Epomaker has long been crowdfunding various keyboards with huge successes, the reason for this is their commitment to making keyboards accessible to everyone and hearing what the users need. Their first foray into a crowd-funded keyboard was their GK68XS, followed by the rotary encoder-laden K620T, and then the GK96 which either had a left or right-handed number pad in it. This might seem as gimmicky but there will always be users who might need the features that only Epomaker provides.
This brings us to their latest Kickstarter project, the Epomaker NT68; a hot-swap RGB-enabled wired/Bluetooth compact 65% keyboard. If you’re new in the mechanical keyboard scene, 60 percent keyboards don’t have the function keys, Insert/Delete cluster, and the numpad. These omissions can be accessed by pressing certain key combinations all while maintaining a small footprint, allowing for more desk real estate. Continue reading to find out more about this successfully crowdfunded keyboard and why this satiates the frequently looked-over features that keyboard enthusiasts (like myself) look for.
Out of the box the Epomaker NT68 presents itself clad in a gray protective leather-like case that doubles as an angled keyboard mat or a stand for tablets or phones. Other things included in the box are a keycap puller, a switch puller, USB-C cable inside a pouch, MAC modifiers, and some spare Skyloong Chocolate switches (not to be confused with the low-profile Kailh chocs). The hot-swap PCB is also housed in a silver aluminum case that gives it a slight heft. A black variant of the aluminum case is also available. The 65% layout of the Epomaker NT68 is a great mechanical keyboard jump-off point for first-timers as you can still have the arrow cluster and the delete/insert cluster is still within reach.
Along with the slew of things inside the box, as mentioned in the last paragraph, we were given some sample switches that are yet to be seen in the mainstream keyboard enthusiast scene; the Epomaker Chocolate Switches that come in linears, tactiles, and clickies. See below for the technical specification of each switch:
Do note that the Epomaker NT68 can also be configured to have standard Gateron Switches (Red, Black, Blue, or Brown) or its low-profile variant (Red, Blue, or Brown)
The Epomaker NT68 unit that was given to us features the Chocolate Silver switches and get this, these switches are already factory lubed! Even the stabilizers are too! Albeit, it seems to be overlubed for my taste (looking at you overlubers). While lubrication can be better, I wouldn’t mind that it’s already lubed out of the box! This basically saves time for users who want to get the buttery smooth attribute that linears are known for after lubing as well as the satisfying sound that you get from the dampening that keyboard lubes do. It also avoids the rattling noise that’s prevalent in plate-mounted stabilizers.
Connectivity-wise, as discussed, it’s a compact keyboard that you can take literally anywhere. With the protective case that can be utilized as a tablet or phone stand, the Epomaker NT68 can be connected to these mobile devices via Bluetooth. PCs and MACs can also be used in conjunction with its Bluetooth functionality. And with Bluetooth 5.1 integrated in it, the keyboard makes for an instantaneous connection with your previously paired devices (the NT68 can remember up to 3 devices) and a better power management system.
PBT Dye-sub keycaps are what the Epomaker NT68 comes with. The plastic component of these keycaps makes it resistant to keycap shine as opposed to the cheaper ABS plastic keycaps that some keyboards of this price point come with. The one that we have is equipped white alphas, gray and red modifiers that perfectly melds with the clean and sleek aesthetic of the keyboard. In terms of its keycap profile/shape, it has Epomaker’s proprietary GSA profile which shares the same height as DSA or XDA profile keycaps while having a much more cylindrical/concave center, which I personally like as I also frequently use a DSA equipped keyboard. Can you customize the keyboard’s keycaps? Definitely. But you need to check if the keycaps you’ll replace it with come with the appropriate length right shift.
For keyboard nuts like me, VIA and QMK are our go-to’s for customizing keypresses, while it may be easy for someone who has been customizing keyboards for years to use this, Epomaker has made it easy for us and new users to customize. Layers can be set to the users’ liking and you can go nuts on how you want your keyboard to function. macOS users can also join in on the customization fun!
The Epomaker NT68 Experience
Epomaker touted that this keyboard can be used for up to 2-5 weeks without RGB or 20-80 hours with RGB turned on. Here’s the thing, I have had this as a daily (even writing on it for this review) for 3 weeks already, alternating between on and off for the RGB and it still hasn’t turned itself off. However, if the 1900mAh battery is completely depleted, this needs to be plugged in for charging that will take anywhere around 8-10 hours; but it can still be used wired! The only gripe I have about this is its inability to let me know if my battery’s low.
Typing on the already lubed linear switches, I did not see the need to replace the switches. The Epomaker Chocolate Silvers’ gives enough force to create a comfortable typing experience; not too light but not too hard to press which minimizes accidental keypresses. Should the need arise for me to replace the switches, the board supports hot-swapping on the fly. Really handy if your switches malfunction or if you just want to use another switch variant.
Did I play on it? You bet! I haven’t had an issue with it for FPS and RPG games. Most gamers shy away from Bluetooth keyboards because of latency issues. However, we need to note that this keyboard isn’t marketed for gaming. But you do you. You can see below the scan rate for the Bluetooth-connected NT68 versus a Wired Keyboard.
The site where I tested estimated how fast my PC reads my keypress. It’s evident that the difference between a wired keyboard and the Epomaker NT68’s scan rate is negligible. 10/10 you can still pop off with this work-centric keyboard.
I kept the keyboard stock. Meaning, no crazy foam mods have been done nor did I change the switches or keycaps, just so I can stay true to what the Epomaker NT68 can deliver out of the box. Typing on it is an okay experience but for my keyboard-obsessed brethren or if you want to take your NT68 to the next level, the mods and changes that can be done to this keyboard are endless! Tempest mod it, foam mod it, or replace it with a smaller battery to make it lighter (shorter battery life though), or even replace the hot-swap socket if it goes bad, but this will definitely void your warranty. Speaking of warranty, Epomaker gives this a 1-year warranty against factory defects. So please, modify your Epomaker NT68 at your own risk!
For all it’s worth, the Epomaker NT68 deserves to be a daily driver for me who’s usually on the go most of the day with my laptop. Let’s be honest, your laptop’s keyboard isn’t the greatest but having a mechanical keyboard like the NT68 can enhance your work experience and can even turn some heads. This also provides a change of pace for work-from-home employees who wants to spruce up their workspace.
If there’ll be another iteration for this, I would suggest that a visual battery indicator be integrated into it. Other than that, the Epomaker NT68 checked my keyboard enthusiast list for what a wireless work keyboard should have.
So, if you’re in the market for your first wireless keyboard for work (or even for play) definitely check out the Epomaker NT68. It may take some time to get used to because of its layout; give it a few days and you’ll get used to it. I’d suggest that you go for either its Linear or Tactile flavors as you’ll quickly get tired of the noise of Clickies. Take it from me who’s been into the mechanical keyboard scene for quite some time now.
With that said, the Epomaker NT68 keyboard deserves a B2G Recommended award!
Update: You can now pre-order the Epomaker NT68 directly from the Epomaker website!