Keyboard Builders' Digest
5% off at Mechanical Keyboards US! Code: KBDNEWS
Keyboard Builders' Digest / Review

Kemove K87 & K87SE 1980 review

I tested the Kemove K87 1980, a fully built three-mode wireless hotswap mechanical TKL keyboard, and its $28(!) budget companion, the K87SE.

KBD.news
Published May 16, 2024
Creators! Feel free to tip me off about your keyboard related projects to bring them to 120K readers.

After reviewing the Kemove K98 and K98SE, two models coming in 1800 layout, here are the K87 and K87SE, two affordable TKLs. (Affordable is quite an understatement in this case, the fully built SE variant is available from $28!) These four models are part of the 1980 series: more blocky design language compared to the almost feminine features of the K68 "Angel".

Pic: K87 & K87SE layout

K87 & K87SE layout

According to the manufacturer, the 1980 lineage is paying homage to the '80s. As already mentioned in the K98 review, the "1980" part in the names refers to Kemove's concept and intention to return to the retro trend of the era, e.g. the blue appearance of the K87 is a reference to the popular jeans of the 80s.

TLDR

If you prefer the 80% TKL layout, one of the most popular form factors nowadays, the Kemove K87 is definitely an affordable model to consider: wireless, hotswap, RGB. If you are content with plastic and don't need a slab of aluminum, these TKLs are real bang for your buck. Not for keymap wizards though (limited proprietary software). Kemove's offer seems especially unbeatable if you can live without the wireless and hotswap options: the wired and soldered SE variant is available from only $28*!

Disclaimer

While I'm not paid for writing this review, these boards were sent to me by the kind folks at Kemove – for free. As always, receiving a review sample may introduce all kinds of bias, both positive and negative in my experience. Read everything I write with a grain of salt.

Variants

To my surprise, I received both variants: the blue K87 and the white K87 SE.

There's a huge 30% discount in effect (feel free to use the KBDNEWS coupon code). I checked this with Kemove and it's not a mistake: you get 30% off on top of the already auto-applied discount.

Pic: K87 & K87SE

K87 & K87SE

The hotswap, wireless K87 ($119->$68->$48), the big brother with more features, comes in a darker, denim colorway with grey mods and blue accents.

However, as usual, Kemove offers something very similar in a wired-only soldered version too: the budget K87SE is even cheaper, available for only $50->$40->$28. $28!!! For a fully built TKL keyboard?! Insane. This latter one comes in a light coral colorway with white case, light blue modifiers and orange/coral accents. Visually, I like this $28 one even better. And it comes with a matching cable! (Monochrome lighting though.)

In the box

The box is shiny cardboard, white for the K87 and black for the K87SE. Its design is clean and simple, but the silvery/glossy glittering inscriptions still make it posh.

Pic: K87 & K87SE boxes

K87 & K87SE boxes

Both models come pre-built, switches and caps mounted. Not braided but pretty nice cable, basic keycap and switch puller (not Kemove's P10), plus a leaflet with a list of hotkeys for those who are eager to unleash the full force of e.g. RGB lighting.

Pic: K87 & K87SE contents

K87 & K87SE contents

The K87's dongle is stored beneath one of the flippable legs. (I always like similar solutions, one less chance to lose it.)

The TKL layout

I don't think the tenkeyless/80%/TKL form factor requires much introduction but there might be newcomers to the scene reading this: take a standard, 100% keyboard, and chop off the numeric pad on the right. Voilà! You get the TKL (tenkeyless) form factor, which is one of the most popular physical layouts out there because it allows for more desk – and especially mouse – space. Gamers love this, and very few people may use the numpad anyway. (Number pad on a layer, anyone?)

You keep the function row, the standard arrow and navigation cluster, everything.

Pic:

The overall width is reduced by more than 4U or about 8 cm, the width of the numeric pad.

Build quality

I've never had any problems with the build quality of Kemove's boards despite the almost unbelievable price.

Yep, the case is full plastic, ABS, so you can't really compare the typing experience to a CNC aluminum board. On the other hand, plastic results in significantly lower price and smaller weight (portability) – while a bit louder, hollower, and noisier.

Pic:

They have a decent weight though (984(SE)-1294g), probably due to the metal plate inside. So it's noticeably heavier than e.g. the compact magnetic IROK ND75 (750g). Of course much lighter than the gorgeous alu Luminkey80, another TKL, with its 1980g – but for almost 10x the price. ;)

Pic: Luminkey80 vs K87SE vs K87

Luminkey80 vs K87SE vs K87

Previously I had the opportunity to abuse the Kemove K68, K68SE, K98 and K98SE. The difference between the fully featured variants and the wired/soldered budget (SE) options is really only the lack of the extra wireless and hotswap features (plus monochrome LEDs instead of RGB). Otherwise they are pretty much the same. Almost the exact same case (as much as possible due to the differences between the wireless and wired features), and same quality too.

Pic: K87 vs K87SE bottom

K87 vs K87SE bottom

Honestly, I like the keycap of the budget version even better, I only wish it was hotswap (and VIA/Vial compatible).

Switches

No barebone kit, only pre-builts available. Your options are Gateron Brown/Red/Silver for the K87 and Kailh Blue/Brown/Red for the K87SE.

Pic:

Pic:

I chose reds for the K87 and blue clickies for the SE. Nothing's wrong with them for someone who wants to avoid the mechanical switch rabbit hole, but if you'd prefer something else, opt for the K87 variant which is hotswap – unless of course you are ready for a long desoldering session.

Pic:

The hotswappable K87 supports both 3 and 5 pin MX switches.

Keycaps

The caps of the K87 are the same or very similar to those of the K97: double-shot PBT, relatively high, with a sculpt resembling SA caps.

Pic: K87 keycaps with secondary legends on the front

K87 keycaps with secondary legends on the front

As you can see, many caps of the K87 have crisp dye-sublimated secondary legends on the front, indicating e.g. lighting and wireless related functions, which is always useful.

However, the K87SE comes with some really nice caps in Cherry profile, 1.5mm double-shot ones! I have to say I love these caps even more. Both the profile and the colorway. The secondary legends are dye-sublimated too, but with considerable bleed. What a bummer! Without these, the set would be – and I barely bring myself to write it down in relation to a $28 board – awesome!

Pic: K87SE Cherry profile keycaps

K87SE Cherry profile keycaps

Pic: K87SE Cherry profile keycaps

K87SE Cherry profile keycaps

Of course you can always replace the keycaps if you'd like.

Structure & Noise reduction

Just like earlier with the K98, I gave up on disassembling these models so can only rely on the exploded images of the product page. It is obvious that it was not designed to be easily disassembled: No visible screws, and the bumpons are glued on too.

Pic:

Based on the exploded image, the top and bottom case are snapped together like laptop or phone cases. I didn't want to destroy them while prying open.

Pic: Thick silicone layer

Thick silicone layer

Based on the available documentation, there's no foam but plenty of silicon inside: 3.5mm silicon pad under the switches, 7.9mm silicon layer on the bottom.

LED

The asymmetric LED strip on the left front side is pretty nice, really smooth. Diffusion is great, you can't see the individual LEDs (in contrast to the MoeeTech Glitter65's decoration strip).

Pic:

Only the K87 LEDs are RGB, the K87SE comes with a cold white monochrome color, maybe with a hint of light blue.

Pic:

Both models have per-key LEDs too, north-facing LEDs in both cases.

Feet

A quick word about the typing angle: Using the two-stage folding feet results in different degrees of typing angle (1.5->5->6 degrees). The feet end in anti-slip material, which is perfect for various use cases in general.

Pic:

Pic:

The second stage passes the toss test, the first one does not though. They collapse if you'd like to push the keyboard away from you.

Other features

  • Win/Mac modes, switch on the bottom and as FN hotkeys.
  • Wired, Bluetooth or 2.4G wireless modes with 4000mAh battery (K87) or wired only (K87SE).
  • Again, indicating FN on the spacebar is misleading. I'd love SpaceFN by default, and the symbol on the front (K87) or top (K87SE) of the spacebar suggest this option, however, it doesn't work that way.

Software

As often, the proprietary software is the weakest point of these otherwise great offers: no trace of QMK or VIA/Vial compatibility.

The driver (Kemove Control Hub) can be downloaded from the manufacturer's site, it seems there are different versions for each of these boards, keep this in mind.

Pic:

No layers, mod taps, etc., so this offer is definitely not for keymap wizards but the average gamer or casual user who sticks to the default layout. You can create macros, but I'd be more happy with real layers and layer functions.

Conclusion

Both the hotswap Kemove K87 and especially the soldered/wired K87SE variant are very affordable options if you prefer the TKL layout. Per-key lighting and an asymmetric decoration strip on the front part help to light up your room. Full plastic case, but it's a great choice as a budget-friendly option for gamers and casual typers who can let go customizing the layout.

If there was a VIA/Vial compatible hybrid of the two models, a white hotswap version with the coral Cherry caps, I wouldn't hesitate to buy it for someone as a great starter board.

Before placing an order, don't forget to check the available variants (and to use the KBDNEWS coupon code for 30% off)!

Availability

Other products in this article:

Do you like this post? Share, donate, subscribe, tip me off!

Published on Thu 16th May 2024. Featured in KBD #166.


Related

ALIEN88

Hanachi is back with ALIEN88, a rather gaming-oriented low-profile keyboard with unique key spacing.

Glyphkbd V2

An open-source ortho TKL with on-board controller: glyphkbd v2 by _galile0.

Manifold

The manifold is a handwired keyboard in a 3D printed IBM SSK-like case. Designed by _galile0.

CCRX case

CCRX, a WK/WKL keyboard case open sourced by obitae.

Luminkey80 review

The Luminkey80 is a TKL with gorgeous look, personality, and some crazy features like an F13 key.

8BitDo Retro keyboard

Here are my thoughts about the fun 8BitDo Retro Keyboard, a wireless TKL, hotswap, with dials and super buttons for the win! :D

×
top