I recently reviewed the Hexgears K520 mechanical keyboard, and the Hexgears K950 was hot on its heels onto the MTT review bench. Where the K520 might be considered a gateway mechanical keyboard for those just starting out, the K950 is certainly towards the other end of the spectrum. With Kailh CHOC white switches, Bluetooth connectivity (as well as wired) and IP56 waterproofing, can the K950 justify the £150 it commands?
- Tactile CHOC switches
- Good battery life in general use
- Good typing experience
- A little pricey
- Some of the plastic feels cheap
Let’s start with the naming of this keyboard. I couldn’t find much information on the K950 at all, so I reached out to Hexgears. The K950 is known as the K50 in Japan which explains the K50-branded box I received my unit in. There is no K950 retail packaging currently. In searching, I found a plethora of reviews and sites talking about the X-1. The X-1 naming seems to have come from a collaboration with Kono Store to jazz up the name. That’s more than a little confusing and I hope Hexgears ratify their product naming sooner rather than later.
Unboxing & Design
The packaging of the Hexgears K950 is absolutely gorgeous. A nylon carry case contains the keyboard and the USB Type-C cable. It’s nice to have a case included for a portable keyboard, even one without a handle.
With the keyboard sitting on the desk, the Hexgears K950 design is intriguing. A single piece of machined aluminium serves as the base for the keys, backed by a plastic bottom. There is definitely some flex to the board but that does not transition to the typing experience which is stable. A lot of similar keyboards that strive to be portable such as this, tend to end up being mushy in the centre.
The USB Type-C port for charging/wired use and dedicated power button sit on the back edge of the Hexgears H950. I still prefer a dedicated power button to sleep/idle technology alone. On the base are two small rubber stabilisers at the front, with two rubber-tipped feet at the rear. To deliver tilt, feet can be swung down from the base of the board. Typing felt a little strange without using the tilt on this keyboard which is something I rarely do.
The key caps are chiclet-style, and those used to typing on laptops might well feel more at home immediately. A departure from that familiarity can be found in the switches Hexgears employ on the K950. Kailh CHOC White switches deliver a clicky sound more akin to a generic gaming mechanical keyboard. The click is soft and is unlikely to annoy the average user. It becomes a satisfying noise during typing sessions after a bedding-in period. At over 3mm of travel distance, I’m thankful it’s no higher. The actuation point of 1.5mm is high enough too. Any higher and accuracy would be compromised. I expect we’d see an increase in the wobble on the keys too, which currently is under control.
Performance & Use
I’m used to the chiclet-style but on laptops, not standalone keyboards. This was an interesting experience for me, and was a good test of my typing prowess. As it turns out I’m not too shabby, but I did find typing on this board a little more difficult than on my Dell XPS 13 (for example). The chiclet keys here, whilst lovely and clicky thanks to the CHOC switches, felt a little difficult to get to grips with in the beginning. This style of key is usually seated within a chassis on a laptop, and as such has a physically shorter travel distance as well as notably less travel from key to key. As this board raises the keys physically, speedy typists will find themselves hitting the sides of adjacent keys when swiping their fingers across to the next key due to the lower actuation point. It’s not a deal-breaker and I did find myself getting used to it by the time I started to write this review, but it’s noteworthy all the same.
RGB functionality is something that many will come to expect from a modern keyboard, and it’s present here for better or for worse. There are 9 colour modes as well as a “gamer” specific WASD colour mode which lights up just those keys and the arrow keys. The backlight is bright enough in low light to aid the keystrokes but no more than that and it certainly won’t satiate the gamer crowd with a less than impressive spread.
The last feature to test was the battery life. I spent around 90 minutes writing this review on the board, and it lost just 2% of its battery. It is rated to last many weeks in general use with RGB off. The battery remaining will drop speedily if using the RGB mode. A good rule of thumb is to have the board plugged in when using RGB – that’s certainly how I used it.
The Hexgears K950 is a difficult sell. The keys are tactile and clicky thanks to the Kailh CHOC White switches which are lovely. Hexgears also manages to fit a full numpad and arrow key layout into a tenkeyless footprint. I am suitably impressed by that design feat. I managed to familiarise myself with typing on the K950 after only a short learning curve. The tactility of the keys suggests gamers will enjoy the full and deliberate depress needed for the keys a little more than productivity zealots.
The legend is inoffensive and there are a number of Bluetooth profiles that can be stored. If the battery runs low, simply plug in the board using the included USB Type-C cable. If you absolutely need to type in the bath or a sandpit, Hexgears includes water and dust proofing too!
Then we arrive at the price. For £159 it just doesn’t differentiate enough for me to recommend. Anybody using this keyboard full time will be able to navigate around any shortcomings in travel, typing accuracy or RGB modes, but I’d have liked to have seen a few more features added for that price to be fully justified. More robust and substantial rubber feet, both front and back, would be my first recommendation. The ones in tow currently feel cheap and a design afterthought. I’d also like to see a little more unification of the RGB lighting effects, but that’s a nitpick.
It all comes down to that price though. If you must have Kailh CHOCH switches, and the aesthetic is pleasing to you, I’m sure you’ll have no regrets in purchasing the Hexgears K950 at all. I’m equally sure you could save a substantial amount of money with a bit of browsing the competition, and a little willingness to compromise on the switch.