Mechanical keyboards have become the new fashion statement in PC gaming. Yes I know that RGB lighting is also a new “it thing”, but keyboards are actually practical additions to your desktop. They’re supposed to be anyway. Besides, some keyboards can RGB with the best of them. Today, I’ll be looking at the iKBC F108 full sized mechanical keyboard.
iKBC is a brand that most people have probably never heard of. And fair enough too. The Taiwanese company is actually a quality keyboard OEM that builds keyboards for other companies. It’s also owned by Vortex Gear, the maker of the highly praised and much loved Poker series of sixty per cent mechanical keyboards. That, more than anything, should indicate that the kind of product quality we’re expecting.
The iKBC F108 is the largest of the F-series by iKBC, there’s also an 87 key (TKL) version of this keyboard. Apart from the size, the keyboard also comes in black or white, with commensurate keycap colours.
The iKBC F108, as the name suggests, has 108 keys. This is four more than the standard full sized layout, and the four extra keys are for muting sound, increasing or decreasing the volume and bringing up the calculator. Yes, keyboard caters to the engineer in all of us. I mean, who hasn’t wanted that feature? I’ve personally used it once!
It might seem strange to say this when the thing costs AU$180, but the keyboard is considered to be entry level in the world of mechanical keyboards. There are keyboards out there that cost five times this amount. And you don’t even get this many keys, though usually the number of keys on the keyboard is no indication of actual functionality or cost.
The review unit today is the black version with black shine through keys. The switches on the keyboard are Cherry MX Blues.
On first glance, the iKBC F108 is a pretty boring looking keyboard. There’s no branding apart from the bottom face, the keys are black and are shine through for the RGB functions. The outer shell is matte black plastic, angled for your typing comfort. If you need additional angling, you can always fold out the rubberised feet, which are quite grippy. The keyboard is quite hefty, as the switches are all mounted on to a solid steel plate. You’d need to be 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger to get torsional movement out of this keyboard.
The iKBC F108 is a full sized keyboard with RGB lighting. However, unlike many other RGB keyboards out there, all of the functionality of the keyboard is stored on board. The entire thing is completely plug and play, with no additional software package to install to have all the functions. This is good and bad. Keyboard shortcuts allow you to change the lighting modes, of which there are quite a few.
While the keyboard’s cable isn’t detachable, you do get three cable channels to run the cable through. The cable itself is well made, and covered with a braided mesh to keep it as safe as possible. You can see the cable channels below.
Keyboard shortcuts also allow you to change the colours of the LEDs, along with brightness and speed of effects. However, due to the limited nature of keyboard shortcuts, you only get seven levels of each colour, and one of those levels is completely off. That’s not to say of course that 343 combinations isn’t good, but if you’re looking for the kind of fine control offered by specific software, then this isn’t the keyboard for you. Of course, this completely onboard lighting solution is great if you want a nice customisable keyboard for an office environment which doesn’t allow you to install unapproved software packages.
The keyboard also comes natively programmed with Dvorak, Qwerty and Colemak layouts, and you can switch to one of them via handy keyboard shortcuts. Should you use one of these layouts, don’t forget to swap your keycaps around!
One unique feature of the keyboard is the timer function, called Time Machine. No, it doesn’t ring like a traditional alarm, nor do you have to type at 88mph, but it does use the LEDs to flash that time has run out. You can set it with the function and number rows and you even get a colourful countdown along the way.
I’ve already mentioned that the keyboard is pretty hefty on account of its steel plate. Don’t take away from the outer plastic shell either, it’s a solid and well made part. The entire keyboard sits flat, there’s no hint of flex or twist in the whole assembly. The four rubber tabs on the bottom of the keyboard, along with the rubber tabs on the foldout feet are very grippy, giving you confidence to type away without any worry of keyboard wandering.
Normally, mechanical keyboards tend to have lower quality default keycaps, which are thin and hollow sounding. The iKBC F108 is different. The keycaps are actually reasonably thick and have a nice matte surface finish, which is grippy and affords confidence during heavy typing sessions. The Cherry MX Blue switches are incredibly consistent in terms of feel when typing. The noise is crisp and satisfying at every press. The RGB LEDs have decent colour representation, though when turned to white, the light is a little too blue. This is a consistent property of the LEDs used in keyboards so it’s not exactly surprising to see it replicated here.
Because the LEDs are buried within each switch, iKBC opted for the shine through keycaps to have all their legends on the top. This means that all the symbols are as brightly and evenly lit as possible. This isn’t something that’s repeated on other mechanical keyboards, notably Corsair’s K-series. The effect is actually quite noticeable and reinforces the feeling that the F108 was really well thought through.
How it fares in use
I’m currently using the iKBC F108 as a daily driver in the office. It’s pretty loud due to the Cherry MX Blue switches. Also, as a side note, the volume and timbre of the switches can be altered not just by using O-rings that dampen noise, but also the materials used in the keycaps themselves. So be careful if you’re planning on taking this keyboard into an office. People may not like the noise if it’s a reasonably quiet environment. On the other hand, the F108 is available in other switch colours, like MX Brown and MX Red, which are generally much quieter than the MX Blues.
On the other hand, I happen to really like the MX Blue click. With the F108, the feeling is meaty and satisfying, as is the noise. You really know precisely when you’ve hit the actuation point. This is a good thing, because after a while you realise that you don’t have to mash the keys all the way down to the bottom to get a response out of the keyboard. You can actually type faster, though in my case that also means I end up making a few more mistakes. That’s my fault for not actually learning to touch type as suggested in school.
Adjusting of the colours is quite intuitive. Press the function keys, and F1, F2 and F3 light up with the intensity of their current Red, Green and Blue levels. Cycling through them is quite easy, and the LEDs will then match the colour selection. The lighting effects are all pretty nice, though some of them might provide more of a distraction when trying to be productive or playing a game. The most distracting is the ripple pattern, and a close second is the all colours raindrop effect.
On the downside, I have noticed a bit of “pinging” when a few of the switches bounce back to their starting positions. It’s not something that annoys me personally, but it does add to the cacophony of sounds from the desk. Your neighbours and family members might not appreciate that.
The iKBC F108 is a great full sized keyboard. It’s low key, yet customisable. There’s no software to be installed on your computer, and while there are advantages and disadvantages with that aspect of the keyboard, I can recommend it to people wanting to use an RGB keyboard in a tightly controlled office. Outside of use, the keyboard is sturdy, well made and feels of premium quality. If you’re looking for a well built, feature laden full sized mechanical keyboard, the iKBC F108 is one to be recommended.
- High quality, sturdy assembly
- Keys feel great
- Onboard lighting features for quick adjustment
- Includes popular alternative keylayouts
- Some keys on review units pinged during heavy typing
- Not as many LED colour options as some other RGB keyboards with independent software
- There’s not really much to fault it, actually