An RGB kitchen sink.
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Though G.Skill is primarily known for its overclocked memory modules, the company also has a burgeoning lineup of gaming peripherals as well. For keyboards it essentially offers a flagship model named the KM780 (See it on Amazon), from which it’s spun several lower-priced variants that have the same design but fewer features. I am taking a look at the top dog though, which has every bell and whistle ever devised for a gaming keyboard, including some I’ve never seen before. At $130 it’s fully-loaded and less expensive than other flagship RGB mechanical keyboards, so let’s take a look and see how she runs.
Design and Features
The KM780’s basic form is that of a full-sized mechanical keyboard with a number pad, and semi-exposed mechanical switches in that once you remove the keys the switches are out in the open, and they aren’t flush on the deck. This approach makes it easier to see the lights and to clean the keyboard, but also easier for dust and pet fur to gather around the switches so it’s a double-edge sword. It features a brushed aluminum top cover that looks kind of classy along with a metal bar wrapped around the edges, giving it an incredibly solid and stiff feel.
There are six dedicated macro buttons on the left side, and above them is a macro recording button (for on-the-fly stuff) and buttons that let you select three different “modes,” which are essentially groups of settings. Next to those keys are three more keys that let you disable the Windows button, adjust the backlight brightness, and a customizable timer function complete with on-screen notification in case you’re cooking some hot pockets. All of the keys feature per-key RGB lighting, of course. The keys are relatively flat in orientation, but there are two small legs on the back that can be flipped down to increase the angle of the keys a smidge.
The media control buttons are numerous and leave no function behind, and the coolest of which is a knurled wheel for volume control. Though I’ve seen these wheels before on both the Corsair K70 and Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum, the KM780 one-ups them by including an LED display for current volume level that looks neat. The wheel itself also has a groove in its center for your finger to rest in, which I didn’t like. Since I would touch it without looking my finger would usually end up on the side of the groove, which just felt weird, so I would prefer just a solid wheel. Down at the bottom there’s a large, plastic wrist rest, which I personally think is a must-have for any keyboard. I liked the size of it, but it is made of hard plastic so it’s not plush at all, but it’s supportive and also removable.
All those features are cool, but expected and somewhat standard on a high-end keyboard. G.Skill keeps going though, and offers a few features that are uncommon, and all of them are pretty awesome. First there’s eight replaceable keycaps that are textured, beveled, and solid red instead of black to replace the WASD keys and the ones around them, and there’s also a handy case that snaps onto the aforementioned metal bar that encircles the keyboard, so you can keep track of them. Though swappable keycaps aren’t exactly a new thing, having a case that attaches to the frame of the keyboard is, and it’s a thoughtful touch. The keycap tool is also stashed in the top of the case, making the whole process painless.
There’s also a small, plastic arm attached to the metal bar designed to hold a mouse cable, which is super useful and gives your mouse enough slack to roam freely, and made me wonder why more keyboards don’t offer it. Finally, the KM780 provides both USB and audio pass through, so you can plug your USB or analog headset directly into the keyboard without fussing behind the back or front of your PC.
The KM780 is offered with your choice of Cherry MX switches in either red, blue, or brown, which are all the popular switch colors/types so G.Skill has left no stone unturned on this keyboard, no doubt.
The G.Skill software is undoubtedly the keyboard’s Achilles heel as it’s a bit difficult to use when you want to get into advanced tweaking, and is even slightly confusing for basic tasks as well. Though most of its operation is pretty straight forward, I had to click around endlessly trying things to see what did what as the on-screen labels aren’t always clear. For example, the main window shows you there are three modes you can customize, then also lets you “select a profile” but there’s no indication what the profile even does or is used for. At the same time the lighting profiles window drove me to the brink as none of the controls for anything made sense. Luckily the “customize” window let me easily adjust each key’s function, either making it a macro, default, or some sort of shortcut.
The Lighting window was equally straightforward but still confusing as you can select from background lighting, effect lighting, effect lighting base color, and keyboard modes of “all” or “single.” It’s just a confusing affair, all around. After clicking around endlessly I finally got some colors I liked out of it, but it really needs a focus group or ten because it is not user friendly. G.Skill does provide a thorough manual but you shouldn’t have to consult a lengthy document to figure out how to work a keyboard.
I’ve been using a Cherry MX Red keyboard for the past few years so using the KM780 required very little adjustment. I did have to adjust to having macro keys on the far-left side of the keyboard though, and kept unintentionally hitting the G1 key instead of escape since it’s in the far corner. I think they are placed a bit too close to the regular keys, and would prefer a bit more space between them, or even a different texture on the macro keys to differentiate them. The regular keys felt perfect to my fingers though, requiring a light tap to actuate, and responding with a mellow click that is the hallmark of the Cherry MX Red switch. For playing Battlefield 1 it was responsive and accurate, and the lights looked quite cool every time I glanced down. Side-note: it’s also cool to see your keyboard shimmering in the distance when you’re not using your PC, with colors dancing across the keys ( I used the wave effect, mostly).
The media controls were all easy to access and use, but as I noted above I don’t like the volume control knob as it has a groove in the center of it, which I think is for your finger. Since it’s used without looking typically my finger would always land on the side of the groove, which felt awkward. I do like the visual volume level LED, though it does make the keyboard resemble a boombox from the 80s a bit. I didn’t like the replacement keycaps for WASD at all as they are way too angular, making replacing them for typing mandatory. Though the included tool makes swapping them somewhat easy, it’s still a pain to have to be constantly swapping them out, so I would prefer flatter keys with a texture instead.
Though I typically don’t use macro keys I bound a few of them for testing and found the “on the fly” macro recording process to be painless and dare I say, fun? I mostly just recorded a few macros on-the-fly, which is super easy and made things like typing “I need backup” a one-key tap. I was also able to record macros outside of games then assign them to keys easily via the software, and there’s also an option to record chunks of text too.
The G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard has an MSRP of $169.99, but like a lot of PC hardware it can generally be nabbed at a discount. Unfortunately as we went to press it was out of stock at Amazon, so the only available units were from third parties that were charging higher than MSRP. However, The R version is available and it’s exactly the same as the one we reviewed except it does not include the extra keycaps, which we didn’t like anyway. It’s available for just $138 on Amazon: