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Irok ND75 review

The IROK ND75, sold by MechKeys, is a genuine little gaming board with compact layout, nice magnetic switches, and plenty of RGB.

KBD.news
Published March 18, 2024
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IROK's ND75 is a brand-new pre-built gaming keyboard with second-generation Gateron magnetic switches and 8000Hz ultra-fast return rate support (some first-hand measurements below) in a plastic case. This week it's available for $81 in Mechkeys' spring sale.

While it seems that Hall effect keyboards took over the whole gaming industry, I was magnetic-virgin until this point, so here is a review from someone who experiences this kind of adjustable actuation for the first time.

TLDR;

I love the ND75 as a lightweight, portable board with its compact 75% layout, also the feel and adjustable parameters of the magnetic switches. What drives me crazy is the interface of the software in general. The lights at night are a bit too much for my taste too, but maybe it's a gamer thing. All in all: cool and affordable magnetic board even without listing the marketing catchwords – but the software part can be challenging.

Disclaimer

The IROK ND75 was sent to me by MechKeys. As always, I'm not paid for writing this review, but getting a free sample may still introduce all kinds of bias. Read everything with a grain of salt.

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Other than that, the last FPS I played was probably Duke Nukem 3D or Quake III, so bear with me, that's how serious of a gamer I am. :D

About IROK

If you haven't heard of IROK, that's because they are one of the independent local Chinese brands (similarly to e.g. Weikav).

I could as well put their website here, but it's in Chinese too.

Anyway, by their own account, IROK has been committed to improving gamers' gaming performance and experience, designing professional peripherals more suitable for gamers with the participation of professional esports players. As a supporter and participant of China's esports scene, they have always backed clubs, e.g. as a partner of WE esports.

IROK's brand philosophy is:

"Let everyone use the most suitable products for themselves, so that every penny you pay is worth it."

Unboxing

The ND75 comes in a nice and shiny cardboard box, in cool orange color.

In the box you can find the pre-built keyboard, with switches and caps mounted, a cable, and a quick-start guide – but entirely in Chinese. That's it, no tools or anything else.

Pic: IROK ND75 unboxing

IROK ND75 unboxing

The white keyboard is the only variant listed at mechkeys and irok.cn, but based on the software and also the packaging, there must be at least a black version with dolch-ish keycaps and red accents.

Features

  • Pre-built
  • Compact 75% layout
  • MX stem, hot-swappable
  • Gateron’s 2nd generation magnetic switches
  • Dynamic keystroke function (adjustable keystrokes with 0.1mm precision).
  • Up to 8000Hz return rate
  • RGB backlight
  • RGB "streamer indicator light" – decoration
  • metallic nameplate
  • aluminum alloy plate
  • three-layer sound absorbing structure
  • Win/Mac compatible
  • two-level adjustable feet
  • Dimensions: 330x150x18mm
  • Weight: 750 grams

Layout

What exactly we call a 75% keyboard may slightly vary. To make it clear: the IROK ND75 has 81 keys, offset arrow cluster, standard F-row with the gaps, and four extra keys (1+3) in the right column.

Pic: IROK ND75 layout

IROK ND75 layout

Getting rid of the numpad and the compact single-column arrangement of what's left of the navigation cluster resulted in a reduced width of only 330mm, which probably matches the requirements of the target audience: plenty of room for your mouse.

Build quality & Structure

The IROK ND75 features some high-quality internals like an aluminum alloy switch plate and three-layered internal padding.

No external screws visible, and I didn't want to destroy the case, so no disassembly this time. Easy disassembly and thus modding beyond swapping keycaps and switches was definitely not a design goal.

Case

Removing the caps reveals some screws, but the top and bottom cases are snapped together very tightly, there's no way I could separate them without some scratches and permanent cosmetic damage.

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Seeing this exploded image I gave it up: the very structure I hate with laptops and phones. No problem for the target audience for sure though.

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Plate

The plate is aluminum alloy, which, combined with the plastic case, makes the ND75 relatively light: only 750g. The finish has this nice bead-blasted effect:

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While a nice milled aluminum case always creates the sense of quality or luxury, the reduced weight was actually a real relief this time, after the Whitefox Eclipse and the Synth Labs 060 (review soon) – both 2.4kg. It was a liberating feeling being able to lift and move the ND75 with only one hand after the daily workout with the other two boards. :D

Joke aside, of course it's hard to compare a plastic case with an aluminum one, but the ND75 has no reason to be ashamed. Especially considering the price: $80 vs $300-400. ;)

Does the weight affect stability? Haven't noticed any issues, but this may depend on your deskmat/desk surface.

Foam

According to the mechkeys page, the padding allegedly includes silicone sound-absorbing filling, silicone bottom padding, etc., but I couldn't really check or validate it (no access to the bottom). The Chinese site mentions poron and IXPE layers and not silicone.

The thick poron switch foam, as well as the thin IXPE layer under the switches are clearly visible, but there may or may not be a silicon filling.

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USB socket

The part around the USB socket, as well as the depression for a wireless dongle, make it likely that the case was reused from the wireless FEpro75.

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Badge

While the badge with the IROK logo has a metallic shine, I'm not sure if it's made of metal.

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Keycaps

Unmistakable gamer style keycaps with the characteristic translucent legends. If this is not your cup of tea, you can always replace them. Despite the magnetic switches, the stems are MX, so compatibility is great, you have plenty of sets to choose from. (However, there are 1.25U mods on the left, and 1U ones on the right side of the spacebar.)

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That said, these caps fit the RGB features very well, and the secondary legends with almost all of the FN functions (Win/Mac, RGB, sound) indicated may come in handy.

Magnetic switches

We have come an incredibly long way in just two years. Since the introduction of riskable's maglev switches, while a completely different breed, magnets are everywhere. Magnetic switches are mass-produced by revered manufacturers now, and Hall effect keyboards are taking over the whole gaming scene. Knowing IROK's target audience and philosophy, it's no surprise that the ND75 sports these switches too.

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The stabs are generously lubed. Maybe a bit, just a tiny bit, too much. ;) Some of this makes it even into the cap:

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The new-generation magnetic switches support functions like "Quick Trigger", "Dynamic Keystroke", etc. Basically adjustable keystroke you can set in the software. Playing with a bunch of settings, you can fine-tune the keyboard and alter your typing/gaming experience.

E.g. the Dynamic Keystroke function ("Senior Keys / DKS") allows you to assign 1-4 functions to a single key, based on how deeply you press it. You can adjust settings from 0.1 to 3.6mm, in 0.1mm increments.

Pic: DKS

DKS

Similarly, with the rapid trigger function you can fine-tune the depth of keypress needed for actuation – starting from 0.1mm, in 0.1mm increments.

Pic: Rapid trigger

Rapid trigger

Polling rate

Overemphasizing the role of latency and polling rate is often ridiculed in one half of the keyboard hobby, and probably feverishly researched in the other. Keep calm, after quoting the next line, I wanted to see some actual test results and real-life numbers too:

IROK ND75 offers a lightning-fast trigger response. With its 8000Hz return rate, the keyboard is about 8 times faster than a standard keyboard in the market!! – MechKeys.

With many keyboards marketed with a 1000Hz return rate, 8KHz would really mean much faster response.

This is of course another sign of targeting the product: it makes definitely no difference when it comes to typing, coding or office work, but competitive gamers may benefit from the speed of actuation.

I hit up the first latency test tool Google listed, started smashing my keys – and realized these online tools use Javascript, so are limited to 1ms thus 1,000Hz.

I ended up using mat1jaczyyy's powerful Keyboard Inspector.

Pic: Manual frenzy

Manual frenzy

What I learned is that the ND75 is definitely able to register sub-1ms, even 0.125ms triggers, which means it's indeed a 8,000Hz keyboard. How often you'll be able to capitalize on this spec is another question.

From this 388-key smashing session depicted above and below, only one keypress was in the 0.25ms (4KHz) group. There's a chance I'm simply too slow, but given 150-200ms is a decent reaction time for mere mortal human beings, that 0.125ms (8KHz) seems a bit too sophisticated even for pros.

Pic: Manual frenzy histogram

Manual frenzy histogram

Of course I'm not a trained gamer, it might even make a difference for professionals.

With some cheating, the rapid trigger set to 0.1mm and DKS – dynamic keystroke – to four different functions on a single keypress, the result is more telling:

Pic: Semi-auto frenzy

Semi-auto frenzy

Pic: Semi-auto frenzy histogram

Semi-auto frenzy histogram

More than 30% of the keystrokes was registered in the 0.125ms group (8KHz), indicating a real difference compared to a 1,000Hz board.

Software

All the custom magnetic switch related features mean that the software is custom too, and closed source of course. No QMK, no VIA, no Vial. That said, let me recommend you my SpaceFN tutorial. ;) Setting up the spacebar as a double-function key to access a virtual layer (TouchCursor on Windows or KMonad on Linux) I soon felt at home even despite the proprietary software.

If you'd like to explore the magnetic switch features, however, you have to download and install a software called IROK Keyboard Engine, version 2.03.07 (ND75_installer_V2.03.07.exe) as of writing this.

Pic: IROK software

IROK software

The installing process is mainly in Chinese even if you select English. After the successful installation, thankfully, the language changed to English eventually – with some weird translations though.

Plenty of functions, but calling the interface not really intuitive would be an euphemism. There's an all-icon GUI, you have to hover over each of them to reveal the functions.

In addition, the Irok team came up with some strange terms even for established functions, which is a bit confusing to say the least.

There's some mod-tap functionality but no layers (and 10ms default tapping term!), so other than remapping some keys, I couldn't recreate my keymap, not even SpaceFN natively.

Next question: How to save changes? This made me some headache too. Changes made to the keymap in the app are not saved to the keyboard automatically, but it wasn't obvious what do I have to do. After clicking all the icons, as a last resort, I clicked Download to at least save my settings locally before resetting everything. Guess what? Exactly. It turned out that you have to click Download to apply/upload changes, save settings to the board.

RGB

Per-key RGB, plenty of animations. Too bright for me at night, even at the lowest brightness level.

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In addition to the per-key RGB there's a decoration light bar right of the Esc key, illuminated by 5 LEDs. Again, lots of animations if you're into this.

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Two-stage feet & Typing angle

The two-stage feet passed my test: they don't collapse when tossing the board around – in contrast to some other models I tested earlier.

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The default typing angle is 3 degrees. The smaller and taller legs change this to about 6.5 and 10 degrees, respectively.

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Conclusion

The IROK ND75 leaves plenty of room for your mouse and can fit into any backback with its compact 75% layout. The 81-key arrangement has everything that's handy: offset arrow cluster, function row, etc. The layout is perfect not just for gamers, but also if you need something relatively small and light on the go. The software requires a major overhaul though, or at least better translation.

Availability

The IROK ND75 is available at Mechkeys in a single, white variant for $89.99 $80.99 (spring sale from March 17th to March 27th).

By the time you're reading this, the adjusted prices should be displayed.

The sale offers up to 30% off of a plethora of keyboards and mice, so check out other products too! Here's the link to the sale page.

Resources

Other products in the photos:

Thanks for reading thus far! ;)

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Published on Mon 18th Mar 2024. Featured in KBD #159.


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