Usually, when buying a mechanical keyboard, you need to immediately decide on the switches. Linear, tactile, clicky – it’s not that easy, especially when choosing your first “mechanics”. The European company Dark Project has a different approach: they allow and even encourage independent replacement of switches to your liking. Especially for this, the switches in Dark Project KD83A change with a complete tool without soldering. I have two keyboards in different modifications on my desk at once. The difference is in appearance and stuffing installed out of the box.
Appearance and convenience
Compact TKL format keyboard, that is, without a separate numeric keypad. The design is simple, there is simply nowhere to place additional decor, as the frame is thin for maximum compactness. All surfaces are matte and practical. The Dark Project KD83A stands out with its two-tone keycaps and illuminated space between the keys.
In the gray-black version, all letters, numbers and partially function keys have gray keycaps. Engraving applied to the top of the caps. To make the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets shine equally clearly, all letters are applied in one row. But I’ll be honest, there are some flaws in the engraving, which are manifested by the uneven clearance of the plastic.
My favorite is the blue-beige version. The second color of the caps is not just white, but ivory. And this mint Esc is absolute chic! Speaking without unnecessary emotions, the combination turned out to be unusual, but at the same time very calm, to some extent even retro.
The style is complemented by symbols applied in golden paint. Latin is on top, and Cyrillic is on the front end. It’s paint, not engraving. Despite this, the bright keys are clearly visible even in the dark when the light from the monitor hits.
The layout of the TKL format consists of 83 keys, each in its own place. However, the Dark Project KD83A is still more compact than conventional TKL keyboards by getting rid of the space between the F-keys and placing the Home-End keys in a line on the right.
There is still a trick, for KD83A they retained the usual location of F1 above the number 2. And between Esc and F1 they left space for a block of indicators: Caps Lock, game mode and, unexpectedly, the macOS mode. In my memory, this is the first gaming keyboard compatible with the Apple operating system. To switch, you need to hold down the FN and Latin “M” keys for 3 seconds. After Ctrl begins to play the role of Control, Win – Option, and Alt – Command. That is, the order of the function keys becomes familiar to macOS users.
There are no additional keys, and hot combinations are assigned to FN. For example, pressing it simultaneously with F1 opens “My Computer”, and with F5 – a calculator. macOS hot features are completely different. And since there are no icons on the keyboard, the combinations will have to be memorized from the complete brochure.
An important plus for ergonomics is the two-stage legs that raise the case to different heights. The case is completely plastic, but quite weighty (865 grams). This, as well as rubberized pads, prevent slipping on the table.
Lubricated switches and full customization
As mentioned at the beginning, the technical difference between keyboards lies in the manufacturer of the mechanical switches. The black/gray keyboard has Gateron’s Cap Teal switches, while the blue/beige one has Dark Project’s new g3ms Sapphire. In both cases, these are linear switches with a pressing force of 50 grams (turquoise flags). All switches are lubricated from the factory, due to which the operation is as smooth as possible and without unnecessary rustling. It’s nice when the manufacturer takes on such a time-consuming, but useful procedure.
Following the characteristics, the user experience is also identical. In my memory, this is almost the first case when it is quite convenient to type texts on linear switches. The actuation force increased to 50 grams makes the keys more “elastic” and reduces the likelihood of accidental keystrokes to a minimum.
An important feature of Dark Project KD83A is the ability to remove all switches and completely sort out the keyboard at your discretion, up to setting different switches for each key. You can put other linear, and tactile, and snap switches. Compatible kits are sold by Dark Project itself. And with each keyboard there are 4 types of switches for testing.
And the ability to buy and replace switches yourself without soldering is a huge bonus to durability. You will need two complete tools to replace the switches. Minimal training and there is nothing difficult in the bulkhead. A hook for removing keycaps and tongs is a used tool.
PCB mount stabilizers are mounted directly on the printed circuit board and lubricated. The fixation is excellent, there are no problems with distortion. You won’t be able to see the rods under the long keys, since the body is lined with a silicone pad. There are protrusions at the points of contact between plastic and metal, and silicone caps are put on the screws. All this is a proprietary Silent Mount soundproofing system. Therefore, both Dark Project KD83A keyboards do not produce high-frequency ringing typical for mechanics. Keystrokes are rather dull and disturb others much less.
On the left side there is a metal volume wheel with a pleasant stepwise movement. Its chip is in the location: the volume can be adjusted with the left little finger without opening the fingers from WASD.
There is one feature associated with the volume wheel. In rare cases, the embossed overlay peels off from the base, due to which it begins to scroll and creak. One of my two keyboards has this feature. To fix, you will need a toothpick and a drop of instant transparent glue to coat the joint of the wheel and the lining. There is a more sophisticated way to disassemble the keyboard. Both options are proposed by the company itself, Dark Project recognize the problem and attribute it to long transportation of keyboards at low ambient temperatures.
Also on the left is a full-size USB for connecting peripherals – for a mouse, headphones or microphone. Again, here the location is correct, since the connected plug will not interfere with the mouse, which is usually located on the right. It is hardly possible to use this port for flash drives and hard drives, since we are talking about slow USB 2.0.
Connection and utility
Typically, gaming keyboards have massive wires with one or even two USB plugs on the back. The Dark Project is different, with a recessed USB-C connector on the back, and a pretty neat wire wrapped in a fabric braid. When it comes to connecting to macOS, it can be replaced with a wire with USB-C on both sides.
Proprietary software, the Dark Project utility of the same name, is available only on Windows. It works with all compatible peripherals of the brand. The first option for the keyboard is key remapping. The list of possible actions is extensive, there is a macro recording.
A dozen effects with fine settings are available for highlighting. Separately, the backlight of the volume control wheel is adjusted. And even he has an additional effect – a smooth change of colors, in addition to the static glow. All settings are stored in profiles that are in the built-in memory of the keyboard.
Review after two weeks of use
Is the ability to fully customize the keyboard for yourself expensive? No, reviewed versions Dark Project KD83A are estimated at 8,990 rubles. And this is subject to good hardware and a full set of features, such as lubricated switches, sound insulation, illumination of the space between the keys and two-stage legs. In summary: this is my first acquaintance with the Dark Project, and the impression was very pleasant. The quality and enthusiasm of Dark Project is impressive.
- oiled switches and soundproofing out of the box;
- removable switches, full customization;
- habit layout with F1 over number 2;
- illumination between keys;
- hot combinations are highlighted after pressing FN;
- two-stage height adjustment;
- USB connector for peripherals on the left;
- detachable USB-C cable;
- thoughtful compatibility mode with macOS.
May not like:
- the engraving on the black and gray KD83A Cap Teal is not perfect;
- pictograms of hot combinations with FN are not printed on the caps.
Source: Trash Box
Charles Grill is a tech-savvy writer with over 3 years of experience in the field. He writes on a variety of technology-related topics and has a strong focus on the latest advancements in the industry. He is connected with several online news websites and is currently contributing to a technology-focused platform.