the world given the price we paid. $40.96 (USD) for the K556-RGB – Shipping included. $29.85 (USD) for the K556-RGB-RK – Shipping included. On amazon the prices are higher but still it’s a hard price to beat for a full sized mechanical keyboard!
Lets get the worst part of this keyboard over with shall we? The was received not on RedDragon’s website but on the promo of every NewEgg.com and Amazon.com entry for RedDragon keyboards.
FIND THE VICTORY
That’s your slogan? I guess you could find ‘victory’ with anything even a 1990 Microsoft Ergo-Board! Be in eventually winning at a Battle Royale game simply by existing. Or finishing a Roblox level, or “leveling up” in Second Life. Find the victory is the most under dramatic slogan from a company that literally has the fiercest mythical creature in their product name. Your slogan for your company history “Any game. Any play.” In the right-hand footer is equally as under dramatic but at least it’s utilitarian. That your keyboard works for almost any game which is true!
To compete at the highest level, you need the fastest mechanical keyboard there is.
Wrong. You need to improve upon yourself as a player and increase reaction time. A whoop-ass graphics card and CPU may help. The gaming community has been winning for years on membrane keyboards. A keyboard is not going to help you win games. That’s terrible marketing and you know it.
The RedDragon K556 isn’t your average gaming keyboard.
When you get down to using the keyboard it very much is! This is not a terrible thing to be ‘average’ because at least your affordable. Being affordable is actually good because the gaming community is too busy trying to purchase fake ass virtual currency to keep their avatar in fashion for the next battle royale game. Being unique however means setting yourself apart from the others which can be good or very very bad.
It’s loaded with features including heavy duty metal and ABS construction. Double-shot injection molded keycaps, high-end switches with mechanical ultra-last springs. Crisp and bright adjustable RGB ligh-
I’m going to stop this insanity right now. ABS plastic is the normal of every keyboard in existence since the early 80’s. If a keyboard company manages to fuck up ABS plastics they shouldn’t even be in business. You used an aluminum frame too so don’t get too cocky about the quality of “Metal” you used. “Double-Shot injection molded key-caps” is a very loose term as it just means during the manufacturing process they used two different forms of substrate during molding. In the case of our RedDragon keyboards they were molded with white plastic and then covered with a very thin later of black plastic instead of having the letters printed onto the keys like OEM keyboards tend to do. Plastic on plastic double-shot can wear out equally as fast as printed keys depending on how shitty of a manufacturing process there is during the making of your keys. There’s a different techniques of “double-shot” involving ABS and clear Acrylic to protect the paint with a clear shield of plastic that lasts considerably longer. RedDragon sells Acrylic Double-shot keys as an upgrade option only not as standard. We will get to the A105 acrylics later in this blog article. As for the Outemu switches (because those switches do NOT say RedDragon on them) this is one of those scenarios where if your keys really do stand the test of time as we don’t have machines to slam on keys for 50,000,000 presses just to verify the claim.Why not just say the switch company you used? Be proud of the companies you work with Eastern Times! We know these slogans and words aren’t on RedDragon’s website which indicates they hired some Marketing agency to generate this brochure to give to sites like Amazon and NewEgg. Dear Eastern times technology, Fire your marketing team! They are fabricating lies about your product! Your product box was truthful and straight to the point. That’s what you should’ve gone with for your brochure.
What’s in the RedDragon BOX(es)!
- The keyboard (We hope!)
- Red Keycap puller
- Silver mechanical key extractor! Yes, the RedDragon keyboard is legit serviceable! More later.
- Driver Disks
- A thank you card (I don’t remember a thank you card from Corsair. So this is nice ) and it also has an address you can leave comments to..
- 8 replacement mechanical keys. This is odd because the K556-RK came with brown mechanical keys identical to whats underneath the board and the K556 regular game with a variety pack of keys. We think this is a little odd because generally you send a variety pack of keys to make people decide what kind of keyboard they want. In this case we bought the keyboard. So why give us two of each type? perhaps to play around with? not sure.
Overall RedDragon gave us MORE then what the box said it would give us. Which is really awesome. Especially the extra mechanical keys because when you spill soda on your keyboard the most annoying thing is getting the soda into the switches which then makes them sticky. You can now replace your keys without having to break out the soldering iron which is huge bonus points in my book meaning that I may not ever see one of these keyboards land on our repair bench unless someone cut the USB cable.
There was some bloggers and even YouTubers that were bitching about the weight of the RedDragon. We’re not entirely sure why one would cry about the weight of a keyboard since it sits on your desk and that is it. But we decided to weight a few mechanical keyboards that we had around the test lab. RedDragon K556 with the coord and all came in at 2lbs and 7.8oz. or 1.13kg. The K556-RK came in at 0.1 OZ or 0.01kg less. The Razer Deathadder Chrome 2014 comes in at 3lbs 4.8oz or 1.5kg. Finally the Corsair K70 Vengeance keyboard which we use for blogging weights in at 3lbs 1.8oz or 1.41kg. In general, the weight is actually lighter then most of the keyboards and that most of the keyboard reviewers on YouTube are little bitches if they want to throw around the term that the RedDragon “Feels Heavy” . It’s not. Suck it up princesses of the internet!
Another thing that certain reviewers boo-hoo’ed this keyboard over is the fact that it does not have a braided cable. To which if there’s any of our previous readers which took a look at our past articles know that braided cables can be absolute shit. A cable is not what it is molded or braided with but with how much copper there is in the line to carry the signal. Over time the cable is going to be flexed and moved all over the place. After about 10 or so years the copper will eventually break down and give us a bad signal leading to unknown USB device errors. It also comes down to some gamer needing to actually spend money on a desk which has beveled edges so their keyboards don’t get chewed up or cut off along the wooden or plastic edge of their table. To which RedDragon has saved you at least a little bit of money you can put towards that new desk.
Improvement suggestion of the RedDragon Keyboard.
However, since we’re talking about the Keyboard cabling there is one thing I would like to see as an “Improvement” upon the mechanical keyboard which is a means of removing the cable instead of having the insulation boot sticking out of the back of the keyboard. The reason why we say this is often times if you are preparing for a LAN gaming tournament you’re packing up your keyboard/mouse everything. and anything that sticks off of the back of an object will more then likely get ripped out during travel. Yes, it would be an added cost to have a connector on the back of the keyboard. But at that level you would also add a level of serviceability where the end-user can replace their own cables in case they don’t want to buy another desk besides their Ikea desk that they taped razor blades along the edges too.
Differences in K556 and K556-RK
When we took off the key caps between the K556 and K556-RK we didn’t find it surprising they were brown switches. We sorta knew what we were getting from previous reviewers on this. But the fact that on the K556-RK that the stem of the switch is more re-enforced. This is because those round type-writer key caps are actually more shallow then the standard square key caps and thus they do not bottom out like square key caps would. Which begs the question:
Why doesn’t RedDragon use re-enforced stems on ALL of their boards? – S
It doesn’t effect the RGB lighting quality and having that extra bit of plastics would mean the switch being able to take a lot more abuse from indirect strikes. From an industrial standpoint having different key-sets within your production environment would only make things cost MORE. Outside of perhaps hearing some bitching from the rubber O-Ring community to silence their keyboards we don’t see why they have a consistent stem installed.
How “serviceable” is the RedDragon keyboard?
We think that RedDragon has taken a lot of fantastic strides in making sure their keyboard is serviceable by allowing the end-user to extract the mechanical switches themselves right off of the PCB. But as we were taking apart this keyboard. However, we have concerns with the plastic support mounts that hold up keys such as Shift, Enter Keys, Tab Keys, Space Bars, and so-in. That in other keyboards out there used the classic “U” metal bar to act as the stabilizer between the ABS plastic and keys. RedDragon instead is using plastic actuators are stabilizing the larger keys. The begs the question.
What if one of my stabilizer keys break? – S
To which at the point of publication we have no definitive answer for.
Replacing the mechanical switches
One of the most interesting features of this keyboard is the fact that you can replace the actual mechanical switches without ever having to pick up a soldering iron. You simple using the picker that is included with your keyboard and edge the metal forks between the plastic switch and aluminum casing. And simply pull up. On a few of the keys I really had to use a lot of force to pull them out. Thus, this isn’t something you want to do everyday. But if you spill some liquid on a hot Saturday night on your keyboard and make some of your switches sticky. At least the option is there to replace them with the 8 extra switches that are included with your keyboard. Alternatively if you’re one of those half-crazed purists that want to spend over $100 you could get official cherry MX switches and replace them all too. With the key-switch removed it shows the bare PCB underneath allowing you to inspect further to see if you have to tear apart the casing to clean any liquid damage that has occurred. The only flaw of having plug-able key switches is the simple fact that the pins of the key switches aren’t really designed for this. They are ultra-thin copper which is designed to go into a PCB and be soldered in. If mishandled you could potentially bend pins and if the pins are bent then the moment you push down onto the switch to seat it could scrap against some of those traces inside.
Restoring Sanity to the K556-RK keyboard.
As interesting as it was to receive rounded keys on the K556-RK. It was something to which I was having too many issues typing with. Perhaps our typing style has gotten sloppy over the years where we rely on the edges of our square key to press down instead of keeping our fingers and out overall typing posture directly over the keys. Although we’re old enough to grow up with the age of the type-writer it was something that got quickly phased out for the computer in which we embraced. Since I have no intention of being some pretentious writer or live in the 1800’s sipping my vermouth tea shots while twirling my parasol around. It’s time to restore this mechanical keyboard. So I jumped online to and found a replacement set of double-shot keys for $10(USD) bringing the price of my K556-RK up to about the same price as my normal K556.
I didn’t realize this when I bough the A105 pack but they were actually Double-Shot acrylic keys. Meaning that the lettering is underneath a sheet of acrylic making it virtually impossible to rub off unlike a standard set of double-shot keys. It feels completely smooth unlike standard double-shot OEM keys. and even though the lettering is faded in the shot it actually lights up a little bit better with the RGB effects this keyboard emits. This is my current Corsair K70 keyboard. Since we both game and blog as well we tend to use our keyboard a lot! Needless to say on a standard Double-shot key cap system instead of the letters disappearing the secondary coat of black plastics gets worn away revealing the lighting underneath. Using a Double-Shot Acrylic should at least prevent this from happening unless your hands are like complete sandpaper and you rub down that first layer of acrylic. What about the original RK keycaps you may be asking? We’re not sure what to do with them. I guess simply contact us saying you’d be interested and you don’t mind strangers sending you boxes of keyboard caps and if we respond we’ll send them out free of charge within the continental united states region. Key puller included as we have plenty of those as well. We minus well give them away in case a another blogger wants to try them. Or If someone out there is really into the typewritter feel. there you go! Contact us if you want the extra keys.
One of the most overlooked and probably abused aspects of the mechanical keyboard industry is the software. In respects that companies like Razer wall you off from their software unless you join their community. Giving you the incentive that you can “Take your keyboard profile anywhere.” to which no one cares about and can easily reset it if they reload their OS. Razer also is known for embedding Crypto-mining software into their utilities which if enabled by the user will eat up lots of electricity and wreck your video gaming card. Corsair on the other hand beleives that your keyboard/mouse needs to have it’s bios updated every few months because….. REASONS?!? We’re not entirely sure. Truth be told, you don’t really need to install the software for RedDragon if you are perfect happy with the predefined key-set parameters already there. But if you do load their software it does not want to update your keyboard. It does not try to sign you up to some shitty newsletter or force you to expose your e-mail and potential password to a server that could get exploited down the road. No it adjusts the colors on your keyboard, assigns macros and that’s it! It’s a piece of software that does its job and shuts the hell up while doing its job! so 10/10 to RedDragon for their software development department.
There isn’t a whole lot I could say is bad with this keyboard. Now we’ve seen that some vendors on Amazon and NewEgg are trying to raise the price of this keyboard back up to $60/$100 to which shame on those vendors. The average price of this keyboard is around $50(USD) which is why the RedDragon Devarajas makes for the possible best valued full sized keyboard. In fact if you go to their website and click to buy one of their products it immediately takes you over to Amazons website meaning that RedDragon as a company feels it’s best to let a major distributor take over the financial transactions instead of going at it themselves. To which hey! Whatever keeps the cost down yo! So far we’ve been loving this keyboard at the workplace. If for some reason my Corsair mechanical were to die a horrible death I most certainly would not replace it with another Corsair or even a Razer keyboard. Because why would I pay more to line the pockets of people Min-Liang Tan which market the exact same product? (we’re instead going to line the pockets of Min-Liang’s evil twin brother. Wait. Or is Min-Liang the evil brother? not really sure anymore.) It’s a wide world out there and we’re happy to report that we found a Chinese company out there which seems to have a very legit product line going on that rivals that of what we normally see in the best buys and wal-marts of America. In many respects it’s a product that holds close to our principles as repair techs. A keyboard which can be serviced. To which outside of the USB cable itself the Red Dragon has performed fantastically on. To that end, this is why we recommend RedDragon products for gaming gear then the titans like Steel Series, Razer, and Corsair. When they get their heads out of their ass and make a serviceable keyboard I might revise this article. until then. That’s what server said. +++ END OF LINE>